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Was this Denmark’s first tourist attraction?

By Ashleigh Murch

The Pioneer Dining Rooms with its maddeningly part-obscured sign above the door

THE FIRST European settlement at Denmark came with the setting up by Millar Brothers of timber mills in 1895.

By 1897 they had two mills running 24 hours a day, on the site now occupied by the Supa IGA.

A third mill was opened in August 1898 at Scotsdale, 13km west of the Denmark townsite.

By then the town had a population approaching 1000, mostly men living in tents or shacks they built themselves or in the 50-100 houses built by Millars.

Millars also built a hall, hostel, general store, butcher’s shop, bakery and blacksmith.

With its round-theclock timber milling, frequent railway movements and endless fires burning mill waste, Denmark could hardly have been considered a tourist attraction.

But John Reilly didn’t share that view.

Mr Reilly placed the following advertisement in the Albany Advertiser of June 8, 1897 — JOHN REILLY, PROPRIETOR of the DENMARK DINING ROOMS, begs to inform the PUBLIC OF ALBANY and SURROUNDING DISTRICTS that, as his PREMISES have recently been greatly ENLARGED AND IMPROVED, he is now in a position to ACCOMMODATE VISITORS to DENMARK with A GOOD TABLE and COMFORTABLE BEDS. Fishing, Shooting and Picnic Parties specially attended to. Boats and Guns on hire and a Guide supplied if required. Wilson’s Inlet, a Lake of about 14 miles long and six wide on which is magnificent shooting, is only three quarters of a mile distant and can be reached by boat. TERMS STRICTLY MODERATE. For further particulars apply to JOHN REILLY, Denmark Dining Rooms, Denmark.

Mr Reilly seemed to be trying to attract the sporting gentlemen, as well as the less wellheeled, with the offer of guns and fishing gear for hire, while the offer to cater for picnic parties implies that he was looking to attract family groups or mixed groups as well.

John Reilly continued to regularly advertise in the Albany Advertiser until the ads abruptly stopped on March 10, 1898, nine months after they began.

One might suspect that, charmingly worded as the advertisement was it did not attract a lot of custom.

Sadly, I could find no further information on the success or failure of this early tourism enterprise.

At first I thought the accompanying photo was of the Denmark Dining Rooms described in the advertisements – largely because the proprietor appeared to be John Reilly.

However, the photo is of the Pioneer Dining Rooms, whose associated documentation locates it at the site of Millar’s number three mill, 13km west of town on what is now Scotsdale road, near the corner of Silver road.

That is at odds with the newspaper ads, which described the Denmark Dining Rooms as only three quarters of a mile from the inlet, which puts them much closer to town.

Millars’ number three mill was not commissioned until August 1898, and the advertisements for John Reilly’s tourism venture started more than a year earlier, so it is tempting to think that the two John Reillys were one and the same, and that the Pioneer Dining Rooms replaced the Denmark Dining Rooms.

But, though the timing is about right it is unclear whether the proprietor of the Scotsdale business was Reilly or O’Reilly, and there is no clear evidence connecting the two businesses.

According to notes on the back of the photo, the Scotsdale business was a success, catering for up to 60 mill workers.

The woman in the doorway is Bridget (O’)Reilly, John’s wife, with their three children in the foreground.

If you have any further information please contact us at the museum, or email info@denmarkhistoricalsocietywa.org.au

Categories: Featured stories, HISTORY

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