This is a blog about travel, so I am going to break from my usual posts about Jordanian sites for a quick diversion. I reckon everyone has a “Bucket List” and Ol’ Big Jim is no exception. I've crossed quite a few items off that list, but there’s still a lot there wanting to be done. One of the places to visit on my Bucket List is Coolgardie, Western Australia. Thanks to my Facebook account and my blog I've made friends all round the world. In Coolgardie I’ve made several friends who are so good and I want to meet them and see this place they call home. I’ve become so fascinated with it, in fact that my novel (which is about half-finished) features the town and some very important people there. I’ll say no more about that; you’ll have to buy the book for more. Having said all that, I've decided to take a fanciful tour of Coolgardie and post it here for (hopefully) your enjoyment. I've gathered pictures from the web and I’ve been loaned a few from some of my friends there.
Now, refill that cup with your favorite liquid and enjoy the tour!
Coolgardie is located 550 km east of Perth, 40 km west of Kalgoorlie and 187 km north of Norseman in Western Australia. The name Coolgardie is said to be derived from the aboriginal word “Coolcaby,” which is in reference to the area’s mulga vegetation and gnamma waterholes. Over the years, Coolgardie was known by various names such as Bayley's Find, Fly Flat, The Old Camp and The Old Diggings.
The Coolgardie area was first explored by H.M. Lefroy in 1863 and then by C.C. Hunt in 1864 making the area accessible to Europeans. But Coolgardie owes its existence to the discovery of gold at nearby Fly Flat, 120 miles to the east of Southern Cross, back in 1892.
According to local folklore, gold was discovered by Arthur Bayley and William Ford on the 17 September 1892. Bayley quickly reported the discovery of 554 ounces of gold to J.M. Finnerty, the resident mining warden at Southern Cross. At the time 554 ounces of gold was worth 2200 pounds ($4,400) and in accordance with Western Australian mining regulations, Bailey was offered a reward claim covering 20 acres of land at Fly Flat. Bayley’s reward claim proved to be very profitable, and during the 70 years of existence, the claim yielded more than 500,000 ounces of gold.
From a historical perspective, the Coolgardie gold find proved to be one of immense national significance. During the 1890’s, Eastern Australia was in the depths of a severe depression. News of the gold find drew a rush of hopeful prospectors to the Coolgardie area. A few found gold, but many more only found hardship, sickness and death caused by inadequate housing, lack of fresh water and food, insufficient medical attention and supplies. Despite early hardships, within the short space of ten years, Coolgardie’s population had grown to a staggering 16,000.
During the early years Coolgardie served as a base for exploring the potential of gold findings in the reddish desert countryside. Using Afghan camel drivers they ventured further and further into the desert. The Afghans demanded high pay as well as one gallon of water each day and eventually the prospectors moved to hire local aboriginals to guide them. The bonus in hiring aboriginals was in the fact that they knew the locations of the gnamma holes.
By 1896, the railway had arrived and by 1898, Coolgardie was the third largest town in Western Australia (after Perth and Fremantle). Two stock exchanges, three breweries, six newspapers, 60 stores, 26 hotels and many churches were evident during this time. The town was named in 1893 and became a municipality the following year. The Post Office opened in 1895 and the following year electricity and a swimming pool enhanced the hard life of the miners. By 1897, the level of enthusiasm about the potential of the region was such that over 700 mining companies had been floated in London. The water pipeline arrived in 1903 and a year earlier the town had seen the construction of the State Battery.
As the surface gold ran out, many prospectors left the fields disillusioned and penniless. Others headed to Kalgoorlie (East Coolgardie as it was known then) and later worked for mining companies for as little as $6.00 per week.
Coolgardie still continues its long association with the gold industry by more efficient open pit mining and recovery methods. The Coolgardie of today is a pleasant inland town which has retained many aspects of its rich and colourful past. Once the centre of Australia's greatest gold rush, Coolgardie is now the nation's best preserved gold mining town. Coolgardie has carefully preserved the best of its past. Its wide streets are lined by grand stone and brick buildings mixed with corrugated iron and timber homes reflecting both the wealth and importance of the gold rush.
Gold hasn’t lost it’s importance in Kalgoorlie. Just outside town is the Super Pit; a 3.5 km long, 1.3 km wide pit that is more than 500 meters deep. The mine still gives up a substantial amount of gold every year.
Goldfields Exhibition Museum
Housed in the historic and grandiose two storey Wardens Court Building (built 1898). Each room features fascinating displays telling the dramatic and tragic story of life in and around Coolgardie during the Goldrush of the 1890's. A brilliant collection of photographs, models and authentic equipment with a free daily screening of the BBC film "Gold Fever". Open from 9am-4pm Monday to Friday and 10am-3pm Weekends and Public Holidays.
Warden Finnerty’s Residence
A beautiful old house built in 1895 of local stone for the first Mining Warden and Resident Magistrate, John Michael Finnerty. Restored by the National Trust, you can now enjoy a walk through the rooms to capture the feeling of life in the late 1890's. Lovely antique furnishings and chinaware are on display throughout the house. Having hosted Premiers, Governors and visiting dignitaries for over 100 years, it is open 11am to 4pm daily including public holidays. (Closed Wednesdays)
Red House Brothel
The Red House Brothel is the oldest standing and still operating brothel in Kalgoorlie. It is NOT a museum. Quoting their webpage, it is a “Fully Operational Historic Brothel”. Back in 1902 a Red Light district was designated by the Council, implementing a containment policy.
For a mere $30 you can tour the Red House and view the “working rooms” and satisfy your curiosity about what a real working brothel looks like. Tours are conducted seven days a week at 2 pm and 4 pm. Special arrangements can be made for 7 pm tours for groups of 2 or more.
Suprisingly interesting, this is one of the best pharmaceutical collections on display in Australia. The collection includes 18th and 19th century medicines and various advertisements and posters. Located in the Old Gaol Complex.
Built in March 1896, the Coolgardie Railway Station is now a museum with a steam locomotive, carriages and other interesting memorabilia on display.
Much of Coolgardie's fascinating history can be read on the headstones of the Pioneer Cemetery (1892 - 1894) and the Coolgardie Cemetery (1894 - ). As Typhoid raced through the town in the early Gold Rush Days many people died without their identity being recorded. Famous explorers Ernest Giles, Bertha Finnerty and Tagh Mahomed are buried here along with the many unknowns. The grave of our better known ghost, Elizabeth Gold, can be found at the Coolgardie Cemetery, not far from the resting place of her murderer. Cemetery Index and maps are available for viewing at the Coolgardie Visitors Centre if you are looking for someone in particular.
With a visit to the State Battery you can see the process of how gold is extracted from rock and turned into a gold bullion.
Bayley’s Reward Fly Flat
The view Bayley and Ford first saw in 1892 as they rode in from Gnarlbine Soak looking over to where they first struck gold - the area they called Fly Flat. The Bayley's Reward Goldmine Headframe has been re-erected on this site. A picnic and BBQ area is set up.
Famous Waghorn Bottle Collection
This amazing collection has won many prizes and is one of the largest and most comprehensive antique bottle displays in Australia. It includes bottles and glassware dating from 300BC through to the present day. Located in the Exhibition Museum.Ben Prior’s Park
An intriguing open air museum featuring interesting items like the wagons that brought the Sisters of Mercy Nurses to Coolgardie during the Typhoid epidemic, the Steam Engine and equipment used in the 1890's on the mines – even a revolving bottle washing machine! Dedicated to a long time resident of Coolgardie, the late Mr Ben Prior who during his life collected the many items on display.
Old Koolgardie Gaol
A tour of the Old Koolgardie Gaol will demonstrate how prisoners were held in the late 19th century. The remarkable architecture is also worth examining. A five minute walk will bring you to the Gaol Tree. While the jail was being constructed a place was needed to hold prisoners awaiting trial. The ingenius Australians coped with that by chaining the prisoners to this tree!
Enjoy a few more pictures from around Koolgardie...
And this is the place I will stay when I am in Koolgardie! One last hint about the yarn I am spinning. The York Hotel plays a major role...