Historical Towns Directory

By clicking on a state or territory on the map, you can access a regional guide to Australia's historic towns, including a wealth of information about organizations, museums and locations.

We invite organisations to submit information for inclusion on this site. Please click here to email your information to the Directory Editor, Ros Stirling.



Find Ararat

The first white men to pass through the Ararat district, around 200km north west of Melbourne, were explorer Thomas Mitchell and his party on their ‘Australia Felix’ expedition.

Mitchell’s description of the land east of the Grampians encouraged squatters to the area. Horatio Wills, who named the nearby hill Mount Ararat, his family and some stockmen were the first to arrive in 1839 when they drove 5000 sheep and 500 cattle from Murrumbidgee.

Ararat Shire Hall

In 1854 the discovery of gold six km west of the modern township, together with other leads, quickly saw the population of the ‘Cathcart’ area swell to around 9000 people.

The big strike on the site of modern day Ararat , however, was made in 1857 by one of a group of 700 Chinese miners who stopped on the site on their way to Clunes from South Australia. The strike became known as the Canton Lead, and it is believed that in only a fortnight 20 000 miners had flocked to the area.

Today's population, at around 8000 people, is less than half that of the gold rush days when, in the first three months of prospecting, three tons of gold were moved from the town.

Ararat Town Hall

The town took its name from Mount Ararat and in 1858 was made a municipality. It has been claimed that Ararat is the only Australian town that was founded by the Chinese

By 1863 gold reserves were depleted, but the town continued on as a centre for surrounding pastoralists, and in 1875 became an important railway centre.

Buildings such as the mechanics institute, a hospital, a church and a courthouse were all under construction by 1859. Pyrenees House, featuring a decorative exterior in Queen-Anne style, was constructed to replace the original hospital in 1885.

Ararat Langi Morgala Museum

The Ararat County Gaol was finished in 1861, and continued in this role until 1887. Three murderers were hanged here during this time and the graves can still be visited. The Classical Revival style bluestone building became known as J Ward and from 1887 until 1991 it functioned as Victoria's asylum for the criminally insane. The longest serving inmate, Bill Wallace, was held here for over 60 years, during a time when inmates were housed under tight security and often terrible conditions.

The town hall (c1898) and shire hall (c1871) were also built in Classical Revival style. The town hall contains a clock tower in the middle of its symmetrical exterior.

Ararat's role as a pastoral centre is evidenced by buildings such as the 1874 bluestone wool and grain store, now functioning as the Langi Morgala Musuem.

Ararat Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre

The Old Ararat school, with a central belltower and gabled, symmetrical bluestone wings, was built in Gothic Revival style in 1867. Ararat's second courthouse was also constructed in 1867, but was built in a Romanesque style.

Ararat & Grampians Visitor Information Centre
Information: Open 7 days a week.
Phone: 1800 657 158
Fax: 03 5355 0280

91 High Street
Ararat VIC 3377

Email: tourinfo@ararat.vic.gov.au
Website: http://www.ararat.vic.gov.au
Langi Morgala Museum
Information: The Langi Morgala Museum was opened in 1970 to house collections of Aboriginal artefacts and other objects or relevance to the history of Ararat and district. The museum is operated by the Ararat and District Historical Society, and is housed in a building built in 1873 as a wheat and wool store. The museum was named Morgala, an aboriginal word for yesterday. The aboriginal word Langi meaning home was added later. Open: Tues, Wed & Thurs 10am to 3pm Sat & Sun: 1.00 pm to 4.00 pm
Phone: 03 5352 3117

48 Queen Street,
Ararat VIC

Ararat and District Historical Society
Information: Ararat and District Historical Society was formed in 1962 to identify and study topics and places of historical interest relating to the Ararat district and to establish a historical museum. The council subsequently bought a building, which had originally been a wheat and wool store, in which were stored two collections of Aboriginal artefacts. The museum was opened in 1970 and named Langi Morgala, aboriginal words for 'Home of Yesterday'.
Contact: David Mitchell, Secretary
Phone: 03 5352 3117

48 Queen Street
Ararat VIC




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