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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bendigo Architect, William Charles Vahland

German born Carl Wilhelm Vahland who later changed his name to William Charles Vahland made a huge contribution to Australia and Bendigo in particular.

When he heard about the discovery of gold in the Victorian goldfields, he set sail on the ship “San Francisco” arriving in Melbourne in 1854 and set off for the Bendigo diggings with three friends. But his gold prospecting wasn't very successful so he started work as a carpenter in Bendigo, fitting out the Crown Hotel in Hargreaves Street and went on to set up his own carpenter’s shop making miners’ cradles.

In 1857 he opened chambers at 2 Pall Mall with another German architect, Robert Geetzschmann and they were partners until Geetzschmann’s death.
Just some of the buildings he designed and directed in Bendigo: the Town Hall, the Shamrock Hotel, the hospital, The School of Mines, The Mechanics Institute, the Princess Theatre, the Masonic Hall, the Cascades, the Alexandra Fountain in the centre of town, the Sandhurst Club and many private homes, some very grand and some very simple.

But for all his outstanding accomplishments, I like his little miner’s cottage the best. In 1870 he wanted to design cheap accommodation for the average family and came up with the classic miner's cottage with four front posts on a verandah, a door in the middle and windows either side.

It was easy to erect and could be mass-produced. You can see these quaint little cottages all across Australia where large families were raised in a very small space and they played a very important part in our history, thanks to William Charles Vahland, Bendigo Architect and Freemason.