Thursday, 25 May 2017

Town Buildings


All properties in Beltana are privately owned. Some buildings have disappeared over time, sometimes only a stone chimney or some slate flagstones remain. At the same time, new buildings have been erected under Heritage guidelines - they fit the historic atmosphere of the town. Not all buildings, old or new, are described below.



Martin's House

0215 martins house

A Mr Martin built the first house – of pug and pine –   in Beltana where the road branched off from Beltana homestead to the mines at Sliding Rock.   It was an "eating house" and general stop over point for travellers to and from Cadnia. In 1873 it was the starting point for the survey of the township.   The building became the Beltana Hotel for a few years and the timber and mud building was replaced by one of stone.   Over the years it fell into disrepair until it was bought by Harry Monsoor who restored it for his family, and his store and hawking business that continued until 1955.

In the 1970s it was used as accommodation for the Beltana Field Study Centre.   Today it houses an art gallery, showing the works of some of the artists who call Beltana home.


Telegraph Station

Beltana was the second repeater station on the Overland Telegraph Line from Adelaide.   Although a public telegraph office was opened in 1872 in the town, it was a small, temporary iron hut.   The stone building which replaced it was opened in 1875, and was surrounded by a "substantial" stone fence nearly 2m high.   Only 2 positions were staffed at this telegraph station: the Postmaster and a Telegraph Messenger until 1914, when it was reduced to non-official status.   For the next 12 years the telegraphist was Elsie Coultas (nee Hewish).   Not only did she transmit telegrams during her breaks, but she also saw it as her duty to deliver telegrams to recipients in the town and sometimes to Beltana homestead. 

When Elsie resigned and left the town, it proved impossible to replace her.   Eventually trunk line telephone facilities were installed and the Post Office continued until 1940 when the property was sold.   The Post Office and exchange moved across the road to the old general store, then to the railway station when it in turn became the general store.   In 1981, a new radio link was made to the exchange at Leigh Creek, and the old exchange finally closed.



Railway Station

The Great Northern Railway Line to Beltana was officially opened in 1881. The railway station building is a substantial stone structure and behind it is a large timber framed, 

0216 railway station

galvanized iron freight shed and a platform.   To the north is a small stone building that was used by the standby crews as Beltana was a changeover station.   The train service from Beltana to Pt Augusta ran three times a week and took about 12 hours.

The railway line was re-routed 11km to the west in 1956 and in 1967 the general store and post office and exchange moved to the station building.   When the new bitumen road, following the line of the "new" railway line was opened in 1983, the general store moved once more to attract the passing traffic.   The railway station is currently undergoing major renovations and restoration.


Royal Victoria Hotel

This large building opened for business in 1879.   Behind the main building, two wings stretched out either side of a large underground, cement lined water tank (now filled in).   For some years, the local school teacher had a room at the hotel, as rental accommodation in Beltana was not easy to find.  Evidence of extensive outbuildings, stables, sheds and toilets is still visible on the block.   The Royal Victoria Hotel eventually closed its doors for business in 1957.



Police Station

0246 police station

A Mounted Constable was stationed in temporary quarters in Beltana in 1879 before the current building was opened in 1881.   Originally of 4 stone rooms with no verandah, a set of 3 stone cells and a stone toilet block (now dismantled), the building has been added to over time.   Additions include a wooden room (long gone) for the unmarried troopers, a wooden building used as a Courthouse and Office, a verandah firstly on 2 and finally 3 sides, an iron-clad stables and fodder shed at the rear of the cells and a kitchen moved to the verandah, extended and now enclosed by a wood and iron sunroom.   An exterior bathroom, toilet and laundry have also been demolished and the facilities moved inside the main house.

The stonework of the walls and chimneys is a feature of the buildings.   A well, also lined with cut stone and a circular tank stand of stone remain as testament to the skills of a bygone age.

The station was officially closed in 1958 and was used as a house for the teacher until 1967 after which it was sold to private interests.


Smith of Dunesk Mission Church

0060 Doigs blacksmith shop0154

The Smith of Dunesk Mission of the Presbyterian Church was a practical aid program to people living in remote isolation far from medical or spiritual help, rather than a building or place.   In 1902 blacksmith John James Doig offered the Mission part of his carriage works and this is the Smith of Dunesk building of today. The text on the church wall above the pulpit was put there in 1917/18 when renovations were done.

Like all buildings in Beltana, the weather and white ants combine to cause damage from time to time.   The little church has a dedicated band of supporters who regularly maintain the fabric and interior of the building.


Beltana School

0132 1897 schoolThis small stone building was opened in 1893, replacing a wood and iron building moved from Sliding Rock to Beltana in 1878.   It comprises a single room, in which all primary classes were taught by the one head teacher. Over time, additional timber framed iron rooms were added to the front and side, but white ant damage caused them to be removed in 1980.   The internal layout was also changed – windows were enlarged and also blocked up, and a little wood heater for the cold winter days was installed.

The school was well attended for most of its life.   Records show pupil numbers to be around 45 in the early 1900s, 20 in the 1930s and 40s and 15 in the 1960s.   The school eventually closed in 1967 and for some years a school bus ran daily to Leigh Creek.


Mitchell Home – Australian Inland Mission Nursing Hostel

Scotswoman, Mrs Henrietta Smith, purchased 6 sections of land in South Australia and in1853 made a gift of them to the Free Church of Scotland.   Her idea was that any money made in rent from this land should be used to promote the Gospel among the Aborigines in the new colony.   Some of the money was channeled into mission work at the Pt MacLeay Mission soon after it became available, but then it seemed to be all but forgotten.   In 1893, the Presbyterian Church of South Australia negotiated with the Free Church of Scotland to use the accumulated money to provide a mission service to the people of the outback.   The Rev Robert Mitchell became the first missioner and based himself in Beltana in 1895.   Three years later the 4 roomed cottage was purchased for him.   Other missioners followed Mitchell, each one adding their dedication and commitment to the health and spiritual welfare of the people of the outback. A nursing home, staffed by trained sisters, was opened at Oodnadatta in 1911, the same year that the Rev John Flynn began his term as missioner at Beltana.   Flynn lobbied persistently for the funding of an organised health service and in 1912, his dream of a "mantle of safety" over the people of the outback was realised by the creation of the Australian Inland Mission.  

In 1919 the Mitchell Home became the AIM Nursing Hostel in Beltana, staffed by Sisters Kinnear and McLeod.   The additional building on the western side, the Amy Fairfax Wing, was added in 1927.   Its roofline, specially designed by Flynn, is an early example of bush "air conditioning".   The curved cap along the ridge line of the roof, but separate from it, allowed the hot air inside to rise and escape, drawing in cooler air from below the building.

The Hostel eventually closed in 1952 when duplicate services could be provided in Leigh Creek.   The AIM no longer exists, but its work continues under the Presbyterian Inland Mission, the Frontier Services of the Uniting Church and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

 phoca thumb l 0067 mitchell home opening feb 1919