Brisbane City Centre Heritage Place Trail

Brisbane’s city centre is now a modern and vibrant place, but if you look closely, you can see the city’s past in its many heritage buildings and historic sites.

Take a journey through a range of sites and events that have shaped Brisbane’s history with this specially curated Heritage Place Trail.

Get your step count up while learning about:

  • Brisbane's early convict history
  • 'Great Fire of Brisbane' in the 1860s
  • Brisbane's commercial prosperity in the 1880s
  • military presence in Brisbane in World War II
  • Brisbane in the 1970s – and more!

Follow the online map (located below) on your device to visit each Local Heritage Place or download a copy of the guide.

Route suggestion

The City Centre Heritage Place Trail comprises two loops and can be followed separately (short loops) or combined to form a longer trail:

  • City Centre loop follows Stops 1 to 9 and 19 to 25
  • Spring Hill loop follows Stops 10 to 18.

Acknowledgement of Country

Brisbane City Council acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land and their unique relationship with their ancestral country. We pay respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders of Brisbane, and recognise their strength and wisdom.

Notice

Some parts of the trail may not be accessible for those with limited mobility.

This trail includes a selection of Local Heritage Places but there are many other Local Heritage Places in the Brisbane City Centre you can search using Local Heritage Places online.

City Centre Heritage Place Trail

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Local Heritage Places

Historic image of view of Queen Street - 1859

Introduction

In 1824, the founding of the Moreton Bay penal settlement heralded the beginning of the European presence in Queensland and the displacement of the Aboriginal people in the area.

The first penal settlement at Moreton Bay was established at Redcliffe in 1824 but moved to the present Central Business District (CBD) site in 1825 where there was a better water supply, fewer mosquitoes, and safer anchorage. The convict settlement was closed in 1839 and in 1842 Moreton Bay was officially opened for free settlement as part of the colony of New South Wales.

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The Aboriginal people in the area became increasingly displaced by the European presence and were forced to move further away from the settlement.

By 1843, the plans for the CBD as we know it today had been laid out in a grid, with the city streets named after English monarchs (male monarchs running parallel with the South Brisbane Reach of the Brisbane River). In 1859, Queen Victoria granted an approval to establish the new colony of Queensland, separate from New South Wales. By the 1860s, Brisbane was a thriving town with the emergence of Queen Street as the commercial centre.

On 1 December 1864, Brisbane’s transformation from a colonial outpost to a bustling town was halted when a raging fire swept through a large section of the city’s commercial centre.

Named ‘The Great Fire of Brisbane’, it was thought to have begun in the cellar of a drapery store on the corner of Queen and Albert Streets (located approximately where the ‘Hungry Jacks’ eatery is today). It quickly engulfed the timber and masonry buildings within the block bounded by Queen, Albert, Elizabeth and George Streets (the current location of the Myer Centre). Several small houses crowded into the area behind commercial buildings were also destroyed.

While no one was injured, 50 buildings were destroyed and Brisbane residents were tasked with the costly and lengthy task of rebuilding their city centre.

During the 1880s, Brisbane experienced an economic boom. Many of the original buildings were demolished to make way for more permanent and stately structures that reflected the increased wealth and affluence of the city. However, by the 1890s, Brisbane, along with much of Australia, had fallen into an economic depression. Recovery was slow, but by 1898 a degree of economic stability had returned to the colony.

The 1920s saw another expansion of the city. Along Queen Street large department stores, such as Allan & Stark, provided Brisbane residents with the latest fashions and products. Grand picture theatres such as the Regent and Wintergarden, together with cafes and hotels, added to the bustling nightlife in the city.

During the Second World War, following the bombing of Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, US Defense Chief, General Eisenhower, decided the US forces should direct their campaign from Australia. Brisbane played a major role as the general headquarters for the American-led Allied South West Pacific Area campaign against the Japanese forces. At the peak of the war (late December 1943), Brisbane was host to nearly 80,000 Americans. This large number of American service personnel often caused tensions between the Australian and American troops and the local population.

Brisbane’s city centre is now a modern and vibrant place, but if you look closely, you can see the city’s past in its many heritage buildings and historic sites.

Image creditState Library of Queensland.

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1. Regent Building (Regent Theatre former)

The Regent Theatre, located in the Regent Building, was built by Hoyts Company in 1929 to capitalise on the enormous popularity of ‘talkies’ and Hollywood-produced movies in the 1920s.

Influenced by American fashion and a desire to increase ticket sales, cinemas, or picture palaces, became more lavish, comfortable and heavily decorated and the Regent Theatre was no exception.

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At a cost of more than £400,000 the Regent featured 2-500 seats, a large stage and movie screen, three ‘talking machines’ (early audio playback devices), state-of-the-art air-conditioning, ornate chandeliers and Belgian carpets. It also featured a Wurlitzer organ shipped from New York that could be raised and lowered on a hydraulic platform.

The theatre provided Brisbane cinema-goers with their first chance to experience a world-class ‘picture palace’.

In the late 1970s the original theatre was remodelled to house four separate cinemas and while these have since been demolished, the original 1929 front foyer and grand staircase have been preserved.

For more information about this State Heritage Place, refer to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Image creditNational Library of Australia.

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Historical image of George E. Adams cake shop Brisbane Arcade Brisbane - 1938

2. Brisbane Arcade

Built in 1924, the Brisbane Arcade is the city’s oldest surviving shopping arcade.

In the 1920s most shopping in Brisbane was carried out in the city or Fortitude Valley, where trams and trains provided easy access to and from the suburbs. Large department stores, such as Allan & Stark, McDonnell and East and TC Beirne & Co, provided the latest fashions and most sought-after products.

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Brisbane philanthropists James Mayne and his sister Mary Amelia built the arcade at a cost of £70,000. With the deaths of James in 1939 and Mary a year later, the University of Queensland became the beneficiary of the property.

The arcade offered an alternative shopping experience. When it first opened, the shops predominantly catered to women and included eight costumiers, two milliners (hat makers), two shoe shops, an umbrella maker, a florist, a silk specialist and three cafes. It also provided a well-used pedestrian link between Queen Street and Adelaide Street.

Though the arcade has undergone some substantial refurbishment (in 1983 and in 1990) it still exhibits a range of aesthetic characteristics valued by the Brisbane community. The quality of its design, use of materials and craftsmanship displayed in the main internal space give modern shoppers a glimpse into the beauty and style of the 1920s shopping experience in the arcade.

For more information about this State Heritage Place, refer to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Image creditState Library of Queensland.

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Historic sketch of Convict Barracks - 1832

3. Site of the convict barracks

The Moreton Bay penal settlement was initially established at Redcliffe in 1824 but was forced to move to a more favourable site in 1825.

 

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This new site was situated on elevated land beside the Brisbane River. The penal settlement was established as a place of secondary punishment for re-offending convicts who had initially been transported to Sydney. Over its brief history, it had developed a sinister reputation for harsh conditions and cruel punishment.

Between 1827 and 1830, a multi-storey stone convict barracks was constructed on the corner of Queen and Albert Streets. It was the largest building in the settlement at this time and provided basic accommodation for up to 1,000 convicts. A central archway led from what is now Queen Street, into a walled yard at the rear of the building. Positioned within this archway was the flogging triangle – a constant reminder to the convicts of the consequences of disobedience.

Queensland’s first legal execution took place in the rear yard of the barracks in December 1830. Charles Fagan and John Bulbridge, convicts who had escaped from the settlement in August 1830 were later caught, tried by a small Court of military offices and Mr Justice Dowling in Brisbane and hanged for burglary they had committed in Port Macquarie. Their deaths were intended as a warning to other convicts.

After the penal colony closed and free settlement began, the barracks building was used as Queensland’s first parliament and courthouse between 1860 and 1868. It was demolished in 1880 to make way for commercial development.

Image creditState Library of Queensland.

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Historical image of Brisbane City Hall in Brisbane - 1930

4. Brisbane City Hall

Brisbane City Hall was completed in 1930 and is one of Brisbane’s most significant heritage buildings and is a cultural icon. As a long-awaited replacement for the original town hall in Queen Street, City Hall has become a symbol of civic pride and has played an important role in the lives of so many Brisbane residents.

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Designed by architects Hall and Prentice, the building was intended to be impressive and beautiful. The then Governor, Sir John Goodwin, inspired by its Classical Revival architecture declared it to be an “edifice which for grandeur, dignity and architectural effect was without peer in the Commonwealth”.

Taking ten years to build, and at a cost of around £980,000 Brisbane City Hall is the largest city hall in Australia. It was the second largest construction project in Australia after the Sydney Harbour Bridge, as well as one of the most expensive. City Hall was also the first major ‘column and beam’ building constructed in Australia.

Significant features of City Hall include: its central circular concert hall; the clock tower centred above the entrance portico; its copper dome roof over the main auditorium; and the tympanum featuring a sculpture by Daphne May completed in 1930.

As a civic building, Brisbane City Hall is the seat of power for the Brisbane City Council (in Council Chambers) but has also hosted a wide range of important and interesting events since its opening. Ranging from concerts, balls and recitals to Australian Citizenship Ceremonies. One of the more unique events included the 1957 Eagers Car Show, where a large number of cars were displayed in the Main Auditorium.

In 2010 City Hall was closed and a major restoration project costing $215 million was undertaken. The fully restored City Hall was re-opened to the public on 6 April 2013.  Brisbane City Hall has many focal points of cultural and heritage significance, including the Main Auditorium and Father Henry Willis Organ, World War II Signature Wall and clock tower.

The Museum of Brisbane is a feature of Brisbane City Hall and is part of the living history of the city. The museum’s exhibitions examine Brisbane’s history and culture with a focus on individual and collective stories that are milestones of the city’s evolution.

‘The Soul of Brisbane’ documentary series documents City Hall’s restoration and can be viewed on City Hall’s YouTube channel or loaned from Council libraries.

For more information about this State Heritage Place, refer to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Image creditState Library of Queensland.

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Historic image of King George Square - 1945

5. King George Square (including Stolen Generations Memorial)

When City Hall opened in 1930, the open space in front of its granite steps was beautified with gardens and was known as ‘Albert Square’. In 1938, the square was renamed ‘King George Square’, when a statue of the British monarch, who had led the British Empire during the First World War, was unveiled on the site. George V had died in 1936.

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From 1968, the section of Albert Street adjoining King George Square was closed and the buildings along its frontage demolished. An expanded ‘King George Square’ reopened in 1975. Some Expo’ 88 sculptures were relocated there for a time followed by a further major redevelopment of King George Square completed in 2009.

King George Square contains several commemorative plaques and statues. The Stolen Generations Memorial is one of five ceremonial plaques placed at significant sites around Brisbane in 1998. These plaques were installed following the completion of the National Inquiry into the Stolen Generations and the release of the report, Bringing Them Home.

The Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act was passed in 1897. The Act officially stripped Indigenous people of their rights to personal freedom under the pretext of protection and assimilation. This Act allowed the government to remove Indigenous people from their traditional lands and onto remote reserves. It also allowed Indigenous children to be forcibly taken from their parents and communities and integrated into European families. By 1971, this legislation had been repealed.

The apology speech, delivered by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to the Indigenous people of Australia in 2008, appears next to the Stolen Generations Memorial plaque in King George Square.

Other statues in King George Square include a statue that remembers the pioneering Petrie family and another that honours suffragette Emma Miller.

For more information about this Local Heritage Place, please see Local Heritage Places online.

Image credit: Brisbane City Council.

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Historical image of Albert Street Uniting Church and Water Board Offices 1910

6. Albert Street Uniting Church

Originally known as the Albert Street Methodist Church, this striking red brick church was officially opened on 8 November 1889.


 

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Prior to the construction of this church, the first Methodist church in Brisbane had been built in 1849. It was a small brick church situated on the corner of Albert Street and Burnett Lane. In 1856 a larger church replaced it. By the 1880s, this church could no longer accommodate the growing congregation and it was decided that a competition would be held for the design of a new church. The winning entrant was notable Brisbane architect, GHM Addison.

GHM Addison was responsible for designing some of Brisbane’s finest colonial buildings including ‘The Mansions’ on George Street, the former Queensland Museum building on Gregory Terrace and ‘Cumbooquepa’ (Somerville House) at South Brisbane.

In 1977 the Methodist congregation embraced the union of the Presbyterian, Congregationalist and Methodist churches into the Uniting Church of Australia. The building is now a Uniting Church and is a beautiful feature of the cityscape, valued by the community and visitors.

For more information about this State Heritage Place refer to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Image creditState Library of Queensland.

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Historical image of Ann Street Presbyterian Church 1975

7. Ann Street Presbyterian Church

The first Presbyterian church in Brisbane was built at South Brisbane in 1851 and was soon followed by the construction of the Ann Street Presbyterian Church in 1858.
 

 

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In 1871 a fire destroyed the church however it was quickly rebuilt during 1872-1873, using some of the stone from the original church. The church formally re-opened on 26 October 1873.

The history of the Presbyterian Church in Brisbane is both interesting and important. In 1849 the first of three immigrant ships, the Fortitude, arrived in Brisbane. Its 256 passengers were mainly Presbyterian and had been promised land grants by Presbyterian minister, Reverend Dr John Dunmore Lang in his mission to bring industrious, capable people from Britain to Brisbane. Lang was concerned with what he saw as a lack of good moral fiber in the fledgling town. The Fortitude was followed by vessels Chaseley and Lima.

Unfortunately, poor communication and incorrect land transfer actions made by Dr Lang meant the immigrants did not arrive to find valid grants of land. The small settlement at Brisbane was unprepared for the influx of immigrants and the stranded immigrants were forced to set up a temporary tent city in the area called ‘York’s Hollow’ (where Victoria Park and the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds are now located). Many of the Presbyterian settlers eventually found employment and established permanent homes in Brisbane. Fortitude Valley was named after this first ship.

A Presbyterian congregation still worship in this building and more recent commercial redevelopment of the site has expanded the church’s facilities.

For more information about this State Heritage Place refer to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Image creditState Library of Queensland.

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Historic image of School of Arts Building - 1879

8. Brisbane School of Arts

In the 1860s, parts of Brisbane resembled frontier towns as seen in American western movies, for example, the once swampy area known as ‘Frog’s Hollow’. This area was located between Edward and Margaret Streets and the Botanic Gardens.
 

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This was the ‘seedy’ district of Brisbane, filled with brothels, pubs, opium dens and gambling houses and frequented by wharf workers, larrikins and criminals. As immigrant ships continued to deliver their cargoes to Queens Wharf, some Brisbane citizens became concerned with the welfare of single young women arriving on these ships. If employment for these women had not been organised prior to leaving their homelands, they were vulnerable to the dangers present in Frog’s Hollow.

In 1863 a philanthropic committee was set up with the intention to establish a safe, temporary home for these young women. In 1866 the two-storey building, known as the Servants’ Home, was built.

For a small fee, the girls were given accommodation and training in domestic activities such as laundry and sewing, while waiting to be employed as domestic servants.

In 1863 The Courier stated that the new Servants’ Home “shall be open to young women of good character, of any denomination, who can furnish to the matron satisfactory evidence of their respectability” (The Courier, 26 November 1863).

In 1873 the building was purchased by the Trustees of the North Brisbane School of Arts who, after leasing it for several years, undertook modifications and added verandahs. The building opened as the School of Arts building on 17 May 1878 and became known as the Brisbane School of Arts. As the School of Arts the building played an important role in the cultural life of the community, as a venue for a library, public lectures, and community classes.

Trusteeship was transferred to Brisbane City Council in 1966 and a public library continued to operate at the site until as late as 1981.

For more information about this State Heritage Place refer to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Image creditState Library of Queensland.

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9. People's Palace

The temperance movement gained momentum in Brisbane during the early twentieth century. Its aim was to prohibit alcohol consumption which was believed to contribute to moral degradation and domestic violence.
 

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In 1911 the Salvation Army opened ‘The People’s Palace’ as a temperance hotel. At the hotel’s opening ceremony, the leader of the Australian Salvation Army stated that it “was intended as a safe place for morals, a safe place on temperance lines, a safe place in regard to gambling, and generally a safe house conducted on the very best lines to bless and help the people” (The Queenslander, 8 July 1911). The hotel provided very affordable accommodation.

Ironically, the building is now one of Brisbane’s busiest backpacker hostels, renowned for its parties.

For more information about this State Heritage Place, refer to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Image creditState Library of Queensland.

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Image of King Edward Park Air Raid Shelter - 2008

10. King Edward Air Raid Shelter

The bombing of the US Naval fleet in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii on 7 December 1941 had an enormous impact on Australia, with a heightened threat of Japanese bombing raids over Queensland towns. In the same month, the Protection of Persons and Property Order No. 1 was introduced requiring Brisbane City Council to construct 200 public air raid shelters in the city centre.

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Not long after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, enemy attack became a reality for Australia. On 19 February 1942, Japanese aircraft bombed Darwin, resulting in 243 deaths. In the same year, Brisbane became the headquarters for military planning under US General Douglas MacArthur, Commander in Chief of the Allied Forces, South West Pacific. At the height of the conflict, nearly 80,000 American troops were stationed in Brisbane awaiting deployment to the conflict in the Pacific.

A total of 235 surface air raid shelters were constructed in the city centre during wartime, following a base design by then City Architect, Frank G Costello. The shelters were designed to provide immediate protection from bombing raids and were intended to be converted into park shelters and bus stops once the war had ended.

The shelter at King Edward Park is the only remaining ‘colonnade’ type and was specifically designed to be converted later into a public shelter.  Built with a sandstone rear wall (rather than concrete) and six sandstone piers, all other perimeter walls were designed and constructed of brick so that they could be easily removed after the war to allow the structure’s conversion into a useful civic asset.

Hostilities eventually ceased on 14 August 1945, with Japan’s unconditional surrender. Remarkably, Brisbane escaped the Japanese bombing raids.

After the war, many of the air raid shelters were demolished but a small number of these structures survive today, fulfilling their post-war function as bus shelters, or park shelters, just as Frank G Costello had intended.

For more information about this Local Heritage Place, refer to Local Heritage Places online.

Image creditQueensland Government.

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Historic image of view from Jacob's Ladder looking towards Edward Street - 1912

11. King Edward Park and Jacob's Ladder (including former site of the Trade Halls)

This steep set of steps, known as ‘Jacob’s Ladder’, has provided a pathway from Edward Street to Wickham Terrace from as early as the beginning of the twentieth century. 
 

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The origin of the name comes from the Biblical tale of Jacob who, in a dream, stood at the bottom of a large set of stairs on which Angels were ascending and descending between Heaven and Earth and God spoke to him. Across the world, the name ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ has been used to name steep inclines and long sets of steps.

Beside Jacob’s Ladder was Brisbane’s second Trades Hall, constructed in 1923 (the first was built in Turbot Street in 1891). A larger hall was needed in the 1920s as union membership rapidly increased to more than two thirds of Queensland’s workforce. The impressive new hall was described as “a symbolic monument, calm and serene, noble in outline, all-embracing in capacity of the spirit and strength of unionism” (Worker, 29 June 1922).

During the Great Depression the hall often became the focal point of protests by the unemployed. On 18 March 1931 a violent riot erupted on the steps of the hall when a 500 strong crowd tried to force their way in, protesting against the Trades and Labour Council, who they saw as unsupportive. No one was seriously injured in the protests, but several arrests were made as police attempted to stop the crowd from entering the hall.

The Trades Hall was demolished in the 1980s.

For more information about this Local Heritage Place, refer to Local Heritage Places online.

Image creditState Library of Queensland.

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12. Windmill Tower

Built in 1828, this structure is Queensland’s oldest standing building and is one of only two surviving convict-built structures in the state, the other being the Commissariat Store in William Street.
 

 

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John Oseland, a convict sent to Moreton Bay in 1827 and a skilled miller, was tasked with building the windmill to grind wheat and grain for the settlement. On completion however, the windmill’s sails failed to turn. Just one month later, Oseland escaped from the convict settlement and was never seen again.

Under the direction of the strict Commandant, Captain Patrick Logan, a separate timber treadmill was constructed on the side of the mill that followed the standard design used throughout British penal settlements at the time. Used as a form of punishment for unruly convicts, it was also a reliable means of crushing grain. Up to sixteen men at a time worked on the treadmill from sunrise to sunset, with only two or three hour breaks in the middle of the day depending on the heat.

After the closure of the penal settlement in 1839, the Windmill Tower remained largely unused until it became the Telegraph Signal Station in 1861.

In the 1920s, the tower was leased by the Queensland Institute of Radio Engineers to carry out experiments. Impressively, in 1934, Queensland’s first television broadcast was transmitted from the tower by Allen Campbell and Thomas Elliot.

For more information about this State Heritage Place, refer to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Image creditState Library of Queensland.

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Image of Service Reservoir, Wickham Terrace - 2020

13. Service Reservoirs

Prior to 1866, Brisbane did not have a reliable and safe water supply. In the convict era, an earth dam was built over Wheat Creek in the area where Roma and Little Roma Streets now run. Here, water was pumped through a series of linked hollow hardwood logs that formed a pipeline. A convict operated treadmill pumped this water to the soldiers’ barracks (situated near the corner of George and Queen Streets) and then on to the commandant’s house on William Street.

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By 1859 a large tank had been constructed beside the dam, on what is now known appropriately as Tank Street. This was the only public source of water for the town and was often contaminated and unsafe. The inadequate supply system was remedied in 1866 with the construction of Queensland’s first major dam at Enoggera. This dam was the first reticulated gravity water supply system in the state.

In 1871, in an effort to improve the supply of water to the city, the first service reservoir was built on Spring Hill, with the water coming from the Enoggera Dam. A second reservoir was built in 1882.

In 1904-05 a series of timber roof structures were added to the reservoirs in an attempt to ensure the water supply was clean and algae free. The reservoirs continued to provide water supply to the Brisbane area well into the 1960s.

For more information about this State Heritage Place, refer to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Image creditBrisbane City Council.

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14. Tower Mill Motel

Opened in 1966 the Tower Mill Motel was considered to be one of Brisbane’s most innovative buildings, with its circular design reflecting the historic Windmill Tower across the road.


 

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Designed by architect Stephen Trotter, the cylindrical building incorporates elements of sub-tropical design which he was influential in developing and teaching to architecture students in the late twentieth century. This early modernist international hotel is rare in remaining a functioning hotel since it was opened in 1966.

Embracing the new design technologies of the international style, the Tower Mill Motel features expressed concrete floor plates and columns and concrete awnings that shade full height glazed curtain walls. While international style hotels built in the city at this time also featured curtain walls with full height glazing, Tower Mill was unique as it did not have a rectangular footprint or identical room layouts.

On 22 July 1971 the motel was the scene of a historic civil right demonstration. The South African Rugby Union team, the Springboks, arrived at the motel the day before their game against the Australian Wallabies, to a crowd of 400 anti-Apartheid demonstrators gathered to protest their arrival.

Eight days before this, in anticipation of the controversial match, Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who was renowned for his tough stance on civil disruption, declared Queensland to be in a State of Emergency.

The mostly student protestors were met by 500 police, both uniformed and plain clothed, who were given powers to quell the protest by any means resulting in violent clashes between protestors and police. The protesters fled to the park across the road from the motel where many were beaten by police or forcibly thrown from high walls onto the street below. Following the match, another demonstration took place at the same location where, once again, police turned on the protestors.

For more information about this Local Heritage Place, refer to Local Heritage Places online.

Image creditState Library of Queensland.

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15. Craigston

‘Craigston’ was Brisbane’s first multi-storeyed apartment block introducing the concept of a multi-function office/residential block, with ground floor professional suites and residential apartments above. It was designed by Brisbane architects, Atkinson and Conrad in the then popular Spanish Mission architectural style and its construction using a reinforced concrete frame was likely a first for a multi-storeyed building in Queensland. The building was erected in 1927 by builder and engineer Walter Taylor, under the supervision of architect T.B.F. Gargett.

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At the time, Brisbane living consisted of individual domestic-scale timber houses with backyards, with some larger timber homes converted into boarding houses and flats as alternatives to family homes. A purpose-built multi-storeyed apartment block was seen as a novel form of housing.

Naturally, the introduction of the apartment block to Brisbane was not without its critics. Flats were generally marketed to single people and childless couples, and some believed that ‘flat’ living would degrade the family unit and encourage lax morals.

In spite of this, apartment living soon became fashionable and new architect-designed apartment blocks began to appear in inner-city suburbs such as Spring Hill, New Farm, Fortitude Valley and South Brisbane.

For more information about this State Heritage Place, refer to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Image creditState Library of Queensland

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Historic image of Wickham Terrace - 1920s

16. United Services Club Premises (The Green House)

This timber house was colloquially known as the ‘Green House’ years before the name was officially recorded in the Post Office Directories. It was built between 1906-07 and was designed by respected architect Claude Chambers.

 

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During this era, Wickham Terrace was becoming increasingly important as Brisbane’s renowned medical precinct. This is reflected by the house’s first tenant, Dr Thomas Morgan, who not only resided at the house but also established his medical rooms there.

In 1910, there were 20 medical practitioners located on Wickham Terrace. As a result of the great advances in medicine made during the First World War, many doctors were encouraged to specialise in particular fields. By 1930 Wickham Terrace was home to 79 doctors as well as four private hospitals. Today, Wickham Terrace remains Brisbane’s renowned medical precinct.

The ‘Green House’ is currently part of the United Service Club.

For more information about this State Heritage Place, refer to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Image creditBrisbane City Council.

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Historical image of Baptist Tabernacle on Wickham Terrace - 1900

17. Baptist City Tabernacle

The Baptist City Tabernacle was the second Baptist church built in the city. The first, built in 1859, was situated on the corner of Wharf and Adelaide Streets. However, as the local congregation grew, it became necessary to build another church. One of Brisbane’s most celebrated architects, Richard Gailey, was a member of the congregation and designed the imposing tabernacle in the late 1880s.

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Gailey was responsible for designing some of Brisbane’s most beautiful buildings, the most famous of which include the Empire, Prince Consort, Jubilee and Wickham Hotels in Fortitude Valley, the Orient Hotel in the city and the Regatta Hotel in Toowong. The Baptist City Tabernacle was dedicated on 9 October 1890.

During the Second World War, the tabernacle’s basement was made available to the Queensland Government to use as an emergency centre for the injured in the event of enemy air raids. Other underground areas beneath the church were made ready as shelters in case of attack. The tabernacle also provided spiritual support and hospitality to the many American troops stationed in Brisbane who were members of the Baptist Church in America.

The Baptist City Tabernacle continues to be an important place of worship for the Baptist congregation.

For more information about this State Heritage Place, refer to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Image creditState Library of Queensland.

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Historic image of corner of Wickham Terrace and Upper Edward Street - 1923

18. Wickham House

This five-storey brick building was purpose built in 1924 as a suite of specialist doctors’ offices. While the building is historically important for its contribution to Wickham Terrace’s emergence as Brisbane’s medical precinct, it became infamous for a crime committed in 1955.
 

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In December 1955 a 39 year-old German immigrant, Karl Kast, entered Wickham House with a pistol and 12 handmade pipe bombs. He shot and wounded Dr Michael Gallagher in his office before attempting to blow up the building’s foyer. George Boland, a patient, had his hand severely maimed while trying to stop a bomb from exploding. Kast then went 50 metres down the hill to the Ballow Chambers building where he shot and killed Dr Arthur Meehan and Dr John Murray in their suites.

Kast went on to Dr John Latz’s office, who managed to narrowly escape. It was here that Kast set off another bomb and turned the pistol on himself, later dying in hospital from his injuries. It was believed that the doctors targeted had previously refused to provide Kast with medical grounds for a compensation claim to receive a pension.

For more information about this State Heritage Place, refer to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Image creditState Library of Queensland.

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Historic image of Central Railway Station - 1911

19. Central Railway Station

Brisbane’s Central Railway Station was built in 1889 and was the second inner-city station. The first was Roma Street Station, which had served as Brisbane’s main terminus from 1875. By the 1880s, Brisbane residents had voiced their wishes for a centrally-located city station. These were finally granted in 1889 when the line from Roma Street into the city was completed. At this time there were only two through tracks and the first station building was made of timber and galvanised iron.

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The station building was seen by many at the time, including Premier Sir Thomas McIlwraith, as exceedingly inadequate for a city’s main railway station. Ten years later the grand brick building was finally built and was generally considered a more befitting structure for a prosperous city.

Brisbane’s Central Railway Station was the first in Australia to introduce electro-pneumatic signaling, a new technology for the time that used electricity to raise and lower the signals and levers.

The Brisbane Courier reported that “the new system will enable the work to be done by two men instead of four” (The Brisbane Courier, 13 September 1904).

In the early 1970s much of the original station was demolished with the construction of the high-rise administrative building over the platforms. Further impacts occurred when the Sheraton Hotel (now the Sofitel) was erected over the station building in 1984. The Ann Street frontage is now the only remnant of the original grand station.

Central Station remains Brisbane’s busiest railway station.

For more information about this State Heritage Place, refer to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Image creditState Library of Queensland.

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Historical image of Anzac Square under construction - 1928

20. Anzac Square

Anzac Square was created to commemorate all Queenslanders who had fought and died in the First World War. It was dedicated on Armistice Day (also known as Remembrance Day) in 1930, by the Governor of Queensland, Sir John Goodwin.
 

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The armistice that ended the First World War was signed in France at 11am on 11 November 1918. On the other side of the world, Australians were mourning those who had lost their lives while serving their country. Almost 40 per cent of Australian men aged between 18-44 had enlisted in the war. By the end of the hostilities, Australia had the highest casualty rate of the Allied Forces at 68.5 per cent, with a total of 60,000 troops killed and 152,000 wounded. Most of those killed were buried overseas. Unable to lay their loved ones to rest at home, Australians expressed their grief by erecting war memorials.

The Eternal Flame burns continuously at the Shrine of Remembrance to honour the Australian men and women who have given their lives for their country in all wars.

For more information about this State Heritage Place, refer to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Image creditBrisbane City Council.

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Historical image of Colonial Mutual Life Building Queen Street Brisbane and General Post Office - 1931

21. Newspaper House (former Colonial Mutual Life Building)

This Art Deco style building was built between 1930-31 and designed by architects Hennessey, Hennessey & Co for the life insurance company, Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society (CML). One of the important features of this building is the multi-coloured facing in ’Benedict Stone’, an artificial stone manufactured from crushed porphyry (Brisbane Tuff) and concrete.

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Catholic Archbishop James Duhig established Benedict Stone (Qld) Pty Ltd in 1929 after he acquired a licence to manufacture it from its American inventor. It was intended that the stone would be used for the construction of the Holy Name Cathedral proposed for Fortitude Valley – a cathedral that would never be built due to the impact of the Great Depression.

Take note of the rich decoration on the Queen Street exterior with the gargoyles, lions, relief blocks and shields that add to the building’s character. Look closely at the stone caricatures – they were carved to resemble the executives at CML when the building was first constructed.

The building has been converted into a hotel and residential apartments and is known today as ‘The Manor Apartments’.

For more information about this State Heritage Place, refer to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Image creditState Library of Queensland.

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Historic image of mail room in Brisbane General Post Office - 1909

22. General Post Office (GPO) (and site for the former Female Factory)

The General Post Office (GPO) was built in 1872 and was designed by the Colonial Architect FDG Stanley, who is also attributed with designing some of the most important civic buildings in Brisbane during this era. These include the Queensland Club, old Government Printery, former State Library (built as Queensland’s first museum), Port Office building, Roma Street Railway Station and extensive additions to Parliament House.

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In 1879 a central tower, southern telegraph wing and clock were added to the building. The complex held Brisbane’s first telephone exchange in 1880 and was the central distribution centre for telegrams.

Construction of the GPO required demolition of the convict-built Female Factory that had been constructed in 1829 to house the increasing number of female convicts transported to the Moreton Bay penal settlement.

The timber-fenced premises that concentrated the women in a ‘house of industry’ were intended to keep them separated from the male prisoners. However, the fence posed little problem to Assistant Surgeon Cowper and an acquaintance who, fuelled by alcohol, spent the night in the female quarters. His activities were quickly discovered and a formal Court of Enquiry was convened, resulting in Cowper and a number of others being immediately dismissed from government service. High stone walls were soon erected around the factory.

By 1837 the female convicts were moved to a site at Eagle Farm away from the attention of the male convicts and soldiers who were prohibited from crossing Breakfast Creek.

For more information about this Local Heritage Place, refer to Local Heritage Places online.

Image creditState Library of Queensland.

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Historic image of St Stephen's Church - 1910

23. Old St Stephen's Church

The first service to be held in this small church took place on 12 May 1850. Prior to this the Catholic community, who made up one-third of the population at the time, had no dedicated place of worship.

 

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It is believed that the church was designed by notable British architect Augustus Pugin, a friend of Archbishop Polding in Sydney. Pugin was a renowned architect and is most famous for designing the Elizabeth Tower on London’s Palace of Westminster, commonly known as ‘Big Ben’.

Inside St Stephen’s Chapel, the apse has been dedicated to Australia’s first canonised saint, Mother Mary MacKillop, who worshipped there between 1869-71 before moving her Sisters of St Joseph to St Mary’s Church in South Brisbane.

When the adjacent cathedral was completed in 1874, the chapel became a school used by the Christian Brothers prior to the establishment of St Joseph’s College on Gregory Terrace in 1880.

Today the chapel continues to be used for worship and serves as a peaceful retreat from the busy city.

For more information about this State Heritage Place, refer to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Image creditBrisbane City Council.

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Historic image of St Stephen's Cathedral - 1900

24. St Stephen's Cathedral

Bishop James Quinn was appointed Queensland’s first Catholic bishop in 1859. Recognising the need for a new Catholic cathedral in Brisbane, Bishop Quinn initiated construction and work began in late 1863. Unfortunately, the economic depression of the mid 1860s delayed progress and resulted in a less expensive design being sought. Colonial Architect, Richard Suter, supervised the completion of the cathedral and it was officially opened in 1874.

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Bishop Quinn was a controversial figure in the history of Brisbane. His vision was to establish Catholic schools in Queensland for the education of both the rich and poor. He invited six Sisters of Mercy, headed by Mother Vincent Whitty, from Ireland to assist him in establishing the schools, as they were renowned for their teaching skills and ability to care for poor children. However, Mother Whitty was known to have regularly clashed with Bishop Quinn due to his autocratic nature.

In 1869 six Sisters of St Joseph, headed by Mother Mary MacKillop (Australia’s first saint), arrived in Brisbane at Bishop Quinn’s invitation to also establish Catholic schools and help poor children. Once again, there were conflicts and the order consequently withdrew from Queensland in 1880. Bishop Quinn died on 18 August 1881.

St Stephen’s Catholic Cathedral continues to be the centre for Catholic worship in Brisbane.

For more information about this State Heritage Place, please refer to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Image creditState Library of Queensland.

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Historical image of General Douglas MacArthur and Mrs Jean Marie MacArthur

25. MacArthur Chambers

This stately building was built as the Queensland headquarters of the Australian Mutual Provident Society (AMP) and was opened in 1934.

 

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The 1150 tonnes of steelwork used in the building was manufactured by Queensland company Evans Deacon & Company. Master builder, George A Stronarch, adopted techniques in the construction of the building that were innovative for the time in Brisbane, including the replacement of rivets with bolts and a reinforced concrete roof. When completed it was considered one of the strongest buildings in the city.

The building’s strength was one of the reasons it was chosen as US General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters (1942-1944) during the Second World War.

MacArthur had been commander in the Philippines at the outbreak of the Pacific War on 7 December 1941. In early 1942, he was ordered to Australia to lead the South West Pacific Area’s forces and arrived in Melbourne on 21 March. As the Pacific conflict intensified, MacArthur transferred his entire headquarters to Brisbane on 20 July. This building remained MacArthur’s headquarters until 1944, when he triumphantly returned to the Philippines.

The MacArthur Museum is located on the fifth floor of the building and provides further information about this important part of Brisbane’s history.

For more information about this State Heritage Place, refer to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Image creditState Library of Queensland.

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Other Local Heritage Place Trails

Want to explore heritage places in other Brisbane suburbs? Check out our full list of Heritage Trails.

Last updated: 6 July 2022

Brisbane City Council acknowledges this Country and its Traditional Custodians. We pay our respects to the Elders, those who have passed into the dreaming; those here today; those of tomorrow.