Above - Magnificat House before its restoration
Magnificat House, the headquarters of Melbourne Senatus is a beautifully restored old building with an interesting history. It was originally built in 1874 by James Munro who represented North Melbourne in the colonial parliament and was briefly premier of the colony. It was named the Temperance Hall from the Hotham Temperance Hall Company that was formed in 1874 by five North Melbourne tradesmen. It was used as a venue for non-alcoholic meetings and entertainment until 1881 when the Temperance Hall company wound up.
In 1883 the hall was used by the Salvation Army as their barracks for a period of time.
In 1909 the hall was purchased by Mrs. Janet Lancaster for a third of its value, complete with seating and furnishings. It became the home of the first organised Pentecostal Assembly in Australia. At that time it was renamed the ‘Good News Hall’. According to an article in their monthly publication Good News: “The hall was opened and dedicated to the Lord in an all-night of prayer on New Year's Eve, 1909. We thought to drive back to our own home on New Years Day, but for six weeks such a glorious revival continued, night and day, that we never entered our house again.”
In 1926 the Hall was renamed the Apostolic Faith Mission. After the death of Janet Lancaster in 1934, the Apostolic Faith Mission dwindled quickly and eventually disappeared.
During the 1st World War, the hall was purchased by a group of socialists. The name of the hall was changed to the “People’s Hall”.
In the 1940’s the People’s Hall was rented to the Eureka Youth League and it was renamed once again as the “Betty Sutherland Hall” in honour of a young Leaguer who had been killed in an accident. For the next 30 years, the hall was used for all sorts of youth activities. It was also a mecca for artists, writers, sportsmen and women, dancers, film-makers and jazz enthusiasts.
The hall was purchased by the Legion of Mary in 1990 when their premises in LaTrobe Street were acquired by the Gas and Fuel Corporation. The hall was restored to its former splendour and renamed Magnificat House.