Waikerie Heritage Walk
Waikerie began as a part of the S.A.Government’s Village Settlement experiment of 1894. The growing number of unemployed in Adelaide was causing concern, so in an attempt to ease the problem, Waikerie, Holder, and Ramco became sites upstream from Morgan that were selected for settlement.
There were 11 sites in all. Further information can be obtained at the library. Commercial life in Waikerie began in Peake Terrace as all traffic came via the river. In 1914 following construction of the Railway station, further commercial enterprises began in White St. and McCoy St. We will begin our walk from the jetty on the riverbank and travel up along Peake Tce. White and McCoy Streets and take in some of the town’s history as we go.
1 The area around the jetty was once the property of the swimming club. A large wooden parapet surrounded a safe area for children to swim, a stone building housed men’s and ladies change rooms and the surrounding lawns were terraced. A sand pit for little children and a shelter shed made it a popular place for families to come after work or on Friday and Sunday evenings when the Waikerie Brass band held practices nearby. Prior to World War II membership of our brass band usually exceeded 60 and over the years had won many competitions. The swimming club in those years boasted several state champions and often members won the swim through Adelaide races.
2 Nearby is the old bond store, used to house spirit manufactured by the Waikerie Co-op Distillery which operated at this site. Walk on across the lawns and imagine the 1956 floodwaters swirling around the distillery to be level with the gutters on the bond store.
3 Up at street level you will be in Heppner’ gardens. Stop in at Country Cuisine chocolate factory and sample some of their delicious treats. Next door is Habib’s old store, now used as flats. Not a lot is known of Mr.Habib except that he ran a very successful general goods and drapery shop from the town’s earliest days.
4 Police Station 1914-1975. The first Government building in the town. Built of Waikerie stone which was quarried locally, some buildings were given rock-faced finishes, others left as plain stone, look around and see how many buildings you can find made with this stone. Waikerie stone is still in use. [See the walls at the entrance to the town on the Sturt Highway, and at the families to come after work or on Friday and Sunday evenings when the Waikerie Brass band held practices nearby. Prior to World War II membership of our brass band usually exceeded 60 and over the years had won many competitions. The swimming club in those years boasted several state champions and often members won the swim through Adelaide races. 2 Nearby is the old bond store, used to house spirit manufactured by the Waikerie Co-op Distillery which operated at this site. Walk on across the lawns and imagine the 1956 floodwaters swirling around the distillery to be level with the gutters on the bond store. [River-front toilets and barbeque shelters.]
5 The first Post Office site is just across the road at the top of “Punt Hill”. In 1911 a telegraphic connection was made to the Adelaide to Sydney line [which ran along the Morgan to Renmark road to our north]. A single wire went across the river from a pole on top of the cliff nearby to the northern riverbank and then on out to Taylorville area, it was then possible to send and receive telegrams.
6 Coffee Palace on town allotment no 13 has seen two large fires. The first fire destroyed a set of wooden shops and half of Landseer’s store next door on 13-3-1913. In addition a case of gelignite stored in a cellar blew up shattering many glass windows in the town and could be heard as far away as Lowbank. The second fire in 1915 destroyed a substantial two storied Coffee Palace and shops.
7 River News Building. Built as a large store about 1911 and sold to A.H. Landseer shortly after; Landseer’s traded from here until about 1922 when they built an imposing emporium on what is now the car park for Woolworths.
8 Lands Department Office. Also known as the Irrigation Office. All official business to do with land or water was conducted from here. Now the Rainmoth Gallery and Art Shop
9 Interpretive Park. This is under construction and will depict the interrelated land and water management and historical issues faced by people living along the river with particular regard to salt, water and the land.
10 Norman’s Chemist Shop. Built with Waikerie rock-faced stone this was home and shop to the local chemist for about 50 years.
11 Waikerie Bakery. One of two town bakeries dating from earliest times.
12 Old Council Office. Built in 1933, the main section is now occupied by the Waikerie and District Historical Society. The room now used by the toy library was built during the 1950’s to house the town’s fire truck. The C.F.S. now occupy a building west of the Hotel and next to the C.W.A.
13 Look-out and Channel. Walk along Goodchild Street until you come to the large delivery pipe from the pumping station. Cross this and climb the lookout tower to enjoy the view across the river and fl ood plains. To the east you can see Holder settlement; to the west you will see immediately in front of you, the old 90 foot [above river level] water channel, partly filled in to provide a walking path, snaking away towards the orchards. Ramco is beyond the hill to the west.
14 Tree of Knowledge. For many years the centre of town, all passing traffic came this way.
15 Beck’s Café. A popular Café through the years; in the 1950’s a skating arena was built next door and became hugely popular. In 1973 the shop was turned into a mini-market to cater for competitors who came from all over the world for the World Gliding Competitions of 1974, and for the convenience of the many itinerant workers in the district. The business closed a few weeks after the opening of Woolworths new store in 2002.
16 Doctor’s residence. Built in 1912 by the community in the hope of attracting a doctor to the town. Used as the doctors home and consulting rooms until 1981 when new consulting rooms were built on the corner of Strangman Road and Jemison Street next to the Hospital.
17 White Street car park. Originally Waikerie’s fi rst quarry, then an open air picture theatre until Austral Gardens and it’s large entertaining hall were built 1919. [since demolished].
18 Post Office. In 1922 a post offi ce and post masters home were built on this site. The present post offi ce was built in 1986.
19 Institute. Built in 1919 as a memorial to soldiers who had fought in the war. The hall was completed in 1928, two shops built onto the side of the institute became the town library, [ until 1980], and Savings Bank, now the “Cobweb” shop.
20 Waikerie Hotel. Built in 1911, in 1963 it became a community hotel in keeping with all other Hotels in the Riverland. In September 2011 the original building burnt to the ground.
21 Eudunda Farmers. For many years another emporium within the town where all kinds of goods could be bought. Now a Foodland store.
22 Bank of Adelaide. Began trading in Waikerie in 1910. Built here about 1913. Now A.N.Z.
23 State Bank of South Australia, now Bank S.A. Began trading here in 1926, and from a new building on this site in 1928. Once the largest branch outside Adelaide, the building was replaced twice over the years, in 1959 and 1986. The Waikerie Cooperative Distillery which began about 1919 and the Waikerie Fruit-growers Cooperative Limited which began in 1914, brought rich rewards for grower members, and increased business for the bank. This bank was also very supportive of farmers during the depression years, a fact which was not forgotten by those on the land.
24 Fricker Shops. Built by Fricker Bros. of Adelaide about 1915, and occupied by many different businesses over the years. A section of the McCoy St. Café was used as the post offi ce from 1915 to 1922,
25 Methodist Church. Built 1912.
26 Serv-well Store. Once a grocery store, it is now occupied by a bakery.
27 Auction area. Monthly markets were held here for many years, selling anything from animals to furniture. Now the Lion’s Club continue with the markets on the second Saturday of each month on the lawns near to the river and the old Bond store.
28 Horse Trough. Walk across the road to see the only remaining horse trough in the town, a reminder of when people rode horses into town to attend meetings etc. As recently as 1960 horses and carts were left under the shade of these pines while the owners attended to business.
29 Hospital. Read the plaque for information about the hospital. The Jacaranda trees which line Strangman Road were fi rst brought from Sydney by Mr. Howell in 1936; his imposing home of Waikerie stone is set back off the road about half way to the cemetery.
30 Government and Local Government buildings on the old Bowling club greens. This whole area was redeveloped from 1964 to include offi ces for the Departments of Engineering and Water Supply and Agriculture, police, St. John’s and local council. This last building included a new public library.
31 Waikerie Club Inc. Built as a Coffee Palace in 1918 by Fricker Bros. It was bought by the community in 1937. In 1963 the club was instrumental in securing the lease of the Hotel from the South Australian Brewing Company.
32 Waikerie Co-op. Began trading in 1914, dealing mostly with dried fruits, such as apricots, peaches, pears, currents, sultanas and raisins. As more citrus groves were developed, private packers of citrus took their fruit to the Coop for packing. The building was extended several times to eventually become the largest citrus packing house in the Southern Hemisphere. The business is now owned by Nippy’s.
33 Railway Station. Opened in late 1914, closed mid 1970’s. The line ran through Karoonda to Tailem Bend, branching to Adelaide or Melbourne. All packed fruit travelled this way until road transports took over.
34 Lime Kiln. Used in the making of lime for the extensive network of channels throughout the district, and also for other building projects of the time 1909-1930.
There are several interesting walks you may care to take. The Rotary Cliff-top walk can be accessed from Annells Street. There are beautiful views across the river valley as you walk through Snake Gully toward Holder Bend. From the lookout tower take the steps down to the ferry and continue on along the river-bank, or take a free ferry ride across to the northern bank. From the roundabout in front of the hospital there are several directions the walker can take. Along Strangman Road to the cemetery, then back towards town via Smith Drive, the sporting club areas and recreation hall. Many other roads lead down towards the river, the most direct being the main shopping street, used in years gone by as a track for soap-box carts on carnival days. Further out you may notice many of the roads curve as they follow the contour of the land. The roads were made to follow the channels. The channels were made to deliver water by gravity and had to be made carefully. The old channels have since been replaced by pipes, but the roads remain and are a reminder to us of a part of our history.