On our recent trip exploring country towns of Western Australia, we were recommended a visit to Gwalia in Leonara. Around a 2 ½ hour drive from Kalgoorlie, maybe a bit more with a stop on the way. It was well worth the drive to see this fascinating ghost town. We had a beautiful day for our visit after yesterday’s grey and gloomy day. At the bottom of this post there is a short history.
We first went up the museum to have a look around at the top and to view the mine and managers’ buildings. The husband of the lady running the gift shop and information centre is the restorer of all the buildings.
A mural painted by the artist Roderick Sprigg in 2018 who grew up in Gwalia. He actually painted the corrugated effect as well.
The mine at present
Hoover House is now a bed and breakfast and also serves Devonshire teas on the verandah
The Ghost Town
The miners and their families tried to make the best with what little they had. It must have been boiling in the summer and freezing in the winter. These are some of the homes below of the outside and inside.
Patroni’s guesthouse – while some miners had their own homes many were single men who boarded here. Families often ate their meals here if they had no kitchen facilities.
An entertainment room, the piano looks in need of an urgent tune up and repair
The State Hotel built in 1903 and once I imagine a grand old building. It was built to give the town a licensed premise and to lessen the “sly-grog” trade.
Short History of Gwalia
In 1896 a gold reef was discovered by prospectors. It was originally named Sons of Gwalia which signifies the Welsh heritage of the investors.
In 1897 110 miners were employed at the mine and in 1898 Herbert Hoover (the 31st president of the USA) was appointed as mine manager, working for only six months here.
By 1901 – 1903 the goldmine is thriving and surpassing its predicted production. By now 884 people live here and a school opens. Also a tram service established between Gwalia and Leonara.
1914-1918 many men leave to enlist in WW1.
1919 – it is now the deepest mine in Australia.
1921 – 1929 – A fire destroys the power station and mill and reconstruction works commence. Herbert Hoover becomes President of the USA (1929).
1939 – 1945 – WW2. The Italian miners employed at the time were interred and the mine is now operating at a loss.
1963 – On the 28th December the mine closes, there was a mass exodus of most of the people, abandoning their homes and many belongings.
1964 – The population drops from 1,200 to 40.
1983 – The mine was reopened and is still a going concern today.
Gwalia Mine – For more information