Although there was an early bush inn at Dunn’s Bridge over the Wakefield River on the outskirts of what is now Balaklava it did not foretell the coming of the town. The inn was a drinking place for the bullockies driving teams down from the Burra mine to the new port at Wakefield from 1850. When the copper route to Port Wakefield ceased in 1856, so did the bullockies and their drinking. The Hundred of Balaklava was declared in 1856 but the town was not established until 1869 once the government had made a decision to run a railway from Port Wakefield to Hoyleton (later extended to Blyth) at the foothills of the Clare valley. The first white occupiers of the land near Balaklava were the Bowman family who took out various leaseholds on land along the Wakefield River in 1847 with a strong of properties from Manoora to Martindale Hall to what is now Balaklava. Their Balaklava property called Werocata is just north for the town and is still one of the largest properties in the district but it is not owned by the Bowmans. They sold it in 1886. In 1905 parts of Werocata were sold with the Closer Settlement Act of that year.
Balaklava was a government town with 119 town allotments being sold in 1869. It followed the pattern of many SA towns in its early development. First came the hotels, a wheat store, and government facilities like a post office, police station and railway all within two years. By 1874 a flour mill had been erected, along with implement makers and blacksmiths. The first church in town, the Church of Christ was built in 1879 (it is now the National Trust Museum.)Other churches and the town Institute soon followed. In 1880 the present derelict railway station was constructed and the town’s future was secured with daily rail services to Wallaroo and to Adelaide. The Balaklava Racing Club had been formed early in 1876 and by 1900 the town was moving forward with a number of new classical style buildings.
Old Court House Gallery. This charming building was erected in 1913. It is nicely proportion with Grecian style Corinthian columns on the front, a pediment and a fine stained glass fanlight above the door. It was built adjacent to the police station and the police cells which were built in 1879.
2. “Professor” Higham’s House. This quaint house built in 1907 with an upper balcony has brick quoins, arched ground floor windows but squared upper windows. Note the decorative ends on the gutters. It is often referred to at the Match Box House. It was originally the home of an amateur horse vet who developed a range of horse medicines sold nationally under the name of Ottajamba medicines!
3. Royal Hotel, Edith Terrace. This was built in 1871 by Thomas Saint. Note the unusual architecture with gable ends to the two wings to the street and a short upstairs balcony in the middle. It is made of limestone. It has Art Nouveau style wooden barge boards, and note the small attic windows on the upper side of the building. The first town council meetings were held here when it was formed in 1877. It was the Balaklava Hotel then but after the Prince of Wales visited in 1880 it was changed to the Royal Hotel. The upper floor was added in 1905 to the single storey hotel and the balcony was added in 1911.
4. Two Storied Shop. This is a typical old style shop with an upper balcony built around 1900. It is made of pressed tin with rendered side walls. It is currently the Shearing Shed shop.
5. The “ Silent Cop” in the middle of the intersection. Who said parking meters were new? There was a half hour limit for tying up your horse in the main street from 1909 about the time the “silent cop” was installed. The silent cop was put there to avoid collisions and direct traffic.
6. Former Commercial Bank now Balco. A fine two storey structure with an impressive façade which was built in 1910 . It has a Grecian style upper floor with triangular pediments above the windows, whilst the ground floor is more Art Nouveau in style with half rounded windows with leadlights.
7. Uniting Church. This has the most prominent position in town with Gothic buttresses on the walls, stone and stucco quoins. It opened in 1904 and the porch was added in 1927. The first Methodist services were held in 1868 before the town was declared in 1871. Note the trifoliate glass window above the door and the round cement plaques nearby.
8. ANZ Bank, Wallace Street corner. This was also built around 1900 in the Grecian style. It has a nice side door with arch and leadlight windows. The unusual curved corner architecture still complement the Grecian style. It also has triangular pediments above windows. There are good stables behind this building. It opened at the Adelaide Bank in 1908.
9. Balaklava Institute. The institute was completed in 1881 and used for social functions, meetings, weddings and as a library. A new Grecian style façade and entrance rooms were added in 1935 in the height of the Depression. It has fine Corinthian columns topped with flowers and leaves with a horizontal cornice and architrave above the pillars. There are public toilets here too.
10. Post Office. Postal service began in 1871, and this post office opened as a new Commonwealth government one after Federation in 1912. The telephone service began in 1905. The building is Georgian in style with rendered pilasters and rectangular windows with good symmetry. Note the elaborate ties to the down pipes and finial topped weather ventilation box on the roof.
11. Savings Bank of SA, opposite the Post Office. An agency began here in 1880 and this building was erected in 1924. It has a balustrade across the roof line, good symmetry and solid bulk in the façade. The arched windows have stone corbels.
12. The Church of Christ, Humphrey Street. Turn left from the main street to locate this fine building. It is a Gothic style church with buttresses or corners, spires on inner columns. It has a trifoliate window above the double Gothic arched windows on the façade. The entrance porch was added in 1908. Services began in private homes from 1877.
13. St Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church. Turn right in Baker Street to finds St Andrews. It was built in 1889 on land given by William Verco. The Sisters of St Joseph operated a school near here from 1929 until 1968. It is now the St Andrews Centre. St Andrew’s is a simple stone church with brick quoins and the building is in the Gothic style. The church was enlarged in 1910.
14. National Trust museum, originally the Church of Christ. It was built in 1878/79 and after being home to the Churches of Christ became the Zion Lutheran Church for many years. Later it became the Druids Hall, then part of the Balaklava High School (one of the earliest country high schools in 1922) and it is now the town museum. Admission is by coin donation.
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