I wasn’t sure what would most represent this for me, but I spent most of the day sorting out my archive and backlog of photos in my Hobart Street Cornersphoto project from the past four years, and starting to put them on my website so they have a life beyond Instagram.
I guess spending over four years on a project must mean I love it, right?
I mean, I do. I love the idea of documenting these places and how they change over time, and keeping a long-term record of this.
I can’t say I loved looking at some of the terrible editing I did back in 2018 and 2019 though, and I like to think I’ve improved a bit there. And I do sometimes feel I’ve set myself up to fail with an unnecessarily excessive volume of photos that maybe I don’t love as much as I want to.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Where to with the project? What do I want it to be? How can I maintain the love?
I’ve recently looked at collections of photos by Stephen Shore and read his reflections on structuring his images, some of which are street corners. Not that I’m comparing my work to Stephen Shore’s, but his comments rang true for me.
In the 1970s and 1980s Stephen photographed, among other things, city intersections. He talks about how content and structure would guide him to where he would photograph and exactly where to place the camera, but that there was a bigger question: Why this particular intersection on this day, in this light, at this moment? He says thinking about this gave him the experience of deep connection with the content of the picture. (Modern Instances, page 61.)
It would be easy for me to say that the answer to that question is that I simply wanted to record the street corner that I happened to be walking past at this moment in time. It’s the reason for the very first photo from the project in February 2018. I don’t think this is a bad thing. And it’s very easy to do when you’re using an iPhone rather than a view camera like Stephen Shore ended up using for many of photographs. (Have you seen the size of those things?)
(Random aside, I think I read somewhere that Stephen uses an iPhone for some of his images now.)
But even with this reason, I feel like I can only sustain this for so long, before it starts to get same-y and uninspiring. It starts to feel like a chore and I start to seek more from the pictures.
I’m not sure what this might be. I’m not about to run out and get an 8×10 camera to force myself to slow down. This is an iPhone project, and it comes with the many limitations of using that as a camera.
But even just becoming aware, as Stephen started to be when he started shooting with the view camera, of the “continual shifting” of the visual relationships between the elements while walking down a street. “The telephone pole bears an ever changing relationship to a building next to it or behind it, this mailbox changes its relationship to the telephone pole.” These changes we can pay conscious attention to as we walk. (Uncommon Places, page 201.)
As he worked, Stephen would ask, “Where do I stand so that the camera makes sense of the space I can see?” (Modern Instances, page 59.)
The intersection he saw as a three-dimensional problem. Where am I going to stand? Where am I going to cut it off? How much am I going to show? Am I going to wait for a person to stand in or a car to stop? (Uncommon Places, page 201.)
These are things I can pay closer attention to when I’m at an intersection, even if my phone can’t capture all of the detail that a large format camera would.
Bringing more awareness to what I’m including in the image, and why I’m making it at that time (apart from it being on the way to work) might make me slow down and think a bit more. I might make fewer photos but perhaps they’ll be more interesting or insightful.
By slowing down it will take longer for me to make a photograph, which I’ll then post on Instagram to be viewed briefly in someone’s feed. It’s a curious mix. The image maker and the image viewer experience very different things.
As Stephen says of his prints, “I can pay attention to small details, I can see relationships in space that may not reveal themselves immediately, and have all of this inform a picture which is then taken in very quickly by the viewer. So there is a compression of time in the picture: to be there and see everything could take minutes, but it all can be grasped at once on this piece of paper.” (Uncommon Places, page 201.)
But I don’t think this means I shouldn’t slow down, observe elements in place and be more deliberate in my framing. That creates the meaning for me, and that’s what I want to play around with for a while, and see where it takes the project.
Our first stop was the Wrest Point Casino, which is a site than contains far more than the 74-metre (or 73 metres or 75 metres?) tower building that is, I believe, still Hobart’s tallest building.
Our tour guide was Graeme Tonks, who has written a book on the history of Wrest Point, which I’ve referred to to make sure I’ve got my facts correct in this post. He said that the tour was going to focus only on the architecture of the site, not any of the social and ethical issues that might come up around the casino, which I think was good to set out up front. The time for that discussion was not now.
Prior to the British arrival, the point was a camping ground for the muwinina people, who lived in the area we now call Hobart, but who did not survive British colonisation.
We started the tour near the front gates on Sandy Bay Road, where Graeme gave us a brief history of the site. In 1808 the site was granted to former Norfolk Island convict Thomas Chaffey, as part of a 62-acre parcel of land that extended up to the Mt Nelson track. He built a house on the promontory, which he named Chaffey’s Point.
Graeme mentioned that Chaffey’s Point became the place where people who had been executed were strung up. In part, this acted as a warning for people on any approaching boats of what would happen to them if they broke the law. The hanging place was moved from Hunter Island in Sullivans Cove because the locals found the smell and sight of decaying bodies around the wharf area offensive. I can’t imagine Mr Chaffey and his family would have particularly enjoyed the sight and smell from their home either. At around the same time, the authorities established a whaling station next to the point, so it must have been a barrel of olfactory unpleasantness for the people who lived there.
Thomas’ son, William Chaffey, built the Travellers Rest Inn on Sandy Bay Road in 1836. It’s still there but no longer used as a hotel. It houses the computers that run the gaming facilities in the casino. After his father’s death, William Chaffey sold part of the site, including the promontory, to David Dunkley, who built his own home, St Helena, there. Graeme said that Dunkley was also responsible for the Duke of Wellington Hotel on Macquarie Street, which explains the name “Dunkley” appearing on the side of the building. I’ve often wondered about that.
George Robertson acquired the property in 1898 and rebuilt St Helena. In 1928, Mrs Ina Lucas, who was originally from NSW and had lived in Cressy, deciding to move to Hobart with her alcoholic husband to try and keep him away from the booze (not entirely sure that was ever going to be successful), bought the property and built a new home called Wrest Point. This home was designed by the architect Lauriston Crisp, whose own home ‘Iluka’ (1926) is not very far away on Sandy Bay Road.
The gateposts were from Mrs Lucas’ time, and they are original, with the northern one having been moved further north later on to accommodate a larger gate.
After some digging around, Graeme discovered that the sandstone for these posts had come from Cressy. The clue to this, apart from it being where Mrs Lucas had lived, was that the sandstone hasn’t deteriorated in the way that much of the sandstone sourced from the south of Tasmania has done. Apparently northern sandstone can withstand the salt air better.
Mr Lucas died in 1929, and Mrs Lucas moved to England with their two sons in 1934. She sold the property to Arthur Drysdale in 1936. Drysdale was one of Tasmania’s most successful businessmen, who after running a string of farms, meatworks and butcher shops, would go on to run the Tasmanian lotteries.
Moving into hospitality, Drysdale had the Wrest Point Riviera Hotel built on the site in 1939. It was designed by the team of David Hartley Wilson and Colin Philp, who are responsible for several rather lovely art deco/moderne streamline buildings around Hobart. (Including, I was surprised to learn, the Shamrock Hotel on the corner of Liverpool and Harrington Streets.)
What’s most interesting about this is that, rather than demolish the Lucas house, because it was only new, they built the hotel around the house, so there are elements of Mrs Lucas’s Wrest Point residence within the hotel itself. This includes some external windows (on the right of the above photo), the ladies’ powder room and rest room, and the study, which is untouched (and currently used for storage).
This has to be the best thing I heard all weekend!
Graeme showed us a plan of the house overlaid with the hotel so we could see how it had been done, as well as an early photo of the hotel. From the river, it would have looked absolutely stunning.
He also said there were seahorses on the entrance, which have long since disappeared. I wasn’t sure if these are original from 1939, but I found this photo on the Tasmanian Archives website and I thought they looked a bit too kitschy for 1939. According to Graeme’s book, however, they were part of the original design, in keeping with Drysdale’s P&O design for the hotel, which was intended to capture “the feel of an imposing luxury liner berthed off the sparkling waters of the Derwent River”. A grand building, lavishly fitted out, it provided a standard of hospitality and entertainment previously unknown in Tasmania.
Graeme took us through the old hotel and pointed out where modifications had been made over the years. For instance, the reception area, which had been in the main entry hall, is now within the ground floor of the tower building, and some of the older accommodation is now used as offices. A lot of the older rooms had shared bathrooms so couldn’t be used for accommodation any more.
There’s also a couple of public phone booths built into one of the walls, where guests could take calls.
We went into the Derwent Room, which used to have space where a full band would play, and a dance floor. This made the hotel a massively popular entertainment venue for the Hobart community and was the place to go for American servicemen posted here during World War Two.
As we walked into the tower building from the Riviera, Graeme showed us a photo of the architect’s model, which, sadly, no longer exists.
The tower was designed by Sir Roy Grounds and completed in 1973, but not without its share of controversy. The issue of a gambling licence to the Federal Group, which bought the hotel in the 1950s, was the subject of much community concern and it ended up going to a state referendum. From what I can find out, Federal Group proposed that a casino would be a great way to attract more tourists to Tasmania, as there were no legal casinos anywhere else in the country. The “yes” vote narrowly won and the casino became a reality in 1973.
Graeme pointed out the lift from the ground floor to the first level, which was installed so the Queen didn’t have to walk up the stairs. It’s exquisitely fitted out in blackwood, and is the slowest lift in the history of the world. (So I’m told. I was too impatient to wait for it and find this out.)
Our last stop was the Birdcage Bar, a cocktail bar that was installed a couple of years after the building had been completed. It’s best known for its frescos, painted by the surrealist artist Charles Billich. Most of the women are real people and many of them were dancers from the cabaret show. One of the women had a zebra stripe cape, and Graeme said that this, along with several other boxes of show paraphernalia was discovered in the attic of a Sandy Bay house by new owners, after several previous owners hadn’t even noticed them. This stuff is all now back with Wrest Point.
Graeme told the story of one of the women, Honey Hogan, who later married former Premier Jim Bacon. Honey had been one of the original croupiers at the casino. Graeme said that because the casino was so new, they couldn’t use “experience” as a criterion for hiring croupiers because there was no one in Tasmania or even Australia who would have qualified, so other factors came into play, none of which, I imagine, would get through anti-discrimination legislation now!
One of the other painted women isn’t real, and her backside lines up with the head of the person who might happen to be playing the piano. Graeme explained that this was because of a disagreement between Billich and one of the pianists, and this picture was his response.
Over time, these images were deemed to be dated, and there were plans to paint over them, but what ended up happening was false walls were built over them and they were forgotten. It was only much later that someone remembered they were still there, and they were able to remove the flat walls and invite Billich back to restore his work.
The tour was fascinating and went for much longer than the allocated 50 minutes. Graeme said he was planning a return tour early in 2022 for anyone who was interested (me me me!) that would be longer and would cover a lot of the spaces we didn’t get to see today, like the spiral staircase leading to the high rollers’ room, and its amazing mural.
The casino is currently being redeveloped for its 50th anniversary, and this includes moving the original casino room to a space with windows. This is apparently unheard of for casinos: gaming rooms traditionally don’t have windows. Or clocks.
At the date of posting this, I’d just been on the longer tour with Graeme, so stay tuned for a follow up post of some of the other features (and lots of photos) of this property , which, love it or hate it, has played a massive part in Tasmania’s social and economic history. Thanks to Open House for organising the tour, to Wrest Point for making it possible, and to Graeme for taking the time to share his knowledge and insights of this Tasmanian icon.
Additional information and clarification of dates came from Our Tasmania: Sandy Bay, from Graeme Tonks & Mark Dibben’s book Wrest Point: The Life, The Times and the People of Tasmania’s Hotel, and from the follow-up tour of Wrest Point with Graeme in February 2022.
Open House Hobartweekend was held on 13-14 November, with a fascinating range of buildings open for tours and drop-ins.
After our Taroona Esmond Dorney buildings, we were supposed to take part in the Modern Hobart City walking tour, which I was super excited about, but unforeseen circumstances meant it had been cancelled earlier in the week, so we had some free time before our next Dorney house. We decided to wander along Macquarie Street and see what we could find
The National Mutual Life Building at 119 Macquarie Street was open, we think for the first time
Open House tells us this about it.
This six-storey neo-Gothic sandstone building in the centre of Hobart has been a prominent part of the Hobart city landscape since its construction in 1906. The National Mutual Life Association (founded in Melbourne in 1869) commissioned prominent Hobart-born architect, Alan Cameron Walker, to design their Hobart offices. Walker was born in 1865 and apprenticed under the well-known Tasmanian architect, Henry Hunter. The stone facade and carved bas-reliefs of the building are of particular note, and feature a lion and unicorn flanking the company logo above the entrance on Macquarie Street. The building now houses a number of commercial tenancies, with the third and fourth floors being occupied as a residence.
I’ve always been intrigued by this building, especially the turret on the roof, and it sits nicely next to one of my favourite buildings, the Reserve Bank.
It was raining when we got to the roof top and my first impression was of the brilliant view it had of the two beautiful modernist buildings on the corner of Murray and Collins Street, Jaffa and the T&G Building. Who cares about the rain here?
I was so excited by the view I almost forgot about the turret (I don’t know if that’s the actual term, I’m sure it’s not).
It also sits nicely against the Reserve Bank so you can reach out and touch it.
Should you wish to do so.
There was once a rooftop cafe up here, complete with deck chairs, which looks like it would have been a fabulous use of the space. We need more rooftop cafes!
The top floor of the building had recently been vacated and was empty, ready for refurbishment.
It was such a wonderful space and very hard not to notice all the lead lighting throughout, which is thought to have been an 1970s addition.
I wasn’t the only person expressing a wish to live here.
On the other side of the Reserve Bank were two apartments at 105 Macquarie Street, “Polly” and “Henry”, which are recent transformations of former office spaces into short stay accommodation.
They were both very different in look and feel, and Polly had super views of the other side of the Reserve Bank.
These spaces were designed by Preston Lane, who had done the Tate House restoration, and one of the things we noticed was how a huge artwork had been incorporated into one of Polly’s walls. Apparently this had inspired Erik at Tate House to do the same thing in his bedroom in Taroona. It looked really cool. And I wasn’t able to get any photos of it, but this post will give you the idea.
We didn’t get much time here as we had an appointment with another Dorney house further out of the city. Onward!
The Bank Arcade was our first tour of the second day of Open House Hobart.
What can I tell you about that? This was an absolute eye opener of a tour, which was conducted by the building owner, John Short. John is clearly passionate about the building and in getting to the bottom of its history (literally), so much so he has just written a book about it.
The Open House program describes it as a “curious building”, which was built in 1805, 1812, 1835, 1860 and 1958. It is a building on top of a building on top of a building on top of a building on top of Hobart’s oldest stone building and was the site of Hobart’s first shop.
During the tour, John shared some very early pictures of the site and described the process he had used to discover who had built it and when, which sounded very much like the way in which a crime would be solved. Motive, opportunity and money.
I don’t remember a lot of it because it had so much going on and there were so many additions and alterations over the years since it was first built. It was an absolutely fascinating story and I can imagine how much work John must have put in to researching the building’s history for the book. His story of his research was just as interesting as the history of the building and his devotion to the work was just wonderful.
I think my favourite part of the story was the time the owner decided to remodel part of the building to create four shops at street level, to replace the large showroom it had been. The builders pulled out some bricks, which is probably never a good idea at the best of times, but especially not with a building that was really a collection of buildings smashed together, put up some supports and went to the football for the afternoon. The result: the vibration of a passing tram bringing down the 1860s facade. Who would have thought?
I had absolutely no idea this building had such a complicated past and am so thankful to John for taking the time to tell its story. Yet another building I will never look at the same way again.
Our final tour was supposed to be Anglesea Barracksbut it was raining and they didn’t want to do the tour in the wet, so we spent an hour in the military museum, which included a tour of the site via a model that had been constructed in the 1940s.
The museum is located in the former military goal, which was also once home to the Hobart Reform School for girls. In a story almost parallel to the Bank Arcade story, Steve, our guide, told us that one of the buildings had always been accepted as having been built in the 1840s but the way it was designed, in particular the size of the windows, suggested that it was actually much earlier than that and it was, most likely one of the earliest buildings on the site, dating back to 1814. The official records, however date it at the later date, so that’s what it is officially.
And that was it for the weekend!
A huge thanks to the staff at Open House Hobart for organising the weekend and to the people who gave up their weekends to conduct the tours. And enormous thanks to the volunteers at all the buildings, who had to read out the Covid checklist and make sure everyone used hand sanitiser on every tour. They did a great job and the event wouldn’t have been possible without them. So thank you so much to them too.
When we last saw Robyn, our entertaining and informative guide of the “What Style is That?” walking tour that was part of our Open House Hobart experience, we were in the car park of the Treasury building in Franklin Square, looking at the Reserve Bank building across the road. You can read about how we got there in part 3.
Lil Sis and I visited the Treasury complex last year as part of Open House. It wasn’t open this year so we were glad to have been able to look through it then. Today’s visit looked at the outside of the buildings and the many different features and eras of the structures that make up the complex.
Robyn told the story we heard last year about the four columns out the front of the main entrance, which were originally going to be eight because John Franklin was obsessed with columns, but this was never done because of public outcry about the cost of eight columns. (Also, you have to ask yourself, where would the all fit?) Robyn mentioned that the Jane Franklin building in Lenah Valley had similar columns and that there had been suggestions that perhaps this is where the missing Treasury columns had ended up. She also said that she was 100 per cent confident that they weren’t, and you’ll have to ask her yourself how she knows this.
Across the road from Treasury in Murray Street is the former Hobart Savings Bank, which is notoriously known as the red awnings building.
This bank was founded by the Quakers as a bank that former convicts and other people who had been rejected by the big banks could access. Robyn said that in a big financial crash in the 1890s, this was the only bank that was unscathed because all of the others had made huge risky investments and lost most of their depositors’ funds. This benefited the people who had been scorned by society as they now had all the money and could go out and buy property and start to set their families up.
We were lucky enough to have a brief tour of this building after the walking tour. It’s now a private residence and is quite amazing inside but I can’t show you any photos as the owner has requested that we don’t publish any photos from the inside.
As we walked down Murray Street, Robyn showed as another example of how front walls are designed for the upper class, with their perfect sandstone blocks but when it comes to the sides, anything goes because that’s what the less well-regarded members of society see as they go around to the side entrance.
So the walls are uneven with odd shaped bits of stone shoved in to fit whatever space there was. I never knew this and had never paid any attention before. But now I’ve seen it, I can’t unsee it.
We ended our tour at Parliament House, which I rightly identified as Georgian. (There, see, I learned something.) It was built in 1835 as the customs house. I mentioned that I understood that it wasn’t big enough for its purpose as Parliament House. Robyn said that this was indeed the case, and that the original plans had larger wings on either side, which had been crossed off (in red pen, no less) the design, leaving us with a building that isn’t fit for purpose. Perhaps one day I will elaborate on my plans for fixing this but I don’t think Hobart is ready for that yet.
It was a fabulous tour and I am so grateful to Open House Hobart and to Robyn for giving us this opportunity. It has opened my eyes to a lot of things I didn’t know about our older buildings and I am interested to find out more. I’m still not going to convert to the cult of sandstone and I can’t tell my Corinthian column from my Doric or my Tuscan ones (sorry, Robyn, my brain just isn’t equipped for this). But I will certainly look at some of these places in a different light as I walk past, especially ones with inappropriate porches! (You can go on Robyn’s tour next year and ask her about those.)
I had to split this post into two because it’s way too long!
After our Open House Hobart tour of Blue Magnolia, Lil Sis and I made our way briskly to the waterfront, where we were due to meet Robyn Everist, our guide for the “What Style is That?” walking tour. I’d never met Robyn before but I went on one of the walking tours that run out of the company she used to own, Hobart Walking Tours, a few years ago. Robyn now spends her time researching the history of Hobart’s architecture, a subject very close to my heart, so I was looking forward to this tour immensely.
I know bugger all about architectural styles, unless it’s modernism (and even then I’m never really sure), and even less about the features of buildings. If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll probably know I’m not a huge fan of fancy, ornate bits stuck on buildings (there is a reason I’m called straightlinesgirl and it has nothing to do with my technical drawing skills, or lack thereof). If you point out a Colonial Classical Federation Georgian Revival building to me, I’ll probably nod politely and start photographing the 60s glass curtain wall across the road. Sorry not sorry.
However, I am here to learn, and I was very interested to find out more about the buildings that I normally dismiss as colonial sandstone relics that would look better with a bit of concrete and steel over the front.
I was not disappointed. Robyn is a fantastic guide; very well informed and extremely entertaining about a subject that could be as dull as River Yarra water. I mean who really cares about whether a column is Tuscan, Ionic or Doric? It’s a column, right? What even is the point of them? It holds up a building. Or a porch. Or nothing at all.
We only had hour for the tour, which, as with any great guide, extended to at least 90 minutes. Robyn explained so many features of the buildings we looked at that my head was spinning by the end. Actually, my head was spinning by the time we got to Dutch Anglo something at City Hall. I don’t think I’m an aural learner. I need to read stuff to take it in after I’ve heard it and, fortuitously Robyn had that covered with a summary we could download from her website.
We started out at the IXL buildings at 25 Hunter Street, where I learned what a pediment is. This is a word I forgot as soon as Robyn said it and I couldn’t for the life of me remember it for this post. I knew it started with P and that if you put im- in front of it, it meant something else. But could I think of the word? Absolutely not. I ended up having to go and look it up in my trusty* Rice’s Language of Buildings.
Robyn explained that this building was in the Colonial Georgian style, which covers the period 1788 to 1840 in Australia. She describes the style as being like a Volvo: Boxy but good. As far as sandstone goes, it’s not a bad style. It’s symmetrical, and very plain, with none of that fancy nonsense that some of the later sandstone buildings have. My straight-lines brain approves.
We then made our way to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, which is a fascinating complex of buildings. The 1902 building on Davey Street, I hadn’t realised was built for Australia’s Federation in 1901 and the deal was that if the building was constructed before 1901 the Tasmanian Government would have to pay for it; after that it would be a Federation building and the Commonwealth would pay. Well played, Tasmania, by the looks of it. Robyn explained how this building and others in Hobart, because they were built by people with very British outlooks on life, were designed in very British styles that had exactly zero reference to life in Australia. I wondered if that was a reason why I don’t feel any particular attachment to any of those older buildings.
As we walked, Robyn observed how there are buildings where the architects have tossed the rule books out the window when they designed them. For example, the style was for buildings to reflect the people who used them. So the ground floors would be highly decorated with grand entrances to be used by the upper classes; the middle floors, accessed by middle classes, were less ornate and the top floors, which were where the servant class had to go, were plain and unadorned, with the entrances for those people round the back. All designed, she said, so that people knew their place. So when thinking about the building, it helps to know what its purpose was as that will explain a lot of the design features.
One story that I particularly loved, among the many, was the story of the CML building on the corner of Macquarie and Elizabeth Street. CML wanted all its buildings to look the same, as you do, and its buildings were made of granite, which no one in Tasmania could afford. So they developed this solution where they would get some crushed up pink stone material from Brisbane, mix it up with concrete, make it onto tilers to stick to the building, which would be made much more cheaply from Besser blocks and no one would know the difference. The ultimate in keeping up appearances.
One building I have always liked is the Reserve Bank building a bit further up Macquarie Street. It was built in the 1970s by the Government, and at the time there was no money around to construct a building that would look like the elaborate buildings of other financial institutions that stood on this street. Think Treasury for starters (we’ll get there in the next post). So, said, Robyn, the people of Hobart would not have appreciated big bucks going towards a replica Treasury building on the site and accepted the need for a cheap, quick building instead. Steel and concrete. Bang, done.
I do love these buildings, at least from the outside. The less said about the money-saving open plan designs inside the better.
However, I have, for a long time, wondered how a building like this has been tolerated in a streetscape of ornate sandstone when other brutalist structures standing close to sandstone landscapes were detested and deemed not to fit and ultimately demolished. Why is this one okay? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say they hate it and it doesn’t fit and should be demolished. I did also read somewhere that it wasn’t actually concrete, it had a sandstone finish but I can’t remember where I found that.
A magnificent feature of this building is the “Antarctic Tableau” sculpture by Stephen Walker. I wasn’t aware that Stephen had had a keen interest in Antarctica and had actually travelled there as part of the Antarctic Division’s art program.
We continued our tour along Macquarie Street with the Treasury complex, which will be in the next post.
* “Trusty” in that I bought this book 18 months ago and until today, hadn’t actually looked at anything in it that pre-dated 1930.
I was really looking forward to our first port of call today, having seen photos from people who had been there on instagram yesterday. This was the Riverfront Motel at Rosetta.
Riverfront Motel from the river side
Built in the 1960s in classic mid-century style as a stopover for travellers on the newly built Brooker Highway. Major extensions to the dining room were completed in 1970, with a bar, function space, dance floor and additional story added. Now owned by the Beck family, the motel is gradually undergoing sensitive refurbishment to retain many original features, including a large mid-century guest house and Glenorchy’s iconic Royal Arch.
Say no more. You already want to go and stay there don’t you? Hell, I want to go and stay there. Let’s all go! Let’s stay in the mid-century guest house and have a mid-century party! Seriously, how fun would that be?
The Royal Arch is brilliant. It was built in 1954 by the EZ Company to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Tasmania. It was meant to represent the industrial nature of the Glenorchy area, and was funded by local businesses including Cadbury. It was temporarily installed at the lower end of Liverpool Street for Her Majesty’s visit and then moved to the Berriedale Reserve. In 1961 it landed at the motel and has been there ever since.
There’s a project underwayto restore it being undertaken by the Beck family and Glenorchy City Council, which includes tying to find out what happened to the crown that was originally on top and the “Municipality of Glenorchy” sign in the middle.
Enough words. Photos!
We got to see the reception and bar/restaurant areas and one of the rooms.
Corner of the restaurant
Cool planter box
Behind the reception desk
Check out the bathroom floor!
Bathroom floor in one of the rooms
The mid-century guest house, aka the River House, is an orange brick house located next to the motel and it is so cool! A shoes-off affair, it has four bedrooms, a funky kitchen, a central courtyard . . . and it really would be fun to stay in.
No bookshelves though so I don’t think I could live there . . .
My Open House Hobart adventure continued with my sister after our visit to the Jarvis House and lunch. We headed back to town to find some more buildings before our 4pm tour.
Town Hall, Macquarie Street. This photo may have been taken in a hurry on my phone when I realised I had heaps of photos inside the building for this post but none of the outside.
We started at Town Hall on Macquarie Street, which was designed by Henry Hunter and opened in 1866. The basement space, known as “The Underground” was also open so we went there first.
Underground, Town Hall. A very cool space.
Underground, Town Hall. I wonder who A L was.
There was a flower show in the main hall so it wasn’t possible to take any photos that showed the room, but we got to see the council chambers and pretend to be Lord Mayor, so that was fun.
Council Chambers, Town Hall.
We spoke to a lady who was visiting from Brisbane and she told us how great it was that we still had so many of these old colonial public buildings in Hobart. She told us about Brisbane Town Hall, which was build in the 1920s and sounds amazing. If I ever go to Brisbane that is definitely on my to-see list.
Main staircase, Town Hall.
We then ventured around the corner to the Maritime Museum in Argyle Street, housed in the Carnegie Building. It was formerly the public library and was badged as the State Library of Tasmania in 1944, before the state library moved to its present location in Murray Street.
Maritime Museum (aka the Carnegie Building), Argyle Street. See comment on Town Hall photo.
There was a great photo of the building, when it was still the library, which demonstrates that sometimes cars parked in front of buildings, much as I hate them now, are a good thing because they provide a way to date the photograph and a window onto what the living streetscape looked like many years ago. Perhaps one day I will look back on my own photos of buildings with cars parked out the front that really annoyed me at the time, and appreciate the history I have documented.
This picture shows the Argyle Street side of the building. There is now an inconveniently placed tree in front it so this photo can’t be replicated.
We were able to see the caretaker’s flat upstairs and the boiler room downstairs, and the attendant said that the caretaker would have to climb up and down the stairs regularly to make sure the boiler was still operating. That was all sealed up because of asbestos. There was also no bathroom in the flat so we were standing round debating whether the caretaker had a chamber pot or used to have to climb down three flights of stairs every time he needed the bathroom. These are need to know issues!
We didn’t really have time to look around the museum in detail because we had our 4pm tour at the Henry Jones Art Hotel. This is within the broader Henry Jones complex in Hunter Street, designed by Circa Morris-Nunn and constructed out of the remains of the former IXL jam factory. The tour was led by the hotel’s history liaison person, Greg (how do I get this job? does the Supreme Court need a history liaison person? I’m sure they do . . .), who told us the history of the complex, the story of Henry Jones and the philosophy of the art hotel.
I didn’t know anything about the place except that Henry Jones ran the IXL jam factory and that the Peacock and Jones restaurant is very very good. The Peacock in the name is George Peacock, who ran the jam factory before Jones took it over. I love the fact that Robert Morris-Nunn built his own office into the complex. What a fantastic spot to work from!
Turns out an art hotel is, well, a hotel that showcases art. Who would have thought.
Greg showed us through the hotel’s John Glover collection, which is housed in the hotel’s restaurant, Landscapes, as well as their Glover Prize winner collection. The painting that caught my eye was the 2009 winning entry by Matthew Armstrong called Transformed at Night, which shows everyone’s favourite Hobart street, Mellifont Street, at night.
Transformed at Night by Matthew Armstrong in Landscapes restaurant
Upstairs is a function room that used to be the offices of the factory.
Ceiling of the former IXL factory offices
Greg told us the story of Henry Jones, whose parents were both convicts, and who started working at the factory as a child and worked his way up to eventually own the company. We heard how hard the work would have been in the factory but how the company had the philosophy of “a job for life” and built a real community for its employees that included things like a band and sports teams.
One of the hallways
We looked at some photos of the site before the work commenced and Greg explained that if it had taken much longer to make a decision to reconstruct the complex, it probably would have all been demolished and we would have lost what is an iconic part of Hobart’s history.
Ceiling in the hotel with a huge Oregon pine beam
It had all been all in a very bad state, but what they tried to do was retain as much of what was remaining as they could and build the new parts so as to reveal what used to be there. So there are beams and pipes out in the open.
Wall in the hotel
One sandstone wall had been rendered over, and they removed a lot of that to bring the sandstone back to life but kept some of the render to tell the story of the history of the wall.
What was, what is, and what was before
The carving on the main staircase up to the office is incomplete and Greg said this was because Henry Jones thought that kind of decoration was keeping people from doing real work, so he stopped the worker mid-task and sent him off to do something more worthwhile.
Stairs up to the function room, Henry Jones Art Hotel
The best part was the story of the decades-old cold jam leaking through the ceilings and walls once the buildings were completed and heated. At first, people weren’t sure what was going on with the smell of jam permeating the hotel and then there were complaints . . . from people whose room didn’t leak jam!
This has to be the craziest building I have ever been in. It puts whole new perspective on the word “random”.
Random fragment of a German newspaper
The contemporary art collection is displayed in the corridors of the hotel and we wandered (quietly) around admiring it.
Looking down on some art
Then it was time for a recovery drink after such a long day before dinner and our final event of the day.
The Dark Sky tour was conducted by Landon from Dark Sky Tasmania, a group that aims to “preserve and protect Tasmania’s might-time environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting”. Landon took us on a walk from Salamanca to the city, explaining why dark skies are so important for our health and for the environment. He said, and this completely blew me away, that six per cent of Australia’s energy emissions comes from inefficient, inappropriate and ineffective lighting.
Six per cent of our total emissions! Think about that.
As we walked, Landon pointed out some lighting and explained why it worked or didn’t work and explained why brighter doesn’t always equal better. Some of the brightest lights make it harder to see than some of the dimmer ones just because of the way they are positioned and where the light goes. There were some very bad examples at Salamanca and in the Parliament lawns, along with a nearby lit up crane and building site.
The steps behind the Executive Building, which are lit with small downlights in the handrails—exactly where you need to be able to see when you’re ascending or descending stairs in the dark—and the lighting in Franklin Square were much better examples of effective lighting. Landon was less complimentary about the Shadforths sign on the building across the road.
The final stop was the Sportsgirl corner on Murray and Liverpool Street, from where you can see four generations of street lighting, ranging from the old sodium lights to the new and very bright LEDs, which, Landon said, don’t light up the places they need to light.
Finally, we walked into the bright lights in Liverpool Street, covered one light with our hands and looked up at the sky to see the one star Landon said we could still see. I couldn’t even see that, but I have crap eyesight, so there you go.
This was an interesting and thought-provoking way to end what had been a wonderful day of exploration, and I will never look at street lighting the same way again. We headed home to get ready to do it all again tomorrow.