Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Lost Post Offices of Australia - Boolaroo (2284)

Boolaroo is another Hunter/Lake Macquarie town that was basically founded atop one of the many coal seams that traverse the area, this time it was the Stockton Borehole mine in 1886 and the township quickly spread around the workings. The name of the town was apparently that of an Aboriginal word meaning a 'place of many flies', funny way to name a town!

It was the opening of the Sulphide Corporation, in 1897, that provided the major impetus for the establishment of the Boolaroo Estate and slowly, but surely the township took shape.

Boolaroo can actually trace its origins back to a Government grant of 1280 acres to William Brooks in 1839, and it seems that with the discovery of coal, Mr Brooks sold his land to Sir James Fairfax (of Sydney Morning Herald fame). Williams Brooks, Sir James and later on Thomas James Thompson, by the 1900's, had sub-divided all vacant land for housing
Of course with a growing community you need a Post Office and in 1899 local store owner Mr J.W. Findley applied to the NSW colonies Postmaster General to operate postal facilities in the town. However, as there was already a Post Office incorporated in the nearby Cockle Creek railway station, his application was denied. However, with the opening up of further subdivisions and probably with the thought of all colonial postal facilities coming under the auspices of the soon to be Federal Government, Boolaroo finally opened its first Post and Telegraph Office on the 1st March 1901 (for some reason the Post Office was actually completed in January 1901, but not officially opened until 2 months later) .

There was probably no better way to celebrate the commencement of the Commonwealth Postmaster-General Department (PMG), than with a brand new Post Office. Incidentally the honour of the first "postie" went to Mr Frederick Hindley. Poor Frederick had to walk 11 miles a day on his rounds until he was granted an allowance for a horse and feed, it seems some things never change at Australia Post. 

The original timber and iron building served until 1924, when the PMG sold it and moved to a new solid brick building located on the Cnr of Main Rd and Seventh Ave. This building was designed during the period when George McRae was the NSW Government Architect and strongly reflects the Inter-War Georgian Revival style of architectural values, which exhibit a simplicity of style that reflects both economic stringency and the move towards modernism

This lovely building, which will probably last another hundred years, fell victim to Australia Post's property portfolio rationalisation during the late 1990's and suffered the fate of many perfectly functional buildings, it was quietly sold off to turn a 'paper' profit. It is now being used by local real estate agent.

The current (and the third incarnation) Boolaroo Post Office is a pleasant enough shopfront sandwiched between a chemist and a country style 'bric-a-brac' store on Main St. As nice and helpful as the dedicated staff that work there are, the current Post Office lacks the panache, the style, the quality of a George McRae designed Post Office. 

So while Boolaroo continues to thrive as a community  based village, the former jewel in the crown of Australia Post's Lake Macquarie property portfolio gets passed from owner to owner and each time that it happens, it slowly erodes away our rich community history.   

I'd like to thank the staff and online resource at Lake Macquarie City Council Library for their assistance 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

We Love A Good Southerly ... but

Summer in Newcastle can be brutal at times, such as last Friday & Saturday when the mercury topped out around 45° centigrade (around 114° f), making it hardly conducive for outdoor activities, such as photography!

However, around 6pm yesterday, a good old southerly buster blasted its way into Newcastle, dropping the temperature 15° in a manner of minutes.

Now while this relief from the blistering heat was much welcomed, it did throw the plans of the Newcastle Sundance photography group ( into jeopardy. We had planned to celebrate the 1st anniversary of this informal Flickr group with a sunrise photo shoot at Redhead Beach. So on Saturday night I had a last look at the weather radar, hoping to see whether our gathering was going to be greeted with clear skies to photograph a spectacular sunrise.

The prognosis didn't look good.

I woke at 4am & as predicted, even in the early morning darkness, I could see that the we would have leaden skies, however it wasn't raining, which was a bonus. So remembering back to New Years Eve, where I had a wet start to the day & the photographic opportunities I was able to use, I packed my Canon 400D & headed out to Redhead.

To say I was disappointed was an understatement, however along with around 20 other hardy photographers , we assembled at 5am, under a cloudy sky  & waited.

We waited & waited & waited. Dawn, 5:41am, nothing. Sunrise, 6:08am, nothing.

Then when all seemed lost, at 6:18am, a brief gap in the low cloud appeared & a sliver of the sun greeted us hardy souls with a glimpse of a wonderful Newcastle sunrise.

So while the southerly change was most welcomed, the cloud & showers could have wrecked our 1st anniversary meet, however, we at Newcastle Sundance accepted the uncertainty of the weather  as part of the challenge to our passion & persevered.

Actually this is now the 3rd time I've woken in the pre-dawn to photograph the sunrise & it is the third time I've had cloudy skies to contend with ....  please weather gods, give me a break!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Lost Post Offices of Australia - Raymond Terrace (2324)

"We catched fish and talked, and we took a swim now and then to keep off sleepiness. It was kind of solemn, drifting down the big, still river, laying on our backs looking up at the stars, and we didn't ever feel like talking loud, and it warn't often that we laughed—only a little kind of a low chuckle." - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain 

Raymond Terrace is a NSW river town which is snuggled beside the junction of two important river systems, the Hunter and Williams. It is this unique position that allowed Raymond Terrace to quickly flourish and grow during the second half of the 19th century.

When convicts were sent to Newcastle in 1804, one of their tasks was the hewing of the stands of cedar that flourished in the Hunter Valley and floating that timber down the Hunter River to the Newcastle sawmill. After the convicts were removed from Newcastle in 1823, vast tracts of cleared land were readily occupied by farmers and with the raising of those crops then came the issue of getting produce from the area to the markets of Sydney. The quickest and easiest way was by using the river to achieve this purpose using paddle steamers. Being at heart of the two river systems the township of Raymond Terrace was quickly established as a vital transport hub .  

The population quickly grew and so Raymond Terrace became one of the first country Post Offices in NSW with Mr George Oliver (publican) appointed Postmaster on the 1st August 1834. As was the fashion of these early Post Offices, it was situated in the Junction Inn. Raymond Terrace not only handled local mail but also mail from as far away as Scone and Port Macquarie. This mail was initially transported to Raymond Terrace by horse, however, it later came by coach and was then dispatched on the Hunter River steamers.  The cost of sending a letter from Raymond Terrace was 4d. 

The site for first purpose built Raymond Terrace Post Office was acquired in 1868 when the telegraph came to the area, funnily enough it was located next door to the Junction Inn! This served until 1877 when residents complained to the Postmaster General, that the building was in a dilapidated condition and being on the riverfront, not accessible during the frequent flooding of the area. 

In 1879 a new site was purchased for £120 at 61 Port Stephens Street and the building was completed in July 1880. The building itself was a basic two story construction, built in the favoured design of the period being a Renaissance design of brick with painted stucco walls and slate roof. This wonderful building, designed by NSW Government Architect James Barnet,  served Australia Post for over 100 years before being hawked off to Fry Brothers Funerals.

In what must have seemed going against popular wisdom prevalent at Australia Post at the time, they actually built another purpose built Post Office, complete with a $250,000 turntable (for rotating delivery vehicles of up to 12 tonne) and two double motorcycle storage sheds,  at 35 Sturgeon Street. This building should have lasted for another 100 years, however this was not to be and the building was eventually sold off and has since been occupied by the local MP Bob Baldwin. 

This extravagant purpose built building lasted for just over a decade! 

The fourth and current Post Office is now located within the Centro Shopping Centre and is just another bland shop in a bland shopping centre, located next to the Go-Lo Discount store with a Dorothy The Dinosaur kiddies ride located outside the front glass doors. Although handy for shoppers, it hardly reflects the importance that the Post Office has held in the Raymond Terrace community for over 175 years 

It would seem that the glory days of postal services in Raymond Terrace has past & with that passing, the rich history of courage and dogged determination to serve this thriving community is, like the the  former river steamers, sadly, becoming just a memory.

      O' man river,
Dat ol' man river,
He mus'know sumpin'
But don't say nuthin'
He jes' keeps rollin'
He keeps on rollin' along.
Long ol' river forever keeps rollin' on...

(Unfortunately this isn't a complete history of the Post Office in Raymond Terrace. A lot of recent information post 1984 is missing and any assistance in completing this history will be greatly appreciated. I would also like to thank the staff at Raymond Terrace library for their patience & assistance)

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Lost Post Offices of Australia - Wallsend (2287)

On the 14th September 1914, Pte William King was one of the eventual 300 brave men from the Wallsend area that signed up to join the ranks to fight the dreaded Hun during World War 1. However, on the 24th May 1915 at the age of 21, he, along with thousands of other fresh faced youths laid down their lives in the Dardnelles campaign in Turkey. William, as a member of the Wallsend & Plattsburg model band, would have played merry contemporary music in the rotunda, opposite Wallsend Post Office, the same Post Office that would bring home the tragic news of his death to his loved ones & fellow bandsmen. The plaque erected on the rotunda opposite the Post Office is testament to his sacrifice.

The Wallsend area was first surveyed in 1822 by Henry Dangar & the surrounding lands were keenly sought after, with the first grant going Mr J.Weller in 1824. Originally farming was the mainstay of this small rural community, however following the discovery of coal in the local area during the 1850's, big mining companies turned their attentions to the farms located around the Ironbark Creek vicinity. 

It was the consortium of the Newcastle-Wallsend Coal Company (NWCCo) in the late 1850's,  that put in place the infrastructure & on the 9th March 1861 Wallsend coal mine was officially opened.

The township quickly grew & with steady employment, 1 acre building blocks were selling for £120 - 150 & houses were being built for £50. The first Post Office was established as an agency in 1861 with Mr T.Johnson operating the agency from his hotel, which he renamed the Post Office Hotel! In 1876 deputations were made to the Postmaster General for a separate, more permanent building be considered & so in 1880 work commenced on the new Wallsend Post Office on the corner of Harris & Tyrrell Streets, formerly known as the Lemongrove Estate.

On the 25th March 1882, Wallsend finally had a Post Office it could call its own. It was  constructed in the Victorian Regency style of the day, solid brick construction with a painted stucco finish. I have no reports about the opening of this fine building, however I'm sure that it would have been a grand event.

The design did change over the years with such alterations such as a bathroom (1899), buggy space (1903), telephone exchange (1907), formal entrance lobby (1914) & sometime after 1907 a front verandah (pulled down in 1952). In 1952 the most hideous alteration took place when Australia Post built a wood & iron addition to the side of the building which thankfully was pulled down when the building was renovated after Australia Post vacated in July 1994.

Although I'm usually hard on the efforts of Australia Post in vacating these wonderful buildings, I can see the logic in this move, there was no parking in the area & terrible access/egress to the building, so the move to Wallsend Plaza was a positive step in raising customer expectations.    

The old Wallsend Post Office still reflects the stoic nature of the community that was prevelant around the turn of the 19th century, with its solid construction & domination of the local landscape. This was also a time when the Post Office was woven into the vibrant fabric of the towns that they served, something we have seemed to have lost in our quest for growth.

I'd like to thank the staff at NCC, Stocklands & the Wallsend Library for their assistance in compiling this blog