Tag Archives: Eltham Shire Office

ThrowbackThursday: Gala Opening Ball,New Public Hall, Eltham, November 21st, 1941

Photo: Eltham Hall (Artist’s impression); Eltham and Whittlesea Shires Advertiser, 28 November, 1941,  p. 3.

Introductory Card, Gala Opening Ball, New Public Hall, Eltham, Friday 21st November, 1941 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back 77 years to November 21, 1941. Our boys have been fighting in Europe and the Middle East for almost two years now and our district has suffered losses. The headlines in today’s Argus describe a terrific attack by the RAF on posts in Libya in which our airmen assisted.   In just 16 days the Japanese will launch a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, devastating the US Navy Fleet, and catapulting us into the Pacific War, right on our very doorstep.

It is just before 8:30 p.m., the sun having set just over an hour ago. A recent Gallop poll shows people are in favour of daylight saving time two to one but we will have to wait another year till it is introduced.  We have gathered in Arthur Street at the corner with Maria Street, near the base of the steps leading up to the swanky new Eltham Public Hall and Shire Office. The lights at the top of the steps bask us in their glow. It is overcast and 58 degrees (14°C), down from the maximum of 64 (18°C) at 3 p.m.. A few showers fell in the morning but it is dry now and predicted to be a fine day tomorrow, which is good as we have a big night ahead for us. For we are about to walk up the steps and enter into the new hall for the first time to attend the Gala Opening Ball which commences in just a few minutes, finishing in the wee hours of the morning. This is going to be a grand event; the official ceremony commences at 10:30 p.m.. Everyone is dressed to the nines and the air is full of excited chatter.

Shire of Eltham Office and Hall, cnr Main Road and Arthur Street, Eltham, c.1960 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)

The external walls of the building are constructed with Templestowe bricks which were selected for use because of their comparatively low initial cost and because such a brick facing reduces maintenance cost to a minimum.

In a few weeks the new Shire Offices will also be ready for occupation, and for the first time since Eltham was created a Shire in 1871, its municipal business will be conducted in surroundings befitting its dignity.

The combined structure of the Hall and Offices provide Eltham with a focal point for development, and is a fine building setting an example for future improvements to the township.

The design affords convenient  and appropriate entrances to both the public hall and the Council Chambers befitting their importance whilst achieving a satisfactory linking up of the two buildings.

The Municipal Offices consist of Council Chamber, general office, rate collector’s office, secretary’s office, engineer’s office and store room. They have been designed to provide for an additional storey when warranted by future development.

The entrance hall and Council Chamber are panelled with specially selected ribbon grained Queensland walnut with all other walls sand finished internally. A feature of the Council Chamber is a fine open fire place built of Ballarat tapestry bricks. The windows are of steel frames with a section glazed with broad reeded glass for privacy.

The whole building has been roofed with “Fibrolite” which will act as an insulator and will afford effective protection against the effects of condensation on the ceilings. Internally and externally, a pleasing and lasting effect has been achieved by the restrained use of color in pastel shades.

The site upon which the buildings stand will lend itself to a satisfactory garden treatment and development, and its elevation and central position in the Town of Eltham renders it a landmark around which the shire should maintain its recent growth and development.

The hall section of the building comprises a main hall, stage, two dressing rooms, kitchen, two cloakrooms and foyer. To provide for small meetings, the men’s cloak room and foyer are divided by means of folding doors.

The kitchen is fitted out with ample cupboarding, copper, stove and power points and is insulated with fibrolite wall board.

A specially constructed brick and concrete bio cabin has been constructed above the foyer. Flush walnut veneer polished doors have been used throughout.

Right on 8:30 the doors swing open and we are embraced by the surge of people.

Passing through the doors we immediately notice how clean and bright it appears with its white walls, and Tasmanian Oak hardwood floors; not a nail in sight thanks to the secret-nail technique stipulated in the design. The interior treatment of the main hall consists of a “Masonite” dado 4ft. 6in. high above which are fibrous plaster walls and a coved fibrous plaster ceiling.

Indirect artificial lighting has been installed by the introduction of scientifically designed fibrous plaster dome reflectors which are first illuminated by metal suspension electric light fittings. These lights are supplemented by wall bracket lights. The atmosphere created adds an element of glamour in addition to the many beautiful gowns worn by the ladies and smartly dressed men.

The acoustics have been catered for through the proportions of the building in conjunction with the elimination of inside wall piers and the use of “Perfotile” sound absorbing tile wall treatment. About 300 people are already in attendance yet conversation is easy to hear.

The stage is massed with flowers and shrubs carefully arranged by Mr. W. Allen; contrasting with the striking red, white and blue of the Union Jack draped at the back. A large bowl of delphiniums sits in front of the footlights.

Four years earlier, in September 1937, a group of ladies met to form a Ladies’ Committee to assist the General Committee in raising funds for the hall. Those present were Mrs Allen, Mrs Bowman, Mrs Hickey, Mrs Rains, Mrs Boake and Mrs Lyon. As there were only six present, they elected to remain in the interim as a Social Committee to arrange catering, etc., for the two dances that had been arranged for September 29th and October 30th of that year. Both those dances proved a great success. Mrs McAdie joined the committee in October. The Ladies’ Committee was officially formed at a combined meeting of the General and Ladies’ committees held on April 6th, 1938. Mrs Boake agreed to be President, Mrs Lyon as Secretary and Mrs Rains as Assistant Secretary. Other members included Mrs Browne, Mrs Forde, Mrs Jarrold, Mrs Bradbury and Mrs Taylor.

By 1941 their numbers had grown to include Matron Wilson, and Mesdames Andrew, Brinkotter, Cloney, Walker, Parsons, Crick,  Ballenger, Travena, Hurst, Shields and Le Brocq . A number of these ladies who will eventually move on and become part of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Eltham War Memorial Trust, have been working tirelessly organising events and raising much needed funds to arrive at this special occasion today.

As we take in the splendid surroundings we overhear many complimentary remarks about the wonderful job achieved by the members of the Hall Committee and the Ladies’ Committee which had supported the General Committee over many years. Plenty of refreshments are available; there are tables laden with cakes and other treats as well as another table of cups and saucers in a Blue Willow design for those wishing to partake of a cup of tea.

At 10:30pm there is a ringing of spoons on glasses. The official opening ceremony by the Hon. W.H. Everard, M.L.A. is about to commence.

Councillor A. Brinkkotter, secretary of the Hall Committee, introduces Mr. W. Hickey, the president, and in doing so remarks that Eltham has succeeded, after many long years of fighting, in erecting a new hall and civic centre which had been badly needed.
Mr. Hickey says that although for a long time it had looked as though the erection of the building would be postponed indefinitely, at last the new hall was completed.

“It took a long time to convince the Council of the necessity for a new hall and civic centre in Eltham,” he says. “The councillors, in looking after the interests of all sections of the rate payers, could not see that such a move was necessary. But finally the Hall Committee proved that such a move was not only advisable, but would prove a financial asset to the Shire.”

“This committee had to put down £1,500 in cash before the work on the hall began, and to enable the committee to do this, residents loaned them money free of interest for 12 months. In addition the committee has guaranteed to pay the Council £100 a year for the next ten years.”

“The borrowed money has to be repaid to the lenders, and I hope that the public will realise this and support the functions which have been and will be arranged by the Hall Committee to enable them to return the money as soon, as possible.”

Councillor E. Andrew, vice-president of the Hall Committee, extends a welcome to visiting councillors from Heidelberg, and adds that he is proud to be present on such an auspicious occasion. The Hall Committee has worked for years to provide the town with such an asset, and deserved the success which had crowned their efforts.

Mr. G. L. Chandler, M.L.C., extends his own congratulations to those who had been instrumental in having such a fine hall built. Of its kind, he adds, it is the best hall in which he has ever been.

“It speaks volumes for those people who have worked for many years for the hall. I know of no other place where the residents have handed over £1,500 for the erection of a hall and guaranteed the balance of the cost. You will always find the few who say ‘Time is not opportune.’ In these days you have to make your opportunities.”

“Before any town can advance, a civic spirit must exist in the residents, and I hope the people will support the Hall Committee which has the interests of this district at heart.”

The gathered are disappointed to learn from the Shire Secretary, Mr. C.L. Tingate, that the Shire President (Councilor Price) has been kept away due to illness. Mr. Tingate recalls the fire which destroyed the old Shire Offices at Kangaroo Ground in 1934 and the opposition which then existed to the Shire Offices being transferred to Eltham.

“Had it not been that this opposition was overcome, it is doubtful if we would have been celebrating this occasion tonight. This hall is the result of years of work by a committee which has had the desire and has used every endeavour to make the town go ahead.”

Councillor Braid tells the the assembled gathering that efforts had been made for years to get Shire Offices and a Hall in Eltham, and it was only when the present committee had made a concerted effort and a wonderful offer to the Council, that their object had been achieved.

“The South Riding Councillors have been trying to avoid increasing the rate, and they have managed to erect the Shire Offices without any increase,” he says.

And now it is time for Mr. Everard to speak. Laughter erupts when he recalls that a few years ago when talking to Councillor Braid, who was then President of the Shire, he had said “I’m sick and tired of hearing the talk about your new hall. I’ll be dead and buried before there is a new hall here!”

Mr. Everard also says that he considered it was due to the efforts of six Eltham people that he was first returned to Parliament.

“A meeting was called in the old hall to discuss my campaign, and although the weather was bad and I was late, this little group waited for me and began preparations which ultimately resulted in my election to represent the district.”

Mr. Everard then declares the hall open and expresses hope that “this red letter day for Eltham” will live long in the memories of those present.

Councillor Brinkkotter returns to the stage and comments on the wonderful work done by the members of the Hall Committee in the last two weeks, fixing up the seats – all armchairs – placed around the walls of the hall. He also expresses thanks to the Ladies’ Committee for its untiring efforts in support of the Hall Committee, and on behalf of the committee he thanks the Council, the architect (A. K. Lines and MacFarlane of 440 Little Collins Street and Greensborough), the contractor (A. E. Smart of Thomastown) and all the men who had worked on the building, along with the public who had so generously assisted with the expense.

And with the speeches completed, the band starts playing again and the floor becomes alive with couples dancing while others retire to the lounge chairs.

Those present include: Mr. and Mrs. D. Lyon, Mr. and Mrs. W. Walker, Mr. and Mrs. Collis, Mr. and Mrs. H. Shields, Mr. and Mrs. W. Allen, Mr. and Mrs. J. Crick, Mr. and Mrs. E. Staff, Mr. and Mrs. J. Ryan, Mr. and Mrs. J. Ballenger, Mr. and Mrs. Butler, Mr. and Mrs. G. LeBrocq, Mr. and Mrs. J. Kent, Mr. and Mrs. D. McAdie, Mr. and Mrs. S. Browne, Mr. and Mrs. McNeill, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Mr. and Mrs. G. J. Gillberg, Mr. and Mrs. Bryan, Mr. and Mrs. J. Bell. Mr. and Mrs. A. Parsons. Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Rains, Mr. and Mrs. L. Jarrold, Mr. and Mrs. Hutchinson, Mr. and Mrs. J. N. Burgoyne, Mr. and Mrs. C. Hurst, Mr. and Mrs. J. Cresp, Mr. and Mrs. S. Kirkland, Mr. and Mrs. A. Schulz, Mr. and Mrs. Bryce jnr., Mr. and Matron Wilson, Mr. and Mrs. C. W. Sinclair, Mr. and Mrs. W. Squire, Mr. and Mrs. L. Iredale, Mr. and Mrs. H. Williams, Mr. and Mrs. W. Adlington.

Mr. and Mrs. C. L. Tingate (representing the Shire President), Councillor and Mrs. E. Andrew, Councillor and Mrs. A. J. Braid, Councillor and Mrs. A. Brinkkotter, Councillor and Mrs. W. Clinton, Councillor and Mrs. J. L. Ryan, Councillor and Miss Lines.

The Hon. G. L. Chandler, M.L.C. and Mrs. Chandler, Mr. W. H. Everard, M.L.A.

Mesdames E. M. Boake, Allen, Pennefather, Northmore and Johnston.

Misses Beryl Northmore, Adele Peacock, Jean Glasgow, Olwyn Bryan, Mona Baker, Muriel Butler, Dorothy Butler, June Rains, I. Dudfield, Brennan, Scott, E. Bradford, Allen, S. J. Taylor, B. Simpson, A. Brookes, Somerville, Finlay, D. LaFranz, O. Parsons, E. Doney, I. Bond.

Messrs. R. Taylor, W. Boake, H. A. Davies, R. Marks, D. and J. Glasgow, Carrucan, Leo and Lou Brennan, A. Lowerson, G. Burges; K. Browne, L. Bryan, R. Wigley, L. Doney, W. North-more (R.A.A.F.), V. McColl, R. Finlay, Bryce, sen., Maclurkin, A. Smart, C. Brodie, and Dr. Bradbury.

References:

  • 1941 ‘CIVIC OPENING TONIGHT-LANDMARK IN ELTHAM HISTORY’, Eltham and Whittlesea Shires Advertiser (Vic. : 1940 – 1942), 21 November, p. 3. , viewed 15 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57495599
  • 1941 ‘OFFICIAL OPENING OF NEW CIVIC CENTRE’, Eltham and Whittlesea Shires Advertiser (Vic. : 1940 – 1942), 28 November, p. 3. , viewed 15 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57495679
  • 1941 ‘BIG MAJORITY FOR DAYLIGHT SAVING’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 13 November, p. 8. , viewed 18 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article245362845
  • 1937 Formation of Eltham Public Hall Ladies Committee, 21 September 1937
  • 1940-1944 Minutes 14 March 1940 to 4 May 1944,Eltham Public Hall Ladies Committee
Advertisements

ThrowbackThursday: ArtStreams Magazine, 1996-2005

A sample of ArtStreams magazines from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back October 1996. The former Shire of Eltham Municipal Offices building has recently been bulldozed and razed from existence. A planning permit has been issued to build a shop, petrol station and community facility on the site and the Eltham Community Action Group has just been formed as a consequence.

Peter Dougherty who has been involved in the local art scene for many years has just established a new arts magazine, ArtStreams, for which he acts as publisher and editor. Volume 1, No. 1, November 1996 edition has just gone on sale. Peter’s comments on the various branches of the arts are widely respected. His “The Arts” column in the Diamond Valley Leader presents a brief summary for a much wider cross section of the local community. Peter also operates his own gallery and the Artstreams Cafe at the St Andrews market. Peter has a wealth of knowledge about present day and historical aspects of local art and artists.

Unfortunately the recent events were too close to publication to reference in the inaugural issue but his editorial comment published in the second issue is reproduced below.

Scrapbook album created 1997 by a member of the Eltham Community Action Group in participation with various artists, writers, local business people and other local citizens, which was sent to Planning Minister Maclellan in protest of proposed plans to sell the former Eltham Shire Office site at 895 Main Road Eltham to develop a Shell Service Station and Hungry Jacks fast food outlet. The purpose was to express what is unique about the character of Eltham, why people live and work there and why such a development would be out of character and inappropriate for the Eltham Gateway along with alternative development proposals. This protest was the catalyst for the formation of the Eltham Community Action Group. (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

ArtStreams magazine was published for ten years. In all there were ten volumes commencing with Vol. 1, No. 1, November 1996 and finishing with Vol 10. No. 5, Summer Edition 2005-06.

Eltham District Historical Society is very fortunate to hold a complete set of Volumes 1-9 and recently they have been digitised in their entirety and will prove to be an extremely valuable resource for researching our local art and cultural scene. However, we are missing all five issues from Volume 10, the final volume published.

Do you have, or know of someone who may have issues from Volume 10 who would be willing to donate them to us to complete our collection, or at least loan them to us for digitisation? We would be most appreciative of the opportunity to complete this wonderful collection and build upon the resource it will offer to our community.

Notice of Applications for Planning Permit, 895 Main Road, Eltham, September 1996 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Scrapbook album created 1997 by a member of the Eltham Community Action Group in participation with various artists, writers, local business people and other local citizens, which was sent to Planning Minister Maclellan in protest of proposed plans to sell the former Eltham Shire Office site at 895 Main Road Eltham to develop a Shell Service Station and Hungry Jacks fast food outlet. The purpose was to express what is unique about the character of Eltham, why people live and work there and why such a development would be out of character and inappropriate for the Eltham Gateway along with alternative development proposals. This protest was the catalyst for the formation of the Eltham Community Action Group. (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

 

“my word”, Peter Dougherty, ArtStreams, Dec 1996-Jan 1997, p2
The vacating of the former Eltham shire office building presented an opportunity for the Shire of Nillumbik to use it to serve the needs of the community. The loss of the building presents the opportunity to replace it with one which will serve those needs and provide a visual welcome to the township of Eltham.

Whatever is built on that site will become the new face of Eltham and form part of the library-Shillinglaw Cottage mini environment. The commissioners have apparently decided that a hamburger joint, petrol station and video store will do the job.

Looked at from a needs perspective these uses are hard to justify. Eltham has a petrol station on the corner of Mt Pleasant Road, another in Bridge Street and two on the main road heading north. There can’t be too many cars on the road that couldn’t make it from any of these to another without refuelling.

The community is already well served in the area of fast food services, and if another hamburger outlet is really needed it could probably be accommodated within the existing shopping centre. With the arrival of cable TV, it would appear that video rental is not likely to be a spectacular growth industry and the community is already well served.

So what does Eltham need?

The Shire Council is launching a strategy to attract more tourism into the region with hopes of generating $27 million annually. Currently the tourism dollar is earned from such sources as St Andrews Market, Montsalvat, Sugarloaf Reservoir, the Diamond Valley Railway and a growing wine industry.

With careful marketing more income may be obtainable from these areas, but shouldn’t we also be looking closely at our other already recognised regional assets. Now could be the time to utilise the depth of creative talent and expertise which resides in the shire.

Nillumbik has many performing artists who, due to lack of facilities, always work outside the area, and visual artists in all fields who exhibit elsewhere because there are not enough suitable venues at home. With the best will in the world those working in the Shire’s arts areas cannot stretch the present facilities to meet the demand.

Political will to explore other possibilities was lacking when the decision was made to hand part of Montsalvat’s grounds over to the cemetery. This action severely diminished Montsalvat’s viability as a venue and led inevitably to the loss of the Jazz Festival and the prestige and income that it brought to Nillumbik.

A bold decision now could redress some of this loss and add to Nillumbik’s potential in the cultural tourism area without putting too much pressure on the environmental and ecological treasures which at present constitute so much of our major tourism assets.

 

References:
  • Eltham District Historical Society Newsletter No. 161, March 2005
  • “my word”, Peter Dougherty, ArtStreams, Dec 1996-Jan 1997, p2

ThrowbackThursday: Demolition of Eltham Shire Offices, August 1996

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to August 2nd, 1996 and 895 Main Road, Eltham, to the former Municipal Offices of the Shire of Eltham.

Eltham – Shire Office, at time of Main Road widening (formerly site of Shillinglaw Cottage), 1968. (Source: Shire of Eltham; from the Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection No. 657 held jointly by Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library.)

The Shire offices were opened in 1965 and extended in 1971 to establish the Eltham Library. The final meeting of the Eltham Shire Council was held in December 1994 before the forced amalgamations of municipal councils by the Kennett Government resulted in the cessation of the Shire’s existence after 125 years.  In July 1996 the State Government appointed Commissioners (1994-1996) made the decision to demolish the former Eltham Shire offices without any community consultation.

Eltham Shire Offices southern wing showing the Eltham Library, 1985-1986 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Eltham Shire Offices, 1985-1986 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Shillinglaw trees from the safety compound: Demolition of the Shire of Eltham Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Shillinglaw trees from the safety compound: Demolition of the Shire of Eltham Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

The demolition works started within 24 hours of that decision being made. It is claimed the building contains asbestos. However none of the workers or numerous other onlookers are wearing any protective gear as the heavy machinery batters our once proud building into submission. The rubble is simply dumped into open bins and dump trucks.

Dump trucks shuttle in to collect rubble; Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Dump trucks shuttle in to collect rubble; Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

Ultimately our land is sold to a developer, which precipitates a dramatic trail of community angst, threats of legal action, rescinding of the sale and the sacking of a newly elected council and several unsuccessful development proposals, by subsequent councils.

Back to the future and after all these years the vacant site is still there, still under threat (along with the Eltham War Memorial complex of buildings), still part of the soul of our community, still guarded by the three trees once outside the front of the Shillinglaw Cottage, providing a navigational beacon from past to present and onward we entrust, integral to the soul and heartbeat of Eltham; a treasured part our children’s future when they in turn look back to where their roots sprung from.

Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, 2 August 1996 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, 2 August 1996 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, 2 August 1996 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, 2 August 1996 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Fred Mitchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Fred Mitchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

 

 

 

 

A part of our history

By Jim Connor
(Reproduced from EDHS Newsletter No. 242 October 2018)

In a world divided over so many issues it can be challenging at times to meet on common ground. Such is the situation we as a community are facing locally with the future of the World War Two War Memorial Complex of three buildings at 903-907 Main Road, Eltham. This complex is a very definite part of our history and once gone can never be replaced. A primary reason for the significance of the complex is for its construction as a memorial with a civic purpose and with a particular focus on the welfare of infants. It was intended to ‘be a constant reminder of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died’. The construction of such a war memorial complex is rare in Victoria.

While these older buildings may not conform with current architectural merits or styles these were designed and constructed to reflect the desires, passions and interests of the era when built, and to symbolise achievements, failures or losses of that time.

895 and 903-907 Main Road, Eltham as advertised for sale, September 2018
(Photo: Frank Knight Real Estate)

These are part of a total package offered for sale in September 2018 on behalf of the Nillumbik Shire Council. It includes the extensive site area between the Eltham Library and the former Eltham Fire Station, and extending west from Main Road to the railway line. This land contains World War One and the World War Two memorials, the Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, the former Eltham Shire Office site and the locally significant Shillinglaw trees.

Both memorials commemorate the sacrifice and commitment of those who left Australia to fight for what they believed in and to protect those loved ones left behind. Despite requests and clear statements by our Society there is no confirmation from Council, at this stage, that these memorials and the Shillinglaw trees will be protected in any future development proposals. Neither memorial should be sacrificed in order to raise funds for other purposes.

Advertised Sale of Former Shire Office Site and War Memorial Precinct

895 and 903-907 Main Road Eltham

The Eltham District Historical Society notes the recent advertising by Nillumbik Shire Council for the sale of properties at 895 and 903-907 Main Road Eltham.

Our Society has previously stated our position on these properties on our website and Facebook page and directly to all Nillumbik Shire Councillors.

We repeat this statement:

Our Society is of the firm opinion that the original Eltham War Memorial complex of buildings including the entrance gates should not be sold, nor demolished. The site should remain in community ownership and be retained as a form of living memorial with a specific focus directed towards the welfare of the children of the district to ‘be a constant reminder of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died’.

Further, Eltham District Historical Society also holds the position that the three Mediterranean Cypress trees (Shillinglaw trees), which are well over 100 years old, still standing proudly in front of the adjoining former Shire of Eltham Office site, are of local heritage significance. These trees represent a navigational beacon between the past, present and future landscape and history of the district and are covered by a heritage overlay. The Society is determined that they should be protected; they should not be disturbed by relocation and that the land they reside upon should also remain in community hands, not private ownership.

The Eltham District Historical Society is disappointed there has not been full disclosure to prospective investors and developers of the historical value of the Eltham War Memorial complex and the Shillinglaw trees in this advertising information.

There are few historically related properties remaining in public ownership within our Shire. The property at 903-907 Main Road contains both First and Second World War memorials in commemoration of the members of our community who paid the ultimate sacrifice to benefit our future legacy. These memorials should be protected as sacred sites in perpetuity, held in community ownership and honouring the purpose for which they were intended and for which the land was donated by the community. They should not be sacrificed for short term gain nor placed in private ownership.

EDHS Position Statement download

ThrowbackThursday: Icons of Eltham, Main Road, Eltham, c.1967

A view of part of the original Shillinglaw farm acreage, c.1967. Shows the trestle bridge to the left, Eltham Tip in centre and the Eltham Shire Office prior to extensions and Shillinglaw Cottage (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to circa 1966-1967 and Main Road, Eltham, just north of Bridge Street where we cast our eyes northwest across the fields that in a few years time will be developed into the Eltham Town Park and later Alistair Knox Park. In the distance, to the right, we see the recently relocated Shillinglaw Cottage and further on, the new Eltham Shire Offices, which were opened in 1965. In front of Shillinglaw Cottage is what will be developed into Eltham Common, later the site for the new Eltham Library in 1994 but presently still dominated by the Eltham Tip. To the left and behind the tip we see the iconic Eltham Railway Trestle Bridge and beyond that, Eltham Central Park and what appears to be part of the Football Club pavillion or is it part of the former Eltham Swimming Pool?

Everything we see is on what was once part of the original Shillinglaw farm which covered some 30 acres bordered by Main Road, Bridge Street, the Diamond Creek and Diamond Street.

June Meeting – History of the former Shire of Eltham Office site

Eltham District Historical Society Meeting

Wednesday, 13th June 2018 at 8pm

Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham

Eltham – Shire Office, at time of Main Road widening (formerly site of Shillinglaw Cottage), 1968. (Source: Shire of Eltham; from the Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection No. 657 held jointly by Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library.)

Prior to Shillinglaw Cottage (c.1878-80) being relocated to where it is now operated as a popular cafe near the Eltham Library, it was within Josiah Holloway’s 1850s subdivision known as Little Eltham, which later became the centre of the first Eltham township. Originally a farmer’s cottage it is historically significant because it is one of the Shire’s oldest dwellings and a fine example of the work of the well-known pioneer builder George Stebbing.

In 1964 the then Shire of Eltham purchased the Shillinglaw property with the intention of demolishing the cottage and constructing new Shire offices on the site. However extensive community action resulted in funds being raised to have the building saved and relocated further south to the Eltham Common, where it was joined by the Eltham Library in 1994.

The new Shire offices opened in 1965, but following municipal restructure in 1994 these were demolished in 1996 and the land sold to a developer, which precipitated a dramatic trail of community angst, threats of legal action, the sacking of a newly elected council and several unsuccessful development proposals, by subsequent councils.

After all these years the vacant site there is still guarded by the three trees that were outside the front of the Shillinglaw Cottage.

At our Society meeting on Wednesday, 13th June, 2018, Jim Connor will speak about the dramatic tale encompassing the history of the former Eltham Shire office site and the adjoining War Memorial Buildings complex, which are now being considered for sale or redevelopment by the current Nillumbik Shire Council.

As always, Society members and visitors are most welcome to attend this meeting at 8.00pm on Wednesday 13th June, in the Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham.