Set high on a hill overlooking the town of Coolgardie is the stately home of Warden Finnerty. Built for the desert heat, the house has wide verandahs, louvred windows and a ventilated roof lantern. With its pebble-inlaid eaves, it remains an attractive and well-preserved historical building. And if these walls could talk, they’d reveal countless stories of the wild west gold rush days, and the man who tried to control the mayhem.

John Michael Finnerty was the first resident magistrate, and also the mining warden of Coolgardie. In 1895, with Coolgardie growing exponentially in the face of an unprecedented gold rush, the government of Western Australia put out a tender for the construction of a home for a warden.

The tender was won by Robert and Arthur Bunning, the brothers who went on to establish one of Australia’s biggest retailers, the Bunnings hardware chain. The house was constructed of local timbers and stone, in the space of four months. Due to a shortage of water, the render for the front of the house was made using stale beer.

Finnerty had first visited Coolgardie in his capacity as warden of Southern Cross, when the first claim was staked by Bayley and Ford in 1892. It was Finnerty who sent the telegram to Perth that alerted the world to the gold reserves of this area and started the gold rush.

Finnerty moved to Coolgardie with his wife, Bertha and their three children, taking up residence in 1895 and staying until 1911, when tragedy struck. Mrs Finnerty, aged only 38, died of pneumonia and the warden moved away to Geraldton, passing away himself some 18 months later.

Today, visitors are welcome to stroll through the house, which has been restored and is owned by the National Trust. Two rooms are set aside as the private residence of the caretaker, but the other rooms have been decorated in period furniture and elegant antiques. These have been sourced to resemble what the Finnerty’s had, based on discussions with their eldest daughter.

On arrival, pick up an information leaflet and stroll into the parlour, where the guests would have been received, warming themselves by the fire on chilly winter nights. In the dining room, there’s a grand five-legged dining table, and the elegant china coffee set, which once belonged to Dr Laver, who effectively established the town of Laverton, and was known for his cycling expeditions throughout the goldfields. Don’t miss the Coolgardie safe, a local invention that was the precursor to refrigeration, working on evaporative cooling principles, and with hessian to protect food from flies.

The west wing of the house was added in 1896, consisting of two bedrooms along with the Warden’s office, which acted as a court, before the construction of the grand Wardens Courthouse in town in 1898. Finnerty himself will go down in history as a leader who had the respect of the mining community.

The best way to finish a visit is with a famous Devonshire Tea on the shady verandah, and as you bite into your fluffy, homemade scones, imagine Mr and Mrs Finnerty, sitting here with their own cup of tea, overlooking the town below.