Cathedral Hall consists of meeting rooms and offices at the front of the site and a large hall to the rear with a supper room opening off it. The building was used as a meeting place for the Catholic Church in Melbourne from 1903. The building fronting Brunswick Street was constructed in 1873 as the Exhibition Boot Factory and refurbished as clubrooms and classrooms in 1902-03 by the Church. The main hall behind the factory was erected in 1903-04 and the whole became the main venue for activities associated with St Patrick’s Cathedral and the Church generally, commencing with the hosting of the Second Australasian Catholic Congress in 1904 and later the National Eucharistic Congress in 1934. The supper room fronting Graham Street was added in 1908 and the whole building was decorated in 1912-13 and refurbished for the National Eucharistic Congress in 1934 when the light fittings were designed and installed. In the 1960s the hall became known as Central Hall.
How is it significant?
Cathedral Hall is architecturally and historically significant to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
Cathedral Hall is architecturally significant to the State of Victoria for its skilful incorporation of the 1873 boot factory into a larger design to provide an institutional hall, clubrooms and classrooms and for the elegance of the design and decoration of the main hall. The relatively austere composition of the factory front to Brunswick Street was transformed into a more elaborate yet restrained and dignified facade for the new facilities. The large single volume of the hall and the balcony supported by a cantilevered structure which obviated the need for columns make the hall well suited to its purpose. The elaborate plasterwork of the hall ceiling, proscenium and balcony decoration completed in 1913 was seen by contemporaries as an aesthetic triumph. The hall is an important example of the work of Reed, Smart and Tappin, architects of some of the most notable Victorian church buildings.
Cathedral Hall is historically significant for its major place in the history of the Catholic Church in the State, for its role in education and social and cultural activities connected with the church and for its close links with St Patrick’s Cathedral, the centre of the Church in Victoria. Its reuse of the Exhibition Boot Factory recalls the industrial history of Fitzroy, preceding the institutional development at the top of Brunswick Street, which has been continued by the recently expanded religious and educational precinct to accommodate the Australian Catholic University. Cathedral Hall, within the St Patricks Cathedral precinct, is of historic importance as part of the centre of Roman Catholic activity in Victoria.