History of the Golden City Paddle Steamer and Gill's Boatshed
The Golden City Paddle Steamer, designed by Mr Charles Brookes, built by Mr Thomas Gill and launched in 1885 was the only surviver, until destroyed by fire in 2006, of a proud fleet of steamers that cruised and worked the lake for a hundred years from the 1860's until the 1960's. The Golden City remained in service on the Lake for 81 years.
1864 - Gills boatshed was built on its present site on the shore of Lake Wendouree
1865 - The Gill's "Victoria" was launched
1875 - The "Wendouree" was launched
1885 - The "Golden City" was launched
1887 - By this time Thomas Gill owned a fleet of paddle steamers on the lake named, "Ballarat", "Prince Consort", "Golden City", "Queen" and "Princess". It was said that the combined paddlesteamers could take a total of 690 passengers. The fare on the steamers from View Point to the Gardens was Adults 3d and Children 1d.
1911 - Mr Thomas Gill passed away, but his business was carried on by his descendants, ultimately into the fourth generation trading as Gills Marine Pty Ltd, Boat Builders
1946 - The Gill family sold the Golden City to Messrs Roy McRae and J Mc Arthur and she continued to ply her trade on the lake for a further 20 years
1966 - She was then sold to Archie Spooner who considered her to be "a fine antique kept in perfect condition" - The Golden City was later transported by truck to work on the Carribean Gardens lake for a further 21 years
1987 - The Apex club of Ballarat recognised the unique and historic importance of the Golden City Paddle Steamer to Ballarat and after an inspection with Mr Chris Gill, grandson of the original Thomas Gill, the Club bought the steamer and returned her to her original home, Gill's Boatshed, Lake Wendouree, Ballarat
- The Golden City Paddle Steamer Museum Society was established by the Apex Club as a non profit community based organization and and ownership of the vessel was transferred to the Society
- With the assistance of the Ballarat City Council, the Society also acquired Gill's Boatshed, the home of the Golden City for so many years
- Tom Gill, grandson of the original builder Thomas Gill, moved his business, Marine Supplies, to Talbot Street. Nephew Stephen Gill worked with Tom and took over the business after Tom retired
- Harry (grandson of the original builder and brother to Tom and Chris) was well known as the captain of the Golden City for many years
- The steamer was partially restored and resumed carrying passengers around the Lake
- The Society then embarked on ten years of dedicated hard work. With the generous assistance of Ballarat businesses and much voluntary labour, "the boatshed" became the "Golden City Paddle Steamer Museum". The Museum displays exhibits, artifacts, photographs and soundscapes evoking the period from the 1860's to the present.
1996 - First "Great Paddle Steamer Chase" - 170 runners competed against the Golden City around the Lake.
1997 - Gill's Restaurant, adjacent to the boatshed was officially opened by the Hon. John Howard MP, Prime Minister of Australia. The Restaurant was built by H. Troon Pty. Ltd. and leased to them in an arrangement with the Paddle Steamer Society.
- The Begonia Princess was purchased
- The Golden City Paddle Steamer Museum was completed and opened for business
- The Governor General of Australia, Sir William Dean, officially opened the Museum
- Both the Golden City and the Begonia Princess became available for charter and weekend cruises and began doing a brisk trade
- The 2nd "Great Paddle Steamer Race" - the mighty power of the paddles vs the rippling muscles of the athletes. The Golden City (after a little cheating) won
- The Museum nominated as one of the four finalists in the Tourism and Local Events category of the "Business Awards" by the Chamber of Commerce
- Carrying on the Gill family's historic association with the lake and its paddle steamers, Harry, grandson of Thomas Gill, from 1988 to his death in 1999 was a well known and much loved captain of the Golden City Paddle Steamer.
2000 - The paddlesteamer was taken off the water by order of the Marine board for extensive restoration
- Springfest - "Antique Fishing Tackle Exhibition' (with exhibits owned by Jim and Sue McCracken) on display which created much interest
- Largest door takings so far at the Museum
- The Begonia Princess sold to Greg Austin
2002 - During the Begonia Festival an "Antique Fishing Tackle Exhibition" is hosted at the Museum for three days
2002 - 2006 - Restoration work proceeds slowly with volunteers putting in many hours and almost completing the boat. Mr George Brookes, grandson of the original designer and a retired coachbuilder, plays a key role in guiding volunteers through the restoration work
March 2006 - In a shocking turn of events, only weeks from completion, the boat is completely destroyed by fire
March 2006 - The Society is overwhelmed by gestures of public support and begins planning to build a new Golden City
May 2006 - Victorian State Government pledges $100,000, City of Ballarat $50,000 and Rotary Club of Ballarat South $15,000.
June 2006 - A public appeal was launched to raise the final $135,000 required to build the new boat
January 2010 - Much of the work on the new boat has been completed. The hull is finished and the engine installed. The console (control cabinet) has been completed. Seats have been designed and built. Most of the remaining work concerns finishing and fittings.
September 2011 - The deck has been fitted and is being caulked and finished. This is the last remaining major task before the boat can be returned to the water for final fitting out and trials.
May 7 2012 - The new Golden City is launched and moved to the boatshed for work to continue.