From Our Members

Heritage Week, Cronulla School of Arts

~ Carol Cook, Publicity Officer

Sydney u3a Endeavour has 12 courses meeting at the Cronulla School of Arts School of Arts building but did you know that the building is of heritage interest with a history back to 1903? If you look around there are quite a few features which reveal its age. The lovely leadlight border on the front windows, c 1930 is one example. Being Heritage week there was an open day and u3a Endeavour was invited to advertise in the foyer along with other groups who meet there, and I had a tour with Maria which introduced me to the story.

Local businessmen established the School of Arts in 1903 and by 1907 there was a weatherboard building which housed the library, a smoking room and a billiards room. Groups such as the Surf Lifesaving Club and the RSL met there. It was even used as extra classrooms for the primary school. Eventually the building was used as a knitting factory and then was demolished in 1955.

Meanwhile the Mechanics Institute was opened by 1913 and housed everything from movies to markets and wedding receptions. The building was known as the School of Arts by 1930 and had 4 shopfronts on the ground floor and on the upper level there was a residence and billiards hall. The building housed the public library before it moved to the old Methodist Church across the street.

During the 1950s a dramatic society developed a theatre in the building and by the 1960s the billiards hall became the upstairs theatrette. Craft groups used the building too and by 1980 the Arts Theatre, that is so well supported locally, developed the space for their productions.

Next time you visit the building you might notice some of the features from its history. In the foyer near the stairs there are two memorial foundation stones found, preserved and mounted on the wall that remind us of the story of this building which is such a great community resource.