Dining Room Chair #2000-1439Members’ Dining Room, Main Floor
Maple dining chair with red leather padded back and drop-in seat of horseshoe shape; on tapering square section legs with brass capped feet; reupholstered in red vinyl.
This dining chair was designed in 1926 by the Federal Capital Commission Architects Department, led by principal architect John Smith Murdoch, specifically for Provisional Parliament House. This piece was built by one of the six firms (Myer Emporium Pty Ltd, Melbourne; Anthony Hordern and Sons, Sydney; A Pengelly and Co, Adelaide; W H Rocke and Co, Melbourne; Beard Watson & Co Ltd, Sydney; Bebarfalds Ltd, Sydney) that were contracted to construct Murdoch’s designs. This dining chair has been used in a variety of capacities throughout the building.
The dining room was also intended to provide some comfort and compensation for long sitting hours in Provisional Parliament House and extended periods away from home. Many casual meals and social events were held here, squeezed in between the rough and tumble of political life.
Provisional Parliament House chefs were so skilled and inventive that, on several occasions, they created food fit for a Queen-Australia’s Queen Elizabeth II. Her Majesty first dined in the Members’ Dining Room Banquet Hall in 1954.
The Members’ Dining Room was also called the Commonwealth Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. During three-month long parliamentary sessions in Canberra, it was a home away from home for politicians. This was especially true before air travel became common.
Crisp white tablecloths and sparkling silver cutlery welcomed members and senators to their party’s particular tables. Unlike in most Australian homes, waiters, and later waitresses, provided silver service. They served the politicians’ food from elegant silver platters directly onto their plates at the table.