Don's Cottage before restoration.
While the impressive stone buildings attract the most attention, it
must be realised that most people lived in wooden houses, many of which
are still standing in the valley. Unfortunately most are in tragic
The early settlers made their houses from what they could obtain from
land, and a popular form of house was made
from split logs with earthen floors and shingle roofing. As one
through the valley quite a few old slab houses can be seen from the
As the settlers generated some wealth many of the original slab houses
were replaced with a more modern version with wooden floors,
cladding and corrugated iron roofing. Don’s Cottage is typical of this,
although all that remains of the first slab house at the site is some
and foundation stones and a complete slab cookhouse. Most cookhouses
separated from the main building because of their propensity to burn
Don’s cottage was derelict and vandalised for many years after the death of the previous owner, Donald Sternbeck who was a descendent of an original settler of the valley. The current owner has restored the cottage and found that all the original hardwood timber used was still in excellent condition, testimony to the workmanship at that time. The interior walls were lined with “tar” paper covered with newspaper then painted, not very solid but cheap and draught free. The cottage consists of three rooms each 12-foot square.
The land on which the cottage sits was part of the original town allotments and four blocks [lots 12, 13, 14, 15] were purchased by Hugh Dougherty then after about 20 years, transferred to James Dougherty [his son, a labourer] on 10 Jan. 1883.
On the 21st. April 1921 the four blocks were sold to a John Bernsdorff another St. Albans labourer. Our John was probably the son of the Hotel-keeper of the Settlers Arms, Mr. Edward Bernsdorff. The land was transferred to the previous occupant of the cottage Mr. Donald David Sternbeck a council employee on the 5th. July 1960. Old Don, as he was known, sold lot 15 to Henry and Kay Szwanenfeld on 15th.July 1987.
Kay is a member of the Bailey family, one of the first families in the valley.
Don's Cottage as it stands today.
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