A German gathering place

James Lerk | Bendigo Weekly | 02-Nov-2017

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One of Bendigo’s early historians, John Neill Macartney, said Frederick Wilhelm Kraemer had a pleasant personality and genial countenance.

Macartney also wrote in 1882 that, “Herr Kraemer’s Sydenham Gardens, which, at the very early date in the history of Bendigo (1854), were established at the junction of Ironbark and Long Gully with the Bendigo Creek. 

“This garden, then secluded in the bush, but now within the precincts of the city, was a very pretty place, with its fruits and its flowers, to spend a harmless, continental Sunday afternoon in, where our Teuton friends – the grave and kindly Germans – came out strong. 

“There many a pretty fraulein was to be met with, and saur-kraut could be had for the ordering. 

“Many a pleasant visit I paid there, and many a bouquet of flowers I bought, and it was much pleasure to meet the honest, kindly, German faces there.

The gardens are a pretty place to visit.”In January 1855 Frederick Kraemer himself wrote that he already held a license at the Sydenham Gardens for his hotel, the cellar was well stocked with a very complete selection of wines, spirits and other fermented liquors. 

Kraemer prided himself in having a competent and experienced continental cook on the premises. Cold collations were catered for, also dinners, all would be served in the superior appointed lounge or dining room of the hotel.

Frederick anticipated that his hotel and garden would be the place where a person could not only relax and feed the inner person but also the environment was conducive for the highest intellectual conversation and discussion.

Chinoiserie as a style of decoration had been popular in Europe already for a large number of decades, and in the newly created Sydenham Gardens some pagoda-like structures had been erected. 

The interior of these Chinese style garden pavilions had been painted in oils with a variety of classical themes also on the exterior walls. 

Interestingly, the ceilings inside these pseudo pagoda-like structures, had been painted with scenes of the goldfields, this would have been a familiar theme for all visitors in those early years.

Music was not forgotten and a pianist provided a broad repertoire of classical and popular music of the period. 

Patrons were encouraged to dance waltzes, the polka, and quadrilles. 

For others who were so inclined there was a gymnasium with equipment where a person could go and exercise and tone up the muscles not used in digging. 

There were boxing gloves ideal for sparring, and cricket bats were there for the patrons’ use. Kraemer had also provided a bowling alley where skittles could be set up and bowled at with a large wooden ball.

The younger fry were catered for as well, there were swings, a type of hand operated merry go round and other play equipment.

A variety of imported German toys were in the gardens, these were there to help the young people amuse themselves at this amazing retreat.

With all the wonderful ways to amuse, Kraemer hoped that his Sydenham Gardens would be well patronised. 

When we consider how difficult it was to transport goods to the Bendigo diggings before the advent of the railway, and the facilities that Kraemer had provided, he must have spent a small fortune from that which he had won from gold and his store to have appointed his recreational garden in such a well planned and elaborate way.

It is my belief that Kraemer had been planning his Sydenham Gardens since early in 1854 while still working in German Gully. 

He had to order all those difficult to obtain items including furniture and stock so that once he had acquired the land nothing would delay him in executing his plan.

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