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The year 1869 was the time when the mining industry reached its most prosperous point. In that year there were more than 300 mining companies with extensive plants around Ballaarat, giving employment to thousands of miners and supporting some seventy sharebrokers, buying and selling shares for their speculating clients. The population of Ballaarat was more than 60,000. Mind you, many of the miners were working for a pittance.
The following year the bottom fell out of the industry. The drop in the value of Ballaarat mining shares was equal to half of all the revenue of the Government of Victoria. Hundreds of citizens were ruined and most of the mines were closed down.
The miners left for other goldfields in such numbers that the population dropped by almost half. Ballaarat's future appeared gloomy indeed and it seemed inevitable that it would wane, as many of the other once prosperous mining towns had done.
But Ballaarat had citizens of vision and fortitude. They set to work to promote new industries, chief of which were the Phoenix Foundry and the Sunnywide Woollen Mills. These gave work to many men, and though Ballaarat was hit badly by the slump, the city was able to keep fairly prosperous.
The building pictured is at the corner of Camp and Mair Streets and is symptomatic of Ballarat's changing fortunes as the names of two former businesses that owned it are still visible on the side. It is to the current owner's attitude of not removing them that we owe a debt of gratitude.
Address: Cnr Camp and Mair Street
Directions: Near the railway station
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