Tucked away upstairs from the busyness of Victoria Street is a hidden gem that has been operating for over 150 years, the Taree Literary Institute. Also known as Schools of Arts, Literary Institutes were established to provide a combination of adult education and recreation facilities and often became the heart of small town activities. The Taree Literary Institute is a rare, functioning survivor.1
Established in 1864 in rented premises, books on loan from the ‘Free Public Library’ (State Library) were available for members to borrow, with public lectures and children’s’ activities also on offer.2
By 1900 the Institute had the wherewithal to purchase land and erect its own building, a beautiful two-storey structure, which was officially opened on 14 February 1902 and boasted a reading room, library, and hall together with a recreation room for billiards, cards and dominoes.3 The building was threatened by fire in 1909 during an intense dominoes game,4 but survived until 1958 at which time it was decided to redevelop the site.5
The present building was completed in June 1960, providing accommodation for the Institute at first floor level together with commercial rental accommodation at street level. The rental income provides operating funds for the lending library and charity work.6
Today, the Institution with its friendly staff and volunteers is free to join and provides a range of reading material, with romance and western novels being particularly popular.
Author: Janine Roberts
1 Association of Mechanics’ Institutes and Schools of Arts NSW amisa.org.au.
2 Australian Town and Country Journal, 21 April 1888.
3 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of New SouthWales(Taree), 19 February 1902.
4 Macleay Chronicle, 6 May 1909.
5 Notes kept by the Taree Literary Institute.
6 Constitution of the Taree Literary Institute.