One of the best ways to discover Strahan is to take a walk along the town’s foreshore track. This hour long walk follows the path of the old Government Railway line that once ran between Strahan and Zeehan. Along the way, you’ll pass a number of historic buildings that each tell a fragment of the story of Strahan’s past.
Customs House and Bond Store (Drill Hall)
Located at the western end of the Esplanade, Strahan’s grand Customs House was completed in 1900, and was originally used as a government administration centre during the town’s peak as a major shipping port. Since then, the building has been variously used as a court, customs office, marine board, telegraph and post office, town board and public works department.
During the early 1980s, the first floor of Customs House was the meeting place for conservationists during the historic Franklin Dam campaign. Today Customs House is the location for the Parks and Wildlife Service and Post Office.
The small building located beside Customs House is Strahan’s original Bond Store. Built in the late 1800s by the Marsh Brothers using local bricks and lime, the Bond Store was an important warehouse for storage of the many goods that passed through Strahan’s busy port. During the First World War, the building was used as the town’s drill hall, and many locals still refer to it by this name. In later years, it was also the location for town dances.
Ormiston House, at 1 Esplanade Strahan, is a fine Federation mansion that was built in 1897 for Strahan’s founder, Frederick Ormiston Henry. Henry selected a desirable plot of land in the western part of Strahan, that at the time was the town’s popular beachfront recreation area. The house was built by William McDonald, and designed by architects A and S Luttrell. Ormiston House was completed in 1899 at a cost of £1310.00.
Franklin Manor, at 75 Esplanade Strahan, was built in 1896 for Captain Edward T (Teddy) Miles—a merchant seaman, politician and entrepreneur. The house was originally named Moana and was built during Captain Miles’ tenure as Strahan’s Harbour Master. He was subsequently sacked from the position amid accusations of dishonesty, but went on to pursue a career in politics! Miles owned a number of properties on the west coast, but following his death in 1944, Moana fell into disrepair. It was on the edge of ruin by the 1960s, inhabited only by the ghosts that were rumoured to haunt its corridors. It was finally restored during the 1980s and converted to guest accommodation as Franklin Manor.
Regatta Point Railway Station Strahan’s Regatta Point Railway Station was built in 1899 and was once the terminus for railway lines that ran from mines at Zeehan and Queenstown. The Queenstown line was known as the Abt Railway, named after the Swiss engineer Dr Roman Abt, who invented the innovative rack and pinion rail system that was used on this line to enable heavy loads to be hauled through the mountainous west coast terrain.
The station was also the terminus for the Government Railway, which operated between Strahan and Zeehan from 1892 until 1960.
Today the Regatta Point Railway Station is the departure point for the West Coast Wilderness Railway.
Located in the street behind Regatta Point Railway Station, the historic Strahan Cemetery contains graves of many of the town’s significant pioneers, some dating back to the 1890s. Among the people buried here are Strahan’s founder, Frederick Ormiston Henry, and the surveyor, track cutter and explorer, Thomas Bather Moore. Also buried here is Rupert Cecil Alabaster, the manager of the Oonah mine and smelter at Zeehan who committed suicide at Customs House in 1911, following the closure of the mine. Some of the older timber grave markers you’ll see in the cemetery are made from elaborately carved Huon pine.