In the quirky ghost town of Gwalia, near Leonora, most of the buildings are relics of tough, times. In 1896, gold was found here and the first mining lease was registered by Welshman, Tobias Thomas, who named his mine Sons of Gwalia. Most of the buildings here are basic, corrugated iron and hessian shacks abandoned by the miners in 1963 when the mine closed. The State Hotel still stands, but today it’s boarded up, its glory days long gone.

But there’s one building here that retains its elegance, and has been restored to a level of comfort that would have been astonishing to its original designer.

The Gwalia goldrush caught the attention of British mine management firm Bewick Moreing & Co. who were interested in acquiring the mine. In May 1897, at 23 years of age, a young American mining engineer called Herbert Hoover (1874 - 1964) was sent to Australia to inspect the mine, and recommended his company develop the mine.

In 1898, Hoover returned as the mining superintendent at Sons of Gwalia Mine, and was known for his radical cost-cutting, including sourcing much of the mine’s labour from Italian and Yugoslav immigrants.

He designed and commissioned the elegant mine manager’s house and adjacent mine office and buildings on a hill overlooking the Gwalia camp and on the edge of the open cut mine. It is said that his company was astounded at the cost of the manager’s house, which was £600.

Hoover only worked in Gwalia for six months, before moving on to China. The first manager to occupy the house was Harry James, who finished the residence in 1899 and also designed the garden which is still surprisingly, shady and green, providing respite from the heat.

Although Hoover never lived in the residence, as he climbed the ranks in Bewick Moreing & Co, he was required to return occasionally for inspections. In 1902, Hoover and his wife, Lou Henry, were guests of then manager, Mr RM Attwater. It is said that Mr Attwater vacated the master suite for Hoover, so he may experience sleeping in the room he had intended for himself.

The house has seen various renovations over the years, and ensuites were added in the 1940s. Even after the original mine closed in 1963 and Gwalia was abandoned, a caretaker remained at Hoover House.

Today, Hoover House is owned by the Shire of Leonora, and has been meticulously restored. In 2004 it opened as Hoover House Bed and Breakfast and was further renovated in 2017-18. The house now offers stylish boutique accommodation, including a continental breakfast for in-house guests.

The bed and breakfast offers three elegantly decorated, period bedrooms, two with ensuites and one with a private adjacent bathroom. From 10am to 3pm each day, the house is open to day visitors as part of the excellent Gwalia Museum, and a café serves simple lunches and Devonshire teas with fluffy scones on the wide verandah.

As for Hoover himself, by 1929 he had ascended all the way to the White House, serving as the 31st president of the USA. To this day, Hoover’s legacy remains an oasis in this fascinating, dusty ghost town, a must visit on any Leonora itinerary.