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Bendigo Town Hall conservation project set to commence

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The City of Greater Bendigo is set to commence a program of conservation repair works on the historic Bendigo Town Hall in December.

 The restoration works will include significant roof, window and door repairs, painting, repairs to the external façade including the removal of existing paint and the application of a new coating system to protect the exterior of the building. 

City of Greater Bendigo Property Manager Andy Walker said due to its age, the restoration works are important to ensure the building is well maintained. 

“Our public heritage buildings are one of Greater Bendigo’s best assets and it’s important to undertake regular conservation works to protect and maintain them,” Mr Walker said.

“The Bendigo Town Hall is one of Greater Bendigo’s most iconic heritage buildings and since the mid 1990’s the City has invested considerable funds to not only revitalise the building inside and out but also to maintain it so that it can continue to be enjoyed and used by the people of Greater Bendigo well into the future.

“This latest round of conservation works will be undertaken in several stages over the next few years commencing with the roof repair work.  This work will see the removal and replacement of the boxed guttering, repairs to the roof framework and roof slates.

“These works form part of the overall façade restoration project which will be undertaken over a period of time.

“While scaffolding will be erected in sections around the building during the project the City will work to minimise disruption for hirers of the hall.”

The City of Greater Bendigo is funding the roof repairs which are expected to be in the order of $450,000 and are expected to be completed by February 2019.

About the Bendigo Town Hall

The Bendigo Town Hall is a building of national significance. It is listed on both the Register of the National Estate and the Victorian Heritage Register.

The original building was designed in 1859 by town clerk George Avery Fletcher.  This was followed by a further addition of a Council chamber in 1866 and a hall for the trading of grain known as the “Corn Exchange was added in 1871-72.  Although the architecture of the addition adhered to that of the original building, the completed building was not liked by the citizens or the Council of the day.

In a series of major works between 1878 and 1902 the hall was transformed by renowned architect William C Vahland who was given the task of converting it into something befitting the city of gold.

Vahland commissioned Otto Waschatz who was fresh from decorating the royal palace at Copenhagan to design the town hall interior.

This work included extensive offices, enlargement of the main hall and council chambers, introduction of a superb interior decorative scheme, a clock tower and mansard roof and the exterior facades were re-modelled in the classical style.

The end result was Vahland's most remarkable work and the finest boom style building of its type in Victoria. When the work was completed in 1885 the modest building the people of Bendigo had known had been totally transformed.

Unfortunately, over the years the Town Hall fell into a state of disrepair and following the local government amalgamations of 1994 the City of Greater Bendigo made a commitment to restore the building to its former glory to ensure it could continue to be used well into the future.

The restoration work commenced in the 1996/97 financial year with extensive repairs to the building’s roof.  The building was also treated to control a white ant infestation and floodlighting was installed to enhance the exterior of the building.  Significant works to rectify major rising damp in the basement to stop it spreading to the upper walls of the hall was also undertaken.

The stage 2 works were undertaken from July 2000 to December 2000 and included the removal of a stage and proscenium arch and the reinstatement of the balcony and foyer and the original Hargreaves street entrance.  The Hargreaves Street forecourt and the footway area at the civic gardens side of the hall was also installed.

Stage 3 of the project was the actual restoration of the main hall interior. This included the painting of the hall, foyer and balcony in original colours, the restoration of the murals, replication of the stencil and art work and the application of gold leaf to the decorative features.

Stages 4 and 5 works included the installation of new toilets facilities and a passenger lift, repairs to the windows, render, stairs, painting and provision of access for the disabled.  The old Council Chambers were also restored as part of this work.

The overall restoration was an important project which resulted in one of our most treasured heritage buildings transformed into a functional public building with the ability to cater for a range of events and occasions both now and well into the future.

The City has also undertaken several smaller repair and maintenance projects to repair blocked and rusted down pipes, programmed paint work, restoration of the flag pole and portico roof and portico plaster ceiling works on the building since that time.

 Bendigo Town Hall - a unique place in our history

  • Bendigo Town Hall was the meeting place in the lead up to Federation when Sir Henry Parkes presided over the inauguration of the local branch of the federation league at a packed meeting at the town hall.
  • It was the venue for a grand rally prior to the Federation referendum.
  • In 1901 it was used by the people of Bendigo to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the discovery of gold with a gold jubilee exhibition.  This was a very ambitious exhibition with Australia’s first Prime Minister – Edmond Barton along with the first Governor General - the Earl of Hopetoun in attendance.
  • In 2001 it was the venue for an historic sitting of the Victorian State Parliament.  This was the first time the Victorian Parliament had sat outside of Melbourne.

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