On the corner of Glenferrie and Manningtree roads lies an understated and historic building. Its character fits seamlessly with the similarly old buildings nearby; in fact, Manningtree Road itself is subject to a precinct heritage overlay.
Outside, a small plaque reads, ‘This Building was Erected by the Citizens of Hawthorn for use by Returned Sailors and Soldiers as a club.’ Despite being built by architects Richardson and Wood after the Edwardian era of architecture the building still includes features of that era, including rusticated stucco, pier and ball, arches and iris-shapes glazing on the doorway.
Built in 1920, the building was utilized as a social venue operated by the Hawthorn Returned Services League (RSL) for soldiers, sailors and airmen of World War I. Complete with a billiard-room, card room, several living rooms and canteen. In 1924, the then City of Hawthorn signed a Trust Deed with the RSL, where the city council must provide and maintain the premises for use by the Hawthorn RSL sub-branch.
The Hawthorn Historical Society do not have a lot of information about the Hawthorn RSL building between 1924 and early 1970s. From early 1970s the Hawthorn Artists’ Society, who were looking for an area to work and exhibit, were offered the use of part of the building by the City of Hawthorn and were the inhabitants up until March 2016 when they relocated to the Hawthorn Arts Centre. While another part of the building was let as a milk bar and later cafe.
Although to a passer-by the building may now look vacant, without any notices on the doors, the building is still in regular use by the Hawthorn sub-branch of the Victorian RSL and can be hired for events. Community groups including musical groups, a photographers club, Indian society, and more are also regular users of the building.
The City of Boroondara originally had refurbishment plans for this RSL building after the Artists' Society and neighbouring cafe had vacated.
In the councils 2016-17 budget they had planned capital expenditure of $700,000.00 for the building. However, this did not eventuate. Next years budget then outlined capital expenditure reduced to $500,000.00 and pushed out to 2018-19. In the current 2018-19 budget the capital expenditure has been pushed out again to 2019-20 and reduced to $400,000.00. The community awaits the City of Boroondara's reinvigoration of Hawthorn's only RSL building.
If you have any information or stories about the building, please contact The Glenferrie Times.