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A Capitol Mystery

            Many eyes over many years have
          perused the contents of the memorabilia
          cabinet at the Masonic Grand Lodge.
          Amongst those items was a bit of wood
          with a plaque attached.
            One member of the Lodge Harry
          Kirkwood, also a CATHS’ member,
          was intrigued by the message. The
          plaque reads:

                  Piece of RED GUM
                  PICKET FENCING
                found 15 feet below the
               surface when excavations
             were being made in connection
               with the construction of the
                 CAPITOL THEATRE
                   Swanston Street

            Presented to the Grand Lodge Library by
            Edgar Howard Penrose, CE (P.M.)
                  24th August 1931
            What is the significance of the
          picket? No one today can offer an
          explanation. The Lodge was happy to
          transfer it to Harry and thence to
          CATHS for safekeeping.
            The speculative answer is that
          workers on the foundations for Capitol
          House recognised that milled red gum
          was an artefact from the earliest days of
          white settlement.
                                                                                       From the top: Looking south-
            At least two substantial buildings,
                                                                                       west from Little Collins Street
          both dating from c.1880, were
                                                                                       today. Capitol House is centre.
          demolished to make way for the
                                                                                       The Talma building next door
          Capitol (see Swanston Street scene).
                                                                                       (right) is the only holdover from
            A fence picket would have predated
                                                                                       the 19th century.
          any of those buildings.
                                                                                       Swanston Street from Little
            Who held the picket for the nine
                                                                                       Collins Street 1897. The Talma
          years between its unearthing in 1922 and
                                                                                       building is the tallest. Vita was a
          its presentation to the Lodge by Past
                                                                                       photographic studio.
          Master, Edgar Penrose? Was it first
                                                                                       - Peter Wolfenden Collection.
          presented to Capitol House/Capitol
          Theatre architect Walter Burley Griffin,                                     Collins Street 1840. Swanston
          who later passed it on? Here is one silent                                   Street was similar; simple
          witness destined to stay that way. ★                                         cottages and fenced allotments.
            - Ian Smith

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