Dear fellow Perthite, Dodgy Perth proposes that the Town Hall on Barrack Street should be demolished.
We know, we know. You’ll never be able to look us in the eye again. But hang around for a bit, while we justify this outrageous statement.
In 1913, it appeared likely Perth Council would vacate the Town Hall for proposed new premises. The Institute of Architects, big bunch of softies that they were, proposed the tower of the Hall be preserved for historic reasons, and incorporated into any new design.
(If you want a 21st century example of this way of thinking, look no further than the eyesore that is St George’s Hall façade on Hay Street.)
Fortunately, not everyone was as sentimental as the architects. And a few were willing to speak out, noting it was inconceivable that any sane person could desire to have “such an aggressive monstrosity” as the Town Hall handed down to posterity.
Of course, some will point out it was convict built, and we should treasure these memories of the past. Dodgy Perth, and our 1913 modernists, say no.
What are we commemorating? The dreadful crimes committed by some who constructed the Town Hall? Among those arriving on the Hougoumont (who made up most of the workforce) were men guilty of rape, murder, and incest.
Do you want to venerate rapists? Really?
If not the men, then perhaps we should remember the awful system which condemned people to be transported half a world away and used as slave labour, long after it had been abolished everywhere else in the world.
The impact it had on people like Frederick Bicknell, a young carpenter who did the shingle roofing on the Town Hall. And who was transported for arson and insurance fraud. And who died in Old Men’s Home in Perth, well into the 20th century.
Do you want to venerate slavery? Really?
Instead, argued our 1913 anti-heritage consultants, simply let us forget the Town Hall. In any case, its birthstains can never be forgotten when it has four sets of ghastly broad arrows at the corners of the spires. The Town Hall can only recall an exceedingly dark and blotted page in the history of the State.
If antiquarians really care, then measured drawings and a set of photographs could be made. But not one brick should remain of this awful place.
If we wish to perpetuate early architecture, Government House is pretty enough, and in much more picturesque surroundings.
So Dodgy Perth joins in with the dissenting voices of 1913 and says, with all due reverence and respect, let the Town Hall join its builders, and quietly pass away.