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Published October 17th 2017
Was it The Beatles or the Beetaloo ?
First discovered in 1839 by Edward John Eyre, and named Chrystal Brook (original spelling) due to the running stream of clear water, the township has seen many changes over the years, changes which have resulted in a proud history, a re-spelling of the town's name and the production of a brochure known as the Crystal Brook Magical History Tour.
The tour starts at Eyre's Cairn on the northern side of town and quickly passes one of the first cottages built in the township in 1874. The years between Eyre's discovery and the settlement of the town saw the area as part of a large pastoral station in some of the most prosperous agricultural areas in South Australia before being acquired by the Bowman Brothers and then ultimately surveyed, subdivided and settled.
The first decade after settlement saw the erection of many stately buildings including the Bakehouse (1875), Crystal Brook Hotel (1875), Royal Hotel (1876), Methodist Church (1877), Primary School (1877), Catholic Church (1879), Institute (1881), Council Chambers (1882) and the Anglican Church (1885), many of which are still standing today.
1876 also saw the railways come to town with the construction of the railway station and various sheds occurring over the following years. Crystal Brook was a significant station on the east-west and north-south lines, predominantly due to the rich farmlands and grain production of the area. 1967 saw the standardisation of some rail lines, the closure of others, and the ultimate demolition of all buildings (except silos) at Crystal Brook and the removal of the town as a stopping point.
The rich farming lands meant large receival and sales sites were required to facilitate the movement of grain and stock. Crystal Brook was one of the largest receival sites in the State while the sale yards were second only to Peterborough as the largest stockyards. The large yards are now long gone, although the gates of the old sale yards remain as a poignant reminder of those days.
While Crystal Brook was built on a supply of running water, this was quickly deemed as insufficient to service the growing town, a decision which gave rise to the construction of the Beetaloo Reservoir within the nearby Beetaloo Valley from 1886. The Reservoir took almost 4 years to build and at the time, it had the largest curved concrete dam wall in the southern hemisphere with pipelines servicing all towns from Port Pirie to Paskeville.
During the 20th Century Crystal Brook continued to establish itself as a significant regional town within the mid-north farming district despite the economic rationalisations experienced in the latter part of the Century. It was during this time that the architecture of the town changed significantly with new and grand houses being built in various styles including Art Deco, Queen Anne and Tudor.
Each of these houses 'blended' in with the existing and early homes, a number of which were examples of Californian Bungalows, symmetrical cottages, package homes and Gentlemen's Return Villas. As an adjunct to the Magical History Tour, the Crystal Brook Community Association have published a small brochure detailing a short walk around the centre of town providing a snapshot of Crystal Brook's Historic Homes.
Further details and brochures for the Crystal Brook Magical History Tour are available from the Information Centre, the Council Offices, the History Group in Brandis Street or the Community Association in Bowmans Street.