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Monday, January 24, 2011

Springwood Civic Centre

Address: 106-108 Macquarie Road, Springwood New South Wales 2777

Volume: 4893 Folio 164
Deposited Plan: 335970
Lot A
Architect: E.N. Skarratt Glenbrook
Builder: Alex Gall (Constructions) Pty. Ltd.
Stonemason: M. Kinley Faulconbridge
The Civic Centre is located on part of Lot 2A which was created during the late 1800s when the village of Springwood was undergoing rapid development subsequent to the building of the railway line.  The original owner of the portion was Frank Raymond who, in the 1870s, erected the Springwood Hotel on the portion where the current Oriental Hotel now stands.  The first post office operated from that location.
In the 1880s, James Hunter Lawson, a city businessman, purchased all of Lot 2A where he demolished the old Springwood Hotel and subsequently erected the Oriental Hotel and his family/country residence, Braemar House.  Lawson erected Glen Lawson, which lies adjacent to Braemar House, soon after.  William Lawson inherited the Springwood property following the death of his father.
Thus, it was from the latter that council purchased the portion (now known as lot A) in the 1930s.  Public agitation for a public/community hall had existed in the area since the arrival of the first inhabitants, but after the Second World War it seemed that the facility might become a reality when land was purchased and a War Memorial Hall Committee was formed.  In 1949 the committee had £900 from fund raising activities and members were transporting sandstone from land at North Springwood owned by a Mr. Reid.  The Springwood area is known for the excellent quality of its sandstone and in fact the gates of Bathurst Prison were erected from sandstone quarried from this area.  Plans for the proposed Memorial Hall still exist in council local studies collection.[1]
 In 1949, perhaps reflecting its future use, council approval was given to the local Springwood sub-branch of the Returned Services League to use the site.  A hut was subsequently erected in the vicinity of Spellacy’s temporary bus depot.[2]
Several groups like the RSS & AILA, Children’s Library & Nursery group, the Progress Association, GUOOP (Grand United Order of Old Pensioners?), North Springwood Development League, and the RSL ladies auxiliary, supported and actively assisted the War Memorial Committee in its endeavors.  And, it would seem that Blue Mountains City Council purchased and set aside the allocated land for the express purpose of erecting a public hall because nothing permanent was built on the site until the Civic Centre was erected there in the 1960s.  Local newspapers, council minutes and other information confirmed that a shortage of building materials, after the war, delayed progress on the hall for several years until Glenbrook architect, Eric N. Skarratt, prepared plans for a social hall in 1959.[3]
Consequently, the community of Springwood has had an enduring interest in this site spanning more than sixty years.   On 26th March 1966 Sir Roden Cutler, the then Governor of New South Wales opened Springwood Civic Centre which was built to Skarratts specifications.  A commemoration booklet – printed for the occasion – suggested that Skarratt, mindful of the topography – utilized the steep levels of the site so that there was no waste of space in the building.  The architecture is typical of that era.  The framework is steel with brick facing and the foyer and staircase - leading to the second floor -are constructed of concrete.  It is of interest to note that Alex Gall - the builder - was Alexander McLaren Gall who was President of the Master Builders Association of NSW in the period 1965-66.
Sensibly, the front one-storey section – currently used by the Neighborhood Centre - was given a concrete roof so that a second storey could be added for future use, and M. Kinley, a stonemason from Faulconbridge - single handedly – laid  locally hewn sandstone to the outer walls.   The commemorative booklet stated that it was the best example of stonework in the Blue Mountains.  The building could be termed vernacular given its local architect, use of local stone and use of Kinley, a local stonemason. 
 Loan funds, the general fund, Springwood local town improvement fund and a reserve fund as well as community fund raising made the public infrastructure a reality.  Work commenced in February 1965, and in March 1966 Sir Roden – to mark the official opening – planted a lemon scented gum at the entrance to the civic precinct where a large sandstone rock was placed and still stands.
 The centre was designed to serve as a multi function centre and has fulfilled a major role for the community of this area by providing a venue for engagement and coming of age parties, wedding receptions, musicals and other live performances and theatre presentations.  The hall has hosted council meetings, community educational and information programs, government elections, the monthly community run Ivy Market and various fundraising events for disasters like the Tsunami.  It has functioned as a major public site for over four decades.  The kitchen and supper room are used for seniors meals.
The one storey section immediately in the front of the hall housing the Neighborhood Centre (NC) originally was home to Blue Mountains City Council Administrative offices until they moved to their present location.  The NC performs many functions important to the health and well being of the local community.  Meeting rooms within that part of the civic precinct are used by organizations like the University of the Third Age. The NC comprises of a main room or lounge, co-coordinators office, staff offices and kitchen, large meeting room, small meeting room and toilet facilities. Both buildings have wheelchair access.
The main hall comprises of a stage, dressing rooms, upstairs meeting rooms, lower hall, supper room and commercial kitchen.   The main hall is licensed to hold 600 people while 50 people can be accommodated in the upper meeting room and 130 in the lower hall.
Even though Springwood did not get its Memorial Hall the Springwood district World War 1 Honor Roll is displayed in the vestibule of the Civic Centre.
The Civic Centre while not old in terms of other historic items is truly representative of community aspirations and progress and sitting between two older historic buildings, is representative of the changing nature and styles of Australian architecture.  We believe that the community will have no sense of its history or of how this fits within the scope of village progress and development if the Civic Centre disappears and Braemar House and the Oriental Hotel are compromised.
A Short History
Pamela Smith B.A. (Hons.) Hist. Adv.Dip. LFAH,

Springwood Civic Centre c1960s

[1] BMCC local studies collection map draws & various files.
[2] A Retrospective View of the RSL 1933-1983 in the ownership of Mr. Lindsay Paish.
[3] The Canberra Times, 6.7.1948, and other newspapers, acknowledge the shortage of building materials.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good information and good to see references.