The Coogee Agricultural Hall was built in late 1896, with money raised by the local Agricultural Society combined with a grant from the State government of the day. It was on the road facing the Woodman Point Quarantine Station, where it stayed until the ill-fated Naval Base development forced it to move to its current site on the corner of Russell Road.
Coogee Agricultural Hall on Show Day, February 1904..
Building the hall
It was a ‘severely simple’ building, as the Agricultural Society was not wealthy, and had to cut down plans so much that they removed an ornamental porch from the original design for lack of funds. Nevertheless, it was solidly built of local limestone, and measured a modest 40 by 20 feet total. In all, it cost £300: the local market gardeners raised £35, the government gave £250, and the balance was owed to the bank.
It was originally set on land close to the Woodman Point Racecourse and Quarantine Station, as shown in this 1906 map of a proposed Clarence townsite that took in much of coastal Coogee, though the townsite itself never materialised.
Woodman Point and Lake Coogee development site in 1906: Coogee Agricultural Hall was located on lot 23, shaded in darker green. The Coogee Primary School was on lot 17, shaded a block to the north in red, and it still sits on the same site today. Map from State Records Office WA
Opening day, 1897
F.W. Burwell was the architect who drew up the final plans, and Fremantle builders Anderson and Whately built the hall. The opening day, in February 1897, was a mixed bag: there had been intense debate about where to build the hall, and those who had not gotten their way boycotted the opening and the Agricultural Society as a whole. A schism ensued, which was a blight on an otherwise happy day.
For the next 20 years the hall was a focus for those settlers living further away from Fremantle. It held annual Agricultural Shows for local residents to display their produce, animals, and craft. It was a polling place for local, state, and Federal elections, a place for political candidates like William Watson and Harry Bolton to make their cases to local residents, and a popular place to have birthdays, weddings, club meetings, and dances.
For a few years it was also home to the Coogee State School, before the schoolroom was built a few hundred metres away in 1903. Coogee Primary School still stands on the same site.
Naval Base and the decline of Coogee
In 1913 the Commonwealth Government resumed all the land from Coogee south to Mt Brown, and parts of Rockingham and Garden Island, to build a new naval base. Though the base was ultimately abandoned in 1921, the relocation of public buildings like the Coogee Hall was thought necessary at the time. The hall was rebuilt in 1918 at the corner of Russell Road and the ‘new Rockingham Road’, which had been diverted around old Coogee, which is where it stands today.
For more on the Coogee Agricultural Hall, visit the new Cockburn History website.
Coogee Agricultural Society outside the hall, 1901
Horses, carts, and visitors outside the hall on Show Day, 1901
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