North Wangaratta Hall – History & Heritage

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The North Wangaratta Public Hall ‘Beechworth Junction”as it was known is situated on the north-western side of the main railway line at Bowser, on the corner of Depot Road. Depot Road was originally the beginning of the Three Chain Road to Corowa with the rail crossing being situated closer to the Bowser railway station. The crossing has since been moved north to where Federation Way starts today.

With the settlement of North Wangaratta growing, the farming and small industry expanding, the local Community saw the need to establish a community hall to cater for their social needs. 

About the Hall 

The Hall was built at a cost of about 220 pounds and opened in 1911.  It had corrugated tin walls and roof and no lining, so was very cold on a frosty night. The floor was beautiful jarrah and wooden stools surrounded the side walls. Children loved to slide from one end of the hall to the other. 

In the main part of the hall, there were two large Miller kerosene lights with large chimneys. A stage was at one end. A  Committee was appointed and was involved in the care and maintenance of the building and hence, the hall became the centre of district life. 

 

Hall Activities 

The hall was well used with many functions held. 

Kitchen teas, Christmas breakups, School concerts (North Wangaratta School), fundraising activities, a meeting place for a number of Organizations, including the Wangaratta North Fire Brigade.

The hall held regular dances which were well patronized. Some of the dances were the Lancers, Quadrille, Alberts, Schottische, Two Step and Waltz.  As the hall was cold, especially on a frosty night, continuous dancing was a way to keep warm followed by delicious suppers which were a feature of the evening, as was the coffee. 

Welcome Home Presentation – District Soldiers 

In 1919, the event which created the greatest level of local Community involvement at the hall was the fundraising activity associated with the Presentation evening planned to welcome home eight district soldiers. 

Funds were collected from the local community and in front of a crowd of 200 attending, amidst red, white and blue flags as decorations, the presentations were made.  The collection came to 12 pounds, 8 shillings and 6 pence. 

Extension 

In 1923, the Committee decided to build a corrugated tin supper room, separate from the main hall, with a bricked in copper.  After several working bees, the room was completed and the coffee was made in reasonable comfort, much to the delight of the coffee maker, who previously made it under the stars on many a cold and frosty night. 

The Decline 

The Hall served the local Community’s needs for many years, however, over time, changes started to occur. 

The once vibrant community of North Wangaratta (Bowser)  that depended on the local farming and industry of the day, changed as the future job prospects were looking past the front gate.  Advances in farming, technology, mechanization, industry, meant a shift in population, all adding to the demise of the Bowser Hall. 

Local activities and events shifted to Wangaratta, a mere 6 kms away, hence the need to maintain the hall diminished and thus, it fell into disrepair. 

In 1968, Wangaratta Shire Council took over the site as a work depot and still is today. 

‘The Grossman Diaries”, Life and Times of Charlie Grossman,  North Wangaratta, Compiled by Margaret Pullen