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brief history of the Australian Hall site

Mesnage, G. Contested Spaces Contested Times June 1998

The Cyprus-Hellene Club

The subject building is located at no. 150-152 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, on the edge of Sydney's central business district (CBD). It is a private property, owned and occupied by the Cyprus Hellene Club Ltd (Lot 1 D.P. 339333 & Lot 1 D.P. 783002)

The building is on the east side of Elizabeth Street, on a sub-block bordered by Nithsdale Street (rear); Clarke Street (north) and Nithsdale Lane (south). This sub- block is located between Liverpool Street (north) and Goulburn Street (south). It stands on land originally granted to a Thomas MacVitie in 1831. The prior Aboriginal occupation or relationship to this area has not been researched or documented for this thesis. However, archaeological digs carried out on the site adjacent to the building uncovered glass objects believed to have been of post- settlement (1788-1830) Aboriginal usage (Bairstow 1994).

Sydney City Council rate books indicate there were separate premises at no. 150 and no. 152 Elizabeth Street until 1912. The building now encompassing no. 150- 152 first appears in the Sydney City Council's rate book of 1914-1915, suggesting it was constructed circa 1913. The building is described in the rate books as being comprised of three storeys and having an asphalt roof. The Sydney Central Heritage Inventory compiled in 1989 describes the style of architecture as Federation Anglo-Dutch, and notes that it is part of a rare Edwardian precinct. The building had been listed as a heritage item due to this architectural value. The European heritage interest of the building will be discussed in this thesis. The rate books indicate the first occupant was the German Club Concordia. The 1917 edition of the Sands' directory also indicates the Church Universal might have been on the premises.

Sales records from the Land Titles Office indicate the building was purchased from the German Club Concordia by the Knights of the Southern Cross in 1920. The building was then renamed the K.S.C. Hall Ltd. The order of the Knights of the Southern Cross was founded in 1919 and describes itself as a "fraternal society of Catholic laymen".

The building was used as offices and club facilities. It included a billiard room, smoking room, banquet room, coffee shop, restaurant, and a library.

The building incorporates a theatre hall, now called the Mandolin Cinema. This hall was formerly known as the Australian Hall.

On the 26th of January 1938, the Australian Hall was the venue for the first national Aboriginal civil rights gathering – the "Day of Mourning and Protest". At the time, the building was owned by the Knights of the Southern Cross.

The Australian Hall was a popular venue for concerts, dances, and other social and entertainment activities. Many Aboriginal people recall attending dances and other functions in the hall. The Australian Hall is first mentioned in the 1925 edition of the Sands' NSW Directory. The 1915 rate book indicated there were 24 rooms in the building, but entries in later rate books note only 10 rooms. This suggests some of the rooms were levelled to create the large hall. In 1961, the Phillip Street Theatre moved into the Australian Hall and it was renamed the Phillip Theatre. The Phillip Theatre occupied the hall from 1961-1971. The Richbrooke Theatre took over from 1971-74. A number of theatre companies, including the Rivoli, Dave's Encore, 42nd Street, and the Trak occupied the hall between 1974-1987.

The Cyprus Hellene Club purchased the building from the Knights of the Southern Cross in 1979. The Mandolin Cinema has occupied the old Australian Hall since 1987.

The foundation stone of the building survived and is kept in the still-existing Concordia Club, now located in Stanmore, an inner western suburb of Sydney.

Footnotes not included in this excerpt.

Reproduced with permission of the author, Gisele Mesnage.

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