A sawmill constructed on the banks of Dora Creek in 1895 was the first building on the Avondale Estate in Cooranbong. After some delay, Bethel Hall, a women’s residence and a second building nearby with classrooms, a men’s residence and a kitchen, were sufficiently completed for classes to begin.

“Bethel” is Hebrew meaning “house of God.” Seventh-day Adventist Church pioneers Stephen Haskell and Ellen White opened it on April 28, 1897.

Haskell Hall, a two-storey men’s residence (first called Herman Hall), was completed in the summer of 1897/98 and the Avondale Church building, at the entrance to the estate, dedicated debt free in 1897.

College Hall, later known as The Chapel, was built over three months early in 1899. It contained several classrooms, the principal’s office, two primary school classrooms, the library and a chapel.

In late 1899 the Avondale Health Retreat was built near the church to provide medical support for the community and practical experience for first-year nurses in training. The Sanitarium Health Food factory was established on the old sawmill site. After enrolment increased to 205, in 1905, Preston Hall was built, joining Bethel Hall to the second building. The business office was completed by 1910.

A manual arts building and The Laurels, a domestic science centre, were completed in 1925 and marked the end of the construction of timber buildings. The first brick building, Music Hall, cost $1000 to build that same year. Then came the Depression. Little changed on the estate save for construction of the Science Building in 1937. Later, College Hall was enlarged, the front became the back and a sound shell was added. Andre Hall, a new women’s residence, was completed in 1952 and the Auditorium, a large multi-purpose centre, was completed in time for graduation in 1953. Then came the Ellen G White Memorial Building, an administrative, classroom and library block completed in 1960. Men’s residence Watson Hall replaced Haskell Hall in 1964. Construction of the Education Building, then the new home of what is now Avondale School, finished a year later in 1965.

Ladies Chapel, adjacent to Andre Hall, opened in 1979. Avondale renamed the building Ella Hughes Chapel in 2015. Ella (Evans) Hughes (1864-1962) was a school teacher who with husband Cassius Hughes, the first principal at Avondale in 1897, pioneered wholistic education. She valued higher education, earning a bachelor’s degree before many of her male colleagues. Ella headed the primary school on campus and served as the first trainer of teachers. As preceptress, she and her husband lived in the student residences.

Avondale refurbished the Science Building in 1980 after Avondale School moved to its new Avondale Road campus. In 1985, the congregation of Avondale University Seventh-day Adventist Church, which had been meeting in College Hall and the Auditorium, met for the first time in its own building. Avondale University Seventh-day Adventist Church is now recognised as one of the most significant examples of modern architecture in the Hunter.

A new women’s residence, Ella Boyd Hall, replaced Preston Hall—now demolished—in 1990. Restored with Avondale University Foundation and New South Wales Heritage Council funding, Bethel Hall reopened on October 21, 1992. Renovations to College Hall, now classified by the National Trust, were completed in 1997. The Jeremic Wing extension of the Library opened in 1998. In 2002, the construction of a new and larger venue—the Chan Shun Auditorium—to replace the Auditorium was completed. The church was refurbished in 2006.