A short history to remind us of the Heritage of Hahndorf! - by Anni Luur Fox
The Peramangk Aboriginal people inhabited the Mt Lofty Ranges for thousands of years. The place they called Bukatilla (‘deep pool’ or ‘wash place’) near the Onkaparinga River was renamed ‘Hahndorf’ in honour of Captain Hahn of the Zebra in 1839. To help his passengers find a place they could settle as a community, he had sought the help of three British speculators who had purchased 15,000 acres of land in the Mt Barker District, W H Dutton, Captain J Finnis and D MacFarlane. They allotted the Lutheran settlers 150 acres to be laid out as a Hufendorf (farm village).
These Lutherans had decided to emigrate from Prussia due to persecution for refusing to join King Friedrich Wilhelm the Third’s Calvinistic State Church. A Lutheran minister, Pastor August Kavel, had gone to England where he met one of South Australia’s founding fathers, George Fife Angas, who agreed to finance their voyage. Three ships brought Kavel’s flock to these shores. Passengers on the Prince George and Bengalee founded the temporary village of Klemzig in 1838, and some of these, together with the 187 passengers of the Zebra, were soon making the long trek to the hills in the summer of 1839, a total of 54 families.
The foundation settlers cleared the bush and planted vegetables. Soon, the women were carrying their fresh farm produce to market on their backs. By 1840, a whitewashed pug church seating 100 people had been erected in the centre of the village which was planned around this spiritual landmark. It was, after all, the symbol of why they had left their homeland! Until 1849, the southern side of the main street was used as stockyards by overlanders. Crude shelters were eventually replaced by stone cottages or craftsman-built Fachwerk houses; corrugated iron replaced Kangaroo grass thatch. There are currently over ninety 19th Century buildings left on Main Street alone.
As grain crops flourished in the Mt Barker District, long known as the ‘the breadbasket of the Hills’, four mills powered by wind, bullocks, water and steam were built in or near Hahndorf. Gold was found in Echunga, bringing hoards of lusty miners to the area. Blacksmiths, wheelwrights, coach builders and many other trades-people serviced the growing district. The Hahndorf Academy was erected in many stages to provide primary and later also secondary education in this rural area. Some students even came from distant Queensland.
Sir Hans Heysen, Hahndorf’s famous artist, made his home in English Street in 1908 after he married Selma Bartels. On the strength of another successful exhibition in Melbourne, they bought a farm named ‘The Cedars’ on the outskirts of the village. This place of popular pilgrimage is still owned by the family and open for public viewing all the year round.
While it is not possible to thank the 54 founding families who risked the dangerous sea-voyage to establish a unique village in the Australian bush in March 1839, the remnants of their built heritage and overarching street trees planted in 1885, are today much admired by thousands of visitors.
Hahndorf was Australia’s first settlement planned specifically for non-British immigrants. It is imperative that it retains its heritage for future generations to experience and wonder at the hard work, beliefs and way of life that produced this charming place where a stroll can still evoke a feeling of peace and tranquility (except for the traffic)! The love, joy and connections between the old families are sometimes the subject of stories told by descendants at events at the Academy when photographs, artefacts and even recipes can take us back to life in another era.
Thank you - Anni Luur Fox
An important note: Hahndorf is well documented and has ninety 19th Century buildings in Main Street. The heritage that has disappeared is its rural way of life. Its fields began sprouting houses instead of cabbages when the Freeway arrived in 1972-4. It has become a suburb on a floodplain - bad news if we have a few deluges like we used to. Hahndorf is nationally important.
Hahndorf and Heritage Preservation
[Article by Reg Butler, Hahndorf Historian]
Many people in power still fail to grasp the importance of heritage preservation in Hahndorf, even in regard to their own particular interest. They fail to appreciate that the town’s history is what draws visitors here, who then continue to make business ventures profitable. Take away the crowds; down plummets income.
During the 1950s, a mere six decades ago, Hahndorf as a community was still at peace with itself. Families generally knew each other well, indeed were often related, with links reaching back to 1839, the year of Hahndorf’s foundation.
Most of the main street buildings were still family homes, with former adjacent business premises converted into extra living room or storage space. Whilst the history of these places was often formally understood or valued, there was no widespread desire to demolish or dramatically modernise. Hahndorf’s largest structure, the former Hahndorf College, was divided into a considerable number of flats, in a bold move to let young married couples set up their own households, instead of living in cramped conditions with parents-in-law.
In common with most of the rest of Australia, Hahndorf had little or no positive sense that its community was different from anywhere else in the nation and worthy of intelligent preservation. Indeed, in Hahndorf’s case, memories of two recent world wars fought against Germany probably encouraged citizens to minimalise any thought of diffence. Government at all levels shared this belief and was even less inclined to spend any money on an idea so little understood by voters and ratepayers.
An entire world away, both physically and in population numbers, Australia’s former mother country, Great Britain, was fortunate to possess a large reserve of architects and associated lovers of the various arts in a position to influence government policy in favour of preservation.
Indeed, this movement was already well under way in the 1930s. For instance, a rising young poet named John Betjamin, was enjoying pleasing success in convincing the infant national television industry that a programme featuring a well-known town or village was not merely a studio interview with some of the inhabitants, but an excellent opportunity for a film crew to visit the place itself.
Suddenly, the unavoidable agonies of World War 2 intervened. Innumerable reports by government and private organisations invariably commented on the steep rise of what, in modern language, would be termed stress and depression among the general population. Regular enemy bombing was destroying countless familiar landmarks in Britain’s large cities in advance of what appeared to be a real threat of foreign invasion and control.
Once peace returned, perceptive observers noted that the nation’s mental health was naturally improving, because householders were abandoning simply vegetables in favour of a mix with vivid flowers and ornamental trees and shrubs in their gardens. Following much, often divisive, debate, the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act for the whole of Britain emphasised the importance of retaining as many pre-war buildings as possible, surrounded by natural open space, to help the population retain its general good health and sanity. New structures had to harmonise as far as possible with what already existed. Only in the rebuilding of bombed out city centres did relentless modernising planners and developers tend to have their way.
Despite countless attempts by modernisers to find loopholes, this Act remains in force today. As part of their training, Government employees are well aware of the need to consider heritage seriously. As a result, aesthetically inappropriate new developments such as the IGA complex and insensitive alterations to heritage buildings which have divided the Hahndorf community recently, have a much harder chance of gaining approval.
[Article by Harold Gallasch - July 2018]
Most Hahndorfians are proud of the heritage of the town. It is one of the reasons why new residents move here. The beautiful tree-lined Main Street with its mid nineteenth century buildings and the village atmosphere is something available in very few places, and the envy of many.
These are the very same attributes, together with the range of boutique shops and galleries, eating places, wineries and facilities that attract people from not only Adelaide but all states of Australia.
Hahndorf is well known across Australia.
Did you know that Hahndorf has been rated in the top 10 tourist towns in the whole of Australia?
We have something very special here in our town.
Sometimes it gets busy, even very busy occasionally, but it is this vitality of the town which provides us residents with so much choice and so many facilities, far, far more than most towns of our equivalent size.
It is a vital town from many points of view; a wide range of cultural events throughout the year, with the new Cedars development on the horizon, and a cultural hub centred on the Hahndorf Academy.
Sporting clubs are prolific, with new infrastructure planned, the best in the hills.
We’ve also developing as a wine centre of note for cool climate, medal winning wines, and no one can deny the plethora and variety of our eating places and the choices available.
BUT – we have to protect those special things that have made Hahndorf the town that it is, specifically the old buildings, our lasting heritage.
Do you recognize the house pictured to the right?
It is quite possibly the first house built in the Main Street of Hahndorf, of stone, small and compact; typical German immigrant structure, only one room. Maybe you don’t see it in the photograph because the District Council of Mount Barker condoned its destruction and removal some five years ago, in spite of representations made by the Community Association.
But you’ll all recognize this building. Yes! It’s just across the road from the German Arms. For 170 years this building retained its heritage nature. It was in fact the original German Arms, one of the State’s first hotels outside of Adelaide.
You’ll have to look fairly closely now to see any heritage, under the modifications and clutter.
New people come to Hahndorf. Even though they know they’ve moving into a State listed heritage area, an area noted in four ‘Hahndorf Development Plans’ promoted by Council, where the main feature has always been on the retention and preservation of the heritage, the first thing they want to do is change, modify, even destroy that heritage. Our District Council has been complicit in many of these changes, often claiming that as some State Heritage person condoned it, it must be O.K. In this situation also, the Hahndorf Community Association made submission that the ‘development’ was entirely inappropriate for a building of such significance. No response from Council. Inevitably, the alterations are always greater than approved, and inevitably, as is happening in this situation, the ‘developer’ soon moves on, vacating the premises and leaving a town significantly depleted in its heritage.
Recognize this building? Yes! Up near the I.G.A.
This was a garage, part of Kaesler’s Engineering Works, a manufacturing business associated with Hahndorf’s history for over 100 years. They developed new machinery, won awards, and were an integral part of Hahndorf’s development. In spite of State Heritage listing of the Main Street and District Council of Mount Barker emphasis on the preservation of our heritage, this is all that is left.
Item by item the old buildings, those that made Hahndorf what it is, are being ticked off. Little will remain of the historic treasure we once had. Is this what we want? If the old buildings are gone or are unrecognizable, Hahndorf will begin to loose its competitive advantage over other towns in the Adelaide Hills. Will visitors keep coming to a crowded Main Street full of shops and deli’s, maybe even with pay parking, very similar to the average suburban shopping centre, if Hahndorf has lost it’s historic, village atmosphere? Certainly not!
The rot continues.
Following immediately upon Councils acceptance of it’s most recent ‘Hahndorf Development Plan’, we learn that its planning section has approved part demolition of another Heritage building in a prime position on the Main Street.
While the primary focus of this new ‘Plan’ is the ‘Enhancement and Protection of Heritage, this is already being dismissed.
Maybe one section of Council does not know what the other section is doing, or, more obviously, it may be that planning section is so intent on doing what it wants to do, without concern for what the community wants, rather than following the plans and direction of the elected Council members.
I refer to a development approval for the old barn at no. 94 Main Street, in conjunction with State heritage, which has so often been very, very wrong, as is evidenced by a litany of errors in Hahndorf over past years.
This is the only stone barn in the whole of Hahndorf, representing the agrarian roots of the township. There is an upstairs hay loft and associated stables and out house. Certainly not as imposing as the Old Mill or Detmold, but built by the same pioneering family, all displaying a facet of Hahndorf’s history.
We must stop this gradual, inexorable, erosion of our history, of our character, and all that makes Hahndorf so special.
While the Community Association and the Hahndorf Business and Tourism have already voiced their concerns about Councils adhoc approach to the preservation of our town, our heritage, we would request that many more people phone, email or write to Council to express their own dissatisfaction.
Look at it this way. We’ve all paying their salaries. We could expect council staff to comply with the directives of our elected members and also be attentive to the wishes of the community.
Where is Councils credibility if they say something, then do and allow the opposite?
P.S. Even as recently as last Monday (2/7/2018) the very walls of that beautiful old barn were used as a backdrop for a sequence in a Chinese drama television series ‘If Time Flows Back’.
Everybody appreciates our heritage. We must say to the Council NO MORE WRONG PLANNING DECISIONS – consult with the town. Reverse bad decisions already made.