Australia Day, 26 January 2024, is the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Tower on the Mount. To mark this significant event, the Maldon Museum currently has a special exhibition on display, which includes interesting photos and maps.
The vision of turning Maldon into a tourist resort certainly had a long history. In December 1882 the Tarrangower Times expressed little doubt that once the railway had been finally constructed, ‘our beautiful and picturesque locality will be more largely visited’. In 1909, the [Tarrangower] Times, commented that advertising might do something to bring visitors to the town, but property owners would have to be prepared to pay an extra rate for the purpose. It wasn’t until the early twentieth century that the idea that Maldon could become a resort began to be considered seriously.
Robert Smith first suggested to the Maldon Progress Association in June 1917 that the view from the top of Mount Tarrengower might be improved if a high lookout was placed there. Another person thought that a poppet head would make an excellent tower. In January 1922 Howard Dabb proposed the erection of a light steel observation tower on the Mount as a soldiers’ memorial.
In May 1923, yet another promotional organisation, the Advance Maldon Association, was formed. One of their first projects was to erect a tower on the Mount. With a loan from Shire President William Adams, they purchased the poppet legs of George Lansell’s old Comet mine in Bendigo. The legs were then brought to Maldon by rail and hauled on horse-drawn jinkers to the top of the Mount along a track built by volunteers. Contractor Charles Jorgensen constructed the tower, which was topped by a bright iron roof and flagpole. A large reflecting glass ball was to be placed on top of the flagpole.
On Foundation Day, 26 January 1924, over 400 people climbed Mount Tarrengower to watch the Victorian Premier and local member of the Legislative Assembly, Harry Lawson, officially open the lookout tower. Flags decked Maldon’s newest tourist attraction and coloured steamers, unfurled by climbers, fluttered in the breeze. Premier Lawson congratulated the Advance Maldon Association for having placed the town among the tourist resorts of Victoria. By then, most people had forgotten that it was Robert Smith who had first suggested the idea of a lookout tower more than six years earlier.
A number of suggestions were made to maximise the tower’s tourism potential. These included coin-operated binoculars at Bank Corner to allow it to be viewed from the centre of town, kiosks at the Butts and a telephone at the top of the tower so that visitors could describe the view to their friends at home. Like the large reflecting glass ball, none of these suggestions came to fruition.
This information was supplied by the Maldon Museum and Archives.
This article appeared in the Tarrangower Times, 19 January 2024.