10 October 2009

Old Government House Queensland - newly renovated

In June 1859 Queen Victoria signed Letters Patent, the documents that created Queensland as a separate colony. Just six months later, in December 1859 Queensland’s first governor, Sir George Ferguson Bowen, arrived in Brisbane. But there was no palace for him to move into.

Government House Brisbane, after 1862.

The newly-appointed Government Architect, Charles Tiffin, must have moved quickly. Within a few weeks of being given the commission, he completed the plans for this important site. They selected the right man: Tiffin went on to design more than 300 of Queensland’s public buildings.

This Classical Revival building was built during 1860-62 from sandstone and cast iron, with a slate roof. And the Director of the Botanic Gardens, Walter Hill, began laying out the gardens. Government House was thus the first public building to be designed and built in the new colony of Queensland. Amazingly the population of Brisbane was only 6,000 when the building started. Therefore, as Eat, drink + be Kerry blog said, Old Government House was a very significant a heritage building.

Official garden party, 1899

The building was well located: in the heart of Brisbane, at the river end of George St, close to Parliament House and the Botanic Gardens. It housed the first Governor Sir George Bowen and served as his family home, administrative centre and social centre for the new colony. In fact it was home to Queensland's first 11 governors. The blog called Your Brisbane Past and Present has a fine image of Governor Baron Lamington and the official party leaving Government House for the opening of Parliament in 1897.

Eating, drinking, receiving official visitors and listening to music were always important official duties of the governor. And where else might vice regal entertainment be conducted? Old Government House was the elegant social centre of Brisbane’s emerging society. Apparently, since there was no ballroom, the three main rooms on the ground floor had to be used for dancing.

Of course the original building, as charming as it was in 1862, was never going to be large enough. So over the years, additions have emerged as needed - upper veranda (1873), billiard room (1899) and southwest balcony (1906). And the exterior of the building, including the gardens, had to be kept in perfect condition. This would be true in all states, but even more so in Brisbane because Queensland weather is so conducive to garden parties.

Old Parliament House 2009, front entrance
In 1909, on Queensland’s 50th anniversary as a colony, the decision was made to move the governor to a larger house. The building had remained the Governor's official residence since 1862, but by 1910 it was changed into the first building on the campus of the University of Queensland. Lectures started in 1911.

Old Government House is now open to the public as an historical site and exhibit space, and is available as a special events venue. No blogger has mentioned seeing photos of the interior before the last renovation, but I Love Brisbane blog warmly recommended the relaxed feel of the courtyard now and noted that the main rooms were architecturally splendid.

Hall set up for a function 2009

Your Brisbane: Past and Present noted that Brisbane's Supreme Court building in George St, was designed by the Colonial Architect, FDG Stanley, and built by the Petrie Construction Company in the 1870s. Given that all of Brisbane's significant public buildings had to be completed as soon as possible after Queensland became a separate colony in 1859, it is not surprising that the Supreme Court was another very large, very elegant edifice in the centre of town.


Jim said...

Thanks for letting me know the year that the Kogarah School of Arts building was built. I was able to find some more information on the Australian Heritage Database and added it to my post. Cheers.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

Hels said...

J Bar, many thanks. Since then, I have totally reconsidered the term "School of Art" and will write it up in my blog as soon as I can. I love doing my own research but I am also dependent on the material in your blog and perhaps another 30 key bloggers.