The ANU Heritage team sifted through archival photographs to help design the restoration of this heritage orchard – planted in the 1920s by the family of Mount Stromlo Observatory’s founding Director, and then destroyed in the 2003 bushfire.
Supported by an ACT Heritage Grant, Mount Stromlo restored this important landscape to reconnect two of the site’s most important buildings – the Commonwealth Solar Observatory Building, and the Director’s Residence.
The original orchard was planted by Doris and Joan Duffield (the wife and daughter, respectively, of the Observatory’s founding Director, Walter Geoffrey Duffield) during the construction of the Director’s Residence in 1927. In Recollections of an Astronomer’s Daughter, Joan Duffield recalled:
"During the building of this house my mother wasted no time in getting the garden growing. Likewise, we all put our hands to the wheel and made an orchard on a small plot of vacant land across the road. Here were planted apples, pears, oranges, lemons, peaches, apricots, plums and nectarines, which all did well."
The orchard was destroyed in the bushfire that hit Canberra in January 2003 and devastated many of the telescopes and buildings at Mount Stromlo. Since then, the area had languished as an informal dirt carpark. The restoration of the orchard, as well as installation of a path and grassy picnic areas, was a critical step in recovering the unique heritage of the place and unifying the site for visitors of the Mount Stromlo Heritage Trail.
ANU Heritage delved into the archives to piece together the original layout of the landscape, with aerial photographs from the 1960s-1990s revealing how the site changed over time. Using the archival images as a reference, Harris Hobbs Landscapes designed a plan that re-established a formal pathway, and chose ornamental fruit trees that reflected the original plantings.
The orchard is a stop on the Mount Stromlo Observatory Heritage Trail.