Murtoa Stick Shed
Murtoa Stick Shed is a warehouse the length of two city blocks perched on
the flat expanse of the Wimmera. It once held wheat, but now its long columns
of mountain ash timber are surrounded by a sublime emptiness.
For safety reasons, the iron roof is held down by wire, and visitors are forbidden from entry. Unofficially, the after hours visitor can glimpse the sheds interior from an east window (until it is boarded up). This window reveals a grid of wooden poles disappearing into the horizontal and vertical distance.
The experience is digital. A grid of poles recedes into the distance, just like the sonic towers in Jon McCormacks Turbulence. While evoking the forest from which the trees came, it reflects the regimented order of mass agriculture. Like a hologram, it offers an experience of depth that cannot be touched. More than a hologram, though, it supplies the musty aura of a massive air cavity.
The shed is housed on VicGrain land. Rather than artists in residence and tourist operators, it is attended by forklifts and weighbridges. While much country life is opaque to city dwellers, this found cathedral gives some sense of the prodigious scale of Victorian farming. It is a proud monument to working the land.
Some local residents would like more metropolitans such as me to poke their noses into the stick shed. It pressures the Victorian Department of Finance to release the building for recreational purposes. Such visitors would no doubt take advantage of the antique charms of the main street in Murtoa. Its a treat.
To find out the fate of the stick shed, contact the Victorian Government Property Group, in the Department of Treasury and Finance (tel. 03 9651 2496, fax. 03 9651 2169)
More background (thanks to John Hamilton).
The shed is 260m long, 19m high with 2.5m sides. it is held up by 560
unmilled timber poles. It was built in 1941 for wheat storage. There were
originally two built (the other was twice as big) and there were plans
to build a third. The larger was demolished in the early 1970s. A similar
stick shed was pulled down in Parkes, NSW. The Murtoa shed is the only
one of its kind remaining in the southern hemisphere.
Go to Leigh Hammerton's new site on the Murtoa Stick Shed.
Copyright held by author Kevin Murray