Almost eighteen years after the night when fire tore through the Dimboola Hotel, leaving the loved watering hole a shell of its former self, Dimboola residents have recently been able to see a light at the end of the tunnel for the block on the corner of Lloyd and Lochiel Streets.

The iconic red-brick building was built in 1930 on the same site as Dimboola’s first hotel, which opened in 1860.

A fire in October 2003 caused an estimated $2 million worth of damage to the building. A decade on, we ran a story reflecting on that night in October 2003.

Little happened with the building after the fire. It remained a sad sight for the Dimboola community for many years after having served the community for over 70 years.

A detailed history of the Dimboola Hotel was published here on the Dimboola Courier in 2014.

That history was published in August 2014, following the completion of the demolition of the building which took place over the preceding week.

You can watch the collapse of the tower on YouTube.

For most of the seven years since the demolition the vacant site has been a gap in the Dimboola streetscape.

In 2015 then-owner of the site, Dimboola expat Graeme Schneider commissioned a site analysis study to identify potential uses for the site.

In March 2017 two trees were planted on the site – a Scarlet Oak and an October Glory Maple – the first signs of positive progress on the site since the building’s demolition three years earlier.

A project proposal in a 2018 state government funding scheme – ‘Pick My Project’ – suggested “a community space for connection, reflection and culture” –
The aim of this project is to create a sustainable space that locals can be proud of, tourists can admire and where creative people can display their talents.

The inherent human need for connection, whether professional or social, fuels the dynamic seen as the future focus of this community project, and with its position in the heart of the town this project holds immense social and economic value.

Its position is a visual promotion for Dimboola to tourists and people wishing to live here, and it stands to be the foundations for the reuniting and rejuvenation of our community.

This community need to embrace this space and allow it to engage different demographics, ages, genders, cultures and beliefs to a place of connection and understanding.
$200,000 was secured through the community-voted grant program in October that year.

While work was undertaken in the background by a dedicated group of volunteers, passers-by on the street didn’t see much change for a further couple of years. A planning permit was issued by the Hindmarsh Shire Council in March 2020.

Come March 2021, a fence had been erected along the back of the site and the site was levelled with new topsoil.

On 6th August 2021 the feature piece of the new site, the recreation of the hotel’s iconic tower, arrived on site after being fabricated locally by Jayden Lehmann. Ten days later the tower was up in the air.

All was looking up for the project with the date of Saturday 4th September being written on calendars across the district for the opening, coinciding with the inaugural Wimmera Steampunk Festival to be held that evening. Unfortunately, the pandemic once again cast uncertainty on medium-term planning and the opening – and Steampunk Festival – has been postponed.

Watch this space for further updates on when the landscaping works are complete and when the redeveloped site is opened to the public.