St Kilda Town Hall
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St Kilda Town Hall is a grand classically styled city hall, located on the corner of Brighton Road and Carlisle Street in St Kilda, Victoria, Australia. The main frontage was built in 1890 to serve as the new municipal offices for the City of St Kilda, formed in 1855. Since 1994 it has served as the administrative base of the City of Port Phillip, formed by the amalgamation of St Kilda with the Cities of Port Melbourne and South Melbourne. The hall within has been used for numerous social events, meetings and performances over the years.
The town hall was commissioned to replace the earlier 1859 hall on the corner of Grey and Barkly Streets. The site was reserved in 1883, selected in 1887, and an elaborate towered design by architect William Pitt in an ornate Classical Revival style won a limited competition in 1888. The building opened in 1890, but in incomplete form, with only the hall, the front wing and Carlisle Street wings built, the brick walls left unrendered and undecorated, and the portico and tower not built. In 1892, instead of completing the building, a large pipe organ by noted firm George Fincham was installed in the hall. The 1890s depression which started that same year prevented any further work for many years.
In 1925 the large classical portico, similar to but not the same as Pitt's design, was built, along with the current elaborate internal stair-hall. Though generally known as a Town Hall, the portico proclaims the building as a City Hall. The building's other brick walls stayed bare until 1957 when they were finally stuccoed over and painted white, in a simplified classical form without any elaboration, not even the column capitals. The building has had many additions over the years. In 1939 a new Art Deco style Council Chamber was included as part of an addition on the Brighton Road side, while in 1971 a modernist addition was made to the Carlisle Street side.
In the early hours of Sunday 7 April 1991, fire gutted the hall itself, and resulting in loss of the internal decoration, the organ, and severe damage to the many works of art that lined the halls. Arson was suspected.
The office portion of the building was soon repaired, and firm of Ashton Raggett McDougall (ARM) architects tasked with the restoration of the hall and building a new entry on the Carlisle Street side, and offices to the rear, completed in 1994. The hall was not fully restored, but instead a new ceiling was created, the hall divided in two, some of the plasterwork restored, and some left in its damaged state. This work won two Royal Australian Institute of Architects awards in 1995. A further expansion took place in the 2000s on the Carlisle Street side completed in February 2008.
The Town Hall sits in an unusually spacious setting for a town hall in Victoria, with sweeping lawns and a circular driveway leading to the grand front staircase.
Along with the usual municipal balls, receptions, and functions, the hall has hosted many events over its long history. It was a major ballroom dancing venue throughout the latter part of the twentieth century, curtailed when the hall was divided in two as part of the 1994 works (since reversed).
After the 1994 amalgamation of the City of St Kilda with the City of Port Melbourne and the City of South Melbourne to form the new City of Port Phillip, the St Kilda Town Hall was chosen as the main offices for the new Port Phillip City Council, a role it still serves.