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.
Recently I travelled to Launceston and ended up with a full day to myself. I spent the whole day walking around the city, going to museums and galleries and looking for things that caught my eye.
Here are some of the things I saw. No explanations, just photos.
I slept in every day this week and missed all the beautiful orange sunrises that I saw in my social media feeds earlier in the week. I was disappointed because orange skies are my favourite skies and I rarely see them in person. But I only had myself to blame.
I finally decided that, as I describe myself as someone who walks a bit, maybe missing my morning walks isn’t particularly congruent with who I profess to be. I walk every day, and this week I haven’t.
I went out this morning and, of course, today wasn’t the day for an orange sunrise.
Well, it was orange, it just wasn’t the dramatic orange I was hoping for.
Not to worry! I was back out doing what I loved and that was the main thing. Not too long after the sun rose, it started to rain. Lightly, at first.
Where I was standing on the beach are some boat sheds, which I sometimes photograph if the light is right. This morning it was, and I took some photos from where I was standing—the usual place I try to photograph them from. I was waiting for the light.
The light hadn’t quite hit the boat sheds when something made me walk along to the other side of them to see if I could get a better angle from there. As I turned around, I saw a rainbow over the beach and realised this was the shot I needed to take: the photograph behind the sunrise.
By the time I’d clambered over rocks to try and get the right shot, the rain was getting heavier, the wind had come up and it was becoming unpleasant. I took some okay, not great, images of the boat sheds from the other side and decided it was time to go.
A man at the house over the road had been watching me, probably thinking (not unreasonably) that I was mad to be standing around taking photos in this onslaught. “It wasn’t like this when I left home!” I complained, in response to his comment on the “wild and woolly” weather. (Totally off topic, where does that phrase even come from? It makes no sense to me at all.)
I carried on along the street, turned the corner and headed towards home, eager to be warm and dry again.
As I was walking, I looked ahead and saw the most wonderful sight: a modest-looking house sitting on the next corner, shining in the golden light. It looked beautiful! This was really the thing I was meant to see this morning, not the sunrise, not the boat sheds, not the rainbow. This one photograph, of all the ones I captured this morning, made it worth getting wet and almost blown away. I just wish I’d had my camera instead of my phone.
When I was taking the photos of the rainbow, I’d been thinking how funny it is that sometimes the thing you really need to be looking for is right behind you. (Does that sound too much like an airline safety briefing?) And, after seeing the house, I realised that if it’s not behind you, it will be somewhere else you didn’t set out to look.
I’ve been in a heap of fun runs (walks) with catchy names like Point to Pinnacle, City to Casino, City to Surf (okay, I have never participated in that event but I needed three names to emphasise my point).
I always wondered why they didn’t include Taroona to Moonah as such an event. It’s a catchy name AND it rhymes. Win-win!
Unfortunately, the road race organisers have never cottoned on to this one so if I ever wanted to do it, it was going to have to be on my own.
I do like walking and, while the 15 km or so that this walk would be is longer than most of my “long” walks, it’s not a difficult distance for me and I wanted to do it just for the satisfaction of saying I’d walked from ‘Roona to Moonah. So I added it to my list of 19 things I intended to do in 2019 (aka 19 for 2019—I’ve been blogging about it on my personal blog) and there it’s sat since the start of the year.
I was thinking last Saturday night that I really needed to get out and go for a long walk again, take some photos and wander for the sake of wandering. Last time I did that was back in January. After I hurt my back three weeks ago in an unfortunate incident involving wet stairs and slippy shoes, I’d not been walking a lot and I was starting to feel a bit cabin feverish.
That walk was beckoning. My back was feeling okay and it wasn’t going to be stupid-hot so I decided to do it.
I had no idea how long it would take or even how far it was but I had no expectations. I was just going to walk, take in whatever I wanted on the way and the goal would be simply to get there. Whatever happened after that would be fine.
And that’s exactly how it turned out.
I wandered my usual route along Sandy Bay Road, stopping to photograph some of my favourite places.
I took a turn along Marieville Esplanade so I could go through Battery Point and pass by other friends I hadn’t seen for a while.
I stopped briefly at the Supreme Court before heading down to the bottom of Collins Street to take photos for my Hobart Street Corners project.
Finally, I turned towards my destination and made my way up Argyle Street.
My journey took me to New Town Road, through New Town and, finally, to Creek Road, the boundary between Hobart and Glenorchy, commonly referred to as the Flannelette Curtain.
I was in Moonah. I’d done it! If I’d wanted to I could have turned back and gone home again having checked off this mission.
I didn’t want to though. I was way past ready for breakfast and headed to a coffee shop so I could sit down for a break and think about what I wanted to do now I’d reached my destination. It was starting to get warmer than I was feeling comfortable with and I hadn’t dressed for burny sun so I didn’t feel like being out much longer.
I decided I’d at least walk to the end of Moonah, which ended up being a trek through Derwent Park and into Glenorchy itself.
I hadn’t planned on that, but I reached a bus stop with 10 minutes to wait before the next bus back to town so I figured I might as well walk to the next one, forgetting that on this route the bus stops are a lot further apart than they are on my bus route.
Not to worry, I made it in time and after over 16.5 km (I turned the tracker off when I got to the coffee shop but I reckon I would have walked about another 2 km after that) and five and a half hours, I was heading back home with a thing crossed off my 19 for 2019 list, tired but satisfied.
There are some things in the Moonah area that I wanted to check out but they weren’t the purpose of the walk and I can go back and do them another time. By bus, I think.