The Old Treasury Building

The Old Treasury Building built in three stages between 1883 and 1928 – today it is home to the Treasury Casino, however it has also housed many government agencies including Queensland’s Premier, Colonial Secretary’s Office, Registrar-General, Treasury, Mines, Works, Police and Auditor-General. This was not the first building to be built on this site – in 1825 the site was reserved for government purposes, and became home to convict built officers and military barracks. In 1831 Brisbane’s second Military Barracks, built of stone and brick, stood on this corner.

Brisbane Town was established in May 1825 as the Moreton Bay Convict Settlement under the command of Lieutenant Henry Miller of the 40th Foot Regiment. Initially the military were housed in tents, but by late 1825, early 1826, temporary slab barracks had been built at North Quay on the northern side of present day Queen Street. Two huts were provided for the sergeant, corporal and twelve soldiers while individual huts were provided for the married soldiers. Lawrence Vance Dalhunty, who arrived in August 1825 to take over the positions of both Superintendent of Convicts and Acting Engineer, described part of the early military barrack in his Quarterly Return of Public Labour & Expenditure of Materials 25 December 1825-24 March 1826: the erection of ‘two wings to the military barrack, 15 feet by 25 feet, and 30 rod of 10-feet 2-rail fence enclosing the military barracks’.

However, as more convicts were sent to Moreton Bay the number of soldiers to guard them also grew substantially and before the end of 1826 both the convict barracks and the military barracks were becoming severely overcrowded. On his arrival in March 1826 the new Commandant, Captain Patrick Logan of the 57th Regiment, was not so worried about the quality of the existing slab buildings, the prisoners’ barracks concerned him more; they were inadequate, the prisoners needed to be securely rehoused in a much larger building so a new military barrack was not a priority. Logan considered that other more substantial buildings for the settlement were urgently needed – a secure gaol, a hospital, a lumber yard, and a store.

By the middle of 1827 the hospital buildings had been finished, the prisoners’ barracks were nearing completion and work had started on new brick buildings within the compound at North Quay to enlarge the military barracks. It was recorded on 18th February 1829 that there were now 772 convicts stationed at Moreton Bay and around 100 soldiers were needed to guard them. To add to the overcrowding some of these soldiers had their wives and families with them. Logan was even suggesting that part of the hospital may need to be appropriated as a military barrack. In view of the overcrowding of the military at North Quay, in July 1830 it was decided to build completely new military barracks on the site now occupied by the Treasury Building, between present day Queen Street and Elizabeth Street. Logan was directed by Sydney to construct a military barrack for 100 rank and file, and the Director of Public Works was asked to produce a plan for it. In September 1830 Governor Darling in Sydney approved the plan and in July 1831 the Deputy Commissary-General was asked to provide iron for the new military barracks at Moreton Bay. This was sent from Sydney on 1st August 1831. The two-storey Military Barracks built on this site was flanked by a single storey Guard House on the left and Officers’ Quarters on the right.

In 1864, the barracks became the offices of the Registrar-General, Treasury and Engineer of Harbours, although a single storey building was also built in 1874 for the Registrar-General on the corner of George and Queen Streets in anticipation for the government’s redevelopment of ‘Treasury Square’. This project took off in 1883 when a competition was organised to design a 2-storey perimeter block to occupy the square. The competition was won by Melbourne architects Grainger and D’ebro but their design was never used. Queensland’s colonial architect John James (JJ) Clark argued that it should be a 4 storey building erected as needed and his design was subsequently used. The Treasury Building was subsequently completed in three stages between 1883 and 1928.

The first stage of the building, which fronts William Street and the river, was completed in September 1889 by Sydney-based builders Phippard Brothers and Co. at a cost of £94,697/10/- . The corner of the building facing William and Elizabeth Street’s were occupied by the Premier, Colonial Secretary, Registrar-General, Treasury, Works, Police and Auditor-General. It was also home to Cabinet and Executive Council from 1889-1905. The sandstone used in the building was brought in from Highfields.

The second stage (or Elizabeth Street and two-thirds of the George Street section) was completed 1893 by John Jude of Adelaide and architect JJ Clarke at a cost £67,000. In the 1890-1900’s the building was a symbol of self-governance and a focus for celebrity and patriotic displays – the 1901 proclamation of Australian Commonwealth read from the William Street elevation. The sandstone for both this and the third stage of the building was brought in from Helidon. The third stage, completed in 1928 at a cost of £137,817, differed slightly from JJ Clarke’s design, having a more distinct 1920s style of architecture.

In 1971 the Treasury and Works department moved to the new Executive Building in George Street, severing treasury ties to the building, and by 1989 the Registrar-General remained the sole occupant of the building. After a major refurbishment, the Treasury Casino opened in 1995.

The Mansions

The Mansions were designed by English architect George Addison and built in 1889. Addison’s firm Oakden, Addison and Kent had opened offices in Brisbane and Addison designed many notable buildings and houses around Brisbane and the surrounding districts, including the Albert St Uniting Church and the Strand Theatre in Toowoomba. The building was constructed by RE Burton at a cost of £11,700.

Constructed of red brick in the ‘Queen Anne’ style, the building was well suited to the sub-tropical climate of Brisbane. The cats that sit on top of the building were crafted from New Zealand limestone. The building consists of six, three-story terrace houses, which were and remain an uncommon and distinct form of architecture in Queensland. Its large arcaded balconies, along with its corner position, provided pleasant conditions to the professionals who occupied the building.

The Mansions were initially built as an investment property for three Queensland politicians – the Hon. Boyd Dunlop Morehead, Premier, the Hon. William Pattison, Treasurer, and the Hon. John Stevenson, then-member for Clermont. As the second of only two Australian-born Premiers up to that time, Morehead served in the Queensland Parliament for over 30 years. The addition of other buildings such as Government House and Parliament House contributed to the establishment of a ‘government precinct’ area in George Street.

One of the most prominent figures of Queensland medical history, Dr Lilian Violet Cooper (1861-1947) emigrated to Brisbane and set up her medical practice in The Mansions in 1891. Dr Cooper advocated the health of women and children and in 1896, and became an Honorary Medical Officer of Outpatients at the Hospital for Sick Children, which was located in Leichhardt Street, Brisbane. This hospital later became the Royal Children’s Hospital.

Between 1896 and 1954 The Mansions was divided into boarding houses, and in 1947 were named Lonsdale, Glenmore and Binna Burra. In 1954 the Queensland Government purchased the property, converting it into office space for a cost of £45,054. Government departments occupied the building during the 1970s included the Statistician’s Office, Medical Boards, Licensing Commission, Prices Branch, Department of Public Works and the Probation Office.

Today, The Mansions houses professional offices and a restaurant.

Queen’s Wharf and North Quay

If you turn right into Queen’s Wharf Road and follow the river downstream you will come to the site of the first wharf to be built on the Brisbane River.

In May 1825 the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement under Lieutenant Henry Miller was moved to Brisbane Town.

In 1827 King’s Wharf, which changed to Queen’s Wharf on the ascension of the new monarch in 1837, was built to service the settlement almost in front of the site where the Commissariat Store now stands. It featured a gantry and was built of timber. The wharf was the entry point to the town where convicts and their military overseers disembarked and provisions were unloaded. Virtually everyone and everything came by water.

The wharf was also the disembarkation point for the non-military personnel who were allowed into the penal settlement during its latter years including Andrew Petrie and his family in 1837 who were the first free settlers to the settlement.

In 1842 the penal settlement closed and Moreton Bay was opened to free settlement. When Thomas Dowse, a pardoned convict and free settler, arrived at the by-then dilapidated wharf in 1842 he thought he had landed “at the abode of damn’d spirits so unmistakably miserable did all the surroundings appear to his eyes”.

With the arrival of free settlers a ferry service began between North and South Brisbane on 1 January 1843.

With free settlement came the construction of the Victoria Wharf and Stores adjacent to the wharf and later an inn named the Queen’s Head. Nearby was the Ship Inn, by the 1860s the property of the well-known Patrick Mayne. During a flood in 1864 its foundations gave way and the walls collapsed, effectively removing all licensed premises from the Queen’s Wharf locale.

In 1865 the Immigration Depot (now the National Trust building) opened in William Street. For this the old timber wharf was refurbished for the second time.

William Pettigrew commenced a stream sawmill operation at the Margaret Street end of the Queen’s Wharf precinct in 1853. By the early 1890s Pettigrew’s mill buildings and timber stacks occupied all the land between Margaret Street and the Queen’s Wharf reserve.

In the 1870s a classically styled Museum building was built which later housed the State Library.

In the early hours of 7 February 1890, a landslip that commenced below the Museum destroyed buildings and structures including the old Queen’s Wharf. A second disaster befell the precinct in February 1893 when flood peaks sent water racing through its lower sections destroying Pettigrew’s business and others. Then came a third disaster. On the evening of 13 February 1896, the ferry Pearl departed from Queen’s Wharf and while avoiding the steamer Normanby was carried by flood currents into the anchor chain of the government steamer Lucinda and capsized. An estimated 30 people died.

Today the Queen’s Wharf locale features a riverside bikeway. The North Quay ferry terminal services the Brisbane CBD having recently been re-built after being destroyed in the January 2011 floods.

Miller Park

Miller Park is named after Lieutenant Henry Miller the first Commandant of the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement.  It was declared parkland in 1980 due to its historical significance as the main point of access to the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement.

Throughout its history the site has been a grassy thoroughfare between William Street and Queen’s Wharf Road, however from the 1850s onwards it also provided access to the Commissariat Store’s middle floor through a doorway cut through the western wall.  This was to avoid access to the ground floor of the building which continued to be used as a store.

The area was redeveloped and landscaped as part of the extensive renovations undertaken to restore the Commissariat Store between 1978 and 1981. A new set of stairs was built and most of a wall which predated 1838 was replaced although one section of the original wall was left adjacent to the former State Library driveway next door.

As part of the world-wide celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Girl Guides movement, Queensland Guides raised money for a flagpole to be erected in Miller Park on 22 February 1986 as  a lasting tribute to the pioneers of the Guiding movement.

The stairs through Miller Park are still used by those wishing to access Queen’s Wharf Road from William Street.

Lieutenant Henry Miller

Lieutenant Henry Miller of the 40th regiment was sent to Australia from England in 1823 and became the first Commandant of the Moreton Bay Penal Colony in 1824.  Prior to coming to Queensland, Miller had served under the Duke of Wellington in the Battle of Waterloo and taken part in the unsuccessful attack on New Orleans.

Although the first settlement was established at Redcliffe in 1824, it was decided for various reasons to move the colony inland to the present site on the Brisbane River.

Once his term as Commandant was over Miller moved to Hobart and lived there working for the government until his death on 10 January 1866.

The site of Miller Park is opposite the old King’s (renamed Queen’s in 1837) Wharf where convicts, officers and suppliers were deposited upon arrival at the new colony.

The Commissariat Store

During the early years of the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement, the Commissariat Store acted as the receiving and distributing depot for the burgeoning colony’s food and equipment.  The officer in charge was paid the second highest wage in the colony, below the Commandant.

History and Use of the Building

WhenBuilding Use
1829Construction of the building, comprised of two storeys, was completed. The lower floor was used as a Colonial/Government Store from 1829-1961.
1848Land sales office
1850sInflux of free settlers to Moreton Bay. The second floor was used as temporary accommodation for immigrants unable to be housed elsewhere. A doorway was cut through the western wall to allow the immigrants access to the building from Miller Park and so avoid the ground floor which was being used as a store. As there were no cooking facilities in the building, the kitchen was in the yard.
1860sThe second floor was converted to married and single quarters for the constabulary, with partitions, 18 windows and 6 doors fitted.
1870sBuilding reverted to immigrant accommodation.
1880sAccommodation for Justices visiting St Helena Island and the Dunwich Benevolent Society. In 1886, an annex was built at a right angle to the main building, to house a stationery store. The annex was demolished in 1977.
1898With the advent of Federation, the building was renamed the Government Store – evidence of this is apparent above the William Street and Miller Park entrances.
1909Two lifts were installed. These were hand hoisted by ropes over pulleys.
1913The top floor was added to allow access to William Street and to provide extra office space.
1914First electric lift installed.
1923Building became the State Store.
1961State stores moved out of the building.
1962-1968Queensland State Archives operated on the ground floor. This space was then used by the State Library and the Law Reform Commission, as well as the State Irrigation Commission, the Justice Department, and as storage space for the Department of Stores.
1976The Law Reform Commission, the only remaining government organisation in residence, vacated the building.
1979-1982Building restored, however the major alterations were not aligned to current methods of conservation.
1981Building leased to the Royal Historical Society of Queensland.
1981-NowHome of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland.
1999-2001Major conservation and refurbishment of the building funded by a Centenary of Federation grant and the Queensland Government.