Lake Macquarie History

Belmont School of Arts

The School of Arts in Belmont was a great cultural venue throughout the early twentieth century. In 1950 it boasted 300 subscribers who were able to make their literary selection from over 4000 books.

The foundation stone was laid on Christmas Eve 1910 in an auspicious ceremony. The Newcastle Morning Herald reported that the event drew a good crowd, which consisted of local residents and visitors. Mr M. H. Simpson was president of the School of Arts Committee and is reported to have 'addressed the audience at some length giving a resume of what had been done since the inception of the movement' and thanked the donors for their contributions and practical assistance. Mrs W. H. Lochhead was presented with a silver trowel to lay the foundation stone. In her address she expressed the honour she felt in being asked to perform the laying of the stone and believed that it would fill a long-felt want and would launch a new era of progress and prosperity for Belmont.

The building was completed and formally opened on Saturday September 26 1914, by Mrs R. Davidson, who called on all the young people of Belmont for their support. Donations of books were received, among which was a twenty seven volume encyclopedia. Recently elected officers were:

President Mr R. Davidson
Vice Presidents Messers Kilshaw, Campbell, Sullivan, Reid and Newcastle
Secretary Mr J. Campbell
Treasurer Miss Williamson
Committee Misses Hall, Valentine, Mrs R. Davidson, Messers Hall, O'Keefe, G. Marks and R. Smith
Patrons Samuel and Aubrey Clift
Librarian W. G. Hall

The land on which the School of Arts was built was part of Thomas Williamson's Estate which he purchased in 1866 - Portion 60 of the Parish of Kahibah. Around this time Williamson gifted a portion of this land to the School of Arts Trustees. This area is on the corner of Gen Street and Pacific Highway.

In N. M. Clout's book The Child of Bahtahbah: being a brief history of Belmont he states that in addition to the subscribers' library, the School of Arts housed several Friendly Societies and offered a committee room for hire for small meetings. There was a Masonic Hall next door in Gen Street.

With the advent of public libraries, Lake Macquarie Shire Council negotiated with the School of Arts to transfer the property to them for the construction of a modern public library. In a meeting on the 13 September 1950, Mr H. Aubin (president) informed the attendees that the Shire Council was taking over the institute.

photo: awaba house, booragul

A new library (left) in the Neo Georgian style was erected facing the Highway in the 1950s, with the assistance of the Joint Coal Board. The School of Arts stood behind it. The librarian at the time was "housewife Mrs A. Purser, mother of three Belmont High School children", who stated that "Belmont is developing into a highly book-conscious community" of which "the demand (of books) is indicative of the growth of the Belmont district in the past 10 years." The library boasted innovative ideas, such as "storytelling recordings" and "special storytelling time for younger children".

Belmont Library moved to new premises in 1997. A purpose built structure in Ernest Street, named after Lake Macquarie poet, Roland Robinson. In 2004 an application was made to the Lake Macquarie Council to build a four storey mixed use building on the land occupied by the former library and School of Arts building. It was accepted but construction was delayed due to concerns by the owner of the fabric business next door in Gen Street, the School of Arts building possibly having heritage merit as well as the removal of asbestos from the building. A resolution was reached and Council finally gave approval for the construction of the Pinnacle Apartments to begin. The complex, boasting twenty-one apartments, four shops, two offices, rooftop common area and basement parking, was completed in 2007. Apartments, including penthouses, sold from $300,000 to $450,000.

Reference

Clout, N. M 1947, The child of Bahtahbah : being a brief history of Belmont, Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, [printed by H. M. Hutton], [New Lambton]

1910 'BELMONT.', Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954), 29 December, p. 3. , viewed 28 Aug 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article133893767

1914 'DISTRICT NEWS.', Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954), 3 October, p. 2. , viewed 28 Aug 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article137425946

1950 'Belmont Body Holds Last Meeting', Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954), 13 September, p. 8. , viewed 28 Aug 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134390587

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