LOCATION:    59 Main Street, Hahndorf

The Hahndorf Memorial Institute, an imposing building located at 59 Main Street, is recognised as a community focal point and performing arts base for Hahndorf and district. The building, or part thereof, can be hired for community and private events including workshops, miscellaneous classes, meetings, concerts, private functions, and similar usages.

Full details and availability can be obtained by contacting: Eric Aliffe - phone: (08) 8391 2028

For Events, Functions, comments and items of interest please visit and contribute to our facebook page

A Brief History

FW Wittwer's House - Site of the First Meeting to Form the Hahndorf Institute.

On 21 October 1861, Hahndorf residents attended a meeting at the Australian Arms Hotel where they agreed to establish a ‘Mechanics Institute’ for adult and community education.  The ‘Mechanics Institute’ began its life in 1861 in the front room of flour-miller F.W. Wittwer's newly built two storey home (now Detmold, 85 Main Street) over the road from his Mill.  The first meeting was held on 23 November 1861 and the official opening held on 4 December of that year.  Alfred von Doussa Snr (storekeeper) was the first President and Rudolph Ey (Lutheran School teacher) the Secretary.

Although the Institute struggled financially in its early years, it fulfilled a community purpose.  A number of German newspapers were available, and lectures were given on a range of subjects in a social atmosphere. Lectures given included Electricity, Magnetism, Galvanism, Vulcanism, Anatomy and Physiology.  A singing class and a debating group were formed.  A library was created which by 1873 had a holding of 273 books.

On 11 August 1869, the ‘Mechanics Institute’ affiliated with the ‘South Australian Institute’.  This caused problems as a requirement of affiliation was that the reading room was to be open to the public.  This clashed with members only being admitted to Wittwer's home.  As a result an attempt was made in 1872 to establish a separate building for the Institute, however this effort was unsuccessful.  By 1875, the Institute was dormant.

Institute Opening Ceremony 1893In 1892, the support for a building for the Institute was re-kindled and public meetings held.  After an approach to the Government, a site designated to be used for the Institute was presented in 1893 allowing construction of the Institute to be commenced.  The site obtained was part of a land grant originally purchased by Joseph Remfrey in 1849, which he sold to Robert Hunt in 1852, and the Government purchased in 1877.  It was originally intended that Hahndorf’s government school would be built on the allotment together with the adjacent allotment where the Post and Telegraph Office had eventually been built in 1883.  As another site in Church Street had been used for the school, the land was available.  The site was narrow and steeply sloping requiring the building to be constructed part-way up the block with considerable excavation necessary.  This work was carried out with voluntary labour using pick, shovel and wheelbarrow.

On the 10 April 1893, Mr Barr Smith laid the foundation stone for the building at which he stated:  ‘…. The resident’s of the picturesque German village of the Hills have always been noted for their practical exposition of the useful doctrine of self-help, and they feel all the prouder of their Institute; they have built it for themselves ….’   At the same time the 'Mount Barker Courier' newspaper reported: '…. The Institute will be one storey in height. The front door will lead into a passage 8 feet (2.4m) in width, on the right and left of which will be two rooms to be used as a library and reading room, each of which will be 16½ feet (5.0m) in length by 15 feet (4.6m) in height and suitable for all requirements. At the end of the passage a door will give access to the main hall, 24 feet (7.3m) in width and 56 feet (17.1m) in length and 18 feet (5.5m) in height. This hall will have a large stage and suitable dressing rooms, fittings and other accommodations provided .... and, as the site is central and prominent and the external design pleasing, the building will be an ornament to the township. It is estimated that when completed and furnished, the building will cost about £700 ($1400) .…'

The official opening of the ‘Hahndorf Institute’ took place on 4 November 1893.  The initial trustees were Carl Bom, Carl Borchers, Douglas Byard, Heinrich Sonnemann, and Louis von Doussa.

In 1923, a verandah was erected on the northern side, and a supper room on the opposite side of the building which was opened 1 August. after many fundraisers

Hahndorf Institute 1930In 1947, a committee was formed to investigate the expansion of the old building as a Soldiers Memorial.  Years of planning and fund-raising followed until in 1954 plans for a new hall were prepared.  Eventually, construction was approved in 1955 when a bank loan of £5,000 ($10,000) was obtained.  In 1956, the Library and Reading Rooms were demolished, and the foundation stone was laid by Senator E.W. Mattner on 19 January 1957.  The Library was re-located to the old Stage, the old Hall became the Supper Room, and the old Supper Room became the Kitchen.

This large extension at the front of the original building was officially opened by Mr H H Shannon on 12 October 1957.  The opening was marked by a Grand Ball and Concert which many residents may still recall.  By 1966 the bank loan had been repaid.

The Hahndorf Memorial Institute continued to operate until 1988 when a motion to dissolve was carried on 5 July of that year.  As a result, the District Council of Mount Barker assumed ownership of the building and associated land, and then in 1989 appointed a ‘Committee of Management’ for the property.  The Management Committee is now elected by local residents in accordance with a formal Management Agreement with Council and pays the running costs, manages the bookings, maintains the building in good order and makes improvements through grants or good financial management.

The 'new' hall was 50 years young in October 2007 and celebrations were carried out at that time.  The publication, ‘Fifty Years On - Golden Jubilee of the Hahndorf Institute Extensions 1957-2007’, was prepared by Reg Butler and published for the event, covering in detail the considerable input by local residents.

Commencing 2007, major maintenance was carried on the Institute building and surrounds over several years which included asbestos removal, installation of a new kitchen, remodeling the supper room, salt damp correction, replacing timber floor, replacing entire roof, improved lighting, repainting, plus other requirements.


Consistent usage, regular clientele, and the ability to retain a steady revenue base has ensured the continued existence of the Hahndorf Institute.  Community groups such as Lions and The Community Hall Committee have provided strong financial support for major maintenance matters.  The strong partnership with Mt Barker District Council continues on a firm basis.

Paintings in Hahndorf Memorial Institute

This unusual painting, jointly painted by Walter Wotzke and Trevor Claire, was originally hung in the Union Hotel (now the Hahndorf Inn).  When the owners left Hahndorf the painting was eventually donated to the Institute.  It has been hung in the Supper Room and helps to contribute to the character of the original Institute Hall.

Also located in the Supper Room are the Bom Canvasses which give great ambience to the room.  They were repaired and hung on walls for safe keeping, and it is believed that they are close to 100 years old.  They were painted by M.C. Bom and originally used as stage backdrops.

If you have any old photographs or information about the Institute, the Management Committee would be very interested to view them.

Boer War Memorial

In 1920, the Hahndorf College Boer War Memorial plaque was given by the Hahndorf Academy to the Institute and located in the Supper room.

For further details, please refer to Hahndorf's Boer War Contribution.

Early Ownership

(Information from The Hahndorf Allotments Database. by Reg Butler)

Old Lot No. New Lot No. Street No. Street Name
House S.H. 16 59 Main Street
Year Sold New Owner Occupation Owner's Home Personal
1849 Joseph Remfrey mining captain Kanmantoo Land grant.
1852 Robert Hunt gentleman Hahndorf GRO title. LTO title - 1859.
1877 Council of Education # government department Adelaide  

Carl Bom

Carl Borchers

Douglas Byard

Heinrich Sonnemann

Louis von Doussa

monumental mason










Trustee, Hahndorf Institute.

Trustee, Hahndorf Institute.

Trustee, Hahndorf Institute.

Trustee, Hahndorf Institute.

Trustee, Hahndorf Institute


Ewald Kaesler

Albert Liebelt

Alfred Mueller

Gustav Nitschke









Trustee, Hahndorf Institute.

Trustee, Hahndorf Institute.

Trustee, Hahndorf Institute.

Trustee, Hahndorf Institute.

1988 District Council of Mt Barker local government Mt Barker  


  • 1877 - It was intended to build Hahndorf's government public school on the site, but another site in Church Street was later purchased instead.  SH 16 & SH 17 linked for the intended school building project.
  • 1893 - a new Institute was opened on this site.
  • 1957 - a mortgage taken out with the Savings Bank of SA to extend the existing Institute.
  • 1966 - mortgage repaid.
  • 401/7 current title.Support


  • 'The Hahndorf Institute 1861 -1993', by EA Wittwer.
  • 'Fifty Years On - Golden Jubilee of the Hahndorf Institute Extensions 1957-2007', by Reg Butler.
  • The Hahndorf Village Voice - Issue No. 45
  • 'A College In The Wattles', by Reg Butler


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