Hidden Histories: Gorman House

An old black and white photograph. Three women sit on the lawns of Gorman House with their laundry drying in the background.
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These days, it’s known as a lively arts centre, but really, Gorman Arts Centre today serves the same high-level purpose as it did when it was built for accommodation just shy of 100 years ago.

‘Hostel No.3’, later named Gorman House when one of the first Federal Capital Commissioners Clarence Gorman died, was completed in 1924 as a hostel for Commonwealth Public Servants. But, according to Griffith University creative writer Stephanie Green, it formed an important part of the social fabric as well.

“For the many young people who came to work in Canberra in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, the Commonwealth Government hostels were central to life in Canberra,” she said.

“Until World War II, there was little formal social activity. The cinema and a weekly dance at the Albert Hall were the main events.

“Most Gorman House residents were young, earned little and came from places as far away as Brisbane, Hobart or Perth. The hostel, therefore, provided a home for family, friends and entertainment, as well as an adventure into adulthood and independence.”

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Story written by Dione David for the RiotACT.