Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall

Item details

Name of item: Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall
Other name/s: Magna Theatre (1950s)
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Community Facilities
Category: Hall Public
Location: Lat: -33.7045062608 Long: 149.8572331410
Primary address: 124 Oberon Street, Oberon, NSW 2787
Parish: Oberon
County: Westmoreland
Local govt. area: Oberon
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Pejar
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT621DP17887
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
124 Oberon StreetOberonOberonOberonWestmorelandPrimary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Betta WoolPrivate19 Oct 05

Statement of significance:

The Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall is of state significance as an outstanding example of Interwar Art Deco architecture in regional New South Wales. Designed by the Sydney office of Agabiti & Millane and completed in 1937, the facade features curved walls and rooflines, geometric windows, glass bricks, an asymmetrical, stepped skyline and other 1930s "picture palace" details. Built on land donated to the Catholic Church by a pioneering settler family, with funds raised by the congregation, it served as a community centre for the entire Oberon community between 1937 and 1977. The elaborate facade contrasts with the large "plain country hall" behind, which has low architectural significance but high social significance as an historic venue for numerous local balls, dances, civic receptions and amateur theatricals for 40 years. Situated in a prominent location in the main street of Oberon, the Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall is a well-known local landmark and makes an important contribution to the streetscape.
Date significance updated: 12 Feb 09
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Designer/Maker: Agabiti & Millane: Bolton Millane or Virgil Cizzio
Builder/Maker: Taylor, H A
Construction years: 1936-1937
Physical description: The Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall occupies a prominent position in the main street of Oberon. Its asymmetrical façade is a striking Interwar Art Deco addition to the streetscape of Oberon Street and the town generally.

The façade is rendered concrete with a complex massing of curving and rectangular shapes presenting a stepped skyline to the street. The emphasis is generally horizontal except for a central portion with a vertical pier rising to a height of nearly 14 metres. The metal-framed windows create a grid-like pattern and are stepped in size and proportion to match the stepped façade. Glass bricks form a large curved wall. The building's name is rendered in stylized lettering on the façade.

The interior of the façade section of the building is largely intact and contains a foyer with fireplace, gallery, cloak rooms, bio-box and rewinding rooms at the front. In the main hall the walls are decorated with plasterwork, with some original Morene Art stucco work. The flooring of the foyer and main hall is West Australian jarrah hardwood. Under the main hall is another floor with slab concrete flooring supporting "supper rooms" and opening at ground level onto the large parking area at the rear of the property. The foyer is approximately 65 square metres (700 sq ft) and the hall has 279 square metres (3000 sq ft) of dancing space. Curiously, the hall was built in reverse of the architect’s plans.

Some major, although not structural changes were made during the 1980s, disconnecting the façade from the main hall section of the building. A stud wall now blocks the view that was formerly available from an upstairs viewing area onto the main hall (this vewing area has been converted in part to an office and in part left as open space). Similarly a stud wall blocks the view that was formerly available from the mezzanine level projection room into the main hall. At the time of renovation two new bathrooms were built in the façade section. A section of the stage in the main hall section was also cut out to make room for an elevator to convey goods from the rear parking area.

Thorne, Tod and Cork point out that one of the building's eccentricities is that "the auditorium does not match the façade in any way. The former is a rather plain country hall with a stage, proscenium, stalls and small gallery" (1996, 302). According to Scott Robinson of the NSW Art Deco Society, "The Malchi Gilmore Hall is a most unusal combination of a diminiative (sic) Modern 'picture palace' front (with its vertical fin and roof) and Modern Movement rectiliniarity of the stepped massing of the building behind the front" (quoted in the Heritage Inventory nomination form submitted by the Friends of the Malachi Gilmore Hall, 2001). Ross Thorne’s 1983 "Theatres/Cinemas in NSW" states that the exterior of the hall is "unique in a kind of west-coast USA 1930s design style with a vague Frank Lloyd Wright influence produced by the feeling of horizontality (in parts). It also has a very strong vertical element at the front, and glass bricks in the manner of Depression Modern". Thorne, Tod and Cork's "Movie Theatre Heritage Register" states, "there is nothing quite like it elsewhere in New South Wales. Even by today's standards, the building is unusual and futuristic" (1996, 302).

The architectural significance of the hall has been widely recognised and is reflected in the large number of heritage listings: Oberon Shire Council LEP, RAIA Register of Twentieth Century Buildings, the Register of the National Trust of Australia (NSW), the Register of the Art Deco Society, and Ross Thorne’s Movie Theatre Heritage Register.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Following restoration of the façade in 1987, the exterior is in good condition. During this restoration the original glass bricks were replaced with new glass bricks.
Internally, the building has been slightly modified for use as a wool store, but remains intact and in good condition.
The site is unlikely to display archaeological potential relating to former uses or occupation as it was the first building on the site and occupies most of the site.
Date condition updated:16 Jun 03
Modifications and dates: The building was completed in 1937.
The façade was restored in 1987.

At some stage the original supper room and kitchen were converted into a stage and lower section.

In 1985, following its purchase for use as a wool store, internal walls were constructed that divided the foyer from the main hall and also divided the balcony section from the main hall. A large hole was made in the stage to allow wool bales to be lowered into the section below, and two internal toilets were installed.
Further information: Lot 6 DP 17887
Current use: Wool store (auditorium); craft store (foyer)
Former use: Dance hall and cinema

History

Historical notes: Although it was commonly said that Aboriginal people were not around the Oberon district much before Europeans settled there, and only in the summer, a strong Aboriginal presence in the region is evidenced by the numerous relics that have been and continue to be found in the district. Moreover the recorded observations of early explorers suggest that district was inhabited for much, if not all the year. The Gundungurra Land Council refers to the area in the catchment of the Fish and Campbell Rivers as Burra Burra. Both Gundungurra and Wiradjuri peoples were living in the area when Europeans began to move in during the 1830s. A local history describes a tense history of contact eventually leading to confrontations and warfare in the northern part of the shire at least. There are also stories of a variety of intercultural relationships. There are few residents now who claim Aboriginal descent (Gemmell-Smith, 2003, 6-19).

When George Evans crossed the Blue Mountains in 1813, he was impressed with the pastoral potential of the Central Tablelands: "I am more pleased with the country every day. It is a great extent of Grazing land. . . And well watered by running streams in almost every Valley" (HO & DUAP, 1996, 90). Early settlers from the plains began to bring their stock to the lush green high country during times of drought, and by the 1820s the Oberon area was attracting permanent settlers with grants of land being taken up around the Fish and Campbell Rivers. There was another boost in population when gold was discovered and a subsequent history of mining also for silver, copper and gemstones in the area. Oberon was known as Bullock Flat by early pioneers but when the Village was declared in 1863 it was renamed Oberon (after Shakespeare's King of the Fairies). Native hardwood timbers were harvested from the 1930s and replantings with pine have enabled the locality's timber industry to prosper. The establishment of a rail link for the transport of timber also aided the industrial development of the region. Meanwhile, the eastern side of the shire encompasses national park land including Jenolan Caves and Kanangra-Boyd, which are included in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

The Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall was built in 1936-1937 by the local Oberon Catholic Church on land donated by the Gilmore family, a prominent local pioneer family.

Malachi Gilmore (c1844-1921) immigrated from Ireland c1872 when he was 38 years old. His brother, Michael Gilmore, had a property near Oberon and Malachi was a frequent visitor who helped run the property after his brother's death, although it appears he never actually lived in Oberon. He did buy a large block of land in the centre of town. He died in Redfern in 1921 aged 77. In 1936 his descendants subdivided his land and gave a large town allotment to the Catholic Church for the purpose of building a community hall (DP 17887, registered 1 October 1936).

Construction of the hall was organised by Rev Dr Gummer and funded by money raised by the local community. The architect was Bolton Millane or Virgil Cizzio of Agabiti & Millane, a Sydney architectural firm known for their work for the Catholic Church. The builder was H A Taylor, also of Sydney. Curiously, the hall was built in reverse to the architect's plans. Construction began in August 1936 and was completed in 1937. Local red bricks from the Bathurst Brick Company were used to build the hall. The building was designed as both a community hall and cinema with a capacity to seat 500 people. It was officially opened on 22 February 1937.

The first lessee was probably Les Anstiss, who showed movies on Wednesday and Saturday nights. The business was later taken over by Herb David, a local film collector who also took a travelling movie show to Rockley. Movies continued to be shown until the 1970s. From 1937 to 1977, the hall was also the venue for numerous local balls, dances, civic receptions and amateur theatricals, thus playing a central role in the social and cultural life of the town. Local historian Philippa Gemmell-Smith, who was commissioned in 2002 by Oberon Council to write a thematic history of the area, states,

"I am impressed by the enormous significance the building had in the social life of Oberon. The local people were extremely isolated by poor roads and poverty until the 1950s and the social life of the town revolved around this building" (Gemmell-Smith, 2003).

In 1964 the Catholic Church offered the hall to the Oberon Shire Council, which declined the offer. The next year, long-term lessee Herb David bought the hall and renamed it the Magna Theatre. Following the death of Herb David, Oberon Shire Council again declined to buy the hall.

In 1985 the Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall was purchased by Betta Wool which uses the hall as a storage site for wool and leases the front, foyer section to an arts and crafts shop. In 1987 the faade was restored, attracting a "Heritage and Conservation Award" on 7 April 1987, "Presented to Betta Wool Handlers by R.J. Clough, local member for Bathurst" (according to the framed certificate hanging in the office).

A Flickerfest Short Film Festival was held on the premises in 2001. The Oberon Council's Community Based Heritage Study named the Malachi Gilmore Hall as one of the two best-known buildings in the district (Oberon Council, 2003, 8).

Text of article about the Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall, published in the Sydney Morning Herald 30/3/1937, p8:
"OBERON HALL
Interesting features
The Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall recently completed at Oberon has for its architectural basis the famous Pharos pylon of Alexandria. This historical pylon had a height of 460 feet. It was built by Sostratus of Cynidus. The architects of the Oberon Hall conceived the idea of making it a minor replica of the Pharos pylon. This design was accepted by the parish priest (Dr. A.J. Gummers[?]) and the representatives of the late Malachi Gilmore, who was a native of Ireland.
This was a startlingly bold design, but now that the hall has been completed it is a really beautiful building without being in the least incongruous. It is one of the architectural landmarks not merely of the town, but also of the whole district between the Blue Mountains and Lithgow. Tourists admire the bold outlines of the new building. Many, ignorant of the antiquity of the design (the Pharos tower was supposed to have been erected 283BC, and was favourably commented on by Pliny and Strabo, ancient historians), regard it as ultra modern in conception. An old hall adjoining emphasises the bold outlines of the new building.
A striking feature of the front of the new building is the use of glass bricks supplied by the Australian Glass Company, Sydney. The remainder of the building is stoutly built in brick and concrete. The hall measures 110 feet by 40 feet. It is used mainly for Roman Catholic social functions. . . Mr H.A Taylor, Sydney, was the builder of the hall."

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Operating an entertainment venue-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Landscapes of urban amenity-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Pastoralism-Activities associated with the breeding, raising, processing and distribution of livestock for human use Wool storing-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Creating landmark structures and places in urban settings-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Architectural style - cinema-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Designing in an exemplary architectural style-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Architectural styles and periods - Interwar Art Deco-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going dancing-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going to the pictures/movies-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Practising Catholicism-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Providing halls and other community facilities-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Millane and Agabiti, architects-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall is of state significance as an outstanding example of Interwar Art Deco architecture in regional New South Wales. Built on land donated to the Catholic Church by Malachi Gilmmore's pioneering settler family, with funds raised by the congregation, it served as a community centre for the entire Oberon community between 1937 and 1977. As a venue for numerous local balls, dances, civic receptions and amateur theatricals for 40 years, it played a central role in the social and cultural life of Oberon.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall is of high local significance for its associations with the following people of note:

GILMORE FAMILY: prominent early settlers in Oberon and benefactors of the Catholic Church.

MILLANE AND AGABITI: Bolton Millane was the architect for the Malachi Gilmore Memorial Church. Millane and Agabiti were a Sydney design and architectural firm that specialised in church work, especially for the Catholic Church. Millane was a registered architect from 1924-1969 and Hamlet Agabiti, a designer of ecclesiastical interiors (altars, baldachinos etc). Little is known of the firm or the individual partners. Another known example of their work is the chapel at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Convent, Kensington, (1937).

HERB DAVID: local cinema operator and long-term lessee and later owner of the Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall is of state significance as an outstanding example of Interwar Art Deco architecture in regional New South Wales. Designed by Bolton Millane and completed in 1937, the hall features curved walls and rooflines, geometric windows, glass bricks, an asymmetrical, stepped façade and other 1930s "picture palace" details. The architectural significance of the hall has been widely recognised in heritage listings such as the Oberon Shire Council LEP, RAIA Register of Twentieth Century Buildings, the Register of the National Trust of Australia (NSW), the Register of the Art Deco Society, and Ross Thorne’s Movie Theatre Heritage Register, where it is variously described as "unique", "unusual", "eccentric" and "futuristic". Situated in a prominent location in the main street of Oberon, the hall is a well-known local landmark and makes a important contribution to the streetscape.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall is of high local significance as the venue for numerous local balls, dances, civic receptions and amateur theatricals, thus playing a central role in the social and cultural life of the town for 40 years between 1937 and 1977. The significance of the hall to the town is also demonstrated by its listing on the Oberon Shire Council LEP, the award-winning conservation works to its façade in 1987, and the formation of the Friends of the Malachi Gilmore Hall, a local community group who wish to return the hall to community uses.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall has some research significance in relation to the expression of Art Deco style in regional NSW including the typical use of rendered bricks, glass bricks, metal railings, ornate interior plaster and stucco work. The site is unlikely to display archaeological potential relating to former uses or occupation as it was the first building on the site and occupies most of the site.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall is of state significance as a rare and highly unusual example of the Interwar Art Deco style. It makes a important contribution to the history of the Art Deco movement in New South Wales. Following restoration of the façade in 1987, the building is intact, both internally and externally.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall is of high local significance as an example of a community hall and cinema, many of which built in the early-to-mid twentieth century throughout Sydney and regional New South Wales. The hall interior is typical of country halls. Though representative as a building type, the Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall is a highly unusual example because of the exuberance of the architectural detailing of its facade.
Integrity/Intactness: High
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0168005 Dec 03 19111125
Local Environmental Plan     
National Trust of Australia register      
Royal Australian Institute of Architects register     
Art Deco Society register     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
National Trust Country Register  National Trust of Australia (NSW)  No
Central West Pilot Program SHRP2001 Heritage Office SHRP  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenChapman, W Dawson G1986National Trust of Australia (NSW) listing card
WrittenFriends of the Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall2001SHR nomination form
WrittenIsabel Guldberg, Friends of the Malachi Gilmore Hall Further historical information provided June 2003
WrittenOberon Council2003Webpage
WrittenOberon Council2003Community Based Heritage Study
WrittenPhilippa Gemmell-Smith2003The Oberon and District Thematic History, Appendix E of the Oberon Council Community Based Heritage Study
WrittenPhillipa Gemmell-Smith2003Historical information and letter of support for nomination
WrittenRichard Apperley, Robert Irving and Peter Reynolds1989A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture
WrittenRoss Thorne1983Theatres/Cinemas in NSW: Report to the Heritage Council
WrittenRoss Thorne, Les Tod and Kevin Cork1996Movie Theatre Heritage Register
OtherScott Robinson, Art Deco Society Notes about the Malachi Gilmore Memorial Hall reported in nomination presented by Friends of the Malachi Gilmore Hall

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5052093


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