Gembrook derived its name from the property owned by early European settler, Albert Le Souef who was the first official settler in the area when he purchased 129 hectares (320 acres) of land in July 1873. He called this property Gembrook Park. The original Gembrook settlement was south of today’s town and the community that grew around the Ure familys Silver Wells property was to the north of today's town. However, the commercial focus of the town shifted to around the Gembrook Railway Station when it opened as part of the Puffing Billy railway line. The Fern Tree Gully to Gembrook Railway, as it was officially known, was a narrow gauge railway of 2 feet, six inches and opened December 19, 1900.
Gembrook Railway Station, taken between 1920 and 1954.
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Dorfmans Ranges Hotel Gembrook. Wolf Dorfman was licensee between 1935 and 1946.
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The Argus Wednesday 27 November 1901 page 11
One of the earliest buildings in Gembrook is the Ranges Hotel.The Berwick Shire Rate books list Jessey and Isabella Sykes as having a Hotel at Crown Allotment A11 in Gembrook from 1894, however in The Argus of November 27, 1901 (reproduced above) there was an application from Jane McMahon to obtain a licence for the premises'about to be erected'. It seems likely therefore that a hotel was on the site from 1894 and that after the Railway line came through a new and bigger hotel was erected. From around 1907, the hotel was operated by brothers, Fred and Howard Pitt. In 1921 it was taken over by John and Catherine Beacham who transferred the licence to Wolf Dorfman in February 1935. Dorfman transferred the licence to Daphne and Alfred McGregor in 1946. The Ranges Hotel is currently closed.
Another view of the Hotel, most likely taken in the 1940s or 1950s.
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Panorama of Gembrook
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Other community buildings followed the Hotel - an Anglican Church opened in 1905, a Catholic Church in around 1922 and various shops. The Memorial Hall was opened in December 1921 and later a Library and a Meeting Room was built under the Hall, as it was on a sloping block. The Memorial Hall was demolished in 1981 and replaced by a ‘community centre’.
There was an earlier privately owned hall which, from 1906 until 1915, was used for State School No.2506, which had previously been located in Gembrook North. This School began in 1879 as the part time school No.2110, sharing the same number as Emerald State School, and became full-time in 1889. Classes took place in the Union Church from 1884 until it moved to the Main Street in 1906. In 1915, a new building was built and the School moved to its current location. There were four other Gembrook Schools - Pakenham Upper School, No.2155, was called Gembrook South from 1879 until 1916, when it was renamed Pakenham Upper. It became part of Pakenham Consolidated School in 1951. Gembrook West, No.3211, operated for just over a year from August 1894 until October 1895. The second Gembrook West School, No.4073, operated from 1921 until 1923. Finally Gembrook South East, No. 3468, opened half time with Nar Nar Goon North in March 1904 and closed in December 1908.
Finally, Gembrook is the home of the Gilwell Scout Camp, established in 1926 and visited by Lord Baden Powell, the founder of the Scots movement, in 1931 and 1935.