THE Civic Hall showed it has lost very little of its glory after its doors were thrown open to the public yesterday for the first time since 2002.
Mayor Mark Harris accurately described the Mair Street building as a “time capsule”.
“It has got a simple beauty about it,” Cr Harris said.
“It is an honest expression of what people wanted in the post-war period.”
More than 300 people walked through the hall on 15-minute guided tours as part of Ballarat City Council’s community engagement process to help decide its future.
Although graffiti dotted most of the walls, the majority of the building was a step back in time to the 1950s.
The original floral carpets were still in excellent condition, along with the red and grey leather chairs in the upper balcony and the upper hall’s impressive concrete pillars.
Click below for Fiona Henderson's video report from inside Civic Hall.
The floorboards and stage, while dusty, were not damaged, but several windows were broken, and all of them were covered in hessian.
The upper hall’s decorative cast iron roof was also well preserved, although some sections below the balcony were slightly water damaged.
However, the lower hall had not fared quite so well.
It was last used as a bingo centre before becoming home to squatters, and large blown-up photographs showed the hall littered with rubbish and broken furniture and its walls covered in graffiti.
Cr Harris said the hall was opened up to help people make submissions about its future, which close on Friday.
“We were wanting a process where people can inform their submissions,” he said.
“The reality is a lot of people haven’t been into it for a long time.”
Cr Harris said the hall was still in pretty good condition.
“It was closed down because it wasn’t being used.
“There is a powerful argument to put it back to its creative purpose.”
Councillor Samantha McIntosh, who repeatedly pushed for the hall’s retention during last year’s controversial $40 million proposal to knock it down and replace it with council offices, also took part in the tours.
“It’s important the community can see how it is so it can inform their vision. Not everyone operates from a piece of paper,” Cr McIntosh said.
“Feeling a space, seeing a space, knowing a space is much better.
Resident Neil Sinclair said he had many memories of the hall.
“It was such a vibrant centre for the community. I’m just disappointed today,” Mr Sinclair said.
“It looks stable enough, but I’m not an engineer.”
Maureen Basford had travelled from Melbourne for the tour with her sister Joan Duffy.
“As far as we’re concerned it’s for nostalgia,” Mrs Duffy said. “It’s in better condition than I thought.”
Mrs Basford said she hoped the hall was retained.
“I think it’s fantastic. I hope they do something with it but everything moves on I guess,” she said.