From the Curator | The Coliseum Fire

We are featuring a photograph from our Ballarat International Foto Biennale exhibition of photographs from the Max Harris Collection, ‘Coliseum Fire.’

The Coliseum was built in Ballarat in 1908 by the Royal South Street Society, a spacious new home for their celebrated Eisteddfods. 

By the 1930’s, the Coliseum had become a 4,000 seat theatre and was one of the biggest picture palaces in Australia. 

On the 26th March 1936, a fire broke out which burnt the Coliseum to the ground in less than an hour. The fire may have been exacerbated by oxygen rising from the Yarrowee Creek, over which the Coliseum was built.

Once the flames reached the 15,000 feet of flammable film stock stored in the building, the Coliseum’s fate was sealed. Firefighters withdrew and diverted their attention to saving neighbouring buildings.

Hundreds gathered on the streets to witness the devastating spectacle, in what was reported to have been the worst fire in Ballarat in 50 years.

The exhibition is open during Library hours:

Mon – Fri: 10-3
Sat: 9:30-12

To support the work we do, please consider becoming a member, or purchasing a print of one of the beautiful photographs in our collection.

Coliseum Fire (image uncatalogued)
MH 1692 | Coliseum Burning 3

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