In researching the history of Adamstown Council I discovered that the first council meeting was held in the Adamstown Mechanics’ Institute building on Wednesday 10th March 1886. Newcastle Library has undated photo of the institute building, but there was no immediate information on where this building was located.
After consulting my index of historical real estate maps I found a 1921 map that shows that the building was on the west side of Union St, just to the south of Victoria Street. (Union St was the early name of the section of Brunker Rd south of Glebe Rd.)
The Adamstown Mechanic’s Institute started in August 1879, making use of rented rooms in Mrs Fennessy’s house. A year later, at the first annual meeting, the institute was still renting premises, but plans were afoot to erect their own building. These plans came to fruition the following year, and the new wooden building on Union Street was officially opened on 6th August 1881. The building measured 66 by 165 feet, with the inner hall being 40 x 20 feet, and was erected at a cost of about £120, in the short contract time of twelve weeks.
The wooden Mechanics Institute building was removed in 1928, as part of the widening of Union Street, and a new brick building was erected on the same site, and officially opened on 25th August 1928.
Many grand speeches were made that day expressing high hopes for the future of the Mechanics Institute, hopes that were soon dashed. Within eight years, dwindling of membership meant that the institute was unable to meet the repayments on the loan for the building. In 1936 the trustees appealed to Adamstown Council to take over the institute, but the impending Greater Newcastle Council scheme stalled negotiations.
The Greater Newcastle Council which came into being in 1938 was uninterested in assisting the Adamstown Mechanics Institute, and by April 1939 it was clear that there was no hope for the future. “Unable to carry on through lack of finance the committee of Adamstown Mechanics’ Institute has decided to advise the trustees of the institution’s inability to meet liabilities.” The committee thus recommended “that the creditor bank be invited to foreclose and dispose of the property.”
|Article Date Event Date||Notes|
|2 Aug 1879||"Mechanics' Institute, Adamstown. We are glad to announce that the above institution is now fairly started. The committee have secured excellent rooms, and their carvass for subscriptions has been liberally responded to. The roll now numbers sixty members, and the institution will be formally opened on Monday next."|
|20 Aug 1880||First yearly meeting. The institute is still renting premises, but is looking to erect their own building.|
|9 Aug 1881|
6 Aug 1881
|Official opening of the new wooden building for the Adamstown Mechanics' Institute.|
|12 Mar 1886||The Mechanics' Institute is also known as the "School of Arts".|
|25 Aug 1927||"Plans and specifications of the proposed new institute have been approved, and immediately sanction has been obtained the present building will be removed to fall into line with the widening scheme of Union-street."|
|5 Sep 1927||Adamstown Council grants the building application for the new Mechanics' Institute building.|
|25 Oct 1927||"Union-street, Adamstown, is nearly normal again after the widening operations. An important improvement to the street will be the new Mechanics' Institute, which the committee hopes to erect as soon as details have been finalised."|
|2 Feb 1928||A new Mechanics' Institute building "is to be erected at a cost of £2220."|
|24 May 1928||"The secretary of Adamstown Mechanics' Institute wrote the local council last night, agreeing to the removal of portions of the Institute."|
"It was decided that the council should approach the Main Roads Board for £30 compensation for the land given by the Institute for the improvement of Union-street roadway."
|2 Aug 1928|
31 Jul 1928
|Annual meeting of the Adamstown Mechanics' Institute - "now the new institute was nearing completion the membership was increasing."|
"The chairman said the new building would be ready for occupation in a few weeks. The opening was fixed for Saturday, August 25."
|27 Aug 1928|
25 Aug 1928
|Official opening of the new building for the Adamstown Mechanics' Institute/School of Arts.|
|20 Aug 1936||"A special meeting of Adamstown Council will be held to consider a proposal by the trustees of the Adamstown Mechanics' Institute that the council should take over the institute and accept responsibility for the £1600 owing on the building."|
The President of the Institute (Mr. H. P. Townsend) said "the days of mechanics' institutes as previously constituted had passed."
|6 Apr 1939||"Unable to carry on through lack of finance the committee of Adamstown Mechanics' Institute has decided to advise the trustees of the institution's inability to meet liabilities." A recommendation will be made "that the creditor bank be invited to foreclose and dispose of the property."|
|14 May 1942|
30 Apr 1942
|Report that the Adamstown Sub-branch of the Returned Soldiers' League "had taken possession of the School of Arts on April 30 and documents had been completed for the final transfer."|
Update, Aug 2017
Paul Zuljan sent me a photograph of an old photo from his family that shows a large number of people posing in front of the Mechanics’ Institute building, The date and the occasion is unknown, but I have a suspicion that it may be the occasion of the opening of the new brick building in 1928.