Early in 1928, the New South Wales State Government approved the establishment of a Teachers’ College in Armidale and the building work began in 1929. The southern wing was opened in February 1930 and the building was completed in February 1931 at a cost of £98,000. The design follows the rectangular shape and internal floor plan of Sydney Teachers’ College with two instead of three floors. The Principal’s (C.B. Newling) residence was built to the west of the main building.
The building is heritage listed on the National Estate database Reference No. 292 and by the Armidale Dumaresq Council. A Conservation Plan (HAP 97 332) for the building was commenced and completed in 1997. In 2006 the building and grounds were placed on the State Heritage Register (No. 02193).
Distinctive features of the former college building are:
It is a representative example of Interwar Collegiate Architecture and of the Interwar Georgian Revival Style.
Major features within the building were the art collection and the stained-glass windows. The benefactor Howard Hinton, in the interest of educating the students, donated hundreds of paintings. Between 1929 and 1948, he gave over 1000 original works of art to the College and commissioned from Norman Carter the two stained-glass windows. He also donated a number of the portraits of early principals.
The Gymnasium was designed on elliptical springs for physical education activities. The now famous Saturday night student dances were also held in the Gym.
The Library Stack of metal and fire-proofed glazed intermediate floors is now the only one of its kind left in New South Wales.
Work of the Friends of the Old Teachers’ College
In 1996, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of New England resigned and the interim Vice-Chancellor who followed decided to ‘mothball’ the building. An intense and heated correspondence in the local paper led to a meeting in April 1997, at which it was agreed to create a Committee to save and protect the building. This group became the Friends of the Old Teachers’ College (F.O.T.C.).
A timeline of events:
The Friends first meeting was held on 28 April 1997, it was incorporated by July and gained fundraising authority in August.
On 14 November 1997, there was a launch of the Friends of theOld Teachers’ College and later that month several resource people were approached, representing the business, media, heritage and arts worlds.
13 February 1998 was the day of occupation by the Friends of offices in the western quadrangle. A Memorandum of Understanding between the University of New England (trustees of the building) the then Armidale City Council (now Armidale Dumaresq Council) and the Friends of theOld Teachers’ College was signed on 4 May.
The Committee began its major fundraiser activities in 1998. The co-ordinator organised usage of rented spaces for arts groups and assisted with membership drives, fundraising and publicity.
In July 1999, a Business Plan was started and a Foundation was established.
Grants from the N.S.W. State Heritage Office and the Ministry for the Arts were received in late 1999 and used to carry out the work necessary to comply with licensing requirements for the public use of the Auditorium and fire protection work within the building.
Mid May to mid June 2000, the Armidale Eisteddfod was held in the Auditorium for the first time and has continued to be held there.
Other important developments include:
On 26 October 2000 a new booklet outlining the history of the building written by a local historian Mr Graham Wilson was launched.
On 11 November 2000 a replica of the College Book of Remembrance was dedicated. This was necessary as the original Book of Remembrance is now a State Archive and is displayed in the upstairs foyer.
A large part of 2001 was spent in preparing funding applications with special attention given to one under the Federal Government’s Regional Solutions Program. A grant of $122,990 was approved to complete major restoration of the Auditorium in April 2002.
Also in April 2002, the Armidale Dumaresq Council approved a grant for an Honour Board on which was recorded the names of every student, ex-student and member of staff of the Armidale Teachers’ College, who enlisted during Word War II. This Honour Board completed the War Memorial in the upstairs foyer.
With the help of volunteers, the History Room is now open on weekday afternoons, 2.00 p.m. – 4.00 p.m. The Committee of the Friends intends to continue making applications for grants and holding fundraising events to achieve the restoration and conservation of the Armidale Teachers’ College building.