There's always a couple of classic buildings, even in small centres such as Stratford. The first is the old Mechanics Institute and Free Library, supported by the lovely garden surrounding it. The second is the colourful mosaic that is emblazoned on the front wall of the current library (pic 2).
The most arresting edifice though is where the highway does a right hand turn heading east and there's a lovely wooden building with carefully tended gardens that looked good even in the middle of one of the worst droughts ever (pic 3).
Of course, for me, there's always the local pie shop. Now, you know it must be good because, right next door there's an award-winning butcher shop (pic 2). It never ceases to surprise me at the pride in quality that can eminate from small villages such as this and that makes all the more reason to continue to stop in places such as this.
Journalist John Stanley James (who wrote under "The Vagabond") claimed, in 1886, that "the first house in Gippsland was built on the site of Stratford, and it was, after Sale, the first surveyed township in the north". He was probably thinking of "Strathfieldsaye", the homestead of squatter William Odell Raymond, who established a run in the area in 1842, although it is fairly likely that Hartwich's Hut, on the same property, was erected before the house.
Stratford prospered in the 1860s as a supply centre for diggers from the rugged Omeo and Dargo goldfields areas. Other early buildings which are still standing include what is now the R.S.L. Hall (built 1866), the Church of Holy Trinity (1868), the Methodist Church, including its bell tower (1873), and the post office (1884).
Today a steady trickle of traffic along the Princes Highway ensures that some will stop and keep the economy going, especially at the local pub (pic 3).