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History of Glebe Town Hall

By Drew Brian Hoy

Glebe Town Hall

Glebe Town Hall History

Glebe was proclaimed as a municipality in 1859, but it was almost twenty years before the council began discussing the need for a town hall of its own. After more than 140 years, Glebe Town Hall remains an impressive landmark on St Johns Road.

In the early days of the newly formed council, meetings were held at various locations around the area. The council was the domain of local professionals and businessmen. The first Mayor of Glebe, solicitor George Wigram Allen, held his position for 18 consecutive terms between 1859 and 1877.

Other notable Glebe Aldermen during the early years included architects Edmund Blacket and George Allen Mansfield, surveyor Thomas Harwood, chemist William Pinhey, retail trader Michael Chapman, and George Dibbs, who would later become the State Premier of New South Wales between 1891 and 1894.

The first record proposing the building of a town hall was noted in the Glebe Council minutes of 4 November 1878. Land was purchased at the St Johns Road site the same year. At a building committee meeting in February 1879, Ambrose Thornley Junior was appointed as architect for the new town hall.

Construction commenced the same year with Sandbrook and Son appointed as the builder. Glebe Town Hall was completed in 1880 and was opened by Thomas J Dunn, who was mayor at the time. Former Mayor George Wigram Allen donated the clock that remains as the centrepiece of the front façade.

The project was completed at a cost of £4,600 and an additional £500 was spent on furnishing the new building.

By 1889, extensions to the hall were planned to add a second smaller hall, meeting room and council chambers. Ambrose Thornley Junior once again carried out the design. The additions were completed in the same Victorian Italianate style as the existing building.

Glebe Town Hall was frequently used for local community functions and became an important meeting place during World War I. Like many suburbs around Sydney, Glebe lost a large number of residents to the war. After the war, a roll of honour was installed in the main foyer to commemorate the soldiers who lost their lives.

In 1948, after the Second World War, Glebe was amalgamated with the City of Sydney and the town hall’s sole use was as a community hall. In 1968 Glebe was transferred to the Municipality of Leichhardt, but in 2003 large parts of Glebe were again returned to the City of Sydney following council boundary changes.

As time passed, and following more than a century of service to the suburb, Glebe Town Tall was beginning to show its age. The roof was in need of repairs, and decorative parapets and finials had become damaged.

2008 Restoration of Glebe Town Hall

In 2008, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore commissioned an extensive restoration, which was completed in 2013. Architecture firm Tonkin Zulaikha Greer undertook the works. In addition to restoring the aesthetic elements of the building, the works involved reinstating the original ventilation system and installing a rainwater storage system. The stored water is used to maintain the natural habitat garden created on the site for the endangered local Blue Wren.

Glebe Town Hall remains a civic venue available for hire from the City of Sydney. The impressive heritage building has been updated to become accessible and sustainable, while at the same time retaining the character and charm of the nineteenth century.

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