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Tech & Science Saviour needed to redeem historic buildings in ghost towns

03:42  15 december  2019
03:42  15 december  2019 Source:   msn.com

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a man standing in front of a building: Norbert Scholz has made the former Alawoona Lutheran Church his home for the past 30 years. (ABC Riverland: Catherine Heuzenroeder)© Provided by ABC Business Norbert Scholz has made the former Alawoona Lutheran Church his home for the past 30 years. (ABC Riverland: Catherine Heuzenroeder)

When Norbert Scholz moved into this church in a near-abandoned railway town he also became its custodian.

For the past 24 years the German-born migrant has kept the former Alawoona Lutheran Church in regional South Australia safe from the ravages of time and vandalism.

Once a place of worship the church is now filled with collections that tell the story of his life, from German clocks to quirky handmade Australiana bush instruments.

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It was this love of music that first drew Mr Scholz to the church and its beautiful acoustics.

"I love having people here and jamming," he said, not rating himself so much as a musician but rather a great lover of music.

"It's fantastic, it's so peaceful living here. There's nothing that would bother you."

Buildings all that is left of railway towns

Dotted throughout the Murray Mallee are similar old buildings, the last remnants of small but thriving communities.

The towns sprung up with the railway line, housing railway workers and later their families, and farmers.

By the 1930s Alawoona boasted three churches, a railway refreshment hall, a school, police station, bank, bakery, butcher shop, two general stores, football clubrooms and a 400-person capacity hall for balls and dances.

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But its prosperity was short-lived.

By about 1970 the town saw a sharp decline due to modern transport, farms were sold up, and the decline of trains that have in recent years stopped running altogether.

The Alawoona Lutheran Church held its last service in June 1995 and was lucky to find a new owner.

While living in Adelaide Mr Scholz had been searching for something in the area, knowing it would be more affordable than the city.

"My dream all my life has been to live in something a bit different to a normal house, a hall, or a barn, or a church," Mr Scholz said.

"When I found out it was actually for sale I flew up here like a rocket to get it! I was in heaven."

Reviving ghost towns good for tourism

But now the time has come for Mr Scholz to move on and the church is once more needing a lifeline.

It is on the market for $199,000.

Just 10 kilometres down the road in the town of Wanbi is an example of what happens to buildings that are no longer used.

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Ghosttowns .com-the best source of information on ghost towns in the American West. Ghost towns are listed bystate & include biographies, pictures, and otherdetailed ghost town historical information.

The 94-year-old Wanbi Memorial Hall has fallen into significant disrepair and poses a challenge for its community, which has been working with the local council and the National Trust to save it from becoming a ruin.

Last year it was even offered for free to anyone willing to spend the money to fix it up.

National Trust SA chief executive, Darren Peacock, wants to see buildings such as these preserved.

He said preserving historic buildings could turn ghost towns into tourism hubs, as has been done in the Victorian gold-mining town of Walhalla.

"Where there are some towns where the economy may not be thriving, we know from experience that reviving some of these buildings can be a great way to revive the economy," he said.

Mr Peacock has called for more incentives to help those left in these towns or their outlying areas to preserve these buildings.

"Some of the most successful towns in Australia and overseas are those that manage to retain and restore their buildings," he said.

'We owe to people in the past'

Alawoona farmer and bus driver, Pauline Johnston, does not want to lose what is left of the town, which once had about 100 school children but is now home to just 20 or so people.

Together with a handful of other volunteers she is determined to preserve the Alawoona Community Hall.

The limestone building was opened in 1929 and housed dances, balls, weddings, funerals, the annual strawberry fete, and Christmas parties.

"It was constantly in use, they worked so hard to get it there, they raised the money to build it so it was a pretty important building," Ms Johnston said.

"Over the years there's been so much love put into the hall, we've maintained it, but now there's no-one around."

Insurance and maintenance costs are the biggest challenges for the volunteers and they rely on the support of the local council.

Ms Johnston is pragmatic about the cost of maintaining historic buildings and believes buildings cannot be preserved as a monument, but instead need to be repurposed.

"I feel we owe it those people in the past who did all that work to put it there to look after it, maintain it, and try to get it in use."

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