Masonic Buildings - Capital Theatre Bendigo & Sept Quarterly 2011

Former Bendigo Masonic Temple

Capital Theatre 50 View St Bendigo

Former Masonic Building

Quarterly in Bendigo.

Worshipful Master, you are summoned, together with your Past Masters and Wardens, to attend the September Communication of Grand Lodge, to be held at the Capital Theatre, 50 View Street, Bendigo on Friday 30th September 2011, commencing at 7:30pm.

The Grand Master is particularly keen to ensure that this function is well attended and encourages as many brethren, particularly those from the metropolitan area, to support the brethren of Bendigo."

The Grand Master must be very pleased with the Quarterly Communications held in Bendigo. I certainly was! Many brethren answered the call and attended, including our IPM and JD who drove up and arrived minutes before it started. Many faces from Melbourne were seen and there was the traditional refreshments and catch-up afterwards in the most impressive Capital Theatre.

The Theatre was built as a meeting place for Freemasons and our MW GM touched upon some local Masonic History when addressing the assembly.

Capital Theatre History

“Amongst the memorials and things of fame that bring renown to the City of Bendigo few, if any, bear such honourable, enduring and stately testimony to the wealth and magnificence of the city, as does the Masonic Hall in View Street.”

This extract from a book published in Melbourne in 1902 describes exactly the place held by the former Masonic Hall, now The Capital - Bendigo's Performing Arts Centre, in the City of Greater Bendigo.

Former Bendigo Masonic Temple

The Masonic Hall was designed by two prominent Freemasons, W.C. Vahland and his partner, Robert Getzschmann. The foundation stone for the building was laid on 24 June, 1873. It was the most ornate building in the City; the magnitude of its proportions and the classic beauty of its architectural design was regarded as an ornament not only to the City but to the State of Victoria.

The main building covers a frontage of 60 metres (197’) in length on View Street and is approached by broad bluestone steps. The building is faced with six pillars in the Corinthian Order rising 10 metres (33’) in height with the handsome curvilinear entablature of that Order. The pillars are decorated with an ornate frieze and cornices, having pediments at the top with pedestals, vases and a decorative moulded coping. The building is surmounted with an aeroteria, representing a female face and creating an imposing effect, it being 20 metres (65’) from the bottom step to the apogee of the pediment.

Masonic symbols are still in evidence throughout the building. One will note the compasses, the set squares, the all-seeing eye, the celestial globe and terrestrial globe, particularly in the original Lodge Room, the upstairs foyer and the Capital Theatre. The Capital Theatre is the last of the Bendigo theatres. When built this space was the largest hall in Victoria apart from the Melbourne Town Hall. The entire building is listed with the National Trust and Heritage Victoria. The Capital Theatre was closed in the 1970s after almost a century of opera, drama, dance and cinema. The Masons continued in the downstairs Lodge Room until the maintenance of the building became too great a burden on the resources of the members.

During the years when the Capital Theatre was closed there had been constant attempts by the community to have the theatre reinstated. There was strong resistance from some quarters to this proposal and a committee was formed to endeavour to bring about a consensus.

In late 1987 three of the five Bendigo municipalities, Marong, Strathfieldsaye and Eaglehawk purchased the building from the Masons. With the financial support of State and Local Government, private and public subscriptions and overwhelming community support, renovations, costing around $6 million, started in 1989 and the building was officially reopened by the former Premier, Mrs. Joan Kirner on 26 April, 1991.

In 2003-2004, a Federal Government Grant allowed The Capital to undertake further upgrades throughout the venue. Advancement to backstage facilities and the structural development have improved the venue for local and commercial hirers.

Bendigo Bank Theatre - History

This is the original Masonic Lodge Room (see right) where the Masonic ceremonies and rites were performed. A feature of this room is the retention of the Masonic symbols including the celestial globe, the all-seeing eye and the terrestrial globe. The plaster decoration in this room is quite magnificent. A dentil lines the cornice and this is crowned with a superb thick moulding of Vitruvian scrolls interspersed with flat anthemion and paterae around the entire perimeter of the room. The apse is outlined with a lovely lotus and dart motif. Above the apse there is delicate foliate tracery either side of the all-seeing eye. The alcove to the left formerly housed the choir benches and is decorated with the lotus and dart motif seen on the apse. The area behind the choir stalls was used as a refreshment area. The beautiful stained glass lantern ceiling also displays Masonic emblems. The pilasters return again to the classic Greek architectural motifs of the rest of the room and features the same fine plaster work on the Corinthian pilasters as seen in the Banquet Room and Foyer. In this room the pilasters seem to have just a little more vitality and brio than those elsewhere in the building - perhaps because this room was the heart of the Masonic building the work here is just that little finer.

Former Masonic Lodge Room

Former Bendigo Masonic Lodge Room
Former Bendigo Masonic Temple