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 

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