The Ballarat Town Hall is not all that it seems. The ghostly, almost faded sign you can see on the eastern wall of the building in Town Hall Lane is one of only a few remaining clues to the curious uses this building has had over time.
In 1861, new municipal offices and a police court building were opened to replace the earlier wooden town hall which had burnt down in 1859. In 1868 a competition was announced for another town hall design that would incorporate the 1861 buildings into a new design increasing the size of the building and including shops which could be commercially leased. In 1872 the completed building was opened.
The Eastern corner of the building where you are now standing is where the original 1861 building was incorporated into the 1872 building design. Here the city police court operated for many years until the space was let to the Royal Bank in 1907. The Star newspaper reported in 1907:
"Some extensive alterations are about to be made to the old City Police Court, in the municipal buildings, Sturt street. The place is to be turned into a banking chamber, and the Royal Bank, which is at present conducting its business in the rate collector's office, at the City Hall, will take possession of it permanently when the alterations have been completed."-The Ballarat Star, Friday 25 January 1907.
When the Royal Bank ceased operating within the Town Hall, the offices were then let to a doctor. Inside you can still find the old bank vaults and the cells beneath the building where prisoners were kept before attending the city court. The Armstrong street corner was also let to the Commercial Bank of Australia. They occupied the space for an astonishing 97 years, vacating the building in 1965.