Exciting events are taking place in one of Lawson’s most historic buildings, the Mechanics Institute at 284 Great Western Highway.
The current building first officially opened in 1903 and was constructed from the materials of the 1867 Lawson Railway Station. Later additions to the side and front entrance of the building were made from bricks from Mount Victoria’s old railway station. It was intended to house the Literary and Debating Society set up in 1896 (using the building of the original Blue Mountain Inn as its meeting place) and the library that was growing rapidly. In 1911 it became the Literary Institute and in the 1960s the Lawson Community Centre. Until the 1960s it was a major social centre and performance space for the area.
For example, in a Directory of 1905, under the heading “The Village of Lawson” the following appears:
“Mechanics’Institute, with reading room, where. daily and weekly papers of every variety are to be seen and a circulating library containing about 1,000 volumes. The hall has a seating capacity of about 300. “
In 1906 a new caretaker’s room and dressing room for performers were added at the rear of the hall and in 1907 the new Blue Mountain’s Shire Council took over the building temporarily for meetings etc. In1909 the stage was enlarged and wings were added for theatre, and moving pictures were first exhibited at the hall by a travelling show. In the “Blue Mountain Echo” of April 1911, it was advertised that “flickerless flicks” were being shown in the above hall. Up to the 1930′s being the only hall in the district, it was very popular with all types of entertainment. Pictures continued to be shown until the early 1940′s.
Mechanics’ Institutes are the forerunners of public libraries and adult education in Australia. The Mechanics’ Institute movement began in 1799 when Dr George Birkbeck conducted a series of free lectures for the working men of Glasgow. The term ‘mechanic’ at that time meant artisan, tradesman or working man. In the days before Government funded libraries and adult education, the Mechanics’ Institute provided people with much-needed access to books, newspapers, periodicals, lectures and scientific demonstrations. Their halls also provided local communities with a place for social, cultural and recreational gatherings.
More Historical Information on : www.midmountainshistory.org
Rare photos of Lawson : www.midmountainshistory.org/Lawson%20Photos/index.html