Celebrating 50 years as Australia’s first Notable Town – 1966 to 2016.
Maldon’s wealth of historic buildings dates from the 1850s gold rush through to the 1920s. The early gold discoveries left the town with an elongated and irregular layout set between vast mining operations. High Street passed by many houses, mines, commercial activities, the Gold Commissioner’s Camp and civic centre. The wide tree-lined thoroughfare you see now belies Maldon’s gritty past. Your walk around the historic High Street business precinct will introduce you to a cross section of Maldon's traders and their premises.
Start this tour at the Kangaroo Hotel, cnr. High & Fountain Streets. You can proceed stop by stop south down High Street to Spring Street, cross over and then come back up High Street to the Grand Hotel, or use the map to select stops of interest. Allow 45 mins.
89 High Street, Maldon
A 'Kangaroo Hotel' has operated on this site continuously since 1856 and included its own amusement theatre, one of 3 in town during its heyday. It narrowly avoided disaster in 1859 when someone set off fireworks during a performance and almost burned the building down. The brick corner section of the current building dates back to 1866 and it includes the contrasting trim and quoin work featured on other 1860s brick buildings in Main Street. This is the only Kangaroo Hotel in Australia.
In 2016 the building remains in good condition and presents a delightful image of times past. The corner section is now 150 years old. The charming barrel-roofed entrance awning on the High Street entrance was added c1905 at the same time as the extensions to the south.
In the 1970s the advertising signage was different but the building remained a welcoming sight on the edge of the central area.
The Pettitts took over in 1884. The liquid refreshments, conviviality and Saturday night entertainment continued, much like today. From the 1860s the Kangaroo was the local 'changing station' for Cobb & Co. The approaching coach driver would sound a horn so the ostlers could have the fresh horses ready.
For the next site:Follow the stops along the west side of High Street down to Spring Street.
81 - 87 High Street, Maldon
There were 5 timber shop buildings in this section of High Street. These are clearly visible in an 1867 image of the area but they had all been demolished by the 1930s. At this time the town was in serious decline along with many other former mining towns so the land remained vacant until the present buildings were constructed.
By 1867 five small timber shops occupied this section of High Street. Early businesses included a hairdressing salon and pharmacy which advertised 'garden seeds and fresh healthy leeches' among its wares. By 1900 a bootmaker, chemist, storekeeper and draper are noted in the records.
The Community Bank building was constructed in 2013. The original building design was the subject of considerable controversy and seen as inappropriate for the centre of historic Maldon. A VCAT order saw the design altered to better meet the requirements of the Maldon Design Guidelines.
The Country Fire Authority Building was constructed in 1957 on the site of the 3 small timber shops visible in the centre right of the 1867 photo. The building has been extended a number of times since 1957.
79 High Street, Maldon
This early weatherboard building of modest scale and pleasant form was originally Handorff's Commercial Hotel. Prior to 1872 any person of good character could request a license if he or she had three rooms (bar, parlour and bedroom) in addition to those required for personal quarters. The hotel operated until 1910 when its license was revoked under the Licenses Reduction Act.
Now in 2016 the building has been very carefully restored and is a very appealing example of Maldon's early timber structures. Note the unusual 'flat' finials on the gable ends.
By the 1970s a doorway between this building and the adjoining property had been established to form one business space. This explains the 'boarded up' appearance of the front door.
73 - 77 High Street, Maldon
Construction on Argyle House commenced in 1866 however a parapet collapse delayed completion until 1867. This single-storey building has an unusually high parapet which conceals a steeply-sloped skillion roof form. The premises were used as offices and shops and they replaced timber structures constructed in 1859 and 1860 as the early gold rush passed and town became more settled.
Now in 2016 the row of buildings is looking good, the façade of the southernmost shop has been restored. Various recent changes are evident in colour schemes and minor alterations as owners or tenants personalise their space.
By the 1970s the row of buildings was only in fair condition. The front of the southern shop had been radically altered and it was ripe for restoration.
67 - 69 High Street, Maldon
This simple red brick pair of shops plus upper level accommodation was constructed c1900 on the site of earlier timber structures. It sits well with its neighbour to the north even though constructed decades later. Records indicate that both buildings were constructed by the same builder, John Hornsby who figured prominently in the construction of many buildings and mines.
Now in 2016 the façade and verandah have been reconstructed and this work has greatly enhanced the streetscape.
By the 1970s the verandah had gone and the lower level façade radically altered. These changes have since been reversed and the streetscape is the winner.
This view across the High and Main Street intersection c1918 shows Hornsby's Buildings occupied by William Wallace & Co (centre of image) sitting very comfortably with its neighbours.
61 - 65 High Street, Maldon
This is one of Maldon's oldest buildings. It is a simple Georgian-style building and remains largely intact apart from relatively minor modifications to the windows prior to 1900.
The licenced hotel only operated for a short period (c1857 to c1864) but continued as a temperance hotel to 1884, then for several decades the building was a doctor's surgery and residence.
Now this modest building with its slate roof and central chimney presents a serene face to the street which seems to say 'I have seen it all'. The small building at the south end, built in 1877, was first used in conjunction with the auction yard on the land behind and later as a doctor's surgery. Currently (2017) plans for facade restoration and development of the site are under consideration.
In 1860 the building would have provided welcome respite from the rigours of travel on the gold fields. The south end, with the larger window would have been the hotel section and the rest private quarters. The premises was also the base for the first coaching service between Maldon and Castlemaine operated by owner, Robert Aitken and his business partner David Marshall.
59 High Street, Maldon
The former Bank of NSW complex consisted of the banking chamber (1858), an adjoining residence (1864) and smelting house (1866). The construction of such a substantial building with fine quality fittings was seen as proof of the increasing prosperity of the district. By 1870 the original face brick work had been plastered over, possibly because poor quality bricks had been used.
This 1867 image shows the bank building complete with groups of men and boys nicely posed around its doorway. The smelter, with its decorative brickwork chimney, seen at the right of the image, was demolished in 1936. This bank and the Bank of Victoria at View Point handled much of the gold buying trade in the area, although several local business people acted as agents for other banks.
By the 1970s the building was occupied by the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney which merged with National Bank of Australia in 1982 to become National Australia Bank (NAB). A pale paint scheme had been applied and details such as the upper parapet moulding removed and fences modernised.
Now in 2016 the building no longer houses a bank. In recent times it has been an antiques shop and is now a private residence. The window and door treatment are still a very interesting feature.
51 - 57 High Street, Maldon
The Warnock Bros Beehive Store building was developed between 1858 and 1863. By the 1870s the finely detailed building boasted four large departments: grocery, drapery, ironmongery, and footwear. In response to a shortage of 'small change' on the gold fields, many businesses including Warnock Bros, issued their own trading tokens or local 'pennies'.
The local newspaper described the store as 'a leviathan in both proportions and importance', and its cedar framed windows with their large expanse of plate glass were considered remarkable. It certainly looks the part in this photo from 1875.
By the 1940s the building housed a garage and bus depot and things looked different on the outside. Fortunately many original features including shopfronts remained.
By the 1970s the building was much less recognisable with its parapet now covered with asbestos cement sheet and the verandah removed.
In 2016 the building is once again an important element in the streetscape. The verandah has been reconstructed, the colour scheme and signage complement the character and appearance of the building, all in all a great example of restoration guidelines in action .
49 High Street, Maldon
The former Freemasons' Hall building is part of Warnock Bros Beehive Store, thus the body of the building was constructed c1858 however the façade was altered in 1907-08. This façade was originally unpainted with plaster trim which highlighted its classical details. It was used by the Southern Cross Lodge until the mid-1980s.
By the 1970s the face brick work had been painted over reducing the impact of the features, and parts of the authentic slate-paved footpath were in need of some work.
In 2016 the façade is once again unpainted with contrasting trim. The two small display windows were added after the Freemasons moved out to their new premises.
39 - 47 High Street, Maldon
The two-storied brick building, constructed in 1873 was Warnock's Flour Mill until around 1900. The mill was accessed via a rear lane which comes in at second storey level. As might be expected it was a solid building and its verandah seems to have been used for storage.
In 2016 the former flour mill building is now used as shops and / or residences and has been for 116 years. Although the verandahs are not original they are sympathetic with the building and the streetscape.
By the 1940s the verandahs and shop fronts had been altered from the original mill days, however the structure behind the facades retained many original features. When you stand back you can see the original roof lines and chimneys.
The flour mill as it looked from High Street, c1875, not long after construction. It was an extension to the Warnock Bros already substantial business empire.
Digging the foundations must have been difficult as the builders left a huge piece of hard rock protruding from the floor.
31 - 37 High Street, Maldon
This red brick building consisting of 4 shops was constructed in 1898 on the site of earlier simple timber buildings. These buildings had housed a tobacconist, bank, and hotels at various times from the late 1850s. In 1873 the hotel ceased operating after a covenant forbidding the sale of spirits was placed on its title. The current building was occupied by various retailers into the early 1900s and beyond.
Now in 2016 the building is once again occupied for business purposes. Its Spring Street side verandah has been reconstructed and fortunately the proposal to replace the wooden panels in the doors with glass has not eventuated.
The building went though some quiet times due to its position on the edge of town. It was a residence in the 1970s.
The view from ANZAC Hill over the intersection of High and Spring Streets c.1900. Langslow's Building is in the lower centre of the image.
For the next site:Cross to the other side of High Street to continue the tour and follow the stops up the east side of High Street to the point where it joins Main Street at McFarlane's Drapery Building.
14 - 20 High Street, Maldon
The Royal Hotel and Theatre are two of Maldon's earliest surviving buildings. The concert hall was built in 1857 and the hotel in 1862 replacing the original timber slab structure. They were designed by David R. Drape, architect of many fine early Maldon buildings. The hotel was operated by the Page family for 51 of its 67 years as a hostelry, and the hall was an entertainment hub offering regular performances and attractions. It was one of 3 amusement theatres in Maldon at the time and Saturday nights could be a busy time for the local constabulary. In 1975 the former hotel bar was used as a set for the movie 'Break of Day'.
Extensive restoration work was carried out in the late 1990s. The redecorated interior of the theatre hall is well worth a look. Now in 2016 the hotel is once again in the hospitality business and the small lolly shop on the north end occupies the former carriageway.
The theatre and hotel building c1970. Note the rather intriguing structure above the footpath in the foreground. This is the projectionist's box for the movie theatre. It was installed here due to insufficient room inside the building. Rules seem to have been more relaxed back then.
This rough plan drawing, believed to have been produced for insurance purposes c1910, indicates that the site included an intriguing array of sheds, servants' quarters and rooms for many purposes.
22 - 26 High Street, Maldon
This ornate 'boom' style single-storied rendered brick building was constructed on the site of an earlier hotel by Robert Oswald, a local mining magnate, presumably as an investment. It was sold by his trustees to the Maldon Brewing Company in 1911, a wise move considering the downturn to come. Beware those metal spikes on the window sills designed to deter loitering there.
In 2016 the building looks more like it did in the 1890s although the original harmony and elegance of the features has not yet been fully regained.
By the 1970s much of the fine elegance of the façade had been replaced with a more severe scheme of colours, advertising signage and altered shop facades. Note the unusual window shapes and surface treatment on the south end shop.
In 1890 the recently constructed building was a picture of elegance from its elaborate pediments right down to the delicate cast iron brackets on the verandah posts. The eucalypt tree in the street must have generated some mess though.
For the next site:High Street ends at this point and the next building to the north is included in the Main Street tour.