About this blog

This blog is about the history of the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp and neighbouring areas, such as Pakenham, Cranbourne and Garfield, and any other historical subjects I feel like writing about. It's my own original research and writing and if you live in the area you may have read some of the stories before in the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society newsletter or the Koo-Wee-Rup township newsletter, The Blackfish, or the Garfield township newsletter, The Spectator.
Heather Arnold.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Garfield Public Hall

At a public meeting held on July 4, 1904 it was decided to purchase some land, on the north side of the railway line and opposite the Railway Station, to build a public hall.  The land, next to the School, was purchased from Mr J.M Gillespie for £10.00 and an energetic working committee was appointed to further the movement, which is undoubtedly another step towards the improvement of the township as a report in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal on July 20, 1904.   The Secretary of the Committee was John Daly, the school teacher. The rest of the committee were J.J. Lyons, C.Pitt, G. Park, W.J. Walker and G.W. Ellis.

Bunyip and Garfield Express
July 7, 1904

The official opening was Saturday, November 26 1904 with a concert of  a 'high class nature'. A report of the official opening in the Bunyip and Garfield Express said that the hall was commodious and could accommodate between 250 and 300 people. It was constructed of pine walls with hardwood beams and is very tastefully designed. The staging and dressing rooms being up to date, altogether no fault could be found with the structure. The hall was 45 feet by 25 feet, the walls were 14 feet high and the flooring was kauri. The two dressing rooms could be opened to one large room, 25 feet by 10 feet and used for Lodge meetings etc. The hall was designed by J.H. Walker and built by Ingebert Gunnulson.

There had been an earlier function in the hall when the Garfield Branch of the Australian Natives Association (A.N.A) had held a banquet there on November 18.  The A.N.A was a Friendly Society, with the aim of offering financial assistance to its members so thus provided sick pay and funeral benefits. It also aimed to promote the moral, social and intellectual improvement of its members. 

The opening ball was held on Wednesday, December 7, which was an unqualified success according to the report in the local paper.  Other early functions included the Garfield Cricket Club’s concert and ball held on December 30, where dancing was kept up till the early hours of the morn,  in the July of 1905 a progressive euchre party and dance was held by the Garfield Progressive Association and in the same month the A.N.A organized a public lecture where Senator Findlay spoke about his recent trip to Japan and China.

Bunyip and Garfield Express
December 15, 1904

The Garfield Public Library was opened on February 12, 1906. The subscription was 2 shillings and six pence a quarter or 10 shillings per annum. The report said the Committee had secured a splendid stock of books. Was this Library located in the Public Hall?  There is a good chance it was as many Halls also included a Library, especially those built specifically as a Mechanics’ Institute such as Pakenham, Nar Nar Goon and Bunyip - where the building generally housed a public hall and a library with books aimed to improve the education and knowledge of ‘mechanics’ a term used to describe the working man or tradesman.

Bunyip and Garfield Express
February 15, 1906

Garfield Hall - Berwick Pakenham Historical Society photograph

The usual range of events was held in the Garfield Hall - dances, dinners, use as a polling booth, concerts, wedding receptions etc. Then on Thursday, April 15 in 1937 the Hall was destroyed by fire. It had apparently started at 1.30am in the supper room and everything was destroyed except for some military equipment in a semi detached room at the back, according to a report in The Argus. The Hall was insured for £400.00 and its contents for £100.00.  It was rebuilt and was re-opened possibly as early as September 22 the same year. Once again the hall hosted a range of social events - in the early 1950s Dad remembers that square dancing was very popular and that the Hall was packed for those dances - the caller was Bill Colvin of Koo Wee Rup. Over 1953 -1954 improvements were made to the Hall and the kitchen, supper room and ladies toilets were updated. In March of 1954 a Civic Ball was held in the Hall to celebrate the visit of the Queen and Prince Phillip to Australia, they had visited Warragul the day before. Naturally the Queen and Prince Phillip were not in attendance but the local M.L.A, Les Cochrane, and the Berwick Shire President and most of the Councillors were present. The Hall had been decorated with flags and bunting and special lighting effects. The ballerina of the ball was Miss Elvie Cameron.

The Hall was destroyed by fire, once again, in February 1984.

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