Patroni's guest house, Gwalia ghost town (photo Dave Carter)

Colin White

Hillarys, Australia

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Artist's Description

The living ghost town of Gwalia is the doorway to a unique experience of Western Australia’s rich mining history.

The little settlement that grew up around the Sons of Gwalia Mine in the late 1890s thrived until the final whistle blew on 28 December 1963, closing the mine and putting 250 men out of work. Gwalia’s 1200-strong population fell to just 40 in less than three weeks.

Today, the abandoned homes and businesses of Gwalia create a tangible snapshot of a vanished era and way of life.

The Gwalia experience is three-dimensional: step inside the quaint cottages built of corrugated iron, timber and whitewashed hessian and imagine a miner’s wife cooking dinner on the cast iron range, while her husband toils far underground to support his family and their children recite their lessons in the State school. Look through the windows of Mazza’s Store, where the shopper could buy everything from two pounds of flour for the day’s baking to a length of fabric to make a frock for a dance at the State Hotel – or wander through Patroni’s Guest Home next door, for decades a home from home for single men employed at the Sons of Gwalia Mine.

Once one of the largest gold mines in Australia, the Sons of Gwalia Ltd operated from 1897 to 1963. Its first mine manager was a young American mining engineer named Herbert Hoover, who later became the 31st President of the United States. The mine manager’s house Hoover designed and which bears his name stands on the summit of “Staff Hill” in the Museum Complex.

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