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Sharing Otto’s story

Wednesday, 18th April, 2018

Otto Holten Memorial Plaque Otto Holten Memorial Plaque

By Alison Wayman

* Alison Wayman is City Council’s Archives Officer. She wrote this article to help promote International Day for Monuments and Sites, on April 18. This year’s theme is Heritage for Generations.

Sharing stories and the transfer of knowledge between generations is a crucial step in cultural development, characterising the human experience since time immemorial.  

This year we celebrate Otto Herman Holten.

On the northern end of King Street, South Broken Hill stands a Memorial Cairn to honour the memory of Otto Holten.

He was born in Denmark in 1894 and came to Broken Hill around 1914 and was first employed as a carpenter at the North Mine. He built his home in the form of a “miniature castle” of many colours which featured a tower in Hebbard Street. 

In his back yard he started a business as a carpenter and cabinet maker. Once he was “standing on his own two feet” he left the mine and became self-employed. He taught many lads carpentry and he also employed school boys to help in the store during school holidays. 

He was a popular man, helping people and organisations with their problems, whether it was building products or of a “financial” nature.  

Over the years he extended his King Street business and by the 1920s he had turned it into a thriving hardware store. Everyone in town knew where Otto’s shop was and when other traders worked five and half days a week his shop was opened seven. 

He had everything a person could ever want and during the 1950s the town was enjoying a building boom, experiencing unprecedented growth, so being a good businessman he simply supplied what the consumer demanded. A plaque at the front of Otto’s Store read: “From a needle to an anchor.”

Unfortunately tragedy struck during the early hours of November 1970 when his store was gutted by fire while Otto was in hospital for some weeks. With his health failing fast he went to live in a boarding house at 112 Crystal Street and he died on the 10th of July 1971 at the Broken Hill hospital, aged 76 years.

Eight years after his passing a small group of his friends organised by Mr Alf Baum and Lance Hawes formed a committee with the express aim of raising enough money to finish Otto’s grave in the Broken Hill Cemetery, erect a monument in commemoration of their friend and have a street named after him. 

In 1980 Otto’s grave was completed, the Cairn Monument was erected in King Street near the site where Otto’s business once stood and a street “Holten Drive” was named in his honour. 

In the spirit of sharing knowledge Outback Archives would like to appeal to the community of Broken Hill to share their knowledge and stories of Otto Herman Holten. Drop your stories into the Archives at the Broken Hill City Library so that this knowledge can be shared and preserved for future generations. 

* Alison Wayman is City Council’s Archives Officer. She wrote this article to help promote International Day for Monuments and Sites, on April 18. This year’s theme is Heritage for Generations.

 
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