Peak Downs Homestead Peak Downs Homestead

The Peak Downs homestead has the grand proportions of a station owner’s residence, even though constructed from local hardwood timbers prepared with the same tools as used by the humblest pioneers, the adze and pit-saw. It was built by George Fairbairn in 1869 using mortise and tenon frame construction. 

Because nails were not readily available and tedious to make, the single walls consist of wide horizontal 8 inch by 1¼ inch spotted gum boards or planks held in place by grooves at either end in the 4½ inch wall studs, with bracing both inside and out. The planks were cut on a 12 degree angle top and bottom to deter weather entry. There is a complete absence of nails in the wall construction. It is the largest restored pit sawn, drop-plank construction homestead in Australia.

The roofing was another striking example of pioneer ingenuity. When the spotted gum shake roof developed leaks, a huge umbrella type iron roof was super-imposed a metre above it with separate posts to support it. This not only gave the homestead a striking appearance but provided a cool retreat within. It is said the homestead with its separate roof was 10° Fahrenheit cooler than any other house in summer. The 80ft (24.4m) long front verandah would have provided a cool haven on sweltering summer days and would no doubt have been used as alternative sleeping quarters on oppressive summer nights.

In 1987, the Capella Pioneer Village Committee negotiated for the purchase and removal of the homestead, which by that time had 40% white ant damage. They were successful and the building was moved in one piece on 19 November 1988. It had stood on Peak Downs station for 118 years.

Mr Clarrie Otto, his assistants and volunteers began restoration work in 1989, again using local spotted gum timber. Progress was in stages as donations were made and funds raised. Keeping as much of the original material as possible, Clarrie completed the restoration in 2001.

The roof is sawn local hardwood shakes (shakes are sawn, shingles are split), and the ceilings of the internal roof are lined with tongue and groove hoop and bunya pine. 

The restoration of the Peak Downs station homestead has been a major undertaking by the voluntary committee and it would not have been possible without the many local individuals, Clubs and Associations who gave financial and physical support to the project. Total funds needed to restore the homestead were in the order of $125,000. Replacement value of the homestead today, using the original building methods, is over $1,000,000.

The Village has also had tremendous support from the Peak Downs Shire Council, BHP - Gregory Coal Mine, Oaky Creek Coal, Gordonstone Coal, Ensham Coal, Kestrel Coal, Queensland Rail, Gaming Machine Community Benefit Fund and Jupiters Casino Community Benefit Fund.

Charles Maclean acquired George Fairbairn Jnr's interest in Peak Downs station in 1902. The station itself passed in the 1920s to the Peak Downs Pastoral Co. which sold it in 1948 to the Queensland - British Food Corporation. Finally in 1956 Peak Downs was subdivided by the Queensland State Government into farming blocks of approximately 5000 acres (2000ha) and opened up for selection.