Chelmer School of Arts (Former): Among Early Queensland’s Status Symbols

Former Chelmer School of Arts Building: Among Status Symbols of Early Queensland

In early Queensland, school of arts buildings were regarded as a status symbol and sign that a town or suburb has achieved a certain level of progress. Such is the case for the heritage-listed former Chelmer School of Arts, a multi-purpose building that has served the local community for almost a century.

Read: Normanby Hounds Lodges Plans for a Stylish, Modern Clubhouse in Graceville

In 1915, the Chelmer Experimental Reserve located between the railway and the Brisbane River was being subdivided by the Queensland Government for housing estates. The Chelmer Progress at the time took the opportunity to request the government to reserve this land to build a community hall.
And so, the Chelmer School of Arts was built in 1922-23, financed through local fundraising efforts, on a section of the land handed by the state to the Sherwood Shire Council (1891-1924) with two appointed trustees that oversaw the project.

number works n' words Ad
Former Chelmer School of Arts | CHELMER MUSICAL LUNCHEON. The Telegraph, Wednesday 1 September 1937, p. 6. NLA Trove
CHELMER MUSICAL LUNCHEON. The Telegraph, Wednesday 1 September 1937, p. 6. NLA Trove | Photo credit: ADFAS in the Community, Chelmer School of Arts []

The facility was opened in May 1923 by Cecil Elphinstone, the Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly for Oxley. The original School of Arts building contained a large hall, stage and two committee rooms. The hall’s left side became the library whilst the right side served as a meeting room. Apart from being used as a library, which grew to 1,741 volumes in June 1934, the building has since become a site for local annual shows, church services, Masonic Clubs, concerts and dances.

In 1925, the premises became a property of the BCC following the amalgamation of all shire councils into the Greater Brisbane City Council.

By 1946, membership significantly dropped to five. And in 1968, the building was named Chelmer Public Hall and continued to be used by the community for cultural and recreational activities with the Centenary Theatre Group Inc. as its current trustee.

Tower Ad

The Hall suffered severe flood damage in 1974 and underwent repairs, thanks to the efforts of Des Cochrane of the Chelmer Youth and Recreation Committee who took over its management from the state government. A $10,000 loan and another $10,000 donation from Sir Robert Mathers funded its renovation.

The Chelmer School of Arts (former), now known as Chelmer Community Centre, was entered into the local heritage list on 1 January 2005. Its historical citation describes the place as a symbol of Chelmer’s status as a well-developed residential and community-based area by the early 1920s.