Major and much-needed renovation works at the Fish Creek Memorial Hall are now well under way, much to the jubilation of the Hall’s committee of management and the local community.
A new gently-sloping 30-metre-long return timber ramp with its dual steel handrails is almost complete and will soon give everyone easy access to the supper room from the outside of the Hall.
The ageing concrete path along the building’s eastern side has been chopped up ready for removal and reconstruction, which will also allow long-term drainage and ventilation problems beside and under the Hall to be fixed once and for all.
Replacement stormwater pipework, an upslope cut-off drain, and more efficient sub-floor air circulation are all parts of the solution.
Next on the list is completely replacing the entire timber floor inside the Hall, along with its associated stumps, bearers and joists, and after that carrying out ceiling plaster repairs and internal painting.
The Hall’s leaking roof was mended two or three years ago, with new guttering, eaves and fascia boards installed more recently.
The original floor, thought to have been built from locally-hewn mountain ash, has become victim to progressively inadequate drainage, water leaks and worsening ventilation, which have led to rotting boards and sub-floor structures.
The south-eastern corner of the floor has been patched not once, but twice.
Hall president Mike Sammonds said the committee members “hope that the 90-year-old Fish Creek Memorial Hall will be back to something approaching its best by this coming spring.
“As with all renovation projects, the process of fixing one problem often unearths several others,” he said.
“The committee has tried to systematically work through these issues by taking a long-term view guaranteed by quality workmanship.
“We resolved right from the beginning to appoint as many local tradespeople as we can to undertake the various aspects of the renovation project,” Mike said.
“So far the team has included Foster builder Michael McGlead, Fish Creek plumber Nick Shaw, and Woorarra-based contractors South Gippsland Concrete.
“The renovation has been guided by a master plan that was commissioned in 2014 by the then Hall committee, which was under the presidency of Kerry Spokes,” he said.
“The purpose of the master plan was to formulate a clear future for the Hall and its rejuvenation, with the ultimate goal being to establish the Hall as a first-class performing arts venue.
“Kerry and her committee mapped out the trajectory of the Hall’s renewal, and the staged works detailed in the master plan have been steadily gathering pace over the past few years,” Mike said.
“This does not come cheaply or quickly, but recent months have seen much of this planning and preparation bearing fruit.”
One of the most significant elements of the renovation project is the new timber floor, which will be built to modern load-bearing specifications, while retaining the Hall’s much-loved aesthetic appeal.
This design will mean the committee can be assured that the floor will be safe for hundreds of dancing feet, full theatre and concert audiences, and the weight of manlifts used for maintenance and to fit audio-visual and lighting equipment.
The Hall will of course continue to be the first place of choice for many of the district’s community and family events, memorials and celebrations into the future.
Mike said all of the renovations are being paid for with “magnificent fundraising efforts by the committee, and particularly through the Memorial Hall Op Shop that’s jointly managed by Dot Christie and Nadia Stefani.
“We also want to thank all of the volunteers who work for our Hall so hard and so cheerfully,” he said.
“We also take our hats off to the members of the Fish Creek community for their ongoing interest and support.”• Fish Creek Memorial Hall committee of president Mike Sammonds, right, with committee member Tracey Rayner who is in charge of maintenance and cleaning, left, and vice president Luke Dearlove, centre, are pictured inside the Hall, and on the almost-finished ramp giving external access to the Hall’s supper room.