Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The "Stick Shed"

On the weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the famous "Stick Shed" in Murtoa, a small town north-east of Horsham in Victoria’s western district.
This area of Victoria is predominately a wheat and wool farming community. Ordinarily, wheat after being harvested is stored in grain silos wheat before being sold for either domestic consumption or export. However, in 1941, when the "Stick Shed" was "born", Australia and the world was at war.  War didn’t just deplete the number of available hands to assist with the harvest, it also closed off most of Australia’s export options. When combined with an exceptionally-good season, the farmers of Murtoa had a real problem on their hands because suddenly there was an oversupply of wheat grain and no-where to store it.



Enter the “Stick Shed”, officially the Marmalake/Murtoa Grain Store No.1 Murtoa Shed. In 1941, building supplies and labour were in exceedingly short supply so the shed’s builders had to use the few building materials available. 
Typically for this type of construction, a system consisting of steel columns and rafters would be used to support to roof structure however non of these materials were available.
To support the roof the builders embedded close to 600 unmilled hardwood poles into a concrete floor, then strengthened it with iron tie rods before attaching a corrugated iron roof.  The ‘Stick Shed’ measures a massive 280 metres in lenth, 60 metres in width, 19 metres in height at the ridge and 2.4 metres in height at the internal eaves.   That’s enormous!


As guessed, it is the large amount of poles that give the “Stick Shed” its name.
The “Stick Shed” was used by the Victorian Grain Elevators Board (now GrainCorp) until the late 1980s when the condition of the shed and improved handling regulations rendered the “Stick Shed” economically unviable.  There have been numerous versions of the “Stick Shed” constructed around Victoria in the 1940′s but all have since been demolished - thankfully this fate has not befallen to this amazing building.



Thankfully the Heritage Council / Heritage Victoria started a programme of restoring the shed, which was in a poor condition. In places, the roof is missing and some of the massive timber poles and other timber elements were rotten and needed replacement. 
The Heritage Council held its first open day earlier this year in May 2011 and approximately 450 people view.  Last weekend, another open day was arranged  so that members of the public could see the “Stick Shed” for themselves and an estimated 1000+ people viewed this amazing building...

The “Stick Shed” is a vast size and much bigger than I ever imagined it to be. The concrete floor was dusty, there was still debris in many places and there was a large hole in the roof in the middle section of the building. As I wandered around, I could hear pigeons roosting above my head and evidence of tons of bird droppings on the floor. On one side of the shed was a long conveyer-belt that had long ago seen better days and notices warning of certain poles being dangerous were attached to various columns. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful building to wander around and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would encourage all to view this magnificent building.


The Stick Shed is one of the MUST PRESERVE at all costs spaces in Australia - this building is of such historical and significant importance and aesthetic beauty inside.
Kudos to the Heritage Council / Heritage Victoria for the ongoing restoration work and to the volunteers who manned it on the open day - well done!



If you’d like some more information about this wonderful building, it has an unofficial website at The Mighty Murtoa Stick Shed. 


The “Stick Shed” is located at GrainCorp’s facility on the Wimmera Highway in Murtoa, next to the railway line. (Google Maps link)










 



 More images of this amazing building can be found in my Flickr Photostream


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