Victorian Stained Glass in the Rear Hall of the Former East Ballarat Free Library - Barkly Street, East Ballarat
Situated at 25 to 29 Barkly Street in the Victorian provincial city of Ballarat, the former East Ballarat Free Library is to this day, still an imposing building. When it was built in 1867, it must have been even more imposing, as it would have been one of only a few permanent structures in the area, which was filled with tents as the are was hit by goldmining fever.
The East Ballarat Free Library is not only imposing, but has an unusual design using polychromatic brickwork to define separate highly individual elements of the facade, rather like much of the Methodist Church architecture built during slightly later periods. The library is the only known work of the architect C. Ohlfsen Bagge, and dates from 1867. At that date it represents an early use of coloured brick-work in Victoria. The building is of architectural importance as an early example of the polychromatic Gothic Revival style which survives substantially intact with a number of fine interiors including the spiral staircase, the original library, the hall and the pine-lined rear rooms. The construction of the front section of the Barkly Street was completed in 1869. C. Ohlfsen-Bagge acted as honorary architect and the interior design and supervision as carried out by J. J. Lorenz. The builders were Boulton and Fyfe and the interiors were completed by Fly Brothers.
Established in 1862 the East Ballarat Free Library was amongst the earliest of Ballarat's social and educational institutions and when housed in its own building in Barkly Street, the library built up an outstanding collection which was second in Australia only to the State Library of Victoria . It served as a focal point for educational purposes; the school of design founded there in 1870 advancing to become the Ballarat East branch of the school of mines in the 1900s. The library was officially closed in 1973 after a life of 111 years. The books were taken to the Camp Street Library and the Ballarat Historical Society's exhibits were moved from Camp St to the Old Ballarat East Library. In 1980 the Ballarat School of Mines Council presented a proposal to the Ballarat City Council regarding occupying and managing the East Ballarat Free Library as a School of Traditional Crafts. The proposal included maintaining the building in optimum condition. In 1983, land formally occupied by the East Ballarat Free Library in Barkly St was gazetted as a reserve for educational purposes and allocated to the Ballarat School of Mines. In 1987 the former East Ballarat Library reopened after extensive renovations and repairs, as the Management Training Centre of the Ballarat School of Mines.