A Brief History of the Kyabram Mechanics’ Institute /Town Hall
In 1890 the township of Kyabram decided a Mechanics’ Hall was needed as the contemporary building, Henley Hall, was too small.
A public company was formed to raise money to build a new hall and the shares from the company were donated to the Mechanics’ Institute Committee. Thus the first hall was built with capital raised by Kyabram citizens without recourse to government money. The new building of 1891 was set some distance back on the present site.
One of the first entertainments in the new hall was given in May 1894 by a group of Aborigines: “A Black Fellows’ Corroboree.” ( Kyabram Free Press). Other entertainments around this time included a Harvest Festival run by the Salvation Army on two consecutive evenings. From 1895 the hall was used for balls and dances, one being the Hibernian Ball.
On November 13th 1901, the first public meeting of the Kyabram Reform Movement, called by Mr G.H. Bishop, was held in the Town Hall, its purpose being to agitate for a decrease in the number of members of the State Parliament of Victoria, and the general reduction of the state’s extravagant expenditure which had not lessened after the Parliament of Australia moved to Canberra from Melbourne. The meeting was very well attended by an enthusiastic local audience. Within a short time, the movement became state wide with Kyabram being the leader of discussions held over the next several years.
In 1907, the foundation stone for the new brick facade was laid by Mr. J.E Edis.
The 1911 Coronation of King George V was celebrated in the hall, commencing with a united churches service. In the evening a patriotic concert and dance was held, and on 14th November pictures of the coronation were shown by electric light.
Justice was administered from a room known as the Magistrate’s room until the new Kyabram Courthouse was opened in 1912.
The establishment of the Kyabram Higher Elementary School was proclaimed in May 1912, and classes were held in the supper rooms until 1915.
On August 12th 1912, Mrs Robert Allan formally turned on the township’s power supply. The ceremony was followed by a banquet in the Kyabram Mechanics’ Hall which was, of course, lit by strings of electric light.
In 1913 the silent film “Quo Vadis” was screened in the hall.
A second attempt to start community singing was held on February 9th 1923.
In 1923 the Kyabram Cannery workers held a public meeting against the threat to close the cannery.
In June 1924 Mr John Allan MLA delivered a policy speech. In November he was elected as Premier of Victoria. When his term ended, Mr Allan and his wife were feted as guests of honor at a gathering in the hall, where 225 guests were seated at four long tables.
From 1932 to 1983 the Mechanics’ Hall was used for a variety of occasions. The Farewell and Comfort Fund Committee arranged a gathering to farewell those volunteering to fight in World War II. It was the social hub for fancy dress balls for children, music and elocution competitions, the annual carol singing, and even a performance of Handel’s Messiah. Debutante balls were held until 1974. The Baptist Church, and The Assemblies of God Church used rooms for their services for a time, and at a later date, the Kyabram Community Church also used the hall and some of the smaller rooms.
In 1949 Mrs Finlay presented the hall with its clock in memory of her husband Mr James A. Finlay.
On April 1st 1954, Kyabram was declared an independent borough, and the first meeting of the new Kyabram Council was held in the hall. Later in the year the Mechanics’ Institute Hall was renamed the Kyabram Town Hall. Every room in the building was utilised for borough purposes, though use of the hall for public events continued. Kyabram became a “town” on July 4th 1973. The council offices remained in the Town Hall premises until 1991 when they were relocated to new buildings in Lake Road.
In 1959 Mr Gigliotti was given the Star of the Order of Italian Solidarity by the hand of the Italian Consul General Marquis Giorgi Serafini in the Kyabram Town Hall.
In 1983 the large hall area was sub-divided with the front half to hold the Municipal Library, officially opened by Premier John Cain. In 1985 the Kyabram Community Centre began operations from the Bradley Street entry. Then, as Kyabram Community and Learning Centre (KCLC), they moved to new premises in January 1999, and for a while the back section of the hall was used by the Kyabram Community Church.
Eventually, public interest in restoring the Town Hall developed and gained momentum. Despite a large public protest in 2004 to move the library to other premises to facilitate full restoration, it remained in the Town Hall precinct for a few more years. Finally, in 2009 the Campaspe Shire Council began renovations of the rear half of the hall to its original state, allowing this area to be used for meetings, performances, and other events.
The future of the Kyabram Town Hall was given an unprecedented push in February 2013, when Isobel Harvie, a local identity, announced her wish to donate part of her considerable collection of vintage garments to the Town of Kyabram – if it could be housed in a suitable place. The Town Hall was considered the most appropriate place but it needed further extensive renovation. By April a group of interested people had formed under “The Save the Kyabram Town Hall” designation, and began work on writing a proposal to the Shire of Campaspe on the future use of the Town Hall.
After much detailed planning and hard work in negotiating with the Shire, a license agreement was signed on September 12th 2014, to the effect that the Town Hall Group could begin renovations.
Within a week, on 19th September 2014, work commenced on the renovations for the new life of Kyabram’s Old Town Hall.