The Government Buildings of Marble Bar have been described in the Heritage Council of WA report as being situated on a triangle of land above Sandy Creek. “It is a very handsome, unified and harmonious collection of government offices. Roofed with corrugated iron, it is constructed in local stone which blends with the countryside, and is decorated with stucco window dressings and brick quoins painted white.” The complex consists of four single storey and four double storey blocks. They are further described as “simple functional buildings that are nevertheless well-proportioned with pleasant massing”. The original plans included a clock tower, Today the Marble Bar Government buildings are screened from the street by closely planted gum trees that provide shade but also block the architectural streetscape value that the buildings could provide.
They have been classified both by the National Trust and the Australian Heritage Commission. They have also been Interim Listed on the State Heritage Register. Historic, aesthetic and social aspects of the buildings are valued by the local community and many visitors to the district. They have unity of setting and townscape and streetscape value. They are a rare and outstanding example of government buildings constructed in the 1890s in a remote part of Western Australia.
George Temple-Poole, famous WA architect of many public buildings, had a strong influence on the design of the Government offices. These included offices for the Mining Warden and the Mining Registrar, a Court House, Police Station and Quarters and the Post and Telegraph Office. Contract drawings were signed on 31st October 1894 with the successful contractor being Charles Darley of Perth. The contract price was £7,949 1 Is 2d and the date for completion was given as 27th August 1895. A local critic described the construction of the Government Buildings by saying: “When this work is completed, Marble Bar may hug to its bosom this White Elephant; this gigantic emblem of official stupidity and extravagance which will remain long after we are in our graves and forgotten; to mark at least one epoch in the history of Marble Bar.” (p.219 To The Bar and Beyond.) However, despite such criticism, the Post Office and government buildings went on to provide solid service to Marble Bar residents. Soon after their opening in 1896 the Post Office and Telegraph Office became a repeater station and the Post Office was regarded as the departure point for coaches. Mining Registrars came and left, many with great rapidity. Between 1896-1917 there were approximately 11 mining registrars. Severe cyclones in 1925 and 1930 caused damage to the Government buildings which saw the removal of the once substantial clock tower. For many years the buildings were well occupied and today they are still in use by the Mining Registrar, the Magistrates Court, Museum and houses the oldest operational Police station in WA. Marble Bar is the official centre of the rich Pilbara Goldfield.
The Ironclad Hotel is historically significant as the site of one of the first two permanent buildings erected in the Marble Bar Town site. It has been the hub of the town from the gold rush era until today. It is the famed setting for many colourful characters, notorious pranks, tall stories, lost fortunes, happy celebrations and memorable wakes. The Ironclad Hotel is synonymous with Marble Bar. It has an unbroken link with many eras of rich history.
The Ironclad Hotel on lots 15 and 16 of Marble Bar town site is a complex of buildings of various styles and ages with frequent additions and renovations over the years. The hotel is situated on the main road of Marble Bar and is a significant landmark in the town. The building has a corrugated iron roof with corrugated iron walls retains its original facade today.
There is no doubt that a hotel has traded continually from this site since 1892 and records reveal that it has traded under the name Ironclad Hotel since November, 1893. The Hotel has always incorporated a public bar and verandah on the Francis Street frontage and efforts have been made to maintain some integrity of design with early Hotel photographs. It is highly likely that the Hotel was named after the richest reefing claim then, the Ironclad Lease, which had been granted in that name in November. 1891. (SAWA Mines Dept.,Cons 4136.) The hotel was one of only two permanent structures noted by E N Geyer on 15/3/1893 on Marble Bar town site sketches
Comet Gold Mine
7km down the Comet Mine Road you have Comet Gold mine where a tourist stop and museum is located. Comet Gold Mine is a museum and tourist stop with displays of rocks, minerals and local gemstones, It also was the highest smoke stack in the southern hemisphere. Founded in 1936 by Tommy Star who discovered the large gold ore body 10kms south of Marble Bar. The Comet Gold Mine was the first place in WA to have AC Power also supplying Marble Bar. The original generator and other fascinating relics including Pilbara minerals and gem stones can be viewed at the museum.
Corunna Downs Airbase
Corunna Downs was a secret airfield located in scrub and spinifex country, about 35 kms south west of Marble Bar in “The Pilbara” area of Western Australia. Today there are very few reminders of the once busy airfield. One can see some crumbling foundations and half filled post holes. 73 OBU operated the Corunna Downs airfield which comprised two intersecting bitumen runways. One ran approximately north-south, 5,000 feet in length while the other ran approximately east-west, 7,000 feet in length. Both runways were approximately 150 feet wide. A 50 foot wide taxiway linked the northern end of the north-south runway to the western end of the east-west runway. Approximately 20 camouflaged revetments to disperse aircraft to minimise bomb damage were constructed at Corunna Downs. American and Australian Air Force units operated out of Corunna Downs airfield during WW2. They included 25 Squadron (City of Perth) RAAF and the 380th Bomb Group of the American 5th Air Force. They carried out numerous bombing raids on Japanese bases and shipping.
Visitors who wish to look at the old Corunna Downs airfield no longer need to contact Corunna Downs Homestead. The site has been excised from the leasehold Pastoral Lease and is freely available to all who wish to visit.
(Information on this page was supplied by Marble Bar Tourist Association)