Built by Gustav Weindorfer, Waldheim stands on a high point overlooking a lake and surrounded by forest. The great twin peaks of Cradle Mountain stand as a backdrop.
Weindorfer was born in Austria in 1874 and arrived in Australia in 1900. He met and married Kate Cowle in 1906 after he had moved to Tasmania from the mainland. On their honeymoon, they saw Cradle Mountain for the first time, fell in love with the area and, in 1910, both climbed the mountain, Kate being the first woman to stand on its peak. It was then that Weindorfer declared that this area ‘must be a national park for the people for all time; it is magnificent.’
After this they selected a site and built an Austrian style chalet on the edge of the pine forest, naming it Waldheim, ‘home in the forest’. At this time the nearest road, accessible only by horse and cart, was about 14 kilometres from the site so he carried baths and stores on his back from this point.
They opened the chalet at Christmas, 1912 and the following summer they entertained 25 guests even though reaching the chalet from the road – on foot or with pack horses – was not an easy task. By 1919 a road had been built to within 1.5 kilometres of Waldheim which made it far easier for his guests.
Sadly, by 1958 the chalet had become unsound so was demolished and a new chalet built using local pine and saved timbers from the original.
Kate died in 1916 and Gustav, with a failing heart, died in 1932 whilst trying to start a motor cycle in sight of his beloved mountain. He was buried in the grounds of the chalet and a large stone monument marks his grave to this day.
Waldheim remains open to the public although does not take in guests. Thankfully, pack horses are not needed now as the road takes you almost into the garden of the chalet.
We spent an hour in the chalet looking at old photographs which show just how he lived, one of them being of him and Kate sitting in front of a roaring fire, surrounded by various wild animals that regularly came in from the cold winter. He wrote that a Tasmanian tiger (now considered extinct from over-hunting) came in one day but was casting its eye upon him as if wondering how he would taste!
We watched as wallabies fed on the grassy slope above the car park and wondered what they had seen as they suddenly came to attention, ears pricked and all looking in the same direction. Sure enough, from under an old storehouse, trundled a wombat, yet another of Australia’s marsupials.
After watching the wombat, complete with Joey, for some time, we proceeded on our way to visit a Tasmanian Devils’ sanctuary, another fascinating creature, and reflected that Weindorfer had selected a truly wonderful place on which to build his chalet.
by Terry Took © 2012
Terry Took was born in Yorkshire but has lived in Tynemouth for over 50 years. He spent 45 years in the Merchant Navy which included 27 years as North Sea Pilot. He then spent five years as a lecturer at the Marine Department of South Tyneside College.
He is now an Elder Brother in Trinity House and Marine Director.
If you have any comments or would like to contact Terry then please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.