We’ve all walked past the Aldinga Institute Hall many times, and may even have attended meetings, classes or events inside its doors.
But did you know it’s history? While the current hall was built as recently as 1936, the Institute’s history goes back to the earliest days of Aldinga.
We found the following information on the website of the Institutes of South Australia: Aldinga – Institutes Of South Australia (institutessa.com)
Aldinga is a small beach town about 45 km south of Adelaide, that attracts holidaymakers and commuters from Adelaide.
Aldinga’s long beaches and gently rolling hills were admired by Matthew Flinders when he sailed up the coast in 1802. Its name in the Kaurna language was ngaltingga, said to mean ‘open, wide’.
The first hotel was built there in the 1840s when farmers started moving into the area. The post office opened in 1851 and the town flourished in the 1860s when it operated as a port for the surrounding farms.
The Aldinga Literary Institute was one of the early institutes in the state, affiliating with the SA Institute Association in June 1860. It began in a room of the Aldinga school, which opened in 1852.
In 1861 a lecture was given by FH Needham RN on Recollections of the Russian War, as part of a series of lectures.
In 1863 CH Compton gave a lecture titled The Ballad Music of England, during which he sang to piano accompaniment and ‘performed excellently on the harmonium’.
In March 1866 the chairman of the Aldinga Institute proposed, at an Institute meeting, the building of a District Hall, to be funded by shares.
This Aldinga Hall was built for the whole community and the Institute made good use of it. A Mutual Improvement class was held in the building in 1867. In the following year, the District Council gave permission for the Institute to use and put up a bookcase in the hall.
Design classes were given and a lecture by the Rev John Gardner on Locomotion, Past and Present as part of a Sunday Leisure Hour attracted around 60 people.
By 1869 the Institute offered classes in reading, debating, and singing, and in 1872 it purchased a piano. In 1875 and 1876 the Institute building was used as a school.
Interest in the Institute and subscriptions dwindled over the next few years until, from 1881 to 1882 it fell dormant, and no returns were sent to the central body. In 1883 a lecture on Volcanos attracted 150 people and a few years later the Institute had recovered. Singing class began again and continued between 1886 and 1890, a Glee Club began in 1890, a brass band practised in the building between 1890 and 1893, and another literary society formed in 1894 with an average attendance of 50.
From 1896 the reading-room was open on Fridays between 7 and 9.30 in the evening, the Literary Society was still going strong in 1900, and a Young Men’s Cub formed in 1896.
In 1905 the Institute opened a branch at Sellick’s Hill, but that closed the following year.
In1905-06 lectures on Pea Farming, Japan, Wheat growing and Common Ailments attracted up to 80 people. The Institute bought instruments for the band that practised in the Institute building.
In 1913 the Aldinga Improvement Committee met in the district hall and opened a subscription list for a new hall.
Later that year a dance and card evening was held to raise funds.
At that time Institute and other public meetings were held in the Council Chambers until the Institute had own building in the 1930s. The hall was referred to as the District Hall. In 1932 the Crown Law authority ruled that the Aldinga District Hall was to be the property of the amalgamated Willunga and Aldinga Council, called the Willunga Council.
In 1934 the Aldinga Improvement Association decided to build a new hall for the Institute. The old hall was pulled down and some of the materials used in the new build. The tender was let and much of the work was voluntary labour.
The stone was from the Martin property at Maslin Beach.
The foundation stone was laid by Mr M Stone and in 1935 the new Institute Hall was opened by F J Culley on January 1,1936, in front of a large gathering.
The building cost £900and was almost totally paid for when it was opened. It had a floor space of 35 by 48ft with two rooms at the front as well as two dressing rooms at the back. A local resident donated 165 ‘plush chairs’ and the Foresters’ sports committee gave the screen and curtains for the stage. A concert was given in the evening by the Austral Philharmonic Society of Adelaide and was followed by a dance.
In 1937 a concert was reported as held in the Aldinga Institute Hall on behalf of library funds.
In 1937 the Aldinga Institute committee received a free gift of a well-equipped hall when the District Council amalgamated with seven other councils. The committee then added a supper room and a kitchen.
In 1940 the library, with no magazines, was kept in a cupboard.
In 1959 movies were held in the hall every two months and a Queen Competition coupled with a concert raised £40.
A Drama Club and rent paid by the Bank of Adelaide brought income to the Institute in 1961and 1963.
In 1963 the District Council offered to pay half the cost of new toilets.
The Institute building continued to be used by the community through the 1960s and 1970s–weekly by a Judo Club and monthly by the local Red Cross in the ‘60s, and with films and old-style dancing in the ‘70s. Trading tables also helped raise funds for maintenance.
In 1974 Senior Citizens began meeting there once a month.
In 1978 the Institute was still receiving four boxes of books from the Institute Association, two fiction and two general. In 1983 the librarian reported receiving four boxes of books free from the Institute Association but little use of the library–only three visitors a week!
The building, however, was well used. The Community Youth Support Scheme used the supper room twice a week at $7 a day, and the Southern Cross School of Dancing was using it regularly.
In 1984 the committee decided to wind down the library. A sale of books was held in the hall later that year. The hall continued to play a significant part on the community. Hall hire income came to $3,306 and rent from the ANZ bank to $260 that year. However, $21,000 was required for additions and upgrading of the facilities that year.
In February of 1986 the minutes of the Aldinga Institute AGM recorded that it had lost its library function so it would dissolve as an Institute. On June 4 1986 at a general meeting of the Institute the dissolution was announced formally but it was reported that a 150 Jubilee project to renovate the stage would be going ahead.
The District Council agreed to accept the transfer of the building, and the community was subsequently served by the Willunga School and Community Library.
From the 1990s to 2017 the building was used as a meeting place for the Almond Grove Family Church and the Aldinga Quilters.