The Mechanics Institute.. Historical Background.

In June 1896, a meeting held at Mr. Newton's residence resulted in the formation of a Literary and Debating Society. It met first in a room at the old farm (previously The Blue Mountain Inn) which had been made available by Mr. A.S. Wilson.

By degrees a small library was established and the Society grew slowly and prospered. When Mr. Wilson died a move was made to the "Coffee Palace" in San Jose Avenue, but the Society waned. To attract young men it was decided to purchase a billiard table.

Mr. J.H. Humbly generously loaned the money free of interest. The table was procured and although the innovation was regarded coldly by some of the members it proved an instantaneous success. Soon after a small building was erected on a site procured for the town by the Progress Committee. The move to this building proved beneficial and a public meeting decided that the time had arrived when the more imposing title Mechanics' Institute could well be adopted.

The old committee willingly handed over the whole of their property to the new committee and Government recognition was sought and obtained.

Mr. F.S. Mitchell donated ten guineas worth of books and MissMemes and other friends also assisted and thus the library grew to respectable proportions and with a corresponding increase in membership. The position of Librarian was honorary and was filled by various members, notably Mr. James Memes, under whose constant care and attention it became very popular. For a long time Mr. R. Clayton voluntarily took charge of the billiard table. Soon it became evident that larger premises were imperatively necessary. Plans were prepared and adopted and in 1902 the committee bought the old Railway Station building, removed it to their land and after selling the surplus material, decided to borrow £300 and build. Tenders were called, but exceeded the estimated amount.

Then it was decided to pay for the plans, make certain alterations, and erect the building under the supervision of Mr. A. Stephens, who was to receive 10 percent on the total cost.

Construction began on 1st August, 1903 and finished on 18th November of that year. The total cost of the building was £407.

Starting in 1895 with a membership of eight and absolutely no funds, the Lawson Mechanics' Institute stands in 1903 with a membership of 54, with 4 life Members. The books in the library total 575. The land and building is vested in seven trustees, viz., Messrs. J. Geggie, W. Hart, 1.H. Humbly, E.G.W. Palmer, J.F. Carson, W.P. Wilson and 1. Wheeler.

The existing officers were:

President:    1.R. Smith, M.P.

Vice-Presidents: Rev. CJ. Cribb and W. Hart

Ron. Treasurer: Mr. W. Newton

Ron. Secretary: Mr. W. Smith

Committee Messrs.: D. Allen, S.P. Coleman, T.A. Jones, J. George, S. Thompson, C.W. Wilson and W.H. Lang.

The above information was extracted from a "souvenir" paper published by Mr. Watkin Wynne to coincide with the completion and opening of new Mechanics' Institute building officially opened by Mr. T.R. Smith, M.P. on 19th December, 1903.

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. "

Up to the 1930's being the only hall in the district, it was very popular with all types of entertainment. It was used for many years as a picture show.

 In the "Blue Mountain Echo" of April 1911, it was advertised that "flickerless flicks" were being shown in the above hall. Pictures continued to be shown until the early 1940's.

The Institute was also the meeting place for many local organisations.In 1911, the name Mechanics' Institute was changed to Literary Institute. It is now (1985) known as the Lawson Community Centre and operates as such.
references  Acknowledgments
S.J. Bentley. "Christmas Swamp" A History Of Lawson.

Chronological History Of The Mechanics Institute (Community Hall)

Read About The History of The Mechanics Institute (Community Hall)

Excerpts From The Heritage Report