With the arrival of Europeans, the mountain was quickly recognised as a source of clean water, food, timber and tourism. Many artefacts, sites and stories bring the past alive.
Australia’s first urban (or metropolitan) water supply pipeline, still used today, remains testament to colonial ingenuity. Forestry, farming and quarrying relics are reminders of historic use. The Park also features remnants of forest huts, the Springs Hotel, Exhibition Gardens, ice houses, historically scenic features and other monuments. Some of today’s walking tracks date back to the 1830s, and provided access to various resources.
Most of the walking tracks however are testament to the strong recreational interest that began in the early 1800s, initially via the New Town Way. Inspired by her visit to the summit in 1837, Lady Jane Franklin had a hut built at the Springs and one on the Pinnacle. These were the first recreational huts in the Park, but a keen movement began. The ruins of many former ‘weekender’ huts built by groups of locals in exquisite rustic style can still be found in the rainforest gullies overlooking Hobart. Still in use are the younger (early-mid 1900s) stone cabins, chalets and shelters, purpose built for visitors on some of the main tracks.
It is likely that early tracks were also used in part by keen naturalists, such as Charles Darwin, who visited colonial Hobart. The mountain has been an important site of physical and biological investigations, aiding in the understanding of Tasmanian, Australian and world natural history. Many notable scientists made internationally significant discoveries when visiting the area in the 19th Century.
Access has improved since then but the road from Fern Tree to the Pinnacle remains a legacy of the hard work of many Tasmanians. Short term prison and free labour built the lower section, beginning work in 1888. The section from the Springs to the Pinnacle, opened in 1937, was constructed as a Depression work for the dole scheme. At the time it was controversial, termed ‘Ogilvie’s Scar’ after the Premier of the day who initiated the development.
Over the last 200 years, Wellington Park has also been the site of debate and dispute regarding the conflicting demands of place, aesthetics, visitor use and tourism, environmental awareness, and resource extraction. The colonial water story is told at the Pumping Shed at the Waterworks Reserve, and is open to the public daily.
Changing times in Wellington Range and Tasmania are detailed in the Historical Notes. The Historic Heritage Audit provides an inventory of heritage places and considers the preservation of important sites.
For information on historic research opportunities in Wellington Park, to report new found heritage places or for other enquires, contact the Cultural Heritage Co-ordinator.