Additional Information regarding the Hahndorf Branch of the NTSA and its activities is available from the following:

National Trust of SA  (NTSA)

Hahndorf Branch NTSA

Background to Branch

Branch Activities

Minutes of Meetings and Reports

Hahndorf Pioneer Womens' Trail

Endangered Place

Main Street Signage

Peramangk Aboriginal People

Background to the Establishment of the Hahndorf Branch of the NTSA

Established in 1976, the Hahndorf National Trust Branch could be considered as being well ahead of its time.

Despite Walter Wotzke's consciousness-raising work in saving the Hahndorf Academy from demolition and the avenue of trees from removal between 1960- 67, the idea of regenerating whole streetscapes was not widely accepted in South Australia, let alone Australia.  In New South Wales the Paddington Society had been established in 1964 followed by others which grew out of residents fighting to retain buildings in their territory against powerful rivals, the developers, speculators and zealous public authorities who supported them.  This was a new phenomenon.  There had been earlier Australian groups interested in history, but their major concern was research and documentation, not community activism which became Hahndorf's lot between 1960 and 1989 when our Branch finished its last foray to the Planning Appeals Tribunal.

This reminds us that it is the local people who have to look after their own patch.  Our Branch's strength lay in being close to events, knowledgeable and flexible enough to react quickly.  Our exploits made great copy for the media which, in turn, brought more visitors to the war zone.  Considered radical in the 1970's, our views about the importance of retaining historical sites for the psychological as well as the economic well-being of the nation, gradually gained acceptance and even emulation.  Today, in-fill developments pose the greatest threat to Hahndorf's village character despite its State Heritage listing.

There were few structural changes to the village until the advent of the South Eastern Freeway in 1972.  In the tradition of the big road building programs of 18th Century Europe which spawned the social phenomenon of "Tourism", Hahndorf became a mecca for both visitors and commerce eager to serve them.  Its rural and industrial character which had evolved slowly since 1839 was suddenly subjected to immense pressure by speculators and the real estate industry.  Its Germanic origin was immediately equated with "Bavarian" by many business people emulating John Gordon whose conversion of Wittwer's old steam mill to "The Old Mill" Restaurant in 1970, had promoted entertainment full of thigh-slapping lederhosen and bell-ringing that attracted busloads of happy visitors.

Hahndorf's roots, however, lay in East German villages where bell- ringing was confined to the serious events of life, weddings, funerals and church services.  This history was recognised by another newcomer of 1970, John Storey, who opened "Storison Arts and Crafts" with his wife Cath, and sister-in-law Clare Ferguson in Haebich's Smithy.  John's ancestor had been Captain John Finnis, one of three British speculators who sold the Hahndorf site to the Lutheran pioneers.  John was passionate about the village and spent countless hours talking to students and visitors curious about the past.  Disregarding Mt. Barker Council's advice that they run a bulldozer through Haebich's house and workshops, John and his family spent years in patient restoration of these 19th Century buildings.

The only business attempting to seriously attract visitors interested in culture before 1970, was the Hahndorf Gallery in 1955 and later, the Hahndorf Academy restored in 1966-67.  Both had grown out of Walter Wotzke's interest in art and the history of his home as a youngster.

(Anni Luur Fox)

The First Branch Committee (1976)

The first Hahndorf National Trust Branch Committee, elected on 23 June 1976 at the Hahndorf Academy, was largely responsible for the major thrust towards planning controls that currently govern the built environment.  We recognised that buildings had more chance of escaping demolition if they were perceived as being commercially viable by the business community.  Unfortunately, the national hobby of land speculation continued to erase the "lived culture" in Main Street as residents sold their old homes to tourist operators and moved elsewhere.  Tourism became our expedient argument in favour of restoration of buildings as well as retention of the trees and gardens that framed them.  Tourism, however, was at odds with the suburban developments in the back blocks.  The few ancient gums still standing after more than a century of land clearance for agriculture were now threatened due to their habit of dropping limbs.  It hadn't mattered much until the village became a suburb.  And many of the new residents hated the congestion of Main Street on weekends.

The 1976 Foundation Members were:

Mr and Mrs John Storey, Mr Walter Wotzke, Ms Lyndell Davidge, Brian and Anni Fox, Mr Reg Butler, Mr and Mrs David Heysen, Mr and Mrs J.V. Nitschke, Mr and Mrs H.C. Tillyer, Mr and Mrs S. Pellenat, Mr and Mrs John Littler, Mr and Mrs M. Chipperfield, Mr Ralph Dettman, Mr and Mrs O. Butler, Mr G. Paech, Mrs A. Paech.

And the first Branch Committee consisted of:

  • CHAIRMAN:    John Storey

  • VICE CHAIRMAN:    Walter Wotzke

  • HON. SECRETARY:    Anni Luur Fox

  • TREASURER:    Elaine Potts

  • COMMITTEE:    Pam Chipperfield, Lyndell Davidge, Ralph Dettman, Siegfried Pellenat, Mignon Siemer, and Marjory Tillyer

In its first year the Branch undertook the following -

Branch records reveal the political nature of its activities and its informal links with academic institutions.

  • Hosted a seminar, "HAHNDORF, PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE" organised by Dr. Derek Whitelock, Adelaide University Department of Adult Education.  The official opener, Colin Thiele, spoke of his fear of tourism for what it could do to the spirit of a place.  Distinguished speakers were historian Ian Harmstorf, architects John Chapple and Robert Dickson, planning consultant Neill Wallman and the assistant director of the State Planning Office, John Harris.

  • At the suggestion of Lyndell Davidge, we conducted a survey of residents views on future development with assistance from the, Sociology Department, Adelaide College of Advanced Education.

  • With the help of Martin Chipperfield, we produced a photographic record of 70 historic buildings for our land title search and classification programme.

  • Organised a public meeting that became an argument with the Monarto Commission over local government control of planning in Hahndorf.

  • Provided data concerning protection of historic sites (via Branch member Patrick McGrath) for a Private Members Bill introduced by David Wotton M.P. to South Australian Parliament.  Via Patrick we had input to the South Australian Heritage Act.

  • Met with the National Heritage Commission to discuss means of conserving Hahndorf.

  • Set up an exhibition of the Barossa Survey led by Gordon Young and Ian Harmstorf, at the Hahndorf Academy, with a view to having a similar survey at Hahndorf.

  • Conducted walking tours of Hahndorf.

  • Publicised Hahndorf's history and planning problems by providing research and participating in the ABC-TV series "Peach's Australia".  Anni Luur Fox's book, "HAHNDORF: Brief look at the Town and its History" had provided a basis for the half-hour segment seen nationally and internationally.

- Anni Luur Fox  (2004)