Hosting hundreds of dances, balls, concerts and dinners over a journey that has spanned three centuries, it is perhaps an impossible task to draw one thread from the long history of Arthur River Hall. But if there is one constant — it might just be the hall’s cycle of growth, decay and renewal. Arthur River Hall features two buildings, with the first built in the 1890s before being renovated in the 1930s. A second hall was added after World War II, boosting Arthur River Hall’s capacity and bringing more balls, performances and dances to its home across the highway. Each building has enjoyed moments of popularity and endured periods of decline. But whenever Arthur River Hall has faced a moment of crisis, the local community has always rallied to preserve its historic heart. Arthur River Hall’s first building was finished in the 1890s. Made of stone with an iron roof, the squat building would serve as an early school and home for the Arthur River Farmers Club. But as the Shire of West Arthur Municipal Heritage Listing notes, concerns over the state of this original stone hall began to surface as early as 1907. “An effort is being made to do something in regard to the hall here, and is about time, as anyone who has seen the hall will admit,” the document said. Early calls to preserve the stone structure did not immediately translate into action. Two years later it was reported that concern remained at the “lack of maintenance of this little-used hall”. It would take until the 1930s for refurbishments to be carried out when the front “T” section was constructed using stone from a nearby demolished inn. In the years between, it continued to feature as a prominent part of the community, hosting fundraisers for the WWI war effort and providing a central meeting point for locals. At the close of WWII, many families chose the Arthur River region as the place to start a new life, leaving their difficult wartime experiences behind them. With the region’s population booming, a social club was formed in 1946 that raised funds to construct a new building. Heather McDougall moved to West Arthur in 1958 with her family, living there “off and on” ever since. “Most of the families were kind of from the same generation, most had fought in the war and had kids sort of roughly the same age,” Ms McDougall said. “They started a golf club and I think it was probably the war service guys who initiated the building of the newer bigger hall next door so that everyone could fit in.” As a child she remembers that the hall helped to foster a rich sense of community spirit and fun for the fast-growing region. “When I was a kid there they used to have dances in the hall and all of the kids slept outside,” she said. “They didn’t want to leave their kids at home and there probably weren’t any babysitters around and there was very little traffic on the highway, so the kids all just slept in the cars when they got tired.” The hall also helped to connect women like Ms McDougall’s mother Betty, through the Country Women’s Association. Formed in 1945, this influential organisation held many activities at the hall. Making, baking and cooking, the club provided a communal hub for local women from its home at the hall. Over the years, Ms McDougall would go on to experience the joys of the hall first-hand, attending balls and dances well into the 1980s. “For a few years there we had a dinner dance, the dancing was in the big hall and food and the bar were in the small hall...there were tables all around the edge of the hall,” she said. “The menu was interesting, as in the entree was kangaroo tail stew, the main course was a roast cooked on a Weber.” But those good times started to fade in recent years. As the hall was used less and less, it started to fall into disrepair. Peter Manuel and John Pascoe were heavily involved in making sure that this decline did not become terminal. “The woodwork and panes of glass were broken, there was rot in the door frame, so they all needed fixing up,” Mr Manuel said. “The building was so sound that it seemed a great pity to knock it down. They quoted about $220,000, I think, to replace it...so we just decided to fix them.” Working with a team of passionate locals, Mr Manuel refitted the windows and doors on the 1950s building while Mr Pascoe lobbied local farmers to fund the community project. “For the sake of most people putting in $1000 or $1500 or something, we’ve ended up with a neat and tidy hall that’s again fit for use,” Mr Pascoe said. Last year, this refurbished hall hosted a wedding and its refitted kitchen is scheduled to be completed this week. Arthur River Hall will inevitably need care into the future, but if its history is anything to go by, its community will be ready to stand up for it again.