Tag Archives: Eltham Shire Office

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.

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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.

Past, Present, Future: Where is the balance?

by Jim Connor

Eltham Trestle Bridge, 1981. The Shire of Eltham Office is in background; constructed 1964, opened 1965. (Photo: G.L. Coop, Eltham. From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

An ongoing challenge as members of a historical society is how do we balance the pressures of possible future development against our desires to protect and honour our valued past, our local history.

As a historical society representing the interests of our community we strive to remain steadfastly non political, yet at times get caught between individual political positions.

Three current local ‘hot’ topics of historical significance are the Eltham Trestle Bridge, the Eltham Avenue of Honour/Eltham Gateway and the former Eltham Shire offices site and adjacent
War Memorial buildings complex.

The Eltham District Historical Society has clearly stated that the valued trestle bridge is of local historical significance, should remain as is and should not be compromised, if and when the railway line is duplicated between Greensborough and Eltham. The sitting State member has indicated it can remain as is and there will be improved scheduling, with no advantage to be gained with duplicating the bridge. Despite claiming ‘the trestle bridge remains’ the political opponent has stated in a meeting with EDHS that, if elected, a new bridge will be constructed beside it and that his position is ‘not negotiable’.

Similarly, possible duplication of Main Road through the Eltham Gateway and World War 1 Avenue of Honour is being considered, which we believe would totally destroy the historical and cultural significance of this meandering, tree enhanced entrance to Eltham.

What are the options, what is the cost vs benefit? Should we need to compromise our heritage even further to possibly save a couple of minutes in travel?

The third topic is that Nillumbik Shire Council is currently considering redevelopment of the former Eltham Shire offices site in Main Road, Eltham, which includes the Shillinglaw trees, together with the adjacent War Memorial buildings complex.

What do we value of our past to preserve in the present for the ‘future’, do we restrict our creative options by honouring our heritage, where is the balance?

These are decisions we will all need to consider……sooner rather than later.

 

[Reproduced from Eltham District Historical Society Newsletter No. 240, June 2018]

ThrowbackThursday: Roadworks, Bridge Street and Main Road, Eltham, 1968

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to 1968 and the intersection of Bridge Street and Main Road. Roadworks are well under way for the widening of Main Road from Pitt Street to Elsa Court. Extensive works were being undertaken to revise the intersection of Bridge Street. As a consequence, traffic delays were an everyday occurrence.

Excavating at the corner of Main Road and Bridge Street, Eltham, 1968; Roadworks for duplication of Main Road
(Photo: ©Fred Mithchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society “Fred Mitchell Collection”, donated by Fred Mitchell)
Reconstruction of the corner of Bridge Street and Main Road, Eltham, 1968; Roadworks for duplication of Main Road
(Photo: ©Fred Mithchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society “Fred Mitchell Collection”, donated by Fred Mitchell)
Excavating at the corner of Main Road and Bridge Street, Eltham, 1968; Roadworks for duplication of Main Road
(Photo: ©Fred Mithchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society “Fred Mitchell Collection”, donated by Fred Mitchell)
Reconstruction of the corner of Bridge Street and Main Road, Eltham, 1968; Roadworks for duplication of Main Road
(Photo: ©Fred Mithchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society “Fred Mitchell Collection”, donated by Fred Mitchell)
Traffic delays at the corner of Bridge Street and Main Road, Eltham whilst surveyors check the alignment, 1968; Roadworks for duplication of Main Road
(Photo: ©Fred Mithchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society “Fred Mitchell Collection”, donated by Fred Mitchell)
New embankment on southeast corner of Bridge Street and Main Road, 1968; Roadworks for duplication of Main Road
(Photo: ©Fred Mithchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society “Fred Mitchell Collection”, donated by Fred Mitchell)
New embankment on southeast corner of Bridge Street and Main Road, 1968; Roadworks for duplication of Main Road
(Photo: ©Fred Mithchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society “Fred Mitchell Collection”, donated by Fred Mitchell)
Main Road duplication at intersection with Bridge Street, Eltham, 1968. Shows the Eltham Shire Office, the construction of Panther Place and the new section of Main Road which was to become the northbound lanes.
(Photo: ©Fred Mithchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society “Fred Mitchell Collection”, donated by Fred Mitchell)

 

ThrowbackThursday: Visit by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, Eltham, 1954

#ThrowbackThursday – “Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?I’ve been up to London to look at the queen!” Well, we are going to save you the trouble of going to London to look at the Queen because today we time travel back to 24 February 1954 and Main Road, Eltham when the Queen is visiting Eltham to look at us. A public holiday was declared to enable people to welcome Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Looking north along Main Road just south of Arthur Street; Staff’s store on left, Shire Offices on right. Preparations for the Royal Visit by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, Eltham, 24 Feb 1954.
(Photo: Peter Bassett-Smith, donated by: Diana Bassett-Smith; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

Were you present in the crowd? Or were your parents? Do you have any photos? We would love to hear about your personal stories and any photos you may have of the event you would like to share.

Looking north along Main Road near intersection of Arthur Street. Preparations for the Royal Visit by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, Eltham, 24 Feb 1954.
(Photo: Peter Bassett-Smith, donated by: Diana Bassett-Smith; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
Official welcoming party. Mr Frank Davis MHR (on far right). Preparations for the Royal Visit by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, Eltham, 24 Feb 1954.
(Photo: Peter Bassett-Smith, donated by: Diana Bassett-Smith; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
Official welcoming party. Mr Frank Davis MHR (on far right). Preparations for the Royal Visit by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, Eltham, 24 Feb 1954.
(Photo: Peter Bassett-Smith, donated by: Diana Bassett-Smith; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
Eltham Shire Offices, corner of Arthur Street and Main Road. Preparations for the Royal Visit by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, Eltham, 24 Feb 1954.
(Photo: Peter Bassett-Smith, donated by: Diana Bassett-Smith; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
Looking south along Main Road just south of Arthur Street; Staff’s store on right. Preparations for the Royal Visit by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, Eltham, 24 Feb 1954.
(Photo: Peter Bassett-Smith, donated by: Diana Bassett-Smith; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
Army Band assembled in Arthur Street. Preparations for the Royal Visit by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, Eltham, 24 Feb 1954.
L-R: Mrs Arthur Bird (Dave Lyon’s sister); Bert Bredle , RSL President; Cr Griffiths; Cr Harmer; Cr Squire; Mrs Squire; Mrs Addison; Cr Stanley S. Addison
Dave Lyon’s house on north east corner of Arthur Street and Main Road now ANZ Bank site.
(Photo: Peter Bassett-Smith, donated by: Diana Bassett-Smith; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
Councillors and others outside Eltham Shire Office and Hall (demolished 3 Nov 1970), corner of Arthur Street and Main Road. Preparations for the Royal Visit by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, Eltham, 24 Feb 1954.
L to R: Mrs Frank Davis; Alf Davis; Mrs Alf Davis (head turned away); Mrs F.E. Griffith; Mrs E.P. Harmer; Mrs Ham; Mrs S.S. Addison; Mr C.G. Seear; Cr F.V. Squire; Cr E.P. Harmer; Cr S.S. Addison (Shire President, in uniform, former Bursar of the University of Melbourne and resident of Kangaroo Ground); R.J. (Dick) Ham, Shire Secretary; Cr Frederick E. Griffith (looking at camera, Australian flag at his left, died May 1979 in Queensland, formerly of ‘Banoon’, Eltham, former Shire President, buried in Eltham Cemetery
(Photo: Peter Bassett-Smith, donated by: Diana Bassett-Smith; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)