Glimpses of Canberra


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Howie's Hostel Camp

Posted on May 24, 2012 at 11:50 PM Comments comments (0)

A number of photographs of Howie's Hostel Camp taken in 1923 and the site today in Stirling Park Yarraluma (Bl 3, Section 128) have been added.  Contractor John Howie established a settlement that consisted of 25 timber two & three bedroom cottages for his married men and 18 galvanized iron cubicles for his single men. Each section was provided with a recreation hall. This settlement was erected on either side and below an old 19th century road that still survives in Bl 3 Section 128 Stirling Park, Yarralumla.  The men of Howie's built the Hotel Canberra which was originally known as Hostel No 1.  This hostel's primary purpose was to provide accommodation for policians and visiting dignatories.

Until the photograph showing the line of cubicles and the Mess building was discovered in the CDHS collection by Trish Frei, we believed that th site of the camp was lost during the construction of Alexandrina Drive and Lake Burley Griffin.  Instead the whole area has survived as part of Block 3 Section 128 Stirling Park.  Even the remains of the old road in front of the cubicles remains in situ.  The cubicles were pulled down around Feb 1929 (see story in Canberra Times - via Trove). Materials that could be reused were saved and what could be burnt was burnt on site.  There is a big dump area not far from the site of the Mess building which shows evidence of soil darkened by burning.

No 1 Labourers Camp 1924-1927 Capital Hill Canberra

Posted on November 7, 2011 at 9:40 PM Comments comments (0)

I have posted two new articles on No 1 Labourers Camp which was erected in 1924 on what is now Capital Hill, but in the 1920s was part of Westlake.   The remaining section of Westlake that has not been developed but is in danger of being developed, is Stirling Park, Yarralumla, Canberra ACT.  The site of No 1 Labourers has now gone, but surviving on the part of Capital Hill not developed is one of the dumps of the camp. Some photographs have been added in the section Photographs showing a few items from this dump. A modern walking path now covers a section of the dump, and everytime it rains more of the discarded items come to the surface.   For those who know an earlier Canberra, Hillside Hostel built after World War Two is on the site of the old No 1.

Sadly there were deaths at No 1 - mainly caused by too much alcohol.  The sale of alcohol in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT - now ACT) was banned from 1913.  The ban was lifted following the arrival of public servants in 1927 - the vote taken in 1928. However, because Canberra was officially dry there was perhaps more drunkeness than if the sale had been allowed.

Glimpses of Early Canberra

Posted on October 31, 2011 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Following the publication of the books:  Builders of Canberra 1909-1929; Westlake One of the Vanished Suburbs of Canberra; True Tales from Canberra's Vanished Suburbs of Westlake, Westridge & Acton; and A Story of Capital Hill -  I was given stories that expand the knowledge of the early period of Canberra's history.  The history of the builders has been a neglected part of the history of Canberra - perhaps ignored may be a better word.  The reason perhaps is that the construction of a city from scratch is a very expensive operation and there were many who were against the building of Canberra.  Thus most of the information in newspapers etc  puts a positive spin on the city in the making and leaves out the reality of living in what was a city of construction camps away from many of the basic facilities that are taken forgranted in towns and cities of Australia.

I found only one map that showed the sites of the major camps - however, it is from the stories that I learnt the sites of camps and the stories of life in them and early Canberra.  This web is aimed at giving the reader glimpses of that life and drawing the attention of the reader that without the people who came to build the city it would not exist.

Another aspect of Canberra's history is the class system that was in place.  There was a gap between construction workers and white collar workers.  The gap between the classes I have been told became evident with the arrival of the public servants in 1927 the majority of  whom were housed in brick cottages in the permanent suburbs. Many of the construction workers remained in the temporary settlements of the converted internment camp at Molonglo or the settlements of Westlake, Causeway, Russell Hill, Riverbourne and Acton.

Ann Gugler