On Friday 28 February, 1913, Sir Francis Suttor, President of the Royal Agricultural Society, raised his glass of champagne and proposed a toast to a Mr J B Sanders, the architect of the showground’s newest, and largest building. They were standing in the Royal Hall of Industries, built in just nine months at a cost of £23,000.
The Royal Hall of Industries was a considered a landmark of progress at the time of its construction. Although the outside is imposing and conservative with Greco-roman architectural details, go through the doors and you find a huge, bright space: 5400 square metres in total, with natural light flooding through the arched windows: a cathedral to Australian innovation.
When the Royal Hall of Industries first opened to the public the Sydney Morning Herald reported a treasure trove of futuristic exhibits, including motor cycles, insecticides, photographic equipment, jewellery, novelties and musical instruments. It continues to take a role in Sydney’s colourful history to this day.
In 1919 the building was commandeered by the government for use as a morgue during the 1919 influenza epidemic, its only exhibition a sobering row of coffins.
During the Roaring 20s it was affectionately known as the “Palais Royale”, and was a popular rendezvous for young Sydneysiders, who flocked to the dances and grand balls, roller skating and ice skating.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s the building was used as a boxing venue, and in World War II the army took it over. More recently, the Royal Hall of Industries has become the stuff of childhood memories in its role as the “Showbag Pavilion”.
Currently the Royal Hall of Industries play host to many spectacular events such as The Marie Claire Awards, the annual Mardi Gras Party and several festivals such as Masterchef Live and Stereosonic.