Sunday, 15 June 2014

Magnetic Island Honeymoon Hut

Here's my article from yesterday's Townsville Eye in the Townsville Bulletin (14 June, 2014):

The relocation of a 1920s Arcadia Guest House honeymoon hut from its original Arcadia site to Picnic Bay at the end of May, has uncovered an intriguing mystery.
An Arcadia Guest House honeymoon hut, similar to the one that has just been relocated to Picnic Bay. 1946.
Photo:  Magnetic Island History and Craft Centre.

During preparations for the move, the hut offered up part of its history when one of the external weatherboards fell an inch or two, revealing what appeared to be a piece of jewellery.  

Magnetic Island History and Craft Centre President Zanita Davies caught sight of the item and was quite surprised by what she found.

“I was fortunate enough to notice a small piece of chain caught behind the dropped board and under the floorboards,” Ms Davies said.

“I removed what I thought was a piece of costume jewellery, only to discover an Australian soldier’s dog tag,” she said.
The hut in situ at Arcadia, before the relocation, 2014.
Photo:  Magnetic Island History and Craft Centre.
The honeymoon hut in its new location at Picnic Bay, 2104.
Photo:  Magnetic Island History and Craft Centre.

Ms Davies believes the hut would have been used by servicemen while the guesthouse was in use as an R & R location during World War II, which goes some of the way to explaining how the dog tag got there.  Museum staff are now researching the soldier’s history and have been in contact with a member of his extended family in an attempt to find out more.

The hut was part of Hayles’ Arcadia Guest House, a popular holiday destination for honeymooners and travellers alike for many decades.  The tiny, one-roomed huts provided sleeping accommodation for guests, and were arranged a good distance apart, to ensure privacy and rest.  Verandahs at both the front and back kept the huts cool.

Arcadia Guest House was only one part of the Hayles family’s successful north Queensland tourism venture.  In 1900 Robert Hayles had begun operating a ferry service from Townsville to Picnic Bay, with the small steamer Bee.  The previous year Hayles had built the Magnetic Hotel in Picnic Bay.  He later acquired land at Arcadia and during the 1920s, Hayles Magnetic Island Pty Ltd acquired the vessels Mandalay, Malanda, Maree, Ferry Alma, Merinda, Maroubra and Malita in order to service the demand for ferry travel.
Part of Arcadia Guest House, Magnetic Island.
Photo:  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.

“Hayles’ cottage is a living artefact of the Hayles era on Magnetic Island and a very tangible reminder of this settler family,” Ms Davies said.

“The building was given to us by Gary McGill, owner of Arcadia Hotel, and we were fortunate to get some financial support from Hayles Trust Fund for its removal,” she said.

Despite taking three years to get all the relevant council permits in place, Ms Davies said the relocation went very smoothly and without incident.

The historic building’s new home is near the State heritage listed Picnic Bay school and historic Butler Hut museum as part of the Magnetic Island History and Craft Centre.

Ms Davies said the museum’s intention was to return the building to its original layout of one room with verandahs.
“The cottage will require substantial refurbishment and will be used for display and museum storage and conservation activities,” she said.

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