William Julius Baltzer (1858 - 1948)
- Concrete Pioneer


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William's family details are available in my family files.

William Baltzer


A Royal Commission was appointed on 21 May 1896 to investigate possible negligence in the letting of a contract in 1895 for the construction of the Annandale Aqueducts using a reinforced concrete process developed by Joseph Monier. The Report and Evidence of the Royal Commission indicates that W J Baltzer, a draughtsman and engineer with the Sewerage Construction Branch of the Public Works Department initiated the use of Monier construction in Sydney, and, it seems, in Australia.

He had received his engineering education in Germany and had joined the Department in 1885. He was regarded as a resourceful and capable officer who had designed some major works but, owing to the severe economic depression of the 1890's, was retrenched "with great regret".

There is no doubt that he designed the viaduct of Monier arches for the Annandale sewer aqueducts, and his design resulted in a saving of about 20% compared with the traditional methods of construction. In 1896, Baltzer brought to Australia the first machine for making Monier pipes, and they soon became a major part of the business of Gumnow, Forest & Company, for which he worked on a retainer as an engineer, and the company established the Monier Pipe Factory at Alexandria, a Sydney suburb. (REF.1)

Baltzer had written about the Monier System in The Engineering Society of NSW Journals, Volume 12, in a paper dated 9 September 1897, and he became well known as a consultant in the use of the Monier method of reinforced concrete, extending its uses from pipes to concrete railway bridges.

About the Family

The Baltzer family, W.J., wife and three daughters Dorothea, Alma and Wanda, came to Blackheath in 1922, and took up residence at the SE corner of Carysford Street and Inconstant Street. Mr Baltzer was also (in addition to his interest in Monier construction) a keen conservationist, and in 1933 he was a member of an early group gathered together by Myles J Dunphy to press for the establishment of a Blue Mountains National Park. It must be mentioned here that a lookout on the rim of the Grose (Valley) was named after him in recognition of his work towards the conservation of the valley of the Grose.
(Note: The Baltzer Lookout is at the viewpoint on Burra-moko Head, the abrupt walled termination of Burra-moko Ridge above Grose Canyon, north of Blackheath)

Soon after arrival in Blackheath, the Baltzer family became involved in the life of the community, and this continued until after they left. Mrs Baltzer was remembered by many for her unobtrusive acts of kindness and her help. During the Depression she never turned anyone hungry away, with the result that their home was recorded as 'good' by the tramps passing along the Bathurst Road, and the Baltzers certainly had more than their share of such visitors. The three sisters served on many local committees. Alma was Lady Cub Mistress, and also organised a free Library for children in St Aidan's Hall, these activities being continuous for 14 years. Dorothea was also responsible for the Blackheath Troop of Boy Scouts, and undertook the organisation which led to the erection of the first Scout Hall in the Memorial Park, the job being completed in one day. Again Wanda was Brown Owl for 15 years, until she left to take up duties as Resident Aid-in-charge of the Leura Red Cross Convalescent Home.

During the war the whole family were very busy with the C.W.A. and other war effort activities, one of which was the manufacture of camouflage netting, and another the Comfort Fund. They were prominent in the fund raising for the Baby Health Centre, organising concerts, flower shows and street stalls all of which required strong personal leadership, so that when the family left Blackheath in 1950, their fellow citizens, with whom they had so long associated, gave them a public farewell.

Apart from their community efforts, the garden was their chief interest, and it was a focal point for visitors from many parts, and the flowers from it were used at many functions, for children to show initiative in floral exhibits at the shows, and to meet demands for bouquets and wreaths." (REF.2)

Family History

William Julius Baltzer was born on 21 December 1859 in the part of Germany then known as Prussia. The town of Diez, on the River Lahn in the state of Nassau was his birthplace. William was the son of Wilhelm Baltzer (13 April 1817 - 30 March 1869) and H.C.L. Mattern. He was an architect in Limberg, and following problems relating to Army service he had given up his German citizenship and migrated to South Australia as an alien, arriving on New Year's Day 1884.

It was recorded that on 21 February 1884 he was awarded a "Letter of Naturalisation", and the following year migrated to New South Wales on board the "Menmuir". He was recorded as being at Llandilo (NSW) on 13 June 1895, when he was formally naturalised as an Australian citizen.

On 26 October that year, the Rev. Alexander Smith, from the Presbyterian Church at St Marys, married William and Charlotte "Lottie" Fairhall at Llandilo. They lived together on a property known as "The Pines", while William worked on the English translation of German patents and instructions relating to reinforced concrete.

Lottie was a daughter of Samuel Fairhall and Mary Ann (Gill), having been born at Raymond Terrace on 5 August 1861.
William and Lottie had five children, Dorothea, Hermann, Freda, Alma and Wanda. Freda was the only one to marry.

William died at Blackheath (N.S.W.) on 15 December 1948.

1. Early Reinforced Concrete in NSW: 1895-1915,paper G1173 of the Institution of Engineers, Australia dated 19 April 1985,
by Dr D J Fraser, Senior Lecturer, School of Civil Engineering, University of New South Wales)
2. Information from a publication entitled Historic Blackheath (published by the Rotary Club of Blackheath 1976) - pp. 316-7
3. Material from personal research and information supplied to Bruce Fairhall

Photograph of William Baltzer Copyright © Blue Mountains Historical Society Inc - Used with Permission August 2009

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This page was updated on: 5 February 2022