Canberra Camps, Settlements & Early Housing


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The Builders of Canberra-Causeway by Ann Gugler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at

 Copyright Ann Gugler ©2012

Causeway got its name because of  the Causeway built across the Molonglo linking the Canberra rail line on the south side of the river to the north side. The rail line sat on piers high above the flood plain and the river. It was constructed in 1917 and the piers were knocked out in the big flood of 1922. I have been told that this flood was bigger than usual because in the area where Commonwealth Bridge now stands the soil was built up in the billabong to allow the construction of one bridge instead of the two which were there in my early years - up until the time when the earth works began for Lake Burley Griffin in the early 1960s.  The build up of soil - backed up the waters of the flood.  In my youth the area where the rail line sat was still clearly visible. It ran in front of the War Memorial, behind St John the Baptist Church in Reid, over to Civic Centre, where part of the old platform stood near the old Civic Theatre.

Causeway is now a suburb of Canberra - or rather part of the suburb of Kingston - former Eastlake. Just to confuse matters a little more - an area between the Railway Station area where Causeway (the settlement) ended and Fyshwick (former Molonglo) is about to be developed as a new suburb named Eastlake.  This development (April 2011) is currently being held up because the powers that be did not listen to the old timers who mentioned that in the area was a large dump.  This dump has now been discovered with the result that the clean up will cost millions.  A similar problem has arisen at Weston Creek where the old sewerage works were. In this area is the new suburb of Molonglo. This area was used to dump asbestos - again authorities were informed by old timers - the clean up will cost quite a lot.

The Causeway Settlement that consisted of around 120 houses - 100 Rolland designed temporary portable timber cottages - was constructed between 1925 and 1926. The timber cottages differed to the ones built at Westlake and Acton in 1924 in that the timber cladding was placed horizontally across the frame of the structure rather than vertically.   In the mid 1970s the houses were pulled down and a number replaced with small brick cottages. The area where the first twenty odd cottages were erected by John Howie & Son contractor were not replaced because they were in the area where the flood of 1925 came to the level of the eaves of the newly erected cottages. As far as I know the subsequent floods did not enter the cottages.

This settlement had a septic tank in use until the sewer became available. From what I have read, the tank was  near the Molonglo River - so that the overflow would be carried away.

The Causeway Hall, the largest in the city under construction opened in 1926 sat in the centre of the settlement. It has survived until the present day and is heritage listed.  It was built under the 50-50 system with the men supplying the labour and know how and the Federal Capital Commission supplying the materials - Another long story connected with the promises by the FCC and what actually happened re payments.

In the early 1920s nearby to the area where the cottages were constructed was Eastlake Camp - later followed by Causeway Camp.  The latter was constructed in 1925 - one of three semi-permanent camps erected at the time. The others were Capitol Hill Camp (centre of city) and White City Camp (north side roughly in the area where the Canberra School of Art - former Canberra High School - stands).  Capitol Hill Camp lasted into the post WW 2 period when it was joined by Capital Hill and Hillside Hostels on Capital Hill.  Causeway Camp was joined by others in the Post WW2 period - but White City (named because of the tents) converted into cubicles painted green in 1926 - was removed around 1929-30.

A little more confusion for those studying our early history - the suburb out near Weston is to be known as Molonglo.  The area of modern Fyshwick was Molonglo and the area known as Fyshwick in the early years is Pialligo. Then there are the road changes - Interlake Avenue is now Wentworth Avenue and so on.

Draft for Revised Edition 'Builders of Canberra 1909-1929' Gugler Ann -Causeway