Monday, April 12, 2010

Parliament House

By the year 1859, Queensland was a separate colony with a newly appointed governor, Sir George Bowen. By 1862 Bowen had moved into the purpose-built Government House at the river end of George St. The Queensland legislature at that time had both an upper house and a lower house, and in 1864 it was decided that a Parliament House to accommodate both should be built next to Government House, thereby establishing a government precinct at that end of George St. A Commission was established to call for suitable designs for a construction costing up to £20,000. After a confusion of selecting tenders that were too expensive, then tenders that were unsuitable, (sounds a lot like government tenders these days, too!) the Commission finally settled on a design by the then Colonial Architect, Mr Charles Tiffin. The foundation stone was laid by Governor Bowen on 14 July 1865, and the main (George St) wing was completed in 1867. This is how Parliament House, built on the south-west corner of George St and Alice St, was looking in 1887.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #57387)

The pages at the State Government's Heritage Register say this about the design: "Now described as Classical Revival in style, it was then described as renaissance as adopted in the Louvre and Tuilleries, but of a less ornate character and more in keeping with the position of the colony. The external walls are constructed of freestone from Mr Jeays quarry at Woogaroo and the roof was originally of English slates..... the ridges and mansards terminated with iron cresting."
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Although old Government House next door has been converted to another use, Parliament House is still the functioning seat of government here in Queensland. Queensland sensibly did away with its upper house in 1922 (I still think that we Australians are overgoverned - how much duplication and redundancy must there be in three levels of government?). My photo (above) shows a few changes from the older image: the completion of the Alice St wing; the addition of a porte-cochere on the George St side; and the removal of some decoration around the roof-line are the obvious ones. In fact, we Queenslanders spent $13 million in 1982, replacing the roof, adding air-conditioning and upgrading fire and security measures. I think that it's a great building.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Cardinal rules

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