Industry : Misc 2

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Public halls are large rooms or buildings that serve as multi-purpose community spaces and which are typically rented out by the owners or managers – whether a private concern, a government, (including councils), or societies or associations. Among the functions or events that might be typically staged in a public hall are concerts, theatrical productions, film screening, lectures, meetings, community singing, exhibitions, sporting events, balls, dances, weddings, parties and even short-term retail ventures.
In Australia during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the most common civic venues for public entertainments were Town Halls, Masonic Halls, Oddfellows Halls, Mechanic Institutes, Schools of Arts and Academies of Music. In many towns and metropolitan districts there were often several of these halls serving the community, and in some respects competing for business from professional touring shows and local amateurs. The importance of these halls to Australia’s emerging stage and cinematic industries cannot be overstated.
This section provides some historical background into the separate movements that constructed these halls or which converted pre-existing buildings into community venues up until the end of the 1930s. For information about specific halls please see entries in the “Theatres and Venues” section.



Most Masonic meeting places are owned by the Lodge or Lodges which meet there, and because these buildings are expensive to keep and operate they are typically hired out to other groups and individuals. Although the earliest recorded Freemasons hall appears to have been built by Barnett Levy in Sydney in 1827, it took several decades (and the discovery of gold) before Australia saw the widespread construction of purpose-built Masonic Halls. The style of architectural design in Masonic Halls during the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is extraordinarily varied, ranging from simple wooden or brick and mortar buildings to opulent and ornate sandstone temples.

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Mechanics Institute - Geelong, 1856 [Art&Archm]Mechanics’ Institutes (and Schools of Arts) played a vital role in the social and educational life of the Australian colonies during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Each institute invariably included a library, meeting/lecture and games rooms, and a hall for concerts and exhibitions. The lack of available theatres in many regional towns during this period saw them used by touring theatrical companies, including minstrel, burlesque and vaudeville troupes. Their popularity as an entertainment venue waned from the 1910s, however, as increasing entrepreneurial activity led to new purpose-built venues being built around the country.

  • More details (Australian Mechanics’ Institutes in general)
NB: See Theatres and Venues section for specific Australian Mechanics Institutes.
Image: Geelong Mechanics’ Institute, Victoria (ca. 1850s). Source: Art and Architecture, mainly…



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Image citation details for entries without expanded biographies are noted at the bottom of the overview. All other image details are provided in the expanded PDF biographies.
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Published on October 23, 2012 at 9:50 pm  Comments Off on Industry : Misc 2