THE Jeetho Hall topped a recent poll by the Korumburra and District Historical Society to identify the region’s historical wonders.

A delighted Lorraine Knox, secretary of the Jeetho Hall committee of management, shared the following article (edited for space) about the historic building which sits proudly on a rural hill just 10 kilometres from Korumburra.

The Jeetho Hall has a rich history as one of South Gippsland’s iconic buildings. It has had many lives and is currently enjoying a new resurgence, putting the small hamlet of Jeetho back on the map.

Surrounded by the countryside that is South Gippsland with its rolling hills and lush pastures ensures unique privacy. The Jeetho Hall has become a popular venue for weddings and celebrations. Its charm is retained within its original character, yet it is well equipped with modern facilities. Outside, enclosed by a rustic post and rail fence and wrought iron gates, is a large, grassed area perfect for marquees to easily cater for large events.

But this hall was originally created for a different reason.

The township of Jeetho Valley was surveyed from land selected by William J Hosking in 1876 for his daughter, Mrs Ursula Richardson. Thirty-one acres were divided into 154 allotments with nine streets developed.

In 1901, there were 24 houses and the population consisted of 50 males and 43 females. By 1904, all lots had been sold.

Jeetho prospered into a thriving community and boasted a hall, coffee palace, blacksmiths, church, bakery, butcher, Colonial Bank, grocers, sawmill, brickworks, saddler, wine saloon and three railway houses.

Jeetho railway station opened in 1891. The first of three schools built in Jeetho began operation in 1886 with an enrolment of 30 students – 13 boys and 17 girls. By 1907, enrolments had grown to 65 students and beyond in later years.

The word ‘Valley’ was dropped and the town of Jeetho was thriving.

During this time, Jeetho became the centre of local government for the Shire of Poowong and Jeetho. Mr WJ Hosking selected Crown Allotment 9 and 10 in the Parish of Jeetho on November 2, 1876. He offered to build offices and council chambers for the newly formed shire, together with a nine-stall stable.

This offer was accepted by the Shire of Poowong and Jeetho on January 15, 1892. The new shire hall was completed on July 7, 1892 and gifted to the shire who used the building as its chambers until 1907.

The first council meeting at Jeetho Shire Hall was on November 1, 1892. Standing convention of having the meeting date “as Tuesday on or before the full moon” was observed to allow councillors to ride in moonlight by horseback to and from the meetings. Designed by J Waugh, it is a local rare example of early architecture which illustrates its original function as the first shire offices by its superior design and unique features not found elsewhere in the shire.

Meetings were held at Jeetho Shire Hall until 1907. Additional councillors made accommodation at Jeetho a problem, along with the difficulty of getting to meetings. With the growth of the Korumburra township due to the discovery of coal, the council chambers were relocated.

A group of Jeetho residents leased the hall from 1913 until 1918 when the shire decided to sell it. This decision was soon made known through the local papers.

The Jeetho community was very opposed to the sale and expressed its disapproval at a public meeting. The matter was finally settled when it was agreed the Jeetho residents would by the hall and goodwill for the sum of 70 pounds, to be raised by debentures.

Trustees were appointed – John Johnson, Michael J McGrath, Joe Moden, Tom Foristal and Robert F Wynne – and recorded on the title on July 2, 1919. All debenture holders were fully paid off by 1924.

When the shire offices moved to Korumburra, Jeetho was no longer the hub of infrastructure and activity. Korumburra and Jumbunna had working coal mines that were a source of employment for locals. The building of the railway line through to Wonthaggi also caused the decline and finally the disappearance of Jeetho.

Many of the houses in Jeetho were shifted to other locations and Jeetho became a predominantly rural farming area.

But the hall has survived and flourished and is today the only remaining building of a once thriving town. The community is still the proud owner. Many trustees were appointed prior to 1986 when the hall became incorporated. It has since been run by a committee of management.

Volunteers are the only reason this historic hall still exists, and it is an interesting, proud fact that the tradition continues with direct descendants of the original trustees still on the current committee.

In 1979, the Jeetho Hall had a back-to weekend, 1992 saw a 100-year celebration and, more recently, in 2017, a special function was held to acknowledge 125 years.

The hall has been extensively used for all these years but has needed a few facelifts along the way. The most recent refurbishment, reopened in 2013, has given the hall and the community a new life.

The current committee is committed to retaining the Jeetho Hall as a focal point for the community into the future and endeavours to be worthy custodians for the next generations.