Friday, July 13, 2012

Harris Terrace, George St

Harris Terrace, situated on George St near the government precinct, dates from 1866 and was originally constructed as an investment for local politician George Harris. Harris arrived in Brisbane in 1848 to join the mercantile firm owned by his brother John. The brothers had a volatile relationship, and in 1852 George left to try gold mining in Victoria. 

John later persuaded him to return to the business as a partner, and George's acceptance allowed John to move to England to establish the business there. George, left to run the Brisbane part of the venture, widened the business to include a fellmongery, a tannery, a leather goods manufacturer and then, during the American civil war, some cotton interests. He married in 1860 and in the same year became a member of Queensland's Legislative Council. Here is a photograph of Harris Terrace from around 1869.
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APE-072-0001-0014)

Harris Terrace was designed by local architects J&G Cowlishaw, and after construction the six attached residences were let out to doctors, parliamentarians and boarding house proprietors.  The Harris business must have been running smoothly then, as George was able to lease and then buy Newstead House, and was reported as being a very lavish host whilst residing there.

George Harris lost heavily during the 1870s by investing in mining ventures. Brother John returned from England several times to try to rectify the problems, but to no avail. George became bitter at the interference and brought legal action to dissolve the partnership, and that eventuated in 1878. During these difficult times George was forced to surrender Harris Terrace to mortgagor James Taylor. Newstead House was also lost at this time.

The building passed through many hands after that, including, as joint owners, politicians BD Morehead and W Pattison who were also part-owners of nearby premises The Mansions. In 1889, while Morehead and Pattison were the owners of Harris Terrace, workmen who had been engaged to repair some broken slate tiles on the roof of the property allegedly replaced the lead ridge cappings with cheaper iron cappings, selling the lead to a nearby plumber for about £25. This was probably not such a smart move as Morehead was the state premier and Pattison the treasurer!

(Photos: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Harris Terrace continued to be privately owned until purchased by the state government in 1958. It was heavily altered into office space in 1961 but restored to its original external appearance in 1985. This is the way it looks now.

Click here for a Google Map.


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