EARLY BUILDINGS OF TRARALGON

(Dorothy Steer)

At our May (1992) meeting, Mr. John Power, our President, gave an interesting talk on Traralgon's early buildings, most of which have now been replaced with something more modern, exceptions being the old Star Hotel ( in need of renovation) and Ryan's Hotel (which is well preserved).

It is almost 150 years since Hobson arrived with cattle and built his humble home near where the Traralgon Creek flows into the Latrobe River. Records show that many visitors, including clergymen, called there on their way through Gippsland in the 1840's.

The first building in what is now the city of Traralgon was the Windsor's home on the corner where the Methodist Church now stands. It became an accommodation house where travellers could stay overnight, and, a little later on, a gentleman called Smith took over the building. He sold liquor there, and it was probably our first public house, but it was unlicensed.

Duncan Campbell purchased the lease of the Traralgon West Run in 1855 and in 1858 he built the Travellers Rest Hotel on what is now the corner of Franklin and Kay Streets, For those times, the building was quite imposing, comprising a large dining room, 8 bedrooms, 4 sitting rooms, and a bar. At the back, another 6 bedrooms and a cellar were built. This building was constructed of pit-sawn red gum - the pit used was dug in the area where the first Shire Hall was built, in 1881.

Later on more buildings were added on the western side of the hotel; one room was used as a Court House and Post Office. This was the only building apart from the Police Station until the early 1870's.

In the 1860's, only 14 people lived here, nearly all Campbells, McColls, or McRaes, all Highlanders who spoke Gaelic.

As the years passed, the Travellers Rest became known as the Traralgon Hotel. It had many licensees, and accommodated many travellers. It continued on as a hotel until early 1912 when it was replaced by the present building.

Another hotel, actually a large house, situated in Argyle Street, on the other side of the creek, was known as the Oddfellows Hotel, owned by a Mr. Welch who was granted a license in 1870. Then came the Wheatsheaf Hotel, 1870, and the Club Hotel, which was built by Mr. Hickox, the builder of the Star Hotel.

In the late 1870's the first stores appeared. Oswald Marriage, from Rosedale, built the first, in Franklin Street (Patersons being there later) and Ikin and Bettison opened a store in Kay Street in about 1878.

There was no public building in the town then until the Mechanics Institute was erected where the A.M.P. Building stands today, at a cost of £300. However, between 1884 and 1887 it was decided to build a more substantial Mechanics Institute further down Hotham Street. This building remained in use until 1960. The original building was taken over by Mr. Hickox for a shop.

In 1884 the Crown Hotel was built, trading until 1934 when it was demolished and the present Crown Hotel erected. Also built was the Grand Junction Hotel, for Cornelius Neville (from Walhalla). This was the "elite" of the hotels, and V.I.Ps stayed there.

Traralgon's present Post Office was built in 1886 at a cost of £1,200. Previously it had been conducted in Duncan Campbell's Hotel, then in John Campbell's house, in Argyle Street, and again at another of his homes, in Kay Street (The Retreat).

The Grubb family set up a butcher's shop (now Adams Butchers). A chemist (also a dentist) moved in at the corner of Franklin and Seymour Street known for many years as Riddiford's.)

The Exhibition Hall at the Showgrounds was built in 1889 and used until 1955 when it was replaced by the present building.

The Bank of Australasia was built on the corner of Franklin and Hotham Streets in about 1890 This has since been rebuilt and is now the A.N.Z. Bank.

The first fire station, built in Princes Street in 1893, remained in use until 1921 when it was demolished. A new brick building at the corner of Franklin and Argyle Streets replaced it - this building was a very popular venue for dances in the 1920's. The first Railway Station was built in 1878, and rebuilt in 1901, still much the same.

The Gippsland Trading Co. premises, with a characteristic tower, were erected in 1903. The building has been altered and had many occupants since then.

The second Star Hotel was built in Argyle Street, with the Masonic Hall upstairs, but in 1905 it was burnt down and a smaller brick building, known as the Coffee Palace, erected on the site served as an accommodation house. Later this was demolished to make way for a garage.

The first Presbyterian Church was sited in Campbell Street in 1879; later, St Andrew's Church was built on the present site, corner Church and Kay Streets. (1999 - Now a reception centre)

St James' Church erected in 1879 on the corner of Seymour and Church Streets, served until 1924, when it was replaced with a brick building. In the 1970's the land was sold to Coles New World, and it is now occupied by Bill Guyatt. A new church was built on its present site in Grey Street.

The Shire Council purchased a block of land beside the Mechanics Institute in Hotham Street for new Shire Offices and a Town Hall which opened in about 1925. This was considered to be the finest Town Hall in Gippsland at the time.

Other buildings mentioned by John were the Private Hospitals, "Ewington" in Shakespeare Street and "Cumnock" in Moore Street, the major hospital until 1956 when the present hospital (until 1998) was built on the Princes Highway with the major part of the cost being raised by the efforts of the people of Traralgon.

Photographs of many of the buildings mentioned were on display and of great interest to the members.