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The Globe Timber Mill - An icon of business in the city

Tuesday, 11th May, 2010

A panorama of the Globe Timber Mill site from Blende Street. A panorama of the Globe Timber Mill site from Blende Street.

In the pioneer town of Broken Hill there was a great need for building timber and in some cases there was a requirement for lavish, hard to get overseas timber and panel wood for the use in the upper social set's new homes of elegance or in top quality hotels of renown.
The main quality timber merchant was the "Willyama" timber mill established around 1885/86.
It was owned by Thomas Stubbins, who would also open a yard in Flinders Street, Adelaide.
The business prospered very well and in 1887 Mr Stubbins needed a quality manager to take the business further, thus he employed Andrew Stenhouse, who came with extensive references and a long list of exceptional work in the timber industry.
Andrew was born in Scotland, and in 1862 at age 26 arrived in Melbourne.
There he got employment in contract rail, wharf and bridge building timber work for a period, before he set sail for New Zealand. For sixteen years he worked on various projects, including the building of the Cathedral in Christchurch. He then was offered the job of manager of the Union Sash and Door Company back in Melbourne.
It was at this time that Mr Thomas Stubbins learned of his long history in the industry; accordingly Stenhouse was invited to Broken Hill and took up the job as the supervisor at the "Willyama" steam saw mills in 1887.
Under this agreement the business really expanded and with Stenhouse's modern thinking and the use of the most up to date equipment available the firm was dealing in hundreds of tons of timber per month. As the town grew and the mines prospered so did the "Willyama" timber mill.
It is mentioned that around 1893 there were timber yards in Iodide Street and a large yard in Blende Street that covered a huge area of the Silverton Tramway siding with rail lines running through and around the mill, and the establishment was now named the Globe Timber Mills. Three years later the archives mention that in 1896 Mr Andrew Stenhouse JP is now the sole proprietor of the company.
In an advert in 1898, Globe mention that the Iodide and Blende Street yards are running at full capacity and that orders can be made on Telephone lines; number 17 in Iodide and 100 in Blende St.
By around 1900/1904 there were 120 men working for the Globe Timber Mills. It is a yardstick of the professional manner in which the business was being run under the leadership of Andrew Stenhouse, who had just opened a branch works in Port Pirie.
When holding their picnic days in the late 1890s and early 1900s, the Globe staff and families would gather at the racecourse to celebrate, and amazingly would fill the main grandstand in their finest picnic clothes.
The Globe was now importing galvanized iron in huge quantities and had the sole rights to sell the beautiful Wunderlich Ceiling tin panels. Andrew was also very committed to the community and was involved in the Masonic Lodge and at one time built a cottage, then presented it to the Broken Hill Cottage Homes Association as a gift.
His term as owner was paramount in its success over many decades and in 1906 the brilliant panorama photo of the Globe Timber Mills was produced, verifying its enormous size. The depiction reads; "The whole of the wood working machinery is under one giant roof, while a separate building takes care of the repair work and a complete fire service with hose and hydrants has been installed. A large dining room is available with heating apparatus for the comfort of all the workers, and twenty five horses are provided with good stables and feed near the blacksmith and wheelwright sheds".
Also it significantly held P.O. Box number 1. In the mist of time the Iodide yard slipped into history, but the property around Blende and Gossan remained a feature over the Silverton Tramway lines for many decades.
The First World War period was very hard, with so many young lads and men signing up for service over five long years. Nineteen men from Globe gave their lives in the war. The business had to rearrange its work schedules and get supplies of timber when possible.
It was dangerous work as well, with James Power being bitten by a redback spider and hospitalized in 1928.
Like other businesses it did survive and picked up well for just over a decade, but then the depression curtailed a lot of work and men were laid off. It was a very difficult time and as it got back on its feet in 1938/39 the worst news came over the wireless once more; "We are at war with Japan".
It created a very stressful time for all business houses and of course for our families once again, as our young men and many women were called into service of our nation.
Globe was instrumental in the building of a magnificent float of the destroyer "Sydney" which was used in a massive parade through the streets. It brought patriotic fervour to the city and above all else gave a boost to our moral in the most difficult of circumstances.
By 1949 the timber yard was back in full swing and benefited from the building boom that covered much of the South area well into the 1950s.
They advertised regularly in the BDT and modernized their equipment and carried a larger array of building materials and new products.
One old codger called Alby remembers the early days, with the giant round saw being used for cutting the mine timbers and wood sleepers for the railway.
"It was huge; you could hear it from many blocks away."
He continued, "A large number of men worked in the mill, it was very heavy work in those days, with tons of timber on carts or train wagons lined up ready to be cut in a cloud of saw dust."
The changes to the layout of the business came with the removal of the Silverton Tramway lines and a new configuration of the site. It was a hurdle that needed to be overcome, and in retrospect they did it very successfully as they entered the modern era of the seventies. A new corporate set up lay ahead.
In 1974 ownership of the Globe went to Gino and Vita La Rovere.                              
They have very successfully traded through the next 31 years, giving the optimum of service and supply to the community.
Today, the owner managers are Gino and Vita's daughter and son in-law, who have been in charge for the last five years. It has also weathered the storms of change during that time, including the economic upheavals and the building boom of two to three years ago.
Now there is a greater change in the wind, and a turning point in the history of Globe Timber Mills lies ahead.
It will surely persevere through these dramatic changes on site and no doubt remains a very much viable business in our community once more, with excellent service and array of timber requirements available.
One hundred and twenty years have past since the original wood yards supplied timber to our then pioneer town, and putting it into context, about 80 per cent of the buildings and most of the mines in this city would have Globe timber in them.
So much has changed in its corporate structure through those years but the Globe remains an icon of business in our city.

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