The Bottle House is constructed using beer bottles from a stockpile outside a pub in Hebel across the Queensland border. Built from 5,800 bottles, this used to be the home of Arthur Germaine and his wife where they slept on a mezzanine floor. It is a museum now displaying old wares, curiosities, a gem and rock collection and bottle collections.
Arthur beckons us in to a dusty clutter of yesteryear paraphernalia. Light shines over the collection through the bottom of the bottles that form the windows. In a jar on a shelf is a preserved rat, how bizarre.
Old axe heads lay on a table in front of a china plate, enamel bowls are surrounded by aged hand tools. There is a smudge pot, a copper garden tap, a cigarette dispenser, cigar tins, a double-bell wall 'phone, a child's tin pedal car, army helmets, iron kettles and a vintage canister vacuum cleaner, to name but a few of the thousands of items.
This collection has the kind of haphazard organization of an eccentric grandad's back yard shed and surely many of the items here would have been sourced from just such a place. Ask Arthur about any of it, he knows his collection well.
We pass through to a collection of bottles, these not part of the walls but displayed on benches and shelves. There is a pair with dog and cat heads as stoppers and another a stags head. On a back shelf are Mickey and Minnie Mouse bottles. A really tall yellow bottle is shaped like a woman.
Samples of nobbies, clay or stone with opal inside
In a third area is an impressive collection of rocks, gems and petrified woods. In a cardboard box, on a shelf amongst these, is a broken piece of concrete. With some degree of pride, Arthur tells us this is a piece of the Berlin Wall.
We are in opal country where everybody dreams of a find, so appropriately there is a variety of nobbies, clay or stone with opals inside and also of seam potch (common but valueless opal). Arthur's collection is not restricted to opal, there are rocks and gems from many other places. Petrified logs stand in boxes or against the wall as might logs for the home fire.
We pass through to a small shop where Arthur sells opal jewelry, fossils and souvenirs. Outside we come upon "The Dog House", a dog kennel size construction made of course, from bottles.
The Bottle House is at 60 Opal Street in Lightning Ridge. There is parking in Opal Street. It is open 9am to 5pm, 7 days a week. Admission is $10 for adults and children enter for free. Arthur will give you a guided tour, he's quite a character. You can contact the Bottle House by telephone on 02 6829 0618. Information about this and other Lightning Ridge attractions can be found on the Visitor Information website.