Peak Gold Mines invited Cobar Shire councillor Greg Martin and The Cobar Weekly’s editor Sharon Harland to tour the historic Towser Huts site last week.
The tour was in response to feedback received at Peak Gold Mine’s recent community consultation meeting, where Cr Martin had asked if the Towser Huts site, which is on Peak land and dates back to the 1890s, could be set up so that it could be accessed by interested locals and tourists.
A local mythology has grown up about the remains of these stone-walled buildings, one into which Harold Boughen, a former Cobar resident who worked at the CSA Mine, delved into in 1986.
His published research into the huts and the man who built them (Mr Boughen believes it was most likely an Italian immigrant named Antonio Tozzi) was compiled with information from The Cobar Age, other publications and verbal recounts from Cobar residents.
Located on the northern slope of Fort Bourke Hill these “original motel units” are said to have consisted of nine units of which there was an “executive suite” of two rooms, a dining room and a separate three bedroom residence.
The complex also included uncharacteristic semicircular fireplaces.
Mr Boughen said the building materials and building design were somewhat atypical of the general style prevailing in the area at that time.
The general style of house built by the miners was a timber framed cottage, with gable roof, a skillion verandah at front and skillion kitchen at back with one or two square brick chimneys.
Mr Boughen deduced that Mr Tozzi was building in a material and a style he was familiar with. He said the stonework was vaguely familiar with ruins in Italy.
“If Mr Tozzi was solely responsible for the works present on the site, he must have been a truly prodigious worker,” Mr Boughen said.
“It is estimated that some 150 cubic metres of materials would have been required to build the maximum number of rooms that probably stood on the site.
“This would be approaching 300 tonnes of rock and soil.
“It is considerably unlikely that this amount would have been lying around close by.”
He said the stone could have arisen as a result of nearby mining operations and there is also evidence of a small quarry about 200 metres away from the site.
“Whatever the source, the stone would have has to be transported some distance over ground that was far from level or smooth.”
Mr Boughen’s research reports that in the lead up to the town’s centenary celebrations in 1969, the local Lions Club decided to restore the complex.
“It was thought that this would enhance the appeal of the site as a tourist attraction and make a contribution to the centenary celebrations,” Mr Boughen wrote.
The project began in 1968 with a series of working bees and was completed in time for the celebrations in August 1969.
Work recommenced in February 1970 to repair damage done by vandals.
There were reports of more vandalism in June 1970 and more rebuilding done up until May 1972.
Over the years the restoration work was destroyed by vandals however Mr Boughen reported that “the original stonework was sufficiently robust to withstand such treatment, although some deterioration, particularly in the vicinity of the restored sections, has occurred”.
“In summary, it does appear that the history of Tozzi’s Huts might be slightly tarnished, but by no means ruined,” Mr Boughen concluded.
Peak’s Environment and Social Responsibility Superintendent Chris Higgins said Peak had fenced off the area and removed some nearby trees in an effort to help preserve the site.
He also demonstrated during last week’s tour the close proximity of Towser’s Huts to Peak’s current workings at the New Cobar site.
Mr Higgins said it would be good if the site were able to be accessed by the general public, however he feared that opening it up to the public would put it at risk of vandalism.
He said he is however keen to continue discussions on the matter with Cr Martin and Cobar Shire and would also like to discuss other ideas he has for local tourism.