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Sunday, April 24, 2016

1st Scout Hall, 61 Princes Highway, Dandenong, undated.

The 1st Dandenong Scout Group (Armytage’s Own) was formed in March, 1928 by Mr Ted Swords, the first scout master. Apparently a prior group existed for some time in 1917, before their scout master was sent off to serve in the A. I. F. The scout troop called themselves Armytage’s Own, as a tribute to Miss Ada Armytage of Holm Park, 
country house) and Como House, South Yarra.

She was the benefactress of the troop. The Armytage sisters were strong supporters of the scouting movement, providing the Dandenong troop with a permanent camping ground on their Beaconsfield property and financial support. This association was formed when Lord Baden-Powell stayed with the Armytage sisters when he came for the World Jamboree at Frankston.

In 1933, the crenellated scout hall on the present site was built at the extravagant cost of £3000. The hall was paid for by Ada Armytage by a direct donation of £2000 and a loan of £1400. Ivan Dimant was the architect. It contained three patrol rooms, an office for the scout master, club room, Rover’s den, kitchenette, and troop assembly hall.

It had an overall floor space of 40,000 square feet. 93 It is still considered to be one of the finest and most distinctive of Melbourne’s early scout halls. A comparable contemporary example is at Footscray but it is far less imposing externally: that hall is on the Victorian Heritage Register. A broader comparison would be with the former Moondah gate house (1888) at Mt Eliza and the forestry school at Creswick.

The building is erected on the eastern corner of what was once known as Anzac Park (now Hemmings park) bequeathed by the late John Hemmings. The Hemmings family was well known in Dandenong as the owner of the brickworks which utilized Dandenong’s excellent clays and timber resources. The Brickyards on the Melbourne Road (now Princes Highway) functioned until the 1930s when the vacant land was taken
over by the Dandenong Shire Council.

In 1933 the Boy Scouts Association shared the 8 acre site with the Council and built their hall fronting the Highway. 94 Once the brickworks closed in 1929, the Council began to use the land as a rubbish dump; students from the High School can remember there being huge rats in the area. The scout hall would have initially been in a very insalubrious environment.

During the war the scout hall and the park, which must have been partially cleared, was used by the American Armed Forces as a hospital base, associated with their encampment at Rowville. The hall was partitioned and servicemen were treated in the hall and five other huts erected around it.

After the War the High School utilised the hospital huts as classrooms, gymnasium and for school social functions. All but one of the huts were later moved across the road to the school grounds. The wider community also made good use of the hall for meetings, dances, exhibitions and community events.

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