The history of Brisbane’s iconic Treasury building situated on the corner of George and Queen Streets began in 1874. It used to be the site of the former convict Officers’ Quarters and Military Barracks and today is recognized as one of Brisbane’s significant landmarks in the center of the business district.
It was built in three stages which began in 1886 and continued through to 1928. A Liverpool trained architect (and Queensland resident) by the name of JJ Clark, designed the building and it is considered to be one of his best creative endeavours. The public offices were erected by the colonial government during the boom-time years of the early 1880s in an area that was already known as Treasury Square.
The site had been occupied by officialdom since penal colony times and associated with Treasury since the 1860s. The original military barracks was also used as officer’s quarters but was later occupied by the Registrar-General, with an additional building constructed for his convenience. Changes were made after this to introduce a more monolithic style of building.
“Stage One, which fronts William St and the river, was constructed from Highfields stone and completed by September 1889, to a design inspired by 16th century classical Italian architecture. Barely had the last of the tools been put down when the Premier, Registrar-General, Colonial Secretary and Treasury had moved in along with a motley assortment of departments such as Mines, Auditor-General and so on.
Stage Two, flanking Elizabeth St and part of George St (and facing Queens Park), was begun immediately upon completion of Stage One, under the continued supervision of Thomas Pye, who oversaw an efficient works program which finished at the start of 1893. This time Helidon sandstone was used and close inspection of the two wings shows up the discernible difference of materials. Then another flurry of government offices including Justice, Works and the State Savings bank (with purpose-built internal chamber) moved in, further centralizing the public service.
Such was the public pride in their self-government the building had quickly become a symbol of it, culminating in large public turn-outs at various occasions. The most significant of these was the reading of the proclamation of the Australian Government from a balcony on the William St façade on Federation Day 1901.
The action died down for a while until 1922, when the third stage, still faithful to the JJ Clark plans but made of Helidon sandstone and with a 1920s twist, was implemented. The old Registrar-General’s building from 1874 was demolished for this purpose and this final wing opened in 1930.”
Right up until the late 1990’s the building was used as Government offices. When the Registrar-General moved out, it was then sold for the purposes of converting the building into a casino. This idea caused considerable objection initially by the public but in the process of converting this magnificent building into the present day casino, Clarke’s original creation has been preserved. The imposing nature of the original building is still clearly evident. J.J Clarke’s reputation spread as a result of his work and eventually he was lured away from Brisbane when he accepted work offered to him in Melbourne.
The exterior has remained relatively intact over the years but there have been certain moderations made to the interior. However, the ornate fireplaces built during the first William Street stage have been retained as has the plaster ceiling roses, cast iron wall ventilators and elaborate Cabinet room in the centre of the wing.
The Treasury Building looks impressive by day but it takes on an alluring appeal when bathed in red by strategically placed lighting. The blue lights on the bridge in the forefront create a superb contrast and I hope my photos do them justice.