Some History of Hotels and Guest Houses in Toolangi-Castella and Surrounds

by Bernie Miller

The Growth of Tourism and the Role of Guest Houses in the District

Tourism blossomed close to Toolangi from the early 1880s. At Christmas, in peak tourist season 1885, Cobb and Co. recorded carrying 1064 passengers over 8 days to Healesville, Fernshaw and Marysville (Symonds, 1982). With the railway through to Yarra Glen in 1888, and to Healesville in 1889, there was a growing influx of holiday makers attracted to the mountain scenery of the Toolangi-Castella district. Jonathan Lindt, a leading landscape photographer of the time, in the Argus 21 April 1893 described ‘a picturesque region of remarkable beauty, bearing the native name of Toolangi’, in an article which ran over several paragraphs.

In this period, Toolangi was a fledgling settlement, but the timber industry had become an unlikely ally to tourism. The penetration of the tall timber forests for logging and milling, and the establishment of timber tramways, provided tourists with access to magnificent forest, streams, waterfalls and fern gullies.

In the early 1900s Melbourne newspapers carried exciting accounts of walking, hiking, holidaying, car touring, sporting and youth groups taking round trips up Mount Slide and the Toolangi-Dixons Creek Road, to stay at Toolangi House, Fern Dell or other accommodation around Toolangi. Volunteers from the Toolangi Progress and Tourism Association kept the walking tracks open to beauty spots (Pockett, 1986), to provide access to scenic areas and waterfalls not easily accessible today. As the wider area became increasingly popular, a series of comfortable guest houses opened, catering for upper and middle-class holidaymakers (Murrindindi Heritage Study, 2011).


Improved road access influenced this growth of tourism

Up until the 1960s there was no access from Yarra Glen to Toolangi, through what is now called the Melba Highway. In the 1890s and the early decades of the 20th century, Toolangi and Castella were accessed by tourists from Melbourne through the railway stations of Healesville and Yarra Glen, where they were met by horse and motor conveyances and transported up to the rim of the Great Dividing Range. The Toolangi-Dixons Creek Road and the Mount Slide-Steels Creek Road to the west provided access from Yarra Glen. These were the two original access routes to Toolangi and Castella district from the later 1800s. A tourist’s account of travelling on the Toolangi-Dixons Creek Road, reported in the Brighton Southern Cross, 12 January 1907, gives some insight into the difficulties of tourists sharing the road with teamsters who were hauling timber down to the railway. ‘On the route we passed five bullock teams with timber. When we passed them as the road narrows they were on the safe side and we had to squeeze past on the outside. In many places there was a fall of hundreds of feet and the climbing road, 8 miles long, was in a bad state, damage caused by the bullock teams.’

To the east, access from Healesville was through Myers Creek Road and Chum Creek Road, which became accessible close to the First World War. Healesville had been gazetted as a Shire in September 1887 and its territory included Maysville and Buxton. The Chum Creek and Myers Creek areas, Mount St Leonard and Mount Monda and everything in present Healesville north of the Watts River remained in Eltham Shire, which had been established in 1871. In April 1912 Eltham Shire council finally responded to local petitions and agreed to this area becoming part of Healesville Shire (Symonds, 1982). This soon made a huge difference for tourism to Toolangi, with Healesville Shire council actively making and improving the Myers Creek and Chum Creek Roads from 1912 onwards.

The Healesville Guardian, 25 October 1912, reported that ‘Mr Cameron of Toolangi House was making arrangements with a local cab service to run a daily coach to Toolangi via the newly made Myers Creek Rd.’ The Healesville Guardian, 12 December 1913, reproduced an article by Melbourne Argus motoring writer George Broadbent praising ‘…the new (Myers Creek) road from Healesville to Toolangi, a beautiful drive’ and noted that the Toolangi Progress Association had approached the Lands Department and Healesville Shire, pushing for Chum Creek Road to be extended for motoring into Toolangi. ‘This would add considerably, to drive up Myers Creek Rd and down Chum Creek Road.’ An advertisement in the Argus on 3 January 1914 notes that ‘Toolangi House is available to motorists from Healesville, via Myers Creek Road.’ On 17 February 1915, Toolangi House advertised in the Argus, ‘…a coach is available daily from Healesville’.

The condition of these roads varied seasonally. The Herald, 17 May 1919, mentions ‘The two fine new roads being improved, from Healesville to Toolangi, despite the coach and mail still travelling from Yarra Glen rather than Healesville. When the new roads are improved Toolangi will be accessible to Healesville all year round’. By 31 December 1920, George Broadbent in his Argus motoring column reported that the metalling (applying gravel) of the Chum Creek Road from Healesville to Toolangi was completed, with the road between Toolangi House and Toolangi Post Office beautifully graded. However, ‘…the road west from the Toolangi Post Office to the Mount Slide Landing is only fair, and treacherous in wet weather.’

Not only wet weather, but also heavy timber traffic deteriorated the roads. In an effort to keep roads accessible, the Yea, Eltham and Healesville Shire councils responded to the pleas of locals and began imposing bans on timber traffic on designated roads for wet periods of the year, in some years extending this to between March and October. The Herald, 19 January 1920, noted ‘The roads are in good order, as currently closed to heavy timber traffic, a marked contrast to the original track to Toolangi used by the pioneers’. With improved roads, transport was becoming more efficient and by 26 March 1923 (Argus), Toolangi House was advertising ‘Don Burns Touring Cars meet morning train at Healesville daily, returning to the evening train’.

By the 1920s improvement to roads was reflected in the tourism booming in the district. The Argus, 11 December 1924, reported ‘Toolangi has record bookings for accommodation for Christmas, accommodation is full as demand has exceeded availability. The absence of bushfires for some time has added to charm of the area and the roads have been greatly improved.’ The Argus, 18 December 1925, affirmed that ‘Now the roads are in order a great number of holiday makers is expected at Toolangi. Coaches and motorcars are available at Yarra Glen. Great views from Cape Horn (Toolangi-Dixons Creek Road) on trip up.’ Table Talk, 9 December 1926, promoted ‘Toolangi on the Divide … two good roads now from Healesville, which includes the newly opened graded section of the Chum Creek Road.’ An article by a tourist in the Herald, 16 August 1928, reports ‘…advised by Mr Cameron to take Chum Creek Road down. The road is little known and splendidly graded in the hills. We ran gently down free engine for fully six miles, passed Chum Creek State School and reached the Yarra Glen back road at The Gables’.

As the routes from Healesville became more favoured, George Broadbent reported in his Argus motoring column, 21 January 1931, ‘The old main route to Toolangi, through Dixons Creek to the Landing between Mount Slide Landing and Toolangi, though naturally attractive, is currently rough and neglected and now rarely used by motorists.’ This coincided with increased motorised timber traffic on that road, transporting timber down to Yarra Glen Railway station from Castella logging areas and beyond.

The 1920s-1930s witnessed a rapid increase of use of automobiles on these improved roads, as tourists could travel further and see in the space of a day most of the beauty spots. During Christmas and Easter periods hundreds of tourists came to the district. Motor buses and charabancs became more dominant for day tours and more privately owned motor cars appeared.


The rise and decline of guest houses

Guest houses increased in number from the turn of the 20th century. Sally Symonds (1982), in her history of Healesville, writes ‘At Easter and Christmas the population of Healesville increased by some eight to ten thousand. Many arrived by train, others by service cars and each year greater numbers of visitors came in their own cars. At Easter 1927, 500 people were turned away from guest houses, although there were more than 100 in and around the town.’ Bryn Jones (2007), in his history of Healesville guest houses, suggests that guest houses peaked in the 1920s-1930s. In this period the larger guest houses organised many different activities and friendly cricket and tennis matches were played between groups of guests. Murrindindi Heritage Study (2011) agrees that guesthouses peaked throughout the area in the 1920-30s and had declined by the 1960s, as holiday houses, camping and caravans became popular, and Victorians adopted new patterns of leisure.


Local hotels and guest houses

The bigger, more permanent guest houses of Toolangi-Castella area advertised in Melbourne newspapers and have therefore left records, but many others have disappeared from records and community memory. Tourism articles of this peak era attest to a high number of accommodation facilities being available. For example, The Times, 24 April 1920, ‘Toolangi Hotel and many boarding houses provide a choice of accommodation and access.’ There were many smaller guest/boarding houses which provided accommodation in response to seasonal demand. These smaller providers picked up bookings from the local Tourism and Progress Association and from the overflow from the bigger guest houses. Few have left records, but some stories have been passed on locally. Jan Williams, proprietor of the Singing Gardens, recalls working in the 1970s for Mrs Ethel Carroll of Castella, who told her that she provided occasional holiday accommodation in the early 1930s (Williams, 2021).

Table Talk, 18 January 1923, discussed peak interest in Toolangi guest houses and described ‘…several boarding houses where accommodation charges are moderate and sites within easy walking distance’. Argus, 31 December 1925: ‘Toolangi had many visitors over Christmas … the guest houses were full’. Argus, 6 January 1927: ‘At Toolangi the accommodation at the guest houses has been scarcely sufficient for requirements … a lot of camping.’ Argus, 24 April 1930: ‘Tourists, motorist and walking parties thronged to Toolangi over the Easter holidays and the guest houses were well filled.’


Mount St Leonard Cluster of Guest Houses: Upper Myers Creek Road

On the flanks of Mount St Leonard, on Myers Creek Road, 6 miles (10 km) from Healesville, a cluster of guest houses flourished through this peak tourism period. Two newspaper articles from the 1920s and 1930s provide some insight into some challenges related to their location.

Argus, 26 February 1926 – ‘Fires on Mount St Leonard gave great concern to local residents on the Myers Creek on Wednesday. The wind and heat were little short of the dreadful Sunday two weeks previously … The flames rapidly spread before the wind and swept down the road towards Toolangi. Flying sparks and large pieces of burning bark were blown across Hazelmont and Greenhills, two local guest houses. Fire was on every hand and residents in grave danger. Mr. A. G. Kay of Greenhills, who is a forest officer and councillor, took charge at one time and was instrumental in saving a great area of mountain ash timber, fern gullies and native flora.’

Age, 21 October 1937 – ‘Landslide on Myers Creek Road 6 miles from Healesville. There are half a dozen Toolangi guest houses on the Myers Creek Road cut off. They have to draw supplies from Healesville via Toolangi and down Chum Ck Road- all 6 are nearly full.’ The landslide was reported as due to logging and very wet weather. Four of the guest houses were Greenhills, Strathvea, Hazelmont and Glenview; the other two have disappeared from records. The landslide occurred just opposite Strathvea’s entrance (Pockett, D. 2021b). Interestingly, early advertising of these guest houses has Mount St Leonard referred to as Mount St Leonards and Myers Creek as Meyers Creek, an alternate spelling evident through to the 1920s.

Glenview: This guest house is located in advertising in this cluster. For example, Age, 3 February 1926, ‘On ‘Mt. St. Leonards’ (sic) Glenview: Mt. St. Leonards (sic) Superior accommodation, farm produce, piano, tariff 85 shillings, Mrs. Jensen’. The exact location of Glenview on Myers Creek Road has not been determined. Local stories from the cluster have a guest house located at the south west corner of what became the Potato Research Station in 1945. Only a well remained at the site when the PRS was established, so a guest house on this site may have been lost to bushfire.

Greenhills: Proprietors: M. & Mrs A. G. McKay 1907-1960s. This guest house, 1800 feet above sea level on the slopes of Mount St Leonard, was accessed from Myers Creek Road and originally built by Arthur Kay in 1905 as a family home. Greenhills quickly evolved into a guest house by 1907, as indicated in advertisements from that period. By 1913, Age, 1 November 1913, it was still being advertised in simple terms as ‘Mt. St. Leonard’s (sic), fern gullies, Meyers (sic) Cascades, farm home, moderate terms. Mrs. Kay.’ Just prior to and around the First World War, Age, 31 January 1914, Argus, 17 February 1915, Greenhills is advertised as ‘A beautiful resort, ferneries, mountain streams, waterfalls, farm produce’. By the early 1930s the development of amenities are promoted ‘…every comfort guaranteed, continuous hot water, bathrooms and showers, septic, sanitary arrangements.’ (Jones, 2007)

By 1934 Greenhill’s advertising was reflecting the increased expectations of Melbourne tourists in this boom era, with new recreational facilities and motoring resources. By 1934 ‘Fern gullies, spacious grounds, home comforts and best of service, children’s playground, perfect asphalt tennis court, croquet lawn, dance hall, petrol, oils, free garage, tariff 8/- per day, 2/5/- per week, Mrs. Kay.’ In 1970 Kays sold Greenhills Guest House to Mr George Samargis of Melbourne, who ran it as Greenhills Tourist Centre, specialising in accommodation and functions for the growing Melbourne Greek community. The property burned down on 22 October 1979 (Jones, 2007).

Hazelmont Farm: 6 miles from Healesville, on Myers Creek Road and 1700 feet above sea level, this guest house was next door to Greenhills. Proprietors/Managers were Mrs I. Beddoe from 1922 to 1940. The Beddoes enrolled their child at Toolangi Primary School in 1923 (Pockett, Priestley, Cox & Cameron, 1995). Mr and Mrs W. Wollin from 1940 to 1944. Their son Walter was enrolled at Toolangi Primary School in 1941 (Pockett, Priestley, Cox & Cameron, 1995). Mrs D. Abblitt from 1944 to the late 1940s. Hazelmont catered for 20-46 guests and advertised throughout the peak tourist period. Typically, in the Age, 19 February 1927, ‘Hazelmont House, in mountains, farm produce, tennis, glydo billiards, every attention, own car, tariff 35/- Mrs. Beddoe, tele 153.’ By 1930 Hazelmont was advertising electric light, billiard table, piano, dance room, excellent walks, comfortable accommodation, tennis court, hot and cold baths, farm produce and log fires (Jones, 2007).

The second owners of Hazelmont, the Wollins, promoted the guest house as self-sufficient during the Second World War years. They produced their own milk, made butter and cheese, kept pigs and smoked their own ham. During the war many wives and children stayed on a more permanent basis and husbands came up from Melbourne on weekends. By 1946 Hazelmont provided ‘…log fires, home cooking, cream, poultry, wireless, electric light, hot baths, garage, dancing, tennis, billiards. Tariff 2/10/- per week, Easter & Christmas 3/3/- per week, Mrs. D. L. Abblitt, Healesville 156’ (Jones, 2007). Hazelmont discontinued as a guest house in the late 1940s and was demolished in the 1960s (Jones, 2007).

Strathvea: This is one of the few guest houses that has survived. It was built in the early 1920s. Proprietors were Mr & Mrs Jack G. McVea who ran the guest house from early 1920s-1968. Their children, John and Minnie, attended Toolangi Primary School from the mid-1920s through to the 1930s (Pockett, Priestley, Cox & Cameron, 1995). Available accommodation at Strathvea varied through the peak period, from 16-30 guests. Jack McVea had purchased the property from his in-laws, the Kays of Greenhills. Early advertising was simple. Argus, 14 January 1923, ‘Strathvea, accommodation in mountains, good table, cream, 35/- Mrs. J.G. McVea’. Age, 3 February 1926, ‘Strathvea, in mountains, every comfort, good table, poultry, library, phone 155, PO 20 Healesville, Mrs. McVea’. By the 1930s a hot water service and septic sanitation was being included in advertisements and by 1946 electric light and a first-class asphalt tennis court were advertised (Jones, 2007).

Strathvea changed hands in 1968 and was owned by different people, including Jennie Williams and three other Melbourne couples. In 2004 the Cormack family owned it and from 2004-2006 Prue and John Beckett. By this stage it was being promoted for weddings and conferences, as well as guests. In 2007 Deanne and Toby Eccles purchased Strathvea and have further restored it. ‘Built in the 1920s and nestled at the edge of the Toolangi forest, Strathvea is one of the last remaining historic Guest Houses in the Yarra Valley. From our modern queen ensuite room to our heritage listed lounge and dining rooms with their log fires and magnificent English garden views, Strathvea is perfect for romantic getaways, wedding accommodation, conferences and group gatherings.’ (D & E Eccles 0417 8829 670, 755 Myers Creek Road, Today it is operated as an AirBnB.


Toolangi’s First Hotel and Guest House (1891-1975)

Toolangi House Hotel had a number of managers, but a limited number of owners in its 84 year history: Albert Walkeden 1891-1896; Henry Rintel 1896-January 1901 (leased from Walkeden); Maude Cameron 1903-1926 (initially leased from Walkeden and subsequently purchased the freehold by 1916); Alex Cameron officially proprietor from 1926-1935, but directly involved with the business of the Guest House and Hotel from at least 1912; L. Smedley 1935-1939 (leased from Cameron), Higgins 1939-1940 and Maud Palmer 1940-1946 (both leased from Cameron); L.I. Kent 1947-48 (leased from Cameron)’ R. & J. Curran 1949-51 (leased from Cameron); George & Alice Richards 1951-1971 (purchased the freehold); Jack Farr 1971- 1975 (purchased the freehold). The hotel and out-buildings burned down in 1975 and the land was subsequently sold by Jack Farr to the Van de Venn family for a private residence and remains in that family today.

Albert E. Walkeden as proprietor 1891-1896: Walkeden, an entrepreneurial land boomer, came to the district in 1889. He formed a syndicate of investors from Melbourne and established the Yea River Company and named the area the Yea River Settlement, (an early name of Toolangi from the late 1880s to the early 1890s) promoting the timber, farming and tourism potential of the area to leading Melbourne investors. In his promotions of 1889, reported in Melbourne newspapers (Herald, 20 November 1889), he promised the erection of a hotel in the settlement. By November 1891, Walkeden had applied to the Yarra Glen licensing court for a ‘Roadside Victualler’s Licence for premises situated at the Yea River Settlement, Parish of Tarrawarra North, containing 12 rooms exclusive of those required by my family and servants. A. E. Walkeden’ (Lilydale Express, 27 November 1891; Yea Chronicle, 10 December 1891). This construction was a 20-room hotel and home, built in the style of an old English inn. By late 1892 the 1890s Depression had brought the reigning in of investment and caught many of the land boomers. Walkeden was declared insolvent as an agriculturalist and sawmiller (Herald, 6 September 1892, Australasian, 10 September 1892, Argus, 22 September 1892). His timber and most of his land interests in the area were liquidated from this period and he focused on his remaining tourism interests with the hotel. He lived at the hotel with his wife Ada Clara Cunningham and a young daughter, born in his period of tenure.

Walkeden advertised accommodation at the hotel in Melbourne and Yarra Valley newspapers. Throughout the period it is noticeable that he was flexible with the name of the hotel. For example, in early advertisements, e.g. in The Argus, 21 April 1893, he titled it ‘Ye Olde Queens Heade Ynne, Toolangi, high class old English hotel and farm (Walkeden).’ Locals shortened this name to Queens Head or Queens Hotel. In the Argus, 27 December 1893, he was advertising ‘Old English Family Inn … farm, fishing shooting, liquor licence, best wine, spirits, beers and general catering. Midday train from Princess Bridge to Yarra Glen, proprietors coach meets train each day at Yarra Glen station, fare 5 shillings, coach drive of 12 miles with unique scenery, 2 pounds 2 shillings board per week, 8 shillings per day. No young children can be accommodated. Mr. A. E. Walkeden.’ Various newspaper articles of the day attested to the popularity of the hotel. For example, Yea Chronicle, 25 April 1895, reported ‘Mr Walkeden of Yea River fame, whose large hotel on the Divide is crowded with summer visitors…’

The rates issue: A problem with local municipal authorities arose because Walkeden had constructed the hotel across a surveyed road. A number of early surveyed roads did not necessarily follow local roads, and some existed only on survey maps. This early surveyed road extended from Kinglake through Toolangi, along the rim of the Dividing Range, and a few parts of it between Toolangi and Kinglake did not become actual roadway until early-mid twentieth century. More importantly for Walkeden, the surveyed road defined the boundary of what was then Eltham Shire to the south and Yea Shire to the north. From the time of erecting the hotel Walkeden paid rates to Eltham Shire, up to the end of 1893. In 1894 the rate collector from Yea Shire discovered the issue and rated Walkeden from Yea Shire. This led to a long running dispute between Walkeden, the Shire of Eltham and the Shire of Yea, which continued until he left the district in 1896. From 1895 he appealed to the Shires of Yea and Eltham to alter the survey of the road, as he wrote that the hotel and property was about to change hands and the potential new owner wanted the rates issue settled. In 1895 in a council meeting, the Shire of Eltham councillors refused to do this and gave Walkeden three months to remove the section of buildings on the Shire boundary. By this stage the Eltham Shire council was suggesting that Walkeden’s hotel also cut off access to Toolangi of selectors on Chum Creek (Yea Chronicle, 18 July 1895; Lilydale Express, 6 September 1895).

The property did not sell in 1895, most likely due to the unresolved rates issue, and Walkeden continued to advertise accommodation at the hotel. By this stage he was naming the hotel in advertisements as Toolangi House and Toolangi House Hotel. A tourism article on Toolangi in the Australasian, 30 November 1895, described an efficient trip from Melbourne ‘2hrs journey from Melbourne by rail and wagonette. Starting from Princess Bridge Station by the 12:15 train, you reach Toolangi House early in the afternoon.’

By December Walkeden was still advertising the hotel for the Christmas season, Age, 21 December 1895: ‘Two Thousand Feet above Sea Level, 4 hours from Melbourne. At Toolangi, an Ideal Old English Inne. Acknowledged finest climate, mountain and forest scenery anywhere in Australia. Terms 2 pounds 2 shillings (2 guineas) per week. Conveyance, midday train to Yarra Glen daily.’ Similar classifieds were posted through early 1896 (Argus, 10 February 1896; Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 3 April 1896).

In March 1896 the hotel was advertised for lease. Healesville Guardian, 28 March 1896, ‘Hotel advertised for lease – Toolangi North to let: Large Farm/Hotel. 30 rooms, 5 pound per month, 220 acres, River Yea runs through the property. Two thousand feet above sea level. Rooms beautifully papered and painted. Outhouses and sheds for cattle, poultry, pigs, etc., and all modern improvements. Fruit, kitchen garden, etc. Further particulars and plans, Victoria Agency, 187 Collins Street, Melbourne.’ The 30 rooms indicated may be a mistake or may include outbuildings, as the hotel/guesthouse had 20 rooms when both Henry Rintel (November 1896) and Maude Cameron (April 1903) took over the premises.

Walkeden’s unsecured debts from his insolvency were catching up with him and the Melbourne Argus, 2 October 1896, advertised the compulsory sequestration of assets of ‘…Mr. Walkeden, formerly of Toolangi, hotel keeper.’ Walkeden, as stated in the notice, had relocated to Broken Hill. He subsequently moved to West Australia to pursue further entrepreneurial interests, but retained ownership of the hotel, with efforts by a sequestration agent to lease it to settle debts.

Henry Rintel as lessee, November 1896 to early January 1901: By November 1896 Henry Rintel took over the hotel on lease. Rintel had been involved with Walkeden in the Yea River Railway League from 1889, an organisation formed to petition the colonial government for a railway to transport timber from Toolangi to Yarra Glen Railway station and Rintel was still secretary of that organisation. Rintel was a resident of Toolangi, with wife Jane and young children, and various newspaper articles of this period attest to his interaction with the local community and the importance of Toolangi House as a social venue for the community.

Throughout Rintel’s period of tenure the property was referred to as Toolangi House and Toolangi Hotel. For example, Evelyn Observer, 5 November 1897, in a letter to Eltham Shire: ‘Mr. Rintel of Toolangi House, drew attention to the dangerous state of road from Dixons Creek, on upper part of cutting.’ From 1896 to 1900, The Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian reported a number of meetings of the Yea River Railway League held at Toolangi House. The Australasian on 23 April 1898 reported the Melbourne Amateur Walking and Touring Club ‘…arrived sunset and stayed at the Toolangi Hotel…’ The Healesville Yarra Valley Guardian, 7 April 1899, reported on a sports day at Toolangi ‘…principally conducted by the visitors at Toolangi House, who also generously contributed most of the prize money.’ An article in the Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian on 26 October 1899 mentions Mr H. Rintel as president of the Toolangi Cricket Club and the annual cricket club social to be held at Toolangi House. A subsequent article in Healesville Guardian, 24 November 1899, notes ‘annual Toolangi Cricket Club Social at Toolangi House … spacious drawing room, dancing, music, crowd danced until 4am. Everyone agreed a most successful affair ever held there and club will nett a fair amount from the event.’ There is also note in newspaper articles of state government ministers being accommodated at Toolangi House (Healesville Guardian & Yarra Glen Advocate, 12 March 1898; Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 23 March 1900).

There is indication in newspaper articles that Henry Rintel was involved with representing interests of Yea Shire and enjoyed support of the Yea Shire Council in regard to the Yea River Railway League. For example, The Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 17 December 1898, describes a deputation from the Shires of Yea and Eltham to the Minister of Railways Melbourne, attended by local parliamentary members, J. Quinlan (President of Yea Shire), Mr Paul de Castella, Mr Henry Rintel and Mr G. Knott. Probably relevant to this relationship, the Shire of Yea in 1898 realigned the road beside Toolangi House, shutting the old section of road and forming a new section, to ensure the whole of Toolangi House was within the Yea Shire boundary and no longer infringed Eltham Shire boundary (Toolangi Parish Map 1909; Yea Shire Council Gazette 98/2436).

The Rintel family left the district at the beginning of 1901. While the property remained in Walkeden’s name, a clearing sale was advertised, comprising goods and stock from the hotel, as well as the sale of a nearby property. The use of the local name for the hotel in advertising the sale is interesting. Age, 12 January 1901: ‘Clearing Sale- at Queens Hotel, Toolangi North via Yarra Glen, by order of the mortgagees… (and further) Sale of selection of 122 acres. Known as Michael Curry’s and being allotment 3, Parish Tarrawarra North, containing 121 acres, 3 roods and 31 perches … situated within ½ mile of Queens Hotel.’

Less than a week later, The Healesville Guardian, 18 January 1901, reported ‘A very large number of residents assembled at Toolangi House to bid farewell to Mr. and Mrs Rintel, who will shortly be leaving the district. Regret throughout the district at their coming departure, wishes of prosperity in their new home. Mr A. Smedley presented a marble clock to Mr. Rintel in recognition of his services as Secretary to the Yea River Railway League.’

Toolangi House Hotel was left unoccupied from late January 1901 and by July the Age carried an advertisement for the lease of the property. Age, 13 July 1901, ‘Tenders are invited by Trustees, Executors and Agency Company Ltd up to noon 30th July 1901 for a lease of Toolangi Hotel, with 225 acres of chocolate soil, for a term of 5-10 years. The hotel comprises 20 rooms, stables, sheds, and all conveniences and is situated in the mountains, about 14 miles from Yarra Glen Railway Station and is a well-known holiday resort. Several sawmills adjoin and there is an opening for a store as well as hotel business. Immediate possession.’

Maude Cameron as lessee and eventual proprietor: The property remained unsold and unoccupied for the next two years. The Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 3 January 1903, reported ‘The annual Toolangi picnic was held on Boxing Day, in the grounds of Toolangi House and proved a great success. It is a pity that such a pretty place so long remains untenanted, as it gives it a rather lonely aspect, but on Boxing Day it presented quite an old time appearance with its lively throng of visitors.’ A fortnight later, The Healesville and Yarra Glen Guardian, 17 January 1903, reported ‘We learned that Toolangi House will shortly find a new tenant in Mrs. Cameron of Essendon. It will require a good deal of repairing but it will probably be ready to accommodate visitors at Easter.’ However, Mrs Cameron, a 53-year-old widow, with son Alex and daughters Dorothy and Jessie, did not arrive until the end of April. Like Henry Rintel, she leased the property from Walkeden or agent appointed to secure the payment of outstanding debts (Toolangi Parish Map, 1909). Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 25 April 1903 – ‘Mrs Cameron of Essendon has taken a lease of Toolangi House and she and her family are expected here this week.’

Mrs Cameron made significant improvements to the property prior to opening. Healesville and Yarra Glen Guardian, 15 August 1903, ‘Great improvements are being made at Toolangi House and the entire building (roof) is being covered with iron. The place will be ready to receive visitors in a month or so.’ By November, The Healesville and Yarra Glen Guardian, 29 November 1903, reported ‘Mrs Cameron invited a large number of local guests, dancing songs and games, supper laid in the dining room, immense table, perfect picture. On behalf of those present Mr. W. McLaine thanked Mrs. Cameron. The House has been thoroughly renovated and the grounds much improved.’ Maude Cameron clearly saw the value of engaging with the local community and newspaper reports through to the 1930s attest to the Cameron family’s commitment to, and support of, the Toolangi community. Maude’s daughters married local residents, Dorothy to Charles Smith and Jessie to John Smedley.

Maude Cameron’s efforts at attracting tourists to the hotel/guest house were soon being recognised. Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 27 February 1904, ‘It is so long since Toolangi has had so many visitors, that it is like going back to old times to meet so frequently a picnic party, bound for some picturesque spot or another round about. Certainly it has not taken Mrs. Cameron long to earn her reputation as a thorough manageress.’ Punch, 4 May 1905 – ‘Toolangi House was very full at Easter, the drawing room, smoking room and offices called into requisition as sleeping apartments and seven pedestrians who arrived late on Saturday night had to be accommodated in the hay loft. The resort is becoming very popular, not only on account of the charming scenery, but because of the hospitable manner in which Mrs. Cameron and family look after every comfort of the visitors. Concert Easter Monday, collection for the Toolangi church building fund.’ The Healesville Guardian, 13 May 1905, reported ‘Fifty three guests at Toolangi House over the Easter holidays. Many intend returning for mid-winter holidays. Owing to the dry weather the roads are in splendid order and the teamsters are making the best of their time on the track.’

The rates issue re-emerges: The rates issue had clearly not subsided with the road realignment. The Shire of Eltham was contacted in 1905 by the Public Works Department, when their surveyors became aware that the Shire of Yea had realigned the surveyed road some seven years earlier. The Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 6 May 1905, reported: ‘Shire of Eltham Meeting. Re Letter from Sec Shire of Yea, President pointing out that the Public Works Dept had written informing his council that the road running past Toolangi House is the boundary of the two Shires. His council was therefore of the opinion that Mr. Cameron’s assessment of it is correct. It was pointed out that Toolangi House has been built right on the old road, which was really the boundary of the two shires. The boundary has been fixed by Parliament and could only be fixed by an Act of Parliament. It was resolved to inform the Yea council that the boundary between the two shires was the old road and that the Eltham Shire Council recognised no other. The president moved that the Shire Valuer be instructed to value the land, right up to the old boundary- seconded by Councillor Smedley and carried.’

Adjustment to the road stayed, but it appears that the Camerons were rated by the two shires until boundaries changed in 1912, when part of Toolangi House was included in the Shire of Healesville. Yea Chronicle, 6 November 1919, reported ‘Mr. A Cameron petitioning the Eltham Shire that the portion of the main road along the Divide, to the west of his property for about three miles has been rutted and scoured. The Eltham Shire engineer pointed out that Toolangi House is now in Healesville Shire. Referred to Healesville Shire.’ In 1920 Alex Cameron became an elected councillor for Healesville Shire and served Healesville Council for the next 32 years, with four successive periods as Shire President. The ongoing rates issues had become something of a local joke and in May 1924 Table Talk reported in their tourism column that ‘Toolangi House is in a unique position, one half of the building being in one shire and the other half in another. The water from the roof at the front goes to the Murray and at the back to the Yarra.’ The matter was finally resolved in late 1924, when after much pressure from locals, the Shire of Yea agreed to transfer Toolangi and Castella to the Shire of Healesville and by 1925 Toolangi House Hotel was finally in one Shire.

Maude Cameron’s hosting led to many glowing reports in Yarra Valley and Melbourne newspapers. Punch, 13 January 1910, reported celebrations at Toolangi House through Christmas and New Year, describing the many visitors, moonlight walks, dances and festivities. Popular tourist sites available to guests included ‘…famous Myrtle Gully, Sylvia Falls and Gully, Smedley Falls, Badham Falls, the Canoe, Coopers Gully, Smiths Gully, Coral Bridge’. The Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 6 September 1911, reported ‘Toolangi annual sports day and grand ball at Toolangi House, in the capable hands of Mrs. Cameron.’ Punch, 8 January 1914, described the New Year Ball at Toolangi House ‘…a delightful costume party ball, with a generous supper given by Mrs. Cameron’. The tourism business was clearly profitable and by 1916 the Camerons had bought the freehold of Toolangi House/Hotel, with outbuildings and lands. The Yea Chronicle, 21 December 1916, reported that ‘Mr. Alex Cameron applied for a roadside victuallers licence for Toolangi House, Toolangi’ with premises now in the name of Cameron.

Post First World War the tourism boom continued. Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 19 January 1919 ‘New Year’s fancy dress ball at Toolangi House well attended, Lecture by returned serviceman, collection for the local returned soldiers, New Years Day tennis tournament between Toolangi House Guests and the other Guest House visitors.’ Table Talk, 1 May 1924, ‘Toolangi House – 38 guests listed over Easter, picnic at Sylvia Falls, tennis tournament, Easter Monday concert and dance with 60 people present, including locals. Proceeds to local Toolangi Progress Association, of which Mr. C. J. Dennis is President.’

Praised in tourism articles up to late 1925, in April 1926 Maude Cameron died at age 76 at the Toolangi home of her son-in-law and daughter, Charles and Dorothy Smith, following a sudden illness (Argus, 30 April 1926; obituary Healesville Guardian, 4 May 1926).

Alex Cameron, proprietor 1926-1935: Alex Cameron had clearly been deeply involved in running Toolangi House Hotel with his mother from early days. Advertising and articles on Toolangi House continued to appear through to the mid-thirties, describing full bookings and praise for Alex Cameron and his wife Dorothy as hosts. Sadly, a notice in the Healesville Guardian, 12 October 1929, reported the death from diphtheria of their only son Alan, aged 7 years.

In the 1930s period Alex Cameron extended his sawmilling interests with his lifelong friend and fellow Healesville councillor, F. J. Barton from Marysville, to form a timber company in Marysville. The Argus, 7 December 1935, carried the notice ‘Toolangi House under new management, L. Smedley, late Heathlands, tele Healesville 95 or Central 5354’. A fuller article in the Argus, 28 December 1935, explained ‘Mr. Alex. Cameron has leased to Mr. L. Smedley, formerly of Heathlands, Toolangi, part of his property, including the Toolangi House Hotel. Mr. Cameron has lived in Toolangi for more than thirty years. Accompanied by his wife and daughter, he has moved to Marysville to superintend his sawmilling interests there.’

Leonard Smedley, manager 1935-1939: In 1936 Len Smedley posted a number of announcements in Yarra Valley and Melbourne newspapers, to acquaint past customers from Melbourne on the change of management. Argus, 5 February 1936, Argus, 8 April 1936, ‘Toolangi House under new management, telephone Healesville 95 or city 5354 L. Smedley new licencee.’ Also in this period, a newspaper article mentions Colin McLaine, son of Walter (Mac) McLaine, as chef at the hotel, Healesville Guardian, 5 September 1936. Alec Sewell (1993) writes that Colin McLaine was employed as chef from Alex Cameron’s time.

Articles and advertising through this period demonstrate the guest house still very being popular. Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 5 December 1936, ‘Mr & Mrs Len Smedley, proprietors of Toolangi House, provided an old Time Dance and enjoyable supper for the Healesville Horseman’s club.’ However, there is indication that overnight guest numbers were waning a little from figures of 1920s and early 1930s. The Argus, 2 December 1937, describes 30 guests from Melbourne staying at Toolangi House over Christmas 1936. Argus, 31 December 1938, ‘The Guest House has electric light, is sewered and has wonderful grounds. Phone bookings can be made through L. Smedley, on Healesville number 95.’

By early 1939 the Smedleys decided to leave Toolangi House. Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 29 April 1939, ‘Surprise Party at Toolangi: A very pleasant evening was spent at Toolangi house on Saturday, when Mr. and Mrs. Len Smedley’s friends gathered to bid them farewell on the occasion of their departure from Toolangi House. Mr. W. McLaine, an old resident, presented the couple with a beautiful clock, as a token of the esteem that they were held by the people of the district. The new manager, Mr. Higgins, of Melbourne, took over last Monday, 24th of April 1939. After a brief holiday, Mr. and Mrs. Smedley will return to Toolangi to take up residence at Heathlands.’

1939-1951: A period of decline in demand for guest house accommodation: Between 1939 and 1951 the hotel was leased by different people: a Mr Higgins from Melbourne 1939-1940; Maud Palmer 1940-1946; L. I. Kent 1947-48 and R. & J. Curran 1949-51 and the number of changes in lessees perhaps reflects the decline in tourism.

1951-1971: Role of the hotel to the fore: In 1951 George and Alice Richards bought the freehold and ran the hotel for twenty years, until 1971. The Richards sold Toolangi House Hotel in 1971 and retired to Melbourne. Their tenure at Toolangi House Hotel is remembered fondly by locals. They still attracted many guests to Toolangi House in the 1950s, mostly as weekend visitors, but the guest house business appears to have significantly tapered by the 1960s.

Geoff Biggs (March 2021): ‘The pub was very well run in the 1950s and the 1960s. A lot of guests used to come there weekends. They had a lighting plant there, so they were one of the few places in Toolangi that had power.’

Jenny Chambers (1995) in her recollections wrote: ‘George and Alice Richards owned the Toolangi House Hotel when I came, and people would come from far and wide to this popular `watering hole’. As well as weekend visitors, it gave the locals a chance to see each other and catch up with news and local concerns.’

Ali Crerar (September 2021): ‘The hotel was set back from the corner, perhaps a few hundred yards. Richards had it when I came, and then Jack Farr. A very popular socialising venue for the men of Toolangi and Castella and they served meals on the weekends. They still rented out rooms to visitors at the back as needed, but it didn’t operate as a Guest House from the time I knew it in the 1960s.’

Jack Farr as owner, in a new era: The new owner was Jack Farr, who owned the successful Baron of Beef in Sherbrooke in the Dandenong Ranges. More Victorians were ‘eating out’ and he did major renovations and established the ‘Dips Me Lid’ Restaurant at the hotel, in homage to C. J. Dennis. Farr never lived in Toolangi, as he was involved hands-on with his Dandenongs interests and employed people to manage the hotel for him. Between 1971 and 1975 he had a few managers and Terry Harris and his wife Ann were Host and Hostess of the hotel and restaurant the year it burnt down, which occurred the night of 19-20 April 1975.

Jenny Chambers (1995) recalled: ‘The pub was taken over by Jack Farr and had been beautifully restored. It was a great blow to the district when, in April 1975, the hotel was burnt to the ground. Some local men were said to have cried! One regular patron died not long after and many irreverently said that it was due to this calamity.’

Jack Farr sold the land to Harry and Jo Van der Venn and they built a private residence on the property.


Other Guest Houses around Toolangi Township

Glenora Guest House: Arthur and Sophia Bassett settled in Toolangi in 1894 in Cherry Lane, across from the Toolangi State School, and called their home Glenora. Sophia took charge of the mail bag unofficially from 1896 and was employed officially as Toolangi’s post mistress from 1900. The Bassetts responded to the growth of tourism in the district, catering for guests and visitors in their gradually expanding guest house. Glenora was extended several times by Walter (Mac) McLaine, one of Toolangi’s early builders. They established a store/newsagency in the Post Office. At peak, the guest house catered for up to 28 guests and Bassets added bungalows on the lawns, to bring this capacity to up to 40 guests, a figure confirmed by Doris Bassett Scott (Pockett, 1986). The Bassetts also built a tennis court for their guests.

Early advertising for Glenora is found in the Age, 11 November 1914, ‘Accommodation for visitors to Toolangi, close to the river and fern gullies, tariff 25 shillings, contact Mrs. Bassett at Toolangi PO.’ Consistent advertising for Glenora, in major Melbourne and Yarra Valley newspapers, continued through the 1920s and 1930s.

Glenora was clearly large enough to cater for significant events prior to the 1920s. The Observer, 13 November 1914, carried notice of a large reception at Glenora to celebrate the marriage of Hector McLaine (Mac McLaine’s son) and the Bassett’s eldest daughter Florence. The Eltham & Whittlesea Shires Advertiser, 20 December 1918, carried news of a reception for 150 guests at Glenora, for the marriage of their second daughter Doris to Harold Anthony Scott of Steels Creek Road Yarra Glen.

By the 1920s Glenora’s advertising became more detailed, as demand and competition in tourist accommodation grew. The Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian 1920s ‘Glenora Toolangi (rail to Yarra Glen) is situated on the Great Dividing Range, overlooking the Yea River, within walking distance of all the local beauty spots. Post Office and telephone. Genuine comfort for visitors who receive every attention. Milk, cream, eggs, poultry, vegetables, etc. Tariff 42 shillings per week, 8 and 6 per day, 15 shillings weekends. Mrs. A.J. Bassett, proprietress’ (Jones, 2007). In a tourism article on Toolangi, the Argus, 28 November 1923, reported ‘Extensive additions to Glenora are now in progress.’ And in the Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian tourism edition (1925), an attractive advertisement detailed ‘Glenora Guest House Toolangi. Proprietress, Mrs. A. J. Bassett. Glenora is situated in the valley at the headwaters of the Yea River, just over the crest of the Dividing Range. Commanding views can be obtained from its large verandahs. This house is a spacious building and can accommodate 28 guests. Accommodation is also available in the form of bungalows permanently built on the lawns surrounding this mountain home. Attractions provided by management include tennis court, wireless, gramophone, piano, ping pong, etc. Glenora is fitted with all modern conveniences. Excellent meals are provided under personal supervision of the proprietress, Mrs. A. J. Bassett. For further particulars phone Toolangi Post Office’ (Jones, 2007).

In May 1927 Sophia, an active woman in her mid-fifties, contracted pneumonia and was admitted to a private hospital in Healesville. Unexpectedly, she died within days due to heart failure. The Argus, 10 May 1927, carried her death notice: ‘Sophie Ann (Tot) Bassett, nee Cummings, at Healesville private hospital, aged 55 years, dearly beloved wife of Arthur Bassett of Glenora, Toolangi, mother of Florrie, Leslie, Doris, Thelma, Edna, Ron, Winnie and Eily’. Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 14 May 1927 ‘Death Sophie Bassett – more than 30 years in Toolangi; born at Yarra Glen; died of heart failure following bad bout of pneumonia. Service Toolangi, burial Yarra Glen cemetery.’

Following the funeral, Sophia and Arthur’s daughter Doris Scott and her husband moved to Glenora and assisted Arthur with running the guest house and the post office, as Arthur became official post master. Accommodation advertising from this time sometimes carries Arthur’s name and sometimes that of Doris Scott, as contact for accommodation. They continued to advertise and run the guest house through to the 1930s. In 1935 they advertised the sale or lease of the property, but it did not sell or lease and Doris stepped into the role of Postmistress. Advertising for the guest house from this time has Doris Scott, Toolangi PO, as sole contact. Doris and her husband left the district in 1941 for Yarra Glen. Arthur Bassett continued his involvement with the Toolangi community in the 1940s and died at Yarra Glen in 1953.

Glenora sold in 1941 to Cyril and Violet Shipp. Violet was appointed postmistress and ran the store, but in this period the role of the guest house waned. In 1948 the property sold again, to Mr & Mrs Anthony Kelly, who continued running the post office and store, eventually building a new post office and store on the main street side of the property in the mid-1950s, but there is no indication they continued to run the property as a guest house. Glenora was demolished in 2012, 118 years after the original home was built.

Alanbee/Heathlands Guest House: This property was originally owned and named Heathlands by Agnes Campbell Cunningham, who died in early 1899 (Age, 8 July 1899). By late September 1899, Alf and Elizabeth Smedley had purchased Heathlands and moved in with their son, newly born at Christmas Hills Post Office (Argus, 30 September 1899). They soon operated the property as a guest and boarding house. Run as Alanbee Guest House, the name was a combination of their first names (Al and Bee). At peak this property catered for about 30 guests. It had a tennis court and Jo Priestley in her research of the Toolangi Tennis Club suggests that this is where the Toolangi Tennis Club had its early beginnings.

Among Alf and Elizabeth’s friends was the local playwright and poet, C. J. Dennis, who regularly had meals with the family and played tennis on their court. A young school teacher, 20-year-old Florence Mitchell taught at Toolangi School from 1911-1912 and boarded at Alanbee. Thirty-five-year-old C. J. Dennis (Den) became smitten with her. Local stories tell how one afternoon she was booked to play tennis with ‘that poet with the fancy name, who lived next door to Mac McLaine’, but he was upstaged by Charlie Demby, who drove over to the school with his flash new horse and jinker and was waiting for her when school got out. She was bedazzled by the offer to come for a ride and forgot her tennis booking. The story was that ‘Den’ penned a character in his writing, “The Flash Coot”, based on Charlie Demby, in retaliation.

Alanbee advertised in both Melbourne and Yarra Valley newspapers. For example, Argus, 17 December 1914: ‘Alanbee House Toolangi, accommodation for visitors, tennis, beautiful scenery, every comfort, tariff 30/- Mrs. A.P. Smedley.’ By late 1918 the Smedleys advertised the property for sale. Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 5 October 1918 ‘For Sale, Alanbee Guest House Toolangi, Guest House and mixed farm, 13 roomed house, 50 acres, A.P. Smedley.’ The property did not sell and advertising tapers a little in this period. From the mid-1920s the name of the guest house was changed to Heathlands and the contact for accommodation was now son Len Smedley and his wife. Argus, 10 November 1926 ‘Toolangi – Heathlands, good accommodation and attention, tennis, Christmas vacancies. Mrs. L. Smedley’. In a tourism article in the Argus, 6 January 1927 ‘At Toolangi House and Heathlands, fancy dress balls were held on New Years Eve.’

Through the later twenties the Smedleys advertised Heathlands Guest House consistently in Melbourne newspapers ‘…splendid accommodation and tennis, every convenience, Mrs. L. Smedley.’ In a tourism edition of the Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian in 1930, more extensive advertising detailed ‘Heathlands Toolangi: Heathlands is within easy reach of some of the finest scenery in Victoria. This mountain home is constructed to embody all conveniences for the company of 20 guests; restful and cool in summer, wonderfully invigorating in winter. Tourists requiring a quiet, healthful holiday amid ideal surroundings are well advised to visit “Heathlands”. Among the attractions offered by the proprietress, Mrs Smedley, are a first class table, home cooking, with milk and cream in abundance’ (Jones, 2007).

In late 1935 Len Smedley and his wife leased Heathlands and moved to Toolangi House. Argus, 28 December 1935. ‘Mr. L. Smedley, formerly of Heathlands, Toolangi, has leased Toolangi House Hotel from Mr. Alex Cameron who has moved to Marysville with his family, to superintend his sawmilling interests there.’

Ms Thorn ran the Heathlands Guest House from late 1935-1937 and advertised throughout this period. Age, 15 January 1936 – ‘Heathlands, Toolangi, comfortable accommodation, poultry, cream, shooting, fishing and tennis. B. Thorn, telephone Toolangi 2. Tariff 50/-’. In the tourism edition of the Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian over Christmas/New Year 1937/1938 she detailed ‘Heathlands, Toolangi, a home in Delightful Surroundings. Running water in all bedrooms, bath heaters, milk and cream from our own farm, wireless. -Shooting-Fishing in Yea River. Tariff- 2 pounds 10 ten shillings per week. Proprietress Miss B. G. Thorn’ (Jones, 2007).

From winter 1937-until autumn 1939 the lease changed to Mrs. C. E. Huskey. Age, 21 August 1937, ‘Toolangi Heathlands, phone Toolangi 4, Farm Guest House, tennis, wireless, afternoon tea, supper, milk, cream from our own cows, log fires, tariff moderate, Mrs. C. E. Huskey’. In May 1939 the Smedleys returned to Heathlands, but demand for guest houses was beginning to wane.

The Smedleys sold the property about 1949/1950, to locals Billy Hughes and Charlie Cherry, who discontinued its role as a guest/boarding house and eventually split the property. As one travels east towards the main Toolangi township, the site of Heathlands is located at 1814 Healesville-Kinglake Road. A brick house is now in front and below is part of the former Heathlands. The section of Heathlands still standing, a rectangular wooden building, is only one third of its original size. This part housed the old kitchen and the formal dining/entertainment area, which was quite large. Beyond this there was a walkway which led to a large building behind, with a central passageway down the middle and bedrooms off to each side. This accommodation part has long since been demolished and the front part has been converted to a private residence (McClements, 2021).

Laurel Grove: ‘Spraggs Mountain Resort Accommodation’ Spraggs Road, Toolangi. In the Argus, 25 November 1922, the proprietor, Mrs. Maude E Spragg stated that ‘Laurel Grove Guest House provides farm produce, a good table and comfort. Tariff 2 pounds per week, but regretfully we are already full for Christmas 1922.’

In the Argus, 25 February 1932, Maude Spraggs was still advertising her ‘…comfortably furnished cottage, located in mountainous country with beautiful views and a waterfall’. Laurel Grove accommodated six people and the tariff was now three pounds three (three guineas) per week. This also covered light help from the owner and provision of milk and cream, which suggests that by this period the cottage was being let out, rather than a guest house with full board provided. Advertising for Laurel Grove disappears in the early 1930s.

The property changed hands to the Shipps in the mid-1930s, then sold to the Lawrences, who did not use the house for themselves or rent it out. By 1958 the property again changed hands and was restored to become the home of Jenny Chambers and her husband Gerry. Jenny in her memoirs on this web site wrote of her first impressions of the house: ‘The house was large, but in frantic disrepair. Potato seed had been stored in the house and there was evidence of rats and mice everywhere. All the stumps had gone, so a walk on the floor in some parts resembled being at sea. Most of the inside walls were made from hessian and paper, some of the early 1900s newspapers making interesting and hilarious reading….’ (Chambers, 1995).

Hillcrest Guest House: 1937-1947. This guest house belonging to the McLaine family and was located high on the hill above the township, on a property towards the end of Cherry Lane, but accessed down a lane opposite the Toolangi Hall. The lane led to the Yea River and McLaine’s Bridge, which led onto the property and a track from here ran up to the guest house. Hillcrest could accommodate up to 40+ people at peak, inclusive of verandah space. The proprietor was Mrs Gordon McLaine (Dolly), mother of Don, Cliff & Keith McLaine.

Hillcrest started out as a four-room cottage, purchased from the Smith family. It was brought down in the early 1920s from The Knob, an elevation some two kilometres away, to become Gordon and Dolly McLaine’s home after their marriage. It was transported by Arthur Bassett, down the old paling splitters’ bullock track, using his big horse team, and then positioned on the hill. Its establishment on the hill and further extensions were done by Gordon’s father, Walter (Mac) MCLaine and another builder from Healesville. Before a verandah and stairs were built on, the front door was inaccessible as it was 10 foot off the ground, owing to the slope of the hill. Mac McLaine initially built a kitchen and another room on the back of it and then extended it further over the years, by building rooms underneath (McLaine, 2021).

In the later 1930s it was extended to become a guest house, capable of providing seven guest bedrooms at peak demand, between upstairs and downstairs, and verandah as extra space for sleeping. There were also two bungalows built out back, where Gordon, Dorothy and their boys moved to when guests came. Age, 30 May 1942 ‘Toolangi (country) Hillcrest, lovely surroundings, excellent table, tennis. Billiards, afternoon tea and supper, included with meals. Applicants write to Mrs. G. McLaine, Toolangi. Tariff two guineas (2 pounds 2 shillings) per week.’

Cliff McLaine recalls that Hillcrest ran as a guest house from about 1937. It closed as a guest house in 1947, only operating after that for a few boarders over the next few years, including school teachers and forestry people. Sheryl (McLaine) Jacobs (2021) remembers living downstairs at Hillcrest in the 1950s ‘Our downstairs home was so full of love and fun. My parents were great and our home was a real home and I could go upstairs and visit Granny and Grandad any time I liked.’ Hillcrest is still standing on private property, deserted and somewhat derelict and is now accessed from the top end of Cherry Lane. The lane opposite the C. J. Dennis Hall still leads down to the Yea River, but McLaine’s Bridge which crosses onto the property, through lack of maintenance over recent years has deteriorated significantly and floods have taken some of the timbers.


Castella Guest Houses

Castella House: This guest house, halfway down Castella Road, operated from 1924-1946. It was built by the original proprietor/manager Abraham Christopherson, on the site of the Castella Post Office, opposite Campbell’s Creek Road, currently the site of the Walker family home. Christopherson was the initial Castella Postmaster, from 1917 to 1935. The Argus, 28 November 1923 and 14 December 1923, carried articles notifying the public that Mr Christopherson was building a large 9-room guest house at Castella. He advertised the guest house through both the Argus and Age, in advertisements which were brief and to the point. For example, Age, 19 February 1927, ‘Castella House, country accommodation, weekend, car daily, phone or write Castella PO. Once you have tried, never miss again, A. Christopherson.’

From June 1935 the guest house was run by Mr Christopherson’s sister-in-law, Mrs. Brenda, as Abraham Christopherson became less able, and she became the Castella Postmistress from that year. It was advertised for sale in 1941 but did not sell. Abraham Christopherson died at the Castella Post Office, 12 July 1945, aged 87 (Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages, Victoria, 2021). Mrs Brenda continued advertising it as a guest house to 1946, when it was again advertised for sale. Argus, 6 March 1946: ‘Sale of property and Guest House, Castella Guest House: modern timber residence with 11 large rooms, fibro lined, electric light (power plant) and telephone, 8-foot verandah all around, garages, implement shed and other good outbuildings. Together with Castella Post Office, on 9 acres of well improved agricultural land, eminently suitable for a Guest House.’

The appointed postmaster from 1946-1947 was Gustave Motal, a Polish migrant and ex-serviceman, but there is no evidence to hand to indicate that he purchased the property or ran the guest house.

The property was purchased freehold by George (Cliff) Boswell and his wife Marjorie in 1947 and Cliff became Postmaster. The guest house discontinued as tourist accommodation and became the home and agricultural business residence of the Boswells. At Easter 1949 however, David Pockett’s father-in-law Geoff Steinicke stayed in the guest house at Castella Post Office (Pockett, 2021a), as an eighteen-year-old, along with several friends. Mrs. Boswell was known to one of his party on the trip and made the guest house rooms available for their short stay to fish on the Yea River. It appears that this was the last use of the property as a guest house. Boswells lived there until they sold the property in 1965, at which time the Castella Post Office closed. The property was occupied by different tenants and owners until 1971, when it burned down in a fire. A private home was subsequently built close to the site of the original guesthouse and only a concrete slab in the lawn marks the site of the original post office.

Mountholme Guest House: One of the smaller guest houses of Castella, its exact location is unconfirmed, but it was likely located in Campbells Creek Road. This guest house was advertised from the late 1920s to the mid-1930s ‘Guest house on farm in Castella, Mrs. Larter’. In 1928 Mrs Larter advertised regularly prior to peak tourist season. For example, in the Melbourne Argus from October to early December. ‘Mountholme farm guest house, reopens for visitors for Xmas’, which suggests this guest house was available only at peak holiday periods. Mrs Larter offered good table, wireless, fishing, tennis, and urged readers to telephone Toolangi 4 for bookings. ‘Good accommodation, beautiful scenery. Xmas tariff, 2/10/- Larter, Castella via Healesville.’ In the Age, 6 April 1929, Mrs Later was advertising for Easter accommodation and was offering ‘…car service from Yarra Glen Railway Station, magnificent scenery and facilities, including wireless.’

Later that year she had changed the advertising in Melbourne newspapers to Toolangi, rather than Castella, possibly believing Toolangi was better known to Melbourne residents, and in advertising she was offering transport from Healesville Railway Station. This coincided with the newer postal route to Castella, through Toolangi via Spraggs Road and across Campbells Creek Road to the Castella post office, a route now closed, as Campbell’s Creek Road no longer joins Spraggs Road. Argus, 3 October 1929 ‘Toolangi – a holiday at Mt. Holme, cars from Healesville station through magnificent scenery to Toolangi, tennis, table speciality, 35/- weekends 10/- Mrs. Larter tele 4.’ Advertising for Mountholme continues through to the mid-1930s, with the guest house name varying, sometimes as Mountholme, Mountain Home or Mt. Holme, suggesting the advertising was phoned through to the newspapers and not always transcribed correctly. For example Age, 22 February 1934, ‘Mt. Holme, Toolangi, quiet and restful, holiday in the hills, ideal sport, tariff 35/- C. M. Larter, Toolangi.’ Advertising for this guest house disappears in the mid-1930s.

Fern Dell Guest House at Dashville: Located on the very eastern edge of Kinglake, on the border of present-day Castella, this guest house was situated at the top of the Mount Slide Road-Steels Creek Road (Mt. Slide Landing) and is mentioned as accommodation in some early articles on tourism in Toolangi. This was the home of John and Emma Dash, established in the 1880s and it operated as a guest house from close to the turn of the 20th century through to 1926. A number of people settled close to the Dash family in Castella and East Kinglake, and the settlement area became known as Dashville (Hawkins, 2013). It was ‘officially’ designated as such by the Post Master Generals Office when Fern Dell was established as a post office at the turn of the century. Mrs. Dash was advertising regularly in The Age from 1907 through to the 1920s. Typically the advertisements were brief and to the point: ‘Superior accommodation, water laid on, beautiful scenery, fern gullies, piano, fishing, shooting, coach from Yarra Glen daily, particulars Mrs. Dash.’ This guest house continued to operate until it burned down in the 1926 bushfires.

A change from the guest house era: Today there are a lesser number of tourist accommodation sites left in the district. The only survivor from the old era is Strathvea Guest House, from the Mount St Leonard cluster. In 2021 it is now operated by Deanne & Toby Eccles as an Airbnb ‘a romantic getaway, wedding accommodation, conferences and group gatherings, tele 0417 829670 & 0437 197568.’ Wingspread B & B at 1380 Myers Creek Road, Toolangi, lies only a short distance from original Toolangi House. ‘Situated in Toolangi on the Great Dividing Range above the Yarra Valley, Wingspread is a two-hectare property with magnificent views to the north, spacious, beautiful gardens, wonderful hosts, quiet, outstanding accommodation, beautifully landscaped grounds’. Ring Keith and Andrew, 0413 403 878. There are also a number of smaller Airbnbs in Toolangi-Castella which include Hollyville Cottage, Forest Way Farm Tiny House, Springwater Retreat, Toolangi Tiny House and Tall Trees Chalet, which can be accessed online through

Toolangi Tavern: John and Michelle Marshall purchased the house and shop at the corner of Myers Creek Road and Chum Creek Road in 2003 and had a take-away liquor licence at the shop. A few years later they built the Toolangi Tavern (hotel) at 1390 Myers Creek Road Toolangi. Interestingly it is located on part of Albert Walkeden’s original block from the 1890s, but is not on the same site as the original Toolangi House Hotel. The Tavern had many mementos and photos of the original Toolangi Hotel, including a beautiful stained-glass sign erected over the bar “I dips me lid”, in homage to C.J. Dennis’ Sentimental Bloke. Opening night was 1 September 2006 and the opening was warmly welcomed by locals (Williams, July 2021). The business survived for more than 13 years. In the latter part of that time the business was sold to the chef and the property leased. Unfortunately, it did not survive financially and closed towards the end of 2019. The property was auctioned on 5 March 2020 and purchased for a private home.



Alanbee Guest House, (1914, December 17), Classified Advertising in Argus 17 December 1914, via Trove

Alanbee Guest House: Notice of Sale, (1918, October 5), For Sale Notices in Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian 5 October 1918, via Trove

Bassett, S., Death Notice, (1927, March 10), Death Notices in Argus 10 May 1927, via Trove

Bassett, S., Death Notice, (1927, May 14), Death Notices in Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian 14 May 1927, via Trove

Biggs, G., (2021) Biggs/Briggs Filmed Interview for Toolangi-Castella Local History Project

Broadbent, G., (1913, December 12), Motoring Article reproduced from Argus in The Healesville Guardian 12 December 1913, via Trove

Broadbent, G., (1920, December 31), Argus Motoring Column 31 December 1920, via Trove

Broadbent, G., (1931, January 12), Argus Motoring Column, 21 January 1931, via Trove

Cameron, A., Death Notice, (1929, October 11), Death Notices in Healesville Guardian 12 October 1929, via Trove

Cameron, M., Death Notice, (1926, April 30), Death Notices in Argus, 30 April 1926, via Trove

Cameron, M., Obituary, (1926, May 4) Obituaries in Healesville Guardian, 4 May 1926, via Trove

Castella House, (1923), Classified Advertising in Argus, 28 November 1923 and 14 December 1923, via Trove

Castella House, (1927, February 19), Classified Advertising in Age, 19 February 1927, via Trove

Chambers, J., (1995), Recollections of Toolangi 1950s-1990s, Written for the Toolangi Primary School Centenary 1995

Christopherson, A., Death Certificate, (1945, July 12), Death Certificate, 12 July 1945, Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages, Victoria

Clearing Sale at Queens Hotel Toolangi, (1901, January 12), Notices in Clearing Sales Age 12 January 1901, via Trove

Crerar, A., (September 2021), personal communication on Toolangi House Hotel, Oral History Interview, Toolangi-Castella Local History Project

Cunningham, A.C., Public Notices, (1899, July 8), Notice of Probate in Age 8 July 1899, via Trove.

Eccles, D. & E., (n.d.) Advertising Brochure Strathvea Guest House

Eltham Shire Council Meeting, (1895, November 6), Minutes reported in Lilydale Express, 6 September 1895, via Trove

Eltham Shire Council Meeting, (1905, May 6), Minutes reported re Toolangi House in Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian 6 May 1905, via Trove

Fires on Mt. St. Leonard, (1926, February 26), News Article in Argus 26 February 1926, via Trove

Glenora Guest House, (1914, November 11), Classified Advertising in Age 11 November 1914, via Trove

Glenora Guest House, (1914, November 13), Social Article in The Evelyn Observer 13 November 1914, via Trove

Glenora Guest House, (1918, December 20), Social Article in The Eltham & Whittlesea Shires Advertiser, 20 December 1918, via Trove

Glenora Guest House, (1923, November 28), Classified Advertising in Argus, 28 November 1923, via Trove

Glenview Guest House, (1926, February 3), Classified Advertising in Age 3 February 1926, via Trove

Greenhills Guest House, (1913, November 1), Classified Advertising in Age 1 November 1913, via Trove

Greenhills Guest House, (1914, January 31), Classified Advertising in Age 31 January 1914, via Trove

Greenhills Guest House, (1915, February 17), Classified Advertising in Argus, 17 February 1915, via Trove

Guest Houses Healesville Area, (1934), Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian Tourism Edition

Hawkins, D., (Ed.) (2013), Kinglake: A Collected History of the Kinglake District 1861-2011, Kinglake, Vic, Kinglake Historical Society

Hazelmont Guest House, (1927, February 19), Classified Advertising in Age, 19 February 1927, via Trove

Heathlands Guest House, (1926, November 10), Classified Advertising in Argus, 10 November 1926, via Trove

Heathlands Guest House, (1936, January 15), Classified Advertising in Age 15 January 1936, via Trove

Heathlands Guest House, (1937, August 21), Classified Advertising in Age 21 August 1937, via Trove

Healesville & District Historical Society, (2013), Images of Time: A Pictorial History of Healesville – From a Village to a Town, Vol 1, 1864-1920, Kinglake, Vic, North East Publishing & Roda Graphics Aust Pty. Ltd.

Hillcrest Guest House, (1942, May 30), Classified Advertising in Age 30 May 1942, via Trove

Hotel for Lease: Toolangi, (1896, March 28), Notice in Healesville Guardian 28 March 1896, via Trove

Insolvency Notices: Walkeden, (1892), Insolvency Notices in Herald 6 September 1892, Australasian 10 September 1892, Argus 22 September 1892, via Trove

Jacobs S., (2021), personal communication in email on Hillcrest Guest House (October 2021), Toolangi-Castella Local History Project

Jones, B., (2007), Free From City Cares: The Story of Healesville’s Guest Houses, Healesville, Vic, Healesville Historical Society

Laurel Grove Guest House, (1922, November 25), Classified Advertising in Argus 25 November 1922, via Trove

Laurel Grove Guest House, (1932, February 25), Classified Advertising in Argus 25 February 1932, via Trove

Landslide Myers Creek Road, (1937, October 21), News Article in Age 21 October 1937, via Trove

Lindt, J., (1893, April 17), article in Argus, 17 April 1893, Picturesque Toolangi and Sylvia Creek, via Trove

Melbourne Amateur Walking & Touring Club Tour, (1898, April 23), Article in the Australasian, 23 April 1898, via Trove

McClements, H., (October 2021), personal communication on Heathlands Guest House, Toolangi Castella Local History Project

McLaine, C., (October 2021), personal communication on Hillcrest Guest House, Toolangi-Castella Local History Project

Mountholme Guest House, (1928), Classified Advertising in Argus October-December 1928, via Trove

Mountholme Guest House, (1929, April 6), Classified Advertising in Age, 6 April 1929, via Trove

Mountholme Guest House, (1929, October 3), Classified Advertising in Argus, 3 October 1929, via Trove

Mountholme Guest House, (1934, February 22), Classified Advertising in Age, 22 February 1934, via Trove

Murrindindi Shire Heritage Study, (2011), Vol 1: Thematic Environmental History: Section 5: Tourism & Recreation 5.2 Guest Houses, Report Prepared for the Murrindindi Shire Council, Brunswick, Vic., Context Pty. Ltd

Petition to Eltham Shire: Mr. Cameron, Toolangi House, (1919, November 6), Reported in Yea Chronicle, 6 November 1919, via Trove

Pockett, D., (2021a), personal communication, September 2021 on Castella Guest House

Pockett D., (2021b), personal communication, October 2021 on Landslide Myers Creek Road

Pockett, R. J., (1986), A History of Toolangi, Healesville, Vic., written for Healesville Historical Society

Pockett, R., Priestley, J., Cox, J. & Cameron, K., (1995), Toolangi Primary School, the First Hundred Years: A History of Toolangi Primary School no. 3237, Toolangi, Victoria 1895-1995, Toolangi, Centenary Organising Committee

Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages, Victoria, (2021), Abraham Christopherson: Death Certificate,

Rintel, H., (1897, November 5), Letter to Eltham Shire reported in Evelyn Observer 5 November 1897, via Trove

Sequestration Notice: Walkeden, (1896, October 2), Sequestration Notices in Argus 2 October 1896, via Trove

Sewell, A., (1993), Memories of Toolangi, written for Healesville Historical Society

Smedley: Public Notices, (1899, September 30), Birth Notices in Argus, 30 September 1899, via Trove

Strathvea Guest House, (1923, January 14), Classified Advertising in Argus, 14 January 1923, via Trove

Strathvea Guest House, (1926, February 3), Classified Advertising in Age, 3 February 1926, via Trove

Symonds, S., (1982), Healesville: History in the Hills, Lilydale, Vic, Pioneer Design Studio Pty. Ltd.

Toolangi, (1895, November 30), Tourism Article in Australasian, 30 November 1895, via Trove

Toolangi: Farewell Mr. & Mrs Rintel, (1901, January 18), Article in The Healesville Guardian, 18 January 1901, via Trove

Toolangi: Annual Toolangi Picnic, (1903, January 3), Article in The Healesville Guardian, 3 January 1903, via Trove

Toolangi: Toolangi House (1903), Articles in the Healesville and Yarra Glen Guardian, 17 January 1903, 25 April 1903, 15 August 1903, 29 November 1903, via Trove

Toolangi: Toolangi House, (1904, February 27), Article in the Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian 27 February 1904, via Trove

Toolangi: Toolangi House, (1905, May 13), Article in Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 13 May 1905, via Trove

Toolangi, (1907, January 12), Article in Brighton Southern Cross, 12 January 1907, via Trove

Toolangi, (1911, September 6), Article in Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 6 September 1911, via Trove

Toolangi, (1919, May 17), Tourism Article in The Herald, 17 May 1919, via Trove

Toolangi, (1919, January 19), Article in Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 19 January 1919, via Trove

Toolangi, (1920, January 19), Article in The Herald, 19 January 1920, via Trove

Toolangi, (1920, April 24), Tourism Article in The Times, 24 April 1920, via Trove

Toolangi, (1923, January 18), Article in Table Talk, 18 January 1923, via Trove

Toolangi, (1924, December 1), Article in The Argus, 1 December 1924, via Trove

Toolangi, (1925, December 18), Articles in Argus, 18 December 1925, 31 December 1925, via Trove

Toolangi, (1927, January 6), Article in Argus, 31 December 1925, via Trove

Toolangi, (1928, August 16), Tourist Letter to Herald, 16 August 1928, via Trove

Toolangi, (1930, April 24), Article in Argus, 24 April 1930, via Trove

Toolangi, (1936) Article) in Healesville Guardian 5 September 1936, via Trove

Toolangi: Surprise Party, (1939, April 29), Article in Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 29 April 1939, via Trove

Toolangi House, (1898, March 12), Articles in Healesville & Yarra Glen Advocate, 12 March 1898, 5 December 1936, via Trove

Toolangi House, (1899), Articles in Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 7 April 1899, 26 October 1899, 24 November 1899, in Trove

Toolangi House, (1905, May 14), Tourism Article in Punch, 4 May 1905, via Trove

Toolangi House, (1910, January 13), Tourism Article in Punch, 13 January 1910, via Trove

Toolangi House, (1912, October 25) Article in The Healesville Guardian 25 October 1912, via Trove

Toolangi House, (1914, January 31), Classified Advertising in Argus 31 January 1914, via Trove

Toolangi House: New Year Ball, (1914, January 8), Tourism Article in Punch, 8 January 1914, via Trove

Toolangi House: Roadside Victuallers Licence, (1916, December 21), Notice in Yea Chronicle, 21 December 1916, via Trove

Toolangi House, (1915, February 17), Classified Advertising in Argus 17 of February 1915, via Trove

Toolangi House, (1923, March 26), Classified Advertising in Argus 26 March 1923, via Trove

Toolangi House: Between Two Shires, (1924, May), Article in Table Talk, May 1924, via Trove

Toolangi House, (1924, May 1), Tourism Article in Table Talk, 1 May 1924, via Trove

Toolangi House: Under New Management, (1935, December 7), Notice in Argus, 7 December 1935, via Trove

Toolangi House: Under New Management, (1936), Notices in Argus, 5 February 1936; 8 April 1936, via Trove

Toolangi House, (1938, December 31), Classified Advertising in Argus, 31 December 1938, via Trove

Toolangi House Hotel: New Management, (1935, December 28), Article in Argus, 28 December 1935, via Trove

Toolangi Hotel: Notice of Lease, (1901, July 13), Notice in Age 13 July 1901, via Trove

Toolangi on the Divide, (1926, December 9) Tourism Article in Table Talk, 9 December 1926, via Trove

Tourism: Toolangi, (1924, December 11), Tourism Article in Argus 11 December 1924, via Trove

Tourism: Toolangi House, (1937, December 2), Tourism Article in Argus 2 December 1937, via Trove

Tourism: Heathlands Guest House, (1927, January 6), Tourism Article in Argus 6 January 1927, via Trove

Toolangi Parish Map, (1909), Lands Department, Victoria

Walkeden, (1891, November 27), Article in the Lilydale Express, 27 November 1891, via Trove

Walkeden, (1891, December 10), Article in Yea Chronicle, 10 December 1891, via Trove

Walkeden, (1893, April 21), Classified Advertising in Argus, 21 April 1893, via Trove

Walkeden, (1893, December 27), Classified Advertising in Argus, 27 December 1893, via Trove

Walkeden, (1895, April 25), Article in Yea Chronicle, 25 April 1895, via Trove

Walkeden, (1895, December 21), Classified Advertising in Age 21 December 1895, via Trove

Walkeden, (1896), Classified Advertising in Argus 10 February 1896, Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 3 April 1896, via Trove

Williams, J., (July 2021), personal communication on guest houses and hotels Toolangi-Castella, Toolangi-Castella Local History Project

Wingspread Online Advertising, (n.d.), Wingspread Air B ‘n B, Toolangi

Yea River Company, (1889, November 20), Article in Herald, 20 November1889, via Tove

Yea River Railway League, (1898, December 17), Article in Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 17 December 1898, via Trove

Yea Shire Council Meeting, (1895, July 18), Minutes reported in Yea Chronicle, 18 July 1895, via Trove

Yea Shire Council Gazette, (1898), Road Realignment in Yea Shire Council Gazette 98/2436

Steve Meacher Muddy Creek East 1864 veg notes
Steve Meacher Muddy Creek East 1864 veg notes