The history group has had a couple of goes to record the history of the Dome, now a derelict eyesore but once one of Montville’s premier attractions. This time we think we’ve got it right.
Built in 1972 by Roy and Ros Hayes on 5.7 acres, the Dome housed a number of thriving businesses at the end of the last century. Roy and Ros were Sydney artisans who moved to Montville in 1971. They had a successful silk screen production business and wanted to continue this from Montville. They also wanted to provide a handicraft sales centre to support local artists and artisans. Roy had followed the ideas of the revolutionary American architect, Buckminster Fuller, who had developed the concept of a dome construction that promised considerable strength and flexibility at a very low cost. He decided to build a brick base to house the Silk-Screening Business and sit a dome on top to meet the needs of the local arts community.
In January, 1972, he designed the building he wanted and managed to get Maroochy Shire Council approval to build it, although he believes it might well have been the first commercial dome of this size in Queensland. The Dome was built of self-supporting triangles that were able to stand tremendous pressure. Some triangles had chicken wire stretched across them and then covered with a mixture of fibre glass resin and sawdust. Others contained one quarter inch toughened glass to capture the spectacular views of the Sunshine Coast from Montville; while a number were filled with sheets of coloured acrylic that created a Rainbow effect inside when the sun caught them. The Dome was 36 feet in diameter, and 24 feet from the viewing deck to the top. It was 10 squares (1,000 square feet) inside sitting on a brick workshop of 8 squares. The triangles were made off-site and the dome itself was assembled in just 3 days. Roy and Ros did as much of the build as they could with the help of 4 building labourers. The total cost was just $15,000.
Needless to say, the Dome created a lot of interest in Montville and beyond. The Faculty of Architecture at the University of Queensland followed its progress with interest and encouraged architectural students to inspect it. Bus loads of tourists also visited. Roy and Ros incorporated a café on the deck and served Devonshire Teas to tourists and tour groups. Inside, they featured the work of local artists and artisans, while they continued to produce their silk screen posters in the workshop underneath for the Sydney market under the business name of ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy Posters’. Roy tells that the Dome went through a cyclone in 1973 with 50 to 60 miles per hour winds without even a tremble. Then, in 1974, they suddenly had to sell up and return to Sydney when their business manager left them in the lurch.
The Dome was purchased by the Stehn and Scott Families in 1975. Arthur Stehn, a retired public servant, was a self-confessed model train fanatic and with the help of his wife, Florence, and son-in-law, Ted Scott, created a model railway in the basement of the Dome. The model railway system was 24 feet by 8 feet with more than 600 feet of track wending its way through model villages, over bridges and through tunnels, past an oil refinery and through a funfair with working chair lifts and cable cars. It boasted 56 authentic American and German locomotives with their trucks, cars and carriages while the railway stations the train stopped at were replicas of famous European stations.
Then, in 1977, Arthur purchased a “children’s train” from the Maroochydore Apex Club when it lost the site it had been using to run the train. Club president, Mr. T Williams said that the train had raised over $10,000 over 12 years and had been used for free special rides for handicapped children. The purchase price of $1000 included the tracks, a working locomotive and three carriages. Arthur intended to set it up in the grounds of the Dome but unfortunately failed to secure Council approval.
The Model Railway exhibition, however, prospered for over a decade before the family finally sold the Dome in 1986.
John and Beryl Davies bought the Dome that had housed the Model Railway Display but John, in his own words confessed that this was not his thing. Trish and Trev Steer bought the model railway and re-located it to the Flaxton Barn. John and Beryl decided to return the building to its original purpose, that of housing a Gallery and Studio for Local artists and artisans to create and exhibit their work. The established a gallery on both levels of the Dome which they called Gallery D and added an extension downstairs as an open workshop/studio with a viewing window which soon became the home of a local glass artist, Chris Pantano.
They held their first exhibition in April. Titled Top of the Range ’86, it featured the work of six local artists: Chris Pantano, Glass Artist; Thel Merry, Fabric Artist; Raina Ham, Silversmith and Jeweler; Jinty Stockings, Fabric Artist; Daryl Luchich, Leather Artist; and Pam Prescott, Fabric Artist.
In April, 1987, the held The Centenary Exhibition in support of the Montville Centenary, featuring the work of nine local artists and followed that up in August with a second exhibition, Dimensions in Paper highlighting the work of paper maker and sculptor, Chris Ballinger. In 1988, the exhibition, Top of the Range ’88, returned to the successful formula of featuring local artists with Chris Ballinger joining the exhibitors. Highlights over the next couple of years include exhibitions by Rowley Drysdale, Drysdale Clayworks, and Chris Boston, The Spirit of the Rainforest: Soft Sculpture Creations of Fairies and Gnomes.
1991 saw Gallery D present its first exhibition of an international artist, Lindsay H. Hamilton. Turkish and Other Delights featured Ceramics and Pastel Drawings from this Scottish-trained artist. This was followed by A Brush with Clay: An Exhibition of Ceramics by Potters of the Sunshine Coast. This exhibition was so successful it was repeated in July 1992, with ceramics by Glenn Manning and paintings by Jonathon Larsen being exhibited later that year.
Perhaps one of Gallery D’s biggest and most controversial exhibitions was held in 1995. The Tiggy Puggenheim Touring Collection by West Australian artist, Leon Pericles. This whimsical collection lampoons high society art with work that includes his version of Marco Polo’s Pocket Map, Salvador Dali’s Paint Brush, Gauguin of Widji and Joan Miro’s Carnival Puppeteer.
The exhibition was part of a National tour to 20 regional galleries. By 1998, the Sunshine Coast Daily’s Expression Magazine describes Gallery D as one of Australia’s most impressive regional galleries.
John and Beryl moved to Buderim in 2001 and sold the Dome to Riy Fathers in 2003. Gallery D and Chris Pantano’s glass studio/workshop closed. Riy Fathers, in association with John Thirnbeck and Mrs. Barrett, planned to build a shopping centre complex if/when the Links residential golf links proposal was developed.
When this development was rejected by council, the property, now showing signs of disrepair, was sold to Miroslav Mudri, alias Frank Smart. He opened an indoor market in the Dome but failed to comply with Council regulations and was forced to close. Since then, the building has been empty and allowed to become derelict. It is currently (2020) for sale.
Doug Patterson, MHG. August 2020