For a relatively young place, established in 1872 as Stuart, and renamed to Alice Springs in 1933, there is a significant amount of heritage to be explored.
The obvious place to start is at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station as the reason the town exists. This was entirely due to geography, as a key point on the Adelaide to Darwin telegraph line which connected Australia with the rest of the British Empire in 1872. The first form of rapid communication, the telegraph station operated 24/7 to retransmit messages as their strength decayed with distance.
The site has been beautifully preserved, it looks like it would have at the turn of the 20th century, complete with the Post Telegraph Office, Barracks, Station Master’s Residence, and Battery Room.
The Telegraph Station is 4km north of the town itself, which is home to a number of interesting heritage buildings maintained by the Australian National Trust. They’re based out of the oddly shaped Hartley Street School, whose wooden desks brought back memories of my early school days.
From there it’s possible to a borrow a key to unlock the multiple padlocks protecting the Stuart Town Gaol up the block, next to the Alice Springs Local Court. Built in 1909 this amazingly this was one of the largest buildings in Alice Springs for decades, so was also used as the first school house (before Hartley Street School was built in 1929) and even for balls and parties. It is the oldest surviving building in Alice Springs CBD, operating until 1939.
Not heritage but still of interest is the large mural covering the history of the local police on the wall behind the Gaol.
The justice theme continues with the Old Alice Springs Courthouse from 1927-28, close to the flash new Supreme Court of the Northern Territory.
This sits behind the lovely The Residency building, home to the government of Central Australia during it’s brief existence between 1926 and 1931. Since them it has hosted numerous Royal visits and parties. Inside it is wonderfully cool, with an unusual layout of rooms in the centre, surrounded by corridor.
Nearby Adelaide House was Central Australia’s first hospital, designed and built in 1926 by the Rev. John Flynn, founder of the world’s first flying doctor service. Frustratingly the opening hours are limited and reliant on volunteers, it was closed both times I went to visit.
The Stuart Town Gaol closed when Her Majesty’s Gaol and Labour Prison Alice Springs opened in 1938. After this was closed in 1996 it became the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame & Old Alice Springs Gaol, an unusual combination of penal history and a celebration of women in Australia. The men’s prison block was very blue!
Another heritage building nearby, sadly currently unused, the Les Hansen House built in 1942.
To finish not on heritage, but some great views of Alice Springs from Tharrarletneme Annie Meyer’s Hill in the Olive Botanic Gardens.