I don’t normally do photo walks around creepy old near-abandoned buildings, but for a change I decided to do a walk around La Trobe University’s Osborne Street campus at the former Bendigo Teachers’ College.
This is a strange collection of buildings spread across 12.3 hectares. Looking at the place, I am sure that the whole lot will soon be razed or at least sold because many of the buildings are quite literally falling apart and is probably worth a small fortune. As I walked around, it seemed that the site had almost been abandoned, but not entirely as there was still some evidence of recent activity.
Bendigo Teachers’ College on Osborne Street, Flora Hill (then Pleasant Vale) was constructed in 1959 although the institution itself pre-dated this period by several decades. Post-war, the state government realised that there was a looming shortage of teachers and so the Department of Education desperately set about constructing new training colleges.
Like the quick-and-cheap Light Timber Construction (LTC) schools that were being erected across Victoria at the time, the teachers’ colleges were also built to a uniform design with cheap materials. The Bendigo building is the only entirely intact specimen of this design that remains. Identical buildings in Geelong have been demolished whilst small sections of the colleges at Frankston and Ballarat (Wendouree) remain but serve other uses.
The former Bendigo Teacher’s College site contains two LTC wings with classrooms as well as a large hall and an administration annexe. Beside these are a number of smaller buildings, also from the same period that served as residential units for the students.
The above image is of the administration wing. The complex would have looked like this originally, with welcoming glass windows and double doors at the top of the stairs. As it stands now, one of the supporting walls has collapsed, leaving only two steel beams to support the veranda roof. A lot of the timberwork is rotting and the former front entrance is now being used to dump rubbish.
Bendigo Teachers’ College was merged into several successor organisations over the decades. Today, the site is owned by La Trobe University who have almost abandoned the site. Teacher training ceased there several years ago and as far as I can ascertain, the residential colleges were emptied in 2011. The main hall of the facility mainly serves as an examinations venue now.
The site is quickly falling into a state of disrepair.
In places whole sections of cladding, which consists of dull grey cement tiles mounted on wooden battens, has fallen away or are collapsing. The guttering and downpipes are rusted and torn and decaying curtains can be seen in classrooms that appear to have been abandoned long ago.
Peculiarly, parts of the link corridors have been boarded up and their lights and carpets removed with the space now being used for storage (as are some of the classrooms). Once upon a time, students would have eagerly passed through here on the way to lectures.
As I wandered around, I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like for students when it was new. Apparently the college had an impressive art collection at one stage that decorated the walls of the corridors. There would surely be hundreds of students with fond memories of this place?
Today the place has an almost haunted feel to it. Several 1960′s-style Hill’s Hoist clothes lines (some with pegs) litter the yard to remind us that people used to live there once. One of the link corridors has been demolished after an arsonist set fire to it last year.
If the classrooms and hall weren’t depressing enough, the student accommodation is something else again.
Also designed by the Public Works Department and constructed in 1959, it’s difficult to believe that these colleges would have been nice places to live even when they were brand new. Their design seems to have been inspired by the Soviet Union!
These cottages sit atop a hill beside the old teachers’ college. The spaces between them are filled with lawn, some trees, concrete paths and a range of utility sheds.
Walking around the campus, it seems somewhat sad that the place has ended-up in such a sad condition with almost no future to speak of. Unloved, it probably awaits the wrecking ball. One can see the pride with which it would have been greeted by the community in the beginning and the indifference with which it is treated now.
The grand driveway that used to wind up the hill to the admin block has been permanently closed for years. The end is near.
It has struck me as odd that I cannot find a single historic image of the Bendigo Teachers’ College, nor any non-academic or non-governmental reference to it on the internet. I hope, if nothing else, this blog post will in time serve as a final reminder of what stood here. This site has much history.