School of Arts
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Kendall School of Arts

The Kendall School of Arts, a much loved building, has been the focus of many district activities for nearly a century. It is well built of local timber, indicative of the timber industry which was the major local industry for approximately one hundred years.

The site of today’s Kendall Community Centre was initially notified as Camping Reserve No 132 on 1 August 1881. The Camping Reserve was used to rest horses and bullock teams after they drew logs from the forests to the Kendall timber mills.

Kendall School of Arts Grand Opening in 1910

In 1892 the land was excised from the Camping Reserve and ‘proposed to be set apart as a site for School of Arts at Kendall (Private Village)’. But it was not until sixteen years later, in 1908, that local residents began erecting the building with donated timber.  The Kendall School of Arts was officially opened on 24 May 1910.  It is  one of at least seven surviving Schools of Arts within an eighty kilometre radius that was built between Federation and World War I. The traditional role of Schools of Arts was to provide venues for lectures, classes and libraries for the “useful knowledge” and “mental and moral improvement” of the working class.

In the early twentieth century Schools of Arts were important social and political meeting places as well as places of entertainment such as social evenings, debutante balls and concerts. Although there are occasional references to ‘Literary Institute’ and ‘Mechanics’ Institute’ in some documents, the name School of Arts remained in official use in Kendall until 1984.

It was a venue for the moving pictures of the day when large film canisters were unloaded from the train at Kendall Station to be collected by such entrepreneurs as Keever’s Touring Talkies during the 1930s, and later by A.E. Gibson, John Hatsistouris and Bruce Longworth.

The late Bob Boyd remembered with great nostalgia the concert Slim Dusty gave c.1950 following release of his new record album. The hall was full to overflowing and people were sitting in chairs all around the verandah.

Ian Bailey also remembers the occasion well, he was about seven years old. There was a flood and, as he and a mate raced to get to the performance, they fell into the creek. They arrived at the hall soaking wet and dripping water all over the floor. They slipped in through the crowd and moved around the wall to see and hear better. Slim saw them and called out ‘You young fellas had better come and sit up here’ and the two wet boys excitedly went forward and sat on the front of the stage for the whole of the concert. Ian remembers seeing Slim’s old black car (a Buick or Chevy) with huge bulls horns wired on the front.

Following the loss of the School of Arts' supper room roof during a gale in 1983, the School of Arts was unable to be used as the poling booth for the looming major election. The Management Committee held a referendum outside the War Memorial Rooms being used as the alternative booth. Five options were given: sale; total demolition for a park; demolition and replacement with a new building; essential repairs; complete restoration. The vote was overwhelming in favour of complete restoration.

In 1984 advice was received from the NSW Premier’s Department that the name School of Arts did not fit with the use of the building and a more appropriate category was ‘community centre’ or ‘neighbourhood house’. Advice was received that, if the name were changed, the hall would come under the auspices of the Department of Community Services which would assist with securing funding to restore the building.

Because grant funding was crucial to the community’s desire to restore the building, the name was duly changed to Kendall Community Centre. Many residents resisted the new name and continued to call it the School of Arts, believing that the change detracted from the building’s heritage significance.

Kendall School of Arts before restoration in 1981
Kendall School of Arts before restoration in1981
Substantial funding for the restoration came from the Commonwealth Government and, despite the loss of the building’s historic name, from the Heritage Branch of the New South Wales Government who listed the entire site for its significance. Hastings Council also assisted in this major undertaking. Once again, local residents gave unstintingly of their time and money. They undertook not only major fund raising but also much of the physical work of the restoration. When a new Board of Trustees was established, some of those involved were appointed as custodians of the property they had helped to rescue. One of them, Frank Kandilas, later extended the stage, making it suitable for major performances.

Whether School of Arts or Community Centre, it is often still called, affectionately, Kendall Hall. It fulfilled, and continues to fulfil, all the traditional functions of a School of Arts. The Camden Haven Learning Exchange was established there in 1982, to move in 1991 to Laurieton as Camden Haven Adult and Community Education. Kendall Community Pre-School was established in 1988 and operated in the Supper Room for several years. Hastings Council housed a small library, open twice a week, in one of the two side rooms until 1989. The other room was used for small meetings, a weekly Women’s Resource Centre and a part-time office in which a local solicitor established his business, after which the two side rooms were refurbished to become a consulting suite for a local G.P. Currently these side rooms are occupied by the Community Technology Centre which was established in 2003.<

Kendall School of Arts is in full time use. Many different community activities and meetings are held there and its superb acoustics are widely admired. It is the home of several major events and festivals and remains the social and cultural hub of the district.

Physical Description
The symmetrical T-shaped School of Arts building occupies a commanding site at the top of the village shopping centre. It is well sited on a sloping triangular piece of land which addresses the Y intersection of Comboyne and Albert Streets. The apex of the triangle is truncated by an unofficial road on the eastern side. The adjacent Kendall War Memorial, c.1919, and surrounding open space complements the hall site while intersecting the view from the shopping centre.

The hall is dug into the ground on the northern (Comboyne Road) side and is high off the ground on the southern (Albert Street) side. A supper room is attached on the southern elevation. The rear of the building has lesser add-ons of stage and dressing rooms.

Kendall School of Arts pre-restoration
Northern view before restoration

Commonwealth Employment Scheme helpers
Commonwealth Employment Scheme workers helping with restoration

Restoration work
Restoration work

Re-opening in 1980s

In 1973 the former one-roomed Batar State School was moved to the rear of the site for the use of the ‘youth of the district’. It occupies the site of a former nineteenth century cottage. In 2005, a new building to house a Rural Transaction Centre, was completed on the site with funding from the Commonwealth Department of Transport and Regional Services.

Materials chosen for the new building are intrinsically simple: brick veneer walls on south-east and north-east elevations; north-west and south-west elevations are of reverse brick veneer with the exterior clad in horizontal custom orb in a colorbond finish. The brickwork is rendered to provide a transition between the 1908 building and the new building materials.

The roof, a hipped structure with a hip running from a high point on the eastern end to a low point at the west is, at its greatest height, lower than the ridge of the School of Arts roof. It sits comfortably next to the School of Arts and is sympathetic with the village context.

The vista from the front of the School of Arts encompasses the mix of residential, commercial and industrial buildings that is the centre of the village of Kendall. Similarly, it dominates the view up the hill from the shopping centre. The dwellings on Comboyne and Albert Streets opposite are predominantly turn-of-the-century timber cottages, some with Victorian detailing.

Only one other listed building, an outstanding Federation house, is adjacent to the School of Arts. It is situated approximately a hundred metres away just over the nearby Comboyne Street hill but neither building is visible from the other.

A mature, double-trunked Camphor Laurel (Cinnamomum camphora) dominates the Comboyne Street boundary and is flanked by two small Silky Oaks (Grevillia robusta) which were planted in 1988 to commemorate the bi-centenary of European occupation of Australia.

Kendall Community Centre
Kendall Community Centre 2006

Heritage Impact Statement for RTC building – Elaine van Kempen
Photographs - Frank Kandilas, Mavis Barnes (in Kendall Community Centre collection)

© Elaine van Kempen 2006


© Kendall Community Centre May 2006