Marybough captivated Melba

The Maryborough Wide Bay & Burnett Historical Society calls the Maryborough School of Arts Home. The imposing two-storey building is opposite the just as impressive Maryborough Town Hall in Kent Street.

Although I just walked in off the street so to speak as I couldn’t find an email address on their website Ian and Ken were a great help. After explaining what I wanted he said he would ring me later and sure enough a couple of hours later he had assembled some wonderful images for me on the Maryborough of Melba’s time.

Ironically, the second School of the Arts was built in 1887 and opened the following year. The architectural competition was launched and the winning design was by J.G. Grainger of Melbourne. He was the father of Percy Grainger and who later in 1909 designed and built the additions to Melba’s home which became Coombe Cottage at Coldstream. This was one of his last projects. Did the people of Maryborough tell Melba about the School of the Arts as she arrived for the concert? I think so seeing he was from Melbourne and his son was now a famous pianist.

The building is brick rendered in the Classic Revival Style. The main façade includes Corinthian pilasters as first floor lever, additional circular windows, and a central arched entrance with a keystone featuring the Roman Goddess Minerva.

I was fortunate the town hall was opened and I was allowed in to photograph its magnificent interior and stand on the stage Melba would have sang from. It’s easy to visualize the audience, dressed in their best clothing listening and enjoying the concert.

Interior of the Maryborough Town Hall in Kent Street, 2016.
Interior of the Maryborough Town Hall in Kent Street, 2016.


The next day I spent a couple of hours in the Maryborough Library and several hours at the Maryborough District Family History Society’s impressive former bank building. Volunteer Leanne was on duty and was able to provide me with a wealth of information about the town hall, the Royal Hotel where Melba stayed and the various dignitaries she met during her overnight stay. The depth of their resources and the way they are building their databases was a real eye-opener. I shared some of our work with her and sent her one of our training manuals.


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nellie melba museum

A journalist and historian, for many years I have studied Dame Nellie Melba and written articles, books, and given talks about her. I established the first website int he world dedicated to Melba and still maintain it today as a virtual museum.

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