See what the inside of Civic Hall looks like now

“It’s a magnificent building from a construction perspective, from a builder’s view,” says Craig Jenkins, director at S.J. Weir Builders.

The Ballarat-based construction company has over 100 years experience in the region and its latest project is one of our most controversial – the restoration of  the interior of Civic Hall.

Weir’s has won the $4.6 million contract to restore the 1955 building, and as his team cleaned up decades of detritus and inspected the hall’s structure, Jenkins was struck by the quality of the work in the original hall.

“When you start to pull the building apart in the demolition phase, you get to see the bones of the building and how it was originally designed,” says Jenkins. 

“It’s a fantastic design, a very simplistic design.”

Craig Jenkins points out the columns that support the 10-metre walls of the main hall.

“It’s got a big edge beam across the top, and all the brick work is supported off that. It’s a great structure. We were up in the roof the other day. Simple things that aren’t done nowadays in our industry; all the ceiling joists are nogged into the frames.”

Jenkins says Weir’s are just three weeks into a planned five of demolition, and every day is a discovery, such as the two-metres of space beneath the hall floor and the quality of construction in the flytower.

Come inside Civic Hall

Both he and construction architect Marcus Baumgart of Baumgart Clark Architects say that most of the initial $4.6 million allocated will go on bringing the building up to 21st Century compliance laws.

Everything from the installation of lifts to the removal of asbestos has to be budgeted, as well as the installation of insulation (for those who remember how cold the hall was in winter) and new sound channelling to improve the acoustics.

The original wooden floor will be restored and even the handrails for the stairs will be sent away to be cleaned up and reinstalled – albeit at a height that’s compliant with 2018 regulations, says Jenkins.

Mayor Samantha McIntosh says the initial restoration phase has created 11 jobs and will bring $4 million to the city.

CIVIC HALL – some facts.

Ballarat’s Civic Hall contains around 245 tons of steel in its frame, and is built of 580,000 locally-made Selkirk bricks. Selkirks bought a fleet of Bedford trucks to service deliveries.

Its foundations are 88 massive concrete piers, built to support the frame and walls. The steel frame was assembled with derrick poles, winches and guy ropes. There is an 11-ton (11,175kg) girder in the roof.

In 1946 architect Herbert Coburn was also Ballarat’s mayor. One of his austere Classical Revival style designs for the new hall was selected in the early 1950s.

The cost of construction was estimated at £133,000 by Coburn and fellow architect Gordon Murphy. Local builder W.B. Trahar delivered it at just £7000 over this budget, using the finest quality materials and concrete mixed by workers on site.

The Civic Hall opened in 1956 during the Melbourne Olympics, and its last function was the Mayor’s Ball in 2002. It lay empty until last year.

(Thanks to Anne Beggs-Sunter for these facts.)