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Published July 1st 2018
A sweet little cottage nestled in the heart of the Barossa
Luhrs Cottage is at Light Pass near Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley. Image by Kat May.
Luhrs Cottage is a historic house from the early pioneer days of the Barossa Valley in South Australia. It was built by Johann Heinrich Luhrs, who came to South Australia in 1844. He was a devout Lutheran and interested in mission work. He lived for a short while in Lobethal and married Anna Rosina Shultz. Soon after he was married, he was called to become the teacher at the Light Pass Lutheran School at Immanuel Church. Light Pass was a small village near the town of Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley, where many German immigrants had made their new home.
Luhrs built the stone and mud house on the 20 acres of land he purchased in 1848 for mixed farming. The small cottage faces Light Pass Road and is still standing today after 120 years, and has had a fascinating history. Over the years, the farmland was sold off apart from the block the cottage stands on. Many people have lived here and it now stands as a proud part of the Barossa's heritage, but it was almost demolished.
This image from the 1970s prior to the big restoration. The crumbling little house stood in a paddock of weeds. Image from www.facebook.com/lightpass
The old cottage has interesting items from yesteryear. Image by Kat May.
In 1978, a new pastor, Cedric Zweck, and his wife Margaret came to the Strait Gate Parish across the road. Margaret was interested in antiques and had a big collection. She became interested in the crumbling empty cottage and urged the parish to save it, as the land now belonged to the church. However, the congregation had no funds for restoring it, but they agreed to defer their decision to demolish it for 12 months. During this time, by chance, Margaret Zweck met a visitor who grew up in the Light Pass district. Mr Klein, donated all the funds to fully restore the cottage.
The stone was repointed, the roof repaired from leaks and old red bricks were laid on some of the bare dirt floors. New verandah posts were made. The residents of the Light Pass district were excited about their new museum and soon donated many old wares and historic items to add to Margaret's collection. Much work was put into making a delightful cottage garden which made the whole place look as pretty as a picture. The church donated the cottage and land to the new Luhrs Cottage Preservation Society which still maintains the property today with many volunteers. The museum was placed on the SA Heritage Trust in 1990.
An old cart is out the back in the shed. Image by Kat May.
Visiting here is a step back in time. As you explore the three main rooms of the tiny cottage, it is hard to image Johann and Anna living here with their six children. You can see old photographs of family members on the walls and collectables the community has donated as you wander around the rooms. The 'school room' out the back was added in 1870 with a cellar for storing and keeping food cool and as a wine cellar. This large room was used as a kitchen and eating space when the family lived here. Later it was a Sunday school room for the church across the road and other community uses.
The old school room has a large collection of educational and religious items on display. Image by Kat May.
In here, you will find many donations of old-school materials and religious memorabilia, such as decorative confirmation certificates. You could sit in here for hours and read all the historical ephemera. Many of the items are written in an old form of German making some of them difficult to decipher. It would make fascinating research for someone who had ancestors in the region. During World War One, all Lutheran schools were ordered by law to be closed, so much of these items were stored away for many years safe in people's homes. The Facebook page of the Luhrs Cottage Preservation Society has many old photos and interesting news of events. This is a useful contact when researching your ancestors.
In the garden, you will find a memorial plaque to the last resident whose ashes were buried there. Visiting Luhrs Cottage is a reminder of what a small group of dedicated people can do to save our history and their work is much appreciated. The cottage hosts special tours by candlelight during history month which are very popular. Special tours and talks can be arranged for groups or school excursions. Enquire about the educational sheets to fill in while you walk around and discover the answers. Dropping in here would make an interesting stop on a tour around the Barossa Valley. It is very close to the Barossa Bushgardens and the town of Nuriootpa and is open every day. When I visited, I saw tourists making a stop here on their hire bikes, which are available from the Barossa Cycle Hub in Tanunda.
Every old cottage deserves a country cottage garden. Image by Kat May.