Monday, January 11, 2010

School of (the Dark) Arts

Happy New Year everyone, and welcome back.

An essential requirement for any community is a public meeting place. Sometimes hotels or churches fulfilled this role, but there were disadvantages with each. Many Australian localities built a School of Arts as a
library as well as a place for community activities. Brisbane's first School of Arts was constructed at the corner of Queen St and Creek St (now the site of the National Bank, which will be the subject of the next post) in 1851. The Brisbane History Group's publication Sites of Separation says that the North Brisbane School of Arts "...played an important part in the social and cultural development of the young town, as a venue for musical and dramatic performances, lectures, debating classes, church services and public meetings. It became a centre for public discussions of Separation and the municipality of Brisbane. Rev. John Dunmore Lang gave several of his favourable addresses here from 1854 onwards." The original building was outgrown, and a larger premises was erected over two years and completed in 1866. Here is a photograph from around 1877, showing a couple of carriages waiting outside the Eagle St entrance to the second building.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #61249)

One of the purposes for which the building was used was as a meeting hall for the North Australian Lodge of Freemasons. That Lodge boasted members of the like of Sir Charles Lilley, John Petrie and Ratcliffe Pring. A photograph of the hall decorated in the regalia of the Freemasons is shown below - it dates from around 1872.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #20187)

I don't know what government financial support existed for these community-based operations back then. If there was any at all, it was insufficient, because the School of Arts had to sell these premises to the Queensland National Bank under a lease-back arrangement which allowed them to remain in the building for a few more years. In 1878, the School of Arts moved to Ann St, in the building below which still stands - we'll look further at it in Friday's post.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

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Next: NABbed by the bank


  1. Happy New Year!

    I had wondered about this place when I went past it recently. I liked the image of a "kids from fame" type scene with 19th century teenagers in their Victorian garb leaping and star-jumping down the outdoor steps. Church services and Freemasons meetings didn't really make it into the fantasy!

  2. Hey cara

    You sure have an active imagination! Now I can't get that image out of my head! :-)


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