Wednesday, September 28, 2016

T150 – Townsville Past & Present: Architecture in Townsville - Buildings of the Past


P.D. Townsville Hospital, 1875. Water colour, 18.5cm x 14cm, James Cook Univerity Library Special Collections Artworks. 
Get on down to the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library (level 1) on the JCU Townsville Campus to view the latest round of T150 themed displays on show until the 8th October.  Currently our focus is “Architecture in Townsville” and a number of treasures are available for viewing anytime the Library is open - including original plans for significant Townsville buildings such as the Customs House, rare footage of inside the Wintergarden Theatre and unique works of art from the Special Collections featuring the above artwork by the artist P.D. who may have been P. Dodson, an art teacher in Townsville in the early 1870s. 

Many thanks to our Special Collections volunteers, Mrs Jean Dartnall and Dr Alan Dartnall, who generously donated their time and expertise to create these informative displays.  Follow this series of blog posts based on the theme of “Architecture in Townsville”.

Buildings of the Past
The first buildings in Townsville were a wharf and a wool shed somewhere on the bank of Ross Creek.  These and all the earliest buildings of Townsville would have been built of wood and perhaps iron and have long disappeared.  Storm and cyclone damage, termites, floods, and fires destroyed these relatively flimsy structures.

During the 1880s more substantial buildings became possible as better building materials were available and as the wealth of the North Queensland gold fields flowed through Townsville encouraging investment in more permanent houses and business premises.  A distinctive style of tropical architecture developed with houses on stumps surrounded by verandahs, and public buildings with porticos and high ceilings.  Some of these buildings are still here for our enjoyment.
These more substantial buildings were not, however, entirely immune to accident and many of these in turn have disappeared. Sometimes these ‘disappeared’ buildings have left behind traces in the various forms such as paintings or photographs.
Buchanan's Hotel, Dan Gleeson Album, NQ Photographic Collection, NQID 2599.
Buchanan's Hotel was built by experiened hotel keeper, David Buchanan and opened in 1903.  It had aspirations to be regarded as the most up to date hotel in Townsville.  It had running water to all the guest rooms, electric bells to summon staff and was lit by gas lighting.  It is best remembered, though, for the magnificent iron lace manufactured by Green's Foundary, Townsville.  The Hotel burned down in 1982 but exists in many photographs, drawings and the memory of it's patrons.

The Wintergarden Theatre was built in Sturt Street, Townsville, by Birch Carroll & Coyle and opened in 1927.  It was well used both by local and visiting performers.  In the early 1960s it was renovated.  The current T150 display in the JCU Library features original film footage showing before and after images of the renovation.  In 1969, the Wintergarden Theatre closed to make way for Queensland's first twin cinema.

Sources
Gibson-Wilde, Dorothy. Gateway to a Golden Land - Studies in North Queensland History, No. 7, 1984.

- Ms Jean Dartnall & Dr Alan Dartnall  

 
Wintergarden Theatre, Townsville Albums, NQ Photographic Collection, NQID 4588.










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