Victorian Alpine Huts survey, for Parks Victoria 1994-5.
After a surge of skiing activity in the 1920s and a growing reliance on the nearby deteriorating Wallace’s Hut and other High Plains cattlemen’s huts, the Ski Club of Victoria, led by Robert `Wilkie’ Wilkinson, sought and won funding from the State Tourist Committee to build this hut in 1929 van der Knijff: 47. It was built to designs by the Public Works Department Boadle (1983): 16. Bill Spargo (then a CRB employee, posted at Mt Hotham) supervised the construction of the hut, with materials being packed in on horses from Fitzgerald’s Shannonvale property, via Middle Creek track, including the corrugated iron. Martin Lawler, the reputed builder of Bon Accord Hut in 1929 and 1939, has been attributed with the actual construction Stapleton: 191. Cope Hut was then the largest hut on the High Plains Boadle: 16; Carroll. The hut also had hot and cold piped water, measured 5x9m, and had an entrance lobby for ski-boots: marking a new type of hut construction on the mountains. It was known as the `Menzies of the Plains’ National Trust of Australia (Vic) FN 6018 Neale, class. Report 1988. The hut was used by SEC employees during the 1930s, including Warrand Begg who lived there as a weatherman, under the direction of engineer, T Olsen who lived with his family at what is now known as Wilkinson’s Lodge. Begg described Cope Hut as so cold that bed was the only refuge after returning from Wilkinson’s (1 mile away, 20 minutes on skis) after ceasing work at 5 p.m. Napier: 39. Pack tracks cut to supply the SEC Cottage (later Wilkinson lodge, destroyed 2004) allowed walkers easier access to accommodation at Cope Hut such that it was soon `bursting at the seams’. Construction of the Rover Scout Chalet in 1939 helped alleviate this crowding `Voice of the Mountains’ , #8, 1983-4: 25. Roy Weston’s early 1930s description showed the hut as a living room 16×10′, flanked by bunk areas on either side (each 10×6’6") and a verandah entry via a ski room (11×5′), with a store at the opposite end of the verandah measuring 8×4′. The fireplace was in the centre of one side wall. Weston noted that the hut had been built for the State Tourist Committee under the supervision of Spargo on a site chosen by RW Wilkinson Stephenson (1982): 289. He stated that the frame was split timber, the cladding corrugated iron and the sleeping accommodation allowing 8 with room for more in the attic. He wrote that it was the only hut specially built for tourists on the Bogong High Plains at that time ibid.. The National Parks Service termed the hut `historic’ in 1983 and in good condition, being maintained then by the Outward Bound Association. It was also very popular among walkers, skiers and 4WD and important as a refuge because of its proximity to the Alpine Walking Track NPS (1983): 46. Then there were remnants of the malthoid internal lining, the floor was of timber slabs set on a snow gum frame with some stone footings; the plan measured 383cmx913cmx212cm wall height. Some of the six windows were openable, there was sleeping accommodation in 8 bunks and on mezzanine floors which held 8. The large fireplace was used for heating and cooking, with the wood stored in a shed at the rear ibid.. Furniture included table, rough bench seats, and shelving. The site was at the head of Middle Creek, at the edge of snow gum forest with snowgrass ground cover. The hut was illustrated around this time as a steeply gabled hut with corrugated iron cladding and a skillion on the uphill side and verandah remnant on the downhill Siseman, cover. When it was classified in 1988, the hut was thought by the National Trust to be as original except for the creation of a new door on the north wall to avoid snow build-up on the original entry ibid.. It was the first to be purpose built for ski-touring.