The site of the Servicemen’s Memorial Hall was formally occupied by the Beechworth Technical School, a short-lived educational venture which closed in 1929¹. The defunct building was subsequently acquired by the RSL Women’s Auxiliary in the early 1940s with the intent of establishing it as a war memorial hall. It was a modest timber building, comprising a rectangular hall with an annexe of small rooms to the west side.
In the mid-50s, several schemes were prepared for renovation, which proposed extending the hall further east and adding a new kitchen and committee room to the west side. The renovated hall was officially opened on 23 July 1957, and it was reported in the local press that, “the crowd was so dense that dancing was almost impossible.”¹¹
The following year, further renovations were proposed, designed by architect C H MacKnight of Corowa.
Charles MacKnight’s scheme for the Beechworth Memorial Hall proposed the addition of a separate RSL clubroom, and a greatly extended stage with a suite of dressing rooms below. The Ford Street elevation was also to be remodelled, and the architect envisaged a sleek modern composition of strongly emphasized horizontal elements, flagstaffs and prominent entrance with a glazed tile surround.
For over forty years the memorial hall served as a venue for a wide range of social and recreational activities in Beechworth, including theatrical performances, debutant balls and, in December 1963, the grandly-named Boxing Night Old Time Music Hall Cabaret.¹¹ At the time the hall was re-opened in 1957, it was stated that, ‘the hall would serve as a reminder of the spirit-sometimes called the Spirit of Anzac-shown throughout the Commonwealth of Nations in times of trial.’¹¹ To this effect, the use of the hall has been carefully controlled to ensure it remains clearly associated as a war memorial. The memorial hall was extensively renovated, yet again in 1994. The work, which was carried out by Turner Ginnivan, a Melbourne-based architectural firm, included the erection of a new wing to house the shire offices, and the complete remodelling of the Ford Street frontage. The renovated building was officially re-opened on 7 November 1994.¹¹
¹ Roy Harvey |
Background to Beechworth - pp 22, 67
¹¹ Crowd at Opening of New Memorial Hall’ | Ovens and Murray Advertiser 24 July 1957 p1.