IF PINE Lodge still existed, it would be the prime historic building in Inverloch, yet its fame would go wider. The story of Pine Lodge and the visionary who built it during the Great Depression are legendary.
Sitting on seven acres at the comer of Ramsey Parade and Scarborough Street, it cost a reputed $40,000 to build in 1930. It was built on what was known as Graham’s Pine Paddock by Calvert Wyeth, better known as Cal Wyeth. Wyeth had trained as a pilot in World War One but the Great War finished before he could challenge the enemy with his new flying skills.
Returning to his beloved Inverloch, he boldly commenced on a project which was visionary, bold, unselfish and profoundly important to the future of Inverloch and its people. It was said and claimed by many that it was Pine Lodge that put Inverloch ‘on the map”.
In the US, Wyeth had been highly influenced by how some Americans spent their holidays and he designed Pine Lodge in the American Club or Lodge architectural style. His market was aimed at the wealthy in the Australian, but particularly Victorian society.
It was built by local people, so employment was offered to local people in very harsh financial times. Further, Pine Lodge would be operated by local people, offering steady employment. He set high standards in the operation, treating his customers to the highest possible luxury standards of the 1930s. Every car had a garage, every room had hot water, there was regular dancing with a ballroom and entertainment, holiday activities included swimming in the Olympic-size salt water pool, tennis, billiards, shooting, and horse riding.
He hired a Hungarian cook and his wife from a top Melbourne restaurant, with luncheon and dinner written in French on the menu. He maintained a vegetable ‘patch’ and garden to help Pine Lodge to become self sufficient.
Electric power was available – he had a ship’s engine in a building he called the Power House, which supplied full power for the place as well as hot water, whilst the remainder of Inverloch was on a 32 volt system. He had tanks and dams, and he collected water from all his roofs. His water tower was connected to a pump which serviced the place. He brought clean water from the Ruttle farm three kilometres away, and used bath water to flush out the septic system. All these services were of the highest quality, using systems which were not experienced for the average local citizen until 20 or 30 years later.
All this happened during the period 1930 to 1941. Upon Japan entering World War II, tourism dropped dramatically. At this point Cal Wyeth, who was in the Army Reserve, offered the resort as a facility for the military. An officer at Crib Point, Navy Surgeon Captain Scott-Mackenzie, snapped up the offer and Pine Lodge became a military hospital, with the promise that at the end of the war, the place would be restored to its original condition.
Incoming patients came from various theatres of war, namely Crete, Greece, Dakar and the Coral Sea battle. Staff included two surgeon lieutenants, a sick bay petty officer, seven berth attendants, an officer’s steward and a supply assistant. Red Cross branches in Korumburra, Wonthaggi and Leongatha supplied, where practicable, 16 nursing aides. There were usually 25 to 30 patients, the usual stay being two to three weeks. Some wives of the patients came to Inverloch but stayed at the Esplanade Hotel and in Wonthaggi. Patients were allowed a deal of freedom in daylight hours, but strict bans applied to the Esplanade Hotel and the whole of Wonthaggi. A small van ran between the Flinders Naval depot and Inverloch. Supplies for the hospital were sourced locally where possible. Daily bread and milk were supplied to Pine Lodge from the local shops. One enterprising sick berth petty officer called “Shorty” Stimson established a large vegetable patch, as well as having a pigsty with three pigs, who happily disposed of all kitchen waste!
Clearly, the patients at Pine Lodge were treated very well – some hired rowing boats, whilst a wife of the Wonthaggi baker organized a group of girls to visit the hospital on Sunday for afternoon tea, and “entertainment”. Fit patients could attend local dances at the Mechanics Institute as well as playing euchre. Mrs Donohue’s shop and Mrs Nelson’s Tarax Bar also proved good meeting places.
Pine Lodge was retumed to Cal Wyeth in early 1947. It was not in good order and, because there was a shortage of many building materials until about 1953, repair was slow. He decided to run the place as a motel rather than as a private hotel. But Victoria was changing, the types of holidays were changing, people built many of their own “holiday shacks” around Port Phillip and Western Port. More people owned motor cars and petrol was cheap. Many saw Pine Lodge as old fashioned, but it still had some faithful followers who wanted old fashioned comforts and values.
By the 1970s, Pine Lodge found business in group bookings – children, university students, motor car enthusiasts and the like. It was popular again, but by 1980 Pine Lodge no longer met the standards required by local councils.
The cost of upgrading, including street schemes, connection to town water, fire security measures and connection to a sewerage scheme, was prohibitive. In 1981 Pine Lodge was sold. Cal Wyeth died in 1983 at the age of 86. The land he owned in the Esplanade is now the Wyeth-McNamara Park, where children play.
Attempts were made to save the formerly prestigious ‘Country Club’ with its American country or lodge architecture. But it was not to be. Despite Council and private citizen efforts, the building was demolished one Sunday morning starting at 5.30am!
Inverloch and Victoria are poorer for its destruction.
Essay and photos courtesy of the Inverloch Historical Society.