Kinglake chimney in Forest Gallery

10 November, 2009

Reconstruction of Kinglake chimney in Forest Gallery
Liza Dale-Hallett and bricklayers referring to photographs of the chimney to ensure accurate reconstruction.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

A chimney from a 19th century homestead destroyed in the Black Saturday bushfires is being reconstructed in the Forest Gallery.

The chimney was collected in June from a property on Whittlesea-Kinglake Road. It was one of very few damaged structures remaining, since most were demolished in the first weeks after Black Saturday for safety. With support from the homestead’s owner, Major Singh Gill, the chimney was dismantled one brick at a time by Kinglake Grocon and bricklayer George Firczak. The handmade bricks are being re-laid at the museum as a permanent memorial to the lives and properties lost in the fires.

Liza Dale-Hallett, Senior Curator of Sustainable Futures, is leading the Victorian Bushfires Collection project. The chimney is the largest and most complex item of this collection which also includes fences, signs, Country Fire Authority pamphlets predating the fire, tourism brochures from Marysville and Kinglake, plus items from destroyed houses and bushland. The collection also includes video footage, interviews and personal accounts.

The collection started when affected communities across the state contacted the museum with offers of donations in the days after Black Saturday. “Looking at the museum’s existing collection, it was clear that there was little documentation of past bushfire disasters,” said Liza, who responded immediately to collect the objects, to record the experiences of Victorians and the impact of the fires.

Liza feels the chimney’s natural home is in the Forest Gallery, which provides a broader context of the role of fire for regeneration and how we must adapt to live with fire.

“It will be a hearth, a meeting place, that people can visit for reflection,” she said. “Fire has been a constant in our landscape for millennia. Since white settlement, lone chimneys are a powerful symbol of fire. So we’re connecting immediately to the recent fires, but also to fires across time and place.”

It is hoped that the chimney installation will be completed in the next week.

Comments (7)

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John 11 November, 2009 10:14
This is a fantastic project and a perfectly pitched memorial to all those impacted by the horror of bushfires. My hat comes off to all involved.
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joel 11 November, 2009 18:08
this is my step dads team of bricklayers and there are more
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Canada Guy 17 November, 2009 03:31
Forests fires are a natural event. They are beneficial for forests and help to create a diversity of ecosystems. The traditional approach of fighting all fires without reservation has been wrong and misguided. It damages the environment, costs more, and risks more lives. Fortunately many scientists and fire fighters are now changing their approach. Smokey Bear's time is over.
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David 21 November, 2009 23:49
Great community spirit. A moving memorial. Did the same local biricklayers erect the Fireplace or wa it another team form some where else? It is good to see local trades working with the local community in rebuilding both our homes & communities
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Discovery Centre 23 November, 2009 12:00

Hi there David - thanks for your comment. I've referred your question to the Museum's Senior Curator for Sustainable Futures for her advice and we'll get back to you soon with some additional information.  

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Discovery Centre 25 November, 2009 12:01

Hi again David. In response to your query the Senior Curator for Sustainable Futures has advised, the deinstallation of the chimney involved a partnership between Museum staff, Grocon staff and local contractors to dismantle, number, clean, label and stack approximately 1600 bricks. Special mention should be made of the careful expertise of George Firczak, the bricklayer, who carefully extracted each brick in original order, and Lee Allan, the ’Smooth Operator’ of the boom platform.

The reconstruction of the chimney was tendered to Bret’s Bricklaying, from Ringwood North, who have had considerable experience in working on heritage buildings and sites.  The brick work was undertaken by Geoffrey Hennessy, who replicated every detail from the original chimney – to such a degree it appears as if it was simply lifted directly from its original site to the Museum.

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Andrew 27 January, 2010 08:24
Saw this at the museum yesterday amongst the mountain ash in the forest gallery. Beautiful memorial.
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