Brisbane’s intimate story will not be told in history books. You must refer to the old records for the real story, such as the treasures in the Oxley Memorial Library, or yarn to elderly residents for this. And thus armed, you could sally forth and discover for yourself some of the early Brisbane landmarks.
Look for the Government Stores on William Street, the Observatory on Wickham Terrace, and the stone wall that leads down to Queen’s Wharf and the excursion launches on North Quay.
Queen’s Walk, the sloping laneway, was known as Brisbane’s Street of Adventure. These are Brisbane’s earliest relics. Most of Brisbane’s original structures have been demolished to meet the demands of a ruthless age that reveres nothing old. As a result, it is almost with reverence that one can point to a building in the heart of the city that appears to have defied the ravages of time and “improvements,” and which today, if the surrounding structures could be “lifted” out of the landscape, presents much the same appearance as it did in 1829, when it was the pivotal point from which the metropolis grew.
The Government Stores on William Street is an example of such a structure. It was founded by Captain Patrick Logan, who was detached with the 57th Regiment on March 6, 1826, to take charge of Moreton Bay Settlement. He oversaw the construction of the majority of the buildings deemed necessary at the time. The old barracks for his red-coated militia — the dreaded “Diamonds” — stood on the site of the Treasury; the Observatory was his windmill (at one point a treadmill operated by convicts), and the lower floors of the early William Street building were his commissariat stores.
We’d go exploring, but we wouldn’t find time-honoured castles or eminent shrines that mellow and enrich the stories of the Old World.
We may recall that a factory for female convicts once stood on the site of the General Post Office on Queen Street, and a lumber or working yard, surrounded by a high wall, once stood near Victoria Bridge, where the old Longreach Hotel once stood. The Botanic Gardens now occupy the entire site.
Parliament House and the University (formerly Government House) were once planted in maize. The Commandant’s House was next to the Government Printing Office, and the Supreme Court was built on the site of a convict hospital.
Water was carted from springs near the Boys’ Grammar School, Gregory Terrace, and the Roma Street railway yards and produce markets were the scene of numerous corroborees.
Many prominent old Brisbane residents have spent their childhoods perched on the rails of the old stockyard, which was once in the heart of modern Brisbane. The first steeplechase racecourse began near the Botanic Gardens’ kiosk, crossed fences and ditches in Frog’s Hollow, and ended at the winning post near the G.P.O.!
However, similar strain could be sustained indefinitely. Every building and every street has an anecdote or story from the early days. Brisbane’s changing face… her skyline is changing on a daily basis. Sharp outlines are softening, and while the old and new blend picturesquely in some areas, the city is rapidly assuming all the contours of a modern metropolis. This is especially noticeable at night, when Queen Street is one of the Commonwealth’s most brilliantly lit and colourful thoroughfares.