A visit to the Kosciuszko High Country would not be complete without stopping in at some of the unique heritage huts dotted around this area. Built by pastoralists, stockmen and the Snowy Hydro-electric Authority, these buildings are now recognised as important heritage structures, demonstrating a range of land uses through the history of the region.
The Cooleman Plains in Kosciuszko National Park have been used by Aboriginal communities for thousands of years as a summer meeting place, to hunt and gather foods and conduct traditional ceremonies. However, in the 1830s graziers were attracted to the area as it provided summer grazing for sheep and cattle. It was around this time that permanent huts and homesteads started to be built to accommodate the stockmen and their families.
The heritage buildings of the Coolamine Homestead
Coolamine Homestead is a wonderful example of a heritage homestead and it can be found on the Cooleman Plains in Kosciuszko National Park. It is a rare, surviving example of a permanent pastoral outstation that retains hand built slab buildings and yards.
There are four main buildings to explore at Coolamine Homestead - the Cheese Hut, Campbell House, Southwell House and the Kitchen.
The Cheese Hut features interlocking logs and a thatch ceiling
The Cheese Hut was built in 1889 by Thomas Franklin and is one of only a few interlocking log buildings in the high country. It is an unusual form of construction in that it uses whole logs to create thick and solid log walls. This building also features a sapling roof frame and snow grass thatched ceiling. The building was designed to provide a constant internal temperature and a stable environment for storing and maturing dairy products such as cheese. During reconstruction work, the original roof and supporting posts were retained and reconstruction was completed using traditional methods and tools and locally cut timbers.
Dating from around 1892, Campbell House was built for use by pastoralist Frederick Campbell as he was a regular visitor to the Cooleman Plain. The house consists of five rooms and was built entirely of horizontal slabs, which is less common than both whole log and vertical slab construction.
In this type of construction slabs cut from the outside slice of tree trunks are dropped horizontally, one above the other, in between two posts. It gives the outside a horizontally fluted surface, formed by the natural curves of the timber while the inside features smooth, flat walls. In every third panel, there is a door or window. This construction method creates a slightly more sophisticated form of slab hut (because no-one wants to live in an unsophisticated slab hut, right?).
In this room you can see both the bare timber walls and the walls lined with newspaper
The internal walls were lined with newspapers, which served a dual purpose as a form of insulation and decoration, which you can still see today. Some of the newspapers date back to the 1930's, adding another fascinating dimension and an interesting read, to the history of this place.
The roof was insulated with horse hair and had a calico ceiling. The steep pitch of the roof and the absence of gutters in Campbell House was designed to prevent the accumulation of snow during winter. It is interesting to note that it was not until the mid - 1930's that this house was occupied permanently by Mollie and Tom Taylor.
Southwell House was originally built as a two room slab hut around 1885 by lleaseholderTimothy Kelleher. It was later used as a residence for outstation managers during the Southwell occupancy from 1891 - 1908. During this time extensions were made, including another room, sleepout and a verandah. The use of the overlapping vertical slabs in the original construction of this building provided protection from the weather. During the reconstruction, much of the original hut was salvaged.
The kitchen building on the site today, located behind Southwell House, is actually the third to have been built here. The first kitchen, dating from the 1890's was of timber horizontal slab construction, but was destroyed by fire in 1919. A temporary cookhouse was then used until the current building was completed in 1921. This building was later converted to a garage when the main room at Campbell House was used as a kitchen.
Other features of the Homestead include the stockyards, outhouse buildings and an old dray on the site of the old barn and hay shed.
Walking around the grounds, surrounded by mountains, you get a feel for how isolated you are, and can only imagine what life would have been like for the families living in this remote part of New South Wales in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is fascinating to learn of their self-sufficiency and how they survived in this remote and harsh landscape. It is also the perfect place for budding photographers to test their skills with the lens.
A scenic spot to test your photography skills
Coolamine Homestead became part of Kosciuszko National Park in 1977, before then it had been a private holding but had not been permanently occupied for some time. In the 1980s the National Parks and Wildlife Service stabilised and restored the homestead which had deteriorated due to its isolation and through damage by visitors. In the restoration process local timbers, traditional methods and traditional tools, such as adzes and froes, were used.
There are a number of information signs located around the homestead site which provide historical information about the buildings and the area's grazing history.
Coolamine Homestead is located on the Blue Waterholes Trail in Kosciuszko National Park. From the Snowy Mountains Highway, turn off on the Long Plain Road, travel around 17km and turn right on to the Blue Waterholes Trail. Travel around 5.5km to Coolamine Homestead.
It is important to note that the Long Plain Road gates are locked from the end of the long weekend in June to the beginning of the long weekend in October each year. Gates may also be locked at other times due to inclement conditions such as snow or bushfires.
For information about visiting this region please contact the Tumut Region Visitor Information Centre or click here.