Daking House (1917 - 1925)
In February 1917, the Deaf Society moved to its newly rented room on the first floor of Daking House, a building at 11-23 Rawson Place, opposite Central Station.
In the early 1920s the Deaf Society office moved from Daking House to 17 Castlereagh Street (the premises of William Brooks & Co Ltd), however deaf people continued to use ‘Room 17’ at Daking House as their club room for nine years until 1925.
Alfred Lonsdale, who later became the long serving Superintendent of the Deaf Society, first met deaf people in this room at Daking House. Lonsdale remembered that the room was 20 feet by 16 feet. It was there that the Society’s early business affairs were conducted, with a staff of two honorary officers and two collectors.
Another long serving staff member of the Deaf Society, Ella Doran, recalled that during her childhood, deaf people spent social evenings in the upstairs room at Daking House when it was not required for Deaf Society meetings. Sunday evenings were the time for deaf church services and people sat ‘round circle’ in the room. She also reminisced that when deaf people left the Daking House room at 9.30 in the evening, they congregated downstairs on the footpath, where they stood and chatted in sign language under the light of a gas-lamp. They would often stay quite late and Ella, a CODA, was sometimes upset when strangers would stop to watch and make personal remarks about the groups of deaf people.
The Annual Report of the Deaf Society for 1924 shows that the following activities in the Daking House room were controlled by deaf members (however led by a hearing person): Church Committee, Ladies Committee, Bible Class, Ladies Guild, Men’s Club, General Committee, Tennis Club and Cricket Club.
The 1925 Annual Report tells of the clubroom, the only room available for deaf social gatherings at Daking House, sometimes having three meetings crammed into one night and ‘surrounded by a crowd which made the position almost intolerable’.
In August 1925 the deaf social gatherings and committee meetings left Daking House for rent free quarters in the Assembly Hall at the Y.M.C.A., 325 Pitt Street, Sydney.
Daking House is still standing, now the Sydney Central Backpackers Hostel.
Adult Deaf and Dumb Society of NSW Eleventh Annual Report, 1924 Mitchell Library
Adult Deaf and Dumb Society of NSW Twelveth Annual Report, 1925 Mitchell Library
Adult Deaf and Dumb Society of NSW Thirteenth Annual Report, 1926 Mitchell Library
Silent Messenger January 1953 DBR 040
Ellen Doran’s book ‘Hand in Hand with Time and Change’, 1998, Ellen Doran