Kiama’s oldest building gets new lease of life

Lesley Southern and Val Best after cutting the ribbon

The oldest and the longest serving members of the Kiama Uniting Church, Lesley Southern and Val Best, were given the honour of reopening the Church Hall after its extensive renovation.

Kiama’s oldest operational building opened in 1851 as the first permanent church of any kind built in the Southern Illawarra. Within a decade a new larger church (destroyed in a storm in 1969) was built and the building became the Lecture Hall, used for Sunday School classes and other occasions. It was extended towards Manning St in 1889.

A $100,000 grant by the State Government helped get the restoration ball rolling, but costs increased once work started and the full extent of the remediation was made evident.

Interior lead paint and asbestos had to be removed; the roof, insulation, guttering and downpipes were replaced; salt was removed from the walls and a chemical damp course was injected; and finally painting inside and out, with provision for ongoing maintenance.

Unfortunately, well intentioned repairs and maintenance carried out over the years were the cause of some of the problems.

The initial estimate of a total cost of $103,000 ballooned out to $251,500, with the gap being met by donations and church funds. A total of $108,000 has been raised by the community so far.

Michelle Broad, Chair of the Kiama Jamberoo Uniting Church Council, with Daryl Back, who managed the project; Cliff Mason; and Gareth Ward MP, Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services at the re-opening of the Hall

“It is a little surprising that there’s been no financial support from Council, given its intention to make Manning Street a Heritage Precinct, coupled with the fact that it is Kiama’s oldest operational building right at the ‘gateway to the CBD’,” says Cliff Mason, who as Church Council Secretary lobbied for funds.

“I have hopes they‘ll reconsider in due course.”

The Hall is now available for hire, equipped with airconditioning, internet and a kitchenette.

“Some of our previous church-related hall users like the weekly Kiama Creative Craft group have moved back in, but we are also wanting to open it up further to community and corporate users,” says Mr Mason.

“The restoration of this building will benefit the whole community,” says the Chair of the Church Council, Michelle Broad.

The Katandra Choir, which performed at the opening, can attest to the quality of the room’s acoustics.

The restored Hall in use

Details: Contributions are still welcome, and can be direct deposited to the following Westpac account: BSB 032689 A/c 220359 or send a cheque to the UCA—Kiama Heritage Restoration Fund to PO Box 140, Kiama. To book the space, contact Alan Fowlie on 4232 2526

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