Tag Archives: Open House Hobart

open house hobart 2020: part 5: the bank arcade

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.

Layers of history unravelled

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.

Proof of John’s theory of who built the Bank Arcade

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.

John explaining how he had excavated this section to get to the bottom of the history of the site

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?

Some dodgy character investigating the understorey (photo by Lil Sis)

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.

Small features that stick out

Our final tour was supposed to be Anglesea Barracks but 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.

Worn stairs in the military museum

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.

Hobart Girls’ Reformatory, now the site of the military museum

And that was it for the weekend!

Military museum

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.

open house hobart 2020: part 4

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.

Some sandstone things on one of the Treasury staircases

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.

Another sandstone thing at Treasury. Note the vermiculated sandstone quoins in the background. Quoin is a fancy architectural term for corner.

Across the road from Treasury in Murray Street is the former Hobart Savings Bank, which is notoriously known as the red awnings building.

Former Hobart Savings Bank, 24A Murray Street

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.

Up close & personal with the red awnings

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.

Looking up

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.

The well-to-do front

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.

And the side of the same building

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.)

open house hobart 2020: part 3

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.

The round cut out bits here are an example of the Dutch-Anglo something that is also found on City Hall. This one is in Murray Street.

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.

Pediment. Not pelmet. Not pedant.

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.

TMAG

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.

Town Hall steps

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.

Here’s one I prepared earlier: the view up Macquarie Street showing the GPO, CML and Reserve Bank buildings

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.

The beautiful Reserve Bank building on Macquarie Street

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.

Stephen Walker sculpture at the Reserve Bank building

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.

open house hobart 2020: blue magnolia

My second tour of the 2020 Open House Hobart weekend was Blue Magnolia on Molle Street.

Some of the external timber work

This is a hidden away little 1840s cottage that is an absolutely tiny space (and, therefore, almost impossible to photograph, especially with a 50mm lens, which is the lens I have restricted myself to using for 50 days, having not considered that this weekend was coming up when I decided to do it). Nevertheless, it has been photographed very beautifully (not by me, obviously).

We were lucky enough to have one of the architects responsible for the redesign, Rosa, to show us through and answer our questions.

She said the building had been two row houses, which as far as we could tell were an upstairs room and a downstairs room each, with massively thick stone walls between them.

One of the original entrances

Kitchen? Nope. Bathroom? Nope. Basically, it sounded like living there would be like camping in a stone cottage. Now the two houses were one and there actually was a kitchen and a bathroom.

Rosa explained that there had been some 1970s additions to the house, which had been removed and replaced with the new extensions in 2017.

Stone wall inside and out

It really is cool how much they have managed to fit into such a tight space behind the existing houses on the street. The bathroom is fabulous, with the clear roof and views of the city.

Blue sky views from the bathroom

The extensions have lots of beautiful timberwork and there are doorways punched through the stone walls. The whole space fits together really nicely and it doesn’t feel as small as it is.

External wall

Clearly, a space like this has insufficient space for bookcases, so I could never live there. But it would be a lovely retreat space for a few days.

open house hobart: the finale

Sunday 10 November 2019

part 1: supreme court

part 2: construction house & jarvis house

part 3: town hall, carnegie building & henry jones

part 4: riverfront motel

part 5: penitentiary chapel

part 6: treasury

After our tour of the Treasury complex and a quick sugar hit, Lil Sis and I made the drive out to Sandy Bay to visit our second Dorney house of the weekend, the house at Fort Nelson.

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Esmond Dorney House, Fort Nelson

Perched on top of one of the fort’s old gun emplacements, this iconic 1978 house is a must-see on the Open House weekend. It’s about a 15-minute walk uphill, or you can wait for the shuttle bus, which is what we did.

I think I have this bit right. The first house that Esmond Dorney built on the site was in 1949, on the southern gun emplacement.

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The flat out the back

He built a second house in 1966 on the current site, which burnt down in a bushfire caused by a neighbour’s burn-off. He replaced that in 1978 with the current house, which survived another bushfire that burnt the 1949 building.

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Underneath the fort

The ABC recently featured the house in a tour with architect Leigh Woolley.

There are many cool things about this house. The view, obviously. (Not the wind.)

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How good is the view

This wall.

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So cool

The hidden bedrooms. And of course, the sunken lounge, the conversation pit.

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Conversation pit

It was a fabulous way to end the weekend, sitting in the conversation pit listening to Paddy Dorney speak about his father’s work.

A huge thank you to everyone involved in organising it and all the fabulous volunteers on the weekend. It was one of the highlights of the year for me.

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In and out

Open House Hobart 2019:

  • 11 buildings
  • 1 walking tour
  • 48,000 steps
  • 392 photos

PS: A couple of weeks after the weekend, I found out one of my photos of the Riverfront Motel had been chosen as a winner of the OHH Instagram competition, which was very exciting and entirely unexpected.

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Glorious colours from the Riverfront Motel

open house hobart day 2 part 3

Sunday 10 November 2019

part 1: supreme court

part 2: construction house & jarvis house

part 3: town hall, carnegie building & henry jones

part 4: riverfront motel

part 5: penitentiary chapel

After realising we wouldn’t have time to get into the old Hobart Savings Bank on Murray Street, Lil Sis and I made our way over the road to the Treasury Complex.

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Treasury main entrance, 21 Murray Street (1841)

There are eight buildings in the complex, dating from 1824 to 1940. Before our tour, we went into the 1860 courthouse in Macquarie Street, which was used for civil cases until 1980 when the Supreme Court complex was completed. It’s now preserved as a model courtroom.

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Treasury, Macquarie Street (L-R: Supreme Court Building (1860), Public Offices (1914), Supreme Court (1824))

The oldest building on the site is the 1824 courthouse, which is on the corner of Murray and Macquarie Streets. The second oldest is at the other end of the block, the 1835 Police and Convict Building. The main building in between those two was built in 1841 to join them together. This is where the tour started. Our guides informed us that there were supposed to be eight columns at the front of the building, but there was something of an outcry over using public money for such frivolities, so they cut it back to four.

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Three of the four columns at the entry

Our guides also explained that, as we would be moving between buildings, we needed to look out for changing floor levels, which would indicate when we were changing buildings.

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Changing floor levels

The 1824 building was designed by the Superintendent of Stonemasons, William Hartley Wilson, who my research tells me, also designed the Scots Church in Bathurst Street. Oh, and some old sandstone bridge in Richmond. William’s grandson, David, was the architect of a number of high profile buildings in Hobart, including the building that didn’t fit in that I mentioned in the Supreme Court post.

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Stairs in the main building

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More stairs

The building has served other purposes since the Court moved out in 1860, including Post Office and Telegraph Office (1860-1906), Tax Office and State Savings Bank (1906-1914) and the Tasmanian Tourist Bureau (1914-1975). Since 1975, it has been used as offices for Treasury and there is very little trace of its original use as a courtroom.

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Repository of State Secrets, no doubt

The 1914 building, which sits next to the 1824 building on Macquarie Street, is an office building, constructed at the same time the 1824 building was redesigned to house the tourist bureau, which included quite significant alterations to its exterior. As we wound our way through the buildings I found myself entirely disoriented and not being sure exactly where I was. The changing floor levels and the different window widths were the main clues to us having entered a different building. I can certainly understand why many people consider it unsuitable as a modern office and our guides said that sometimes it was very hard to find people. (I’m sure I’d be quite happy if no one could find me but I’m also sure my manager would think otherwise.)

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Seals of approval

We went through some of the senior managers’ offices and ended up in the 1835 Police and Convict Offices on the Davey Street side of Murray Street. It was designed by John Lee Archer. There were cells in this building originally, which were removed in 1860 and replaced with cast-iron columns and steel girders for support, so there is this bizarrely random collection of poles mingling with office partitions on the ground floor. (Refrains from commenting about office cubicles and gaol cells.)

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Random collection of poles. Don’t ask me where we are. I’m totally lost by this point.

This was around the time the Police and Gaols Department moved to the Campbell Street Penitentiary, and Treasury moved in. Last year, the basement of this building, which contained a watch house, was also open to the public but not this year so we were glad to have seen it when we had the chance.

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I think this was a clock from the Hobart Railway Station

We left via the main door of the 1835 building back into Murray Street, having had our question of “what is behind that door?” finally answered.

The Government is planning on divesting (their words not mine) the complex so there was information available on this process in one of the ground floor rooms so we went back inside to have a look at that and find out what was happening. We were glad to have done the tour today because who knows what the future holds for the complex.

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Souvenir of an earlier divestment process

open house hobart: day 2 part 2

Sunday 10 November 2019

part 1: supreme court

part 2: construction house & jarvis house

part 3: town hall, carnegie building & henry jones

part 4: riverfront motel

Continuing our Open House Hobart adventures, Lil Sis and I managed to tear ourselves away from the mid-century marvellousness that was the Riverfront Motel and drove back towards town.

We had some time before our next tour, so we stopped at the old Penitentiary Chapel on the corner of Campbell and Brisbane Streets. I did a tour there back in 2013, and, if you recall my post about the Supreme Court, you might remember that this complex, which was previously a prison and has mostly been demolished, housed the criminal division of the Supreme Court from 1860 until 1975, when the new court was opened.

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Penitentiary Chapel from the courtyard

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Court room

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The judge’s table

The chapel was designed by John Lee Archer, who was responsible for many Tasmanian Government buildings in the 19th Century, including Customs House, which is now Parliament House.

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Now you know . . .

The solitary confinement cells underneath the pews in the chapel and the execution yard serve as a reminder of the brutal past of this place.

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Part of the chapel, with the obligatory person in a red top getting in the photo. The solitary confinement cells are underneath these pews.

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Just the thing for a bit of Sunday morning hymn singing

It’s not a comfortable feeling to be there. It feels incongruous that a place of worship could also be a place where humans were treated so inhumanely and, in some cases, executed. The chapel was never consecrated for exactly this reason.

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Details

I didn’t like being there and I’m glad we didn’t stay long.

After finding a lucky car spot in town (no, I’m not telling you where), we had a quick lunch stop and walked up to Murray Street to the former Hobart Savings Bank. This building is well-known in Hobart as the “red awnings” building and let’s not go there other than I thought the red awnings were great, and seriously, Hobart council, find something more important to focus your energy on.

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The Red Awnings in 2016

At least sanity, eventually, prevailed and the red awnings returned.

The building was only open today and we thought we could go in there before our booked tour of the Treasury complex. Wrong! This is now a private home and the line to get in was back up to Macquarie Street and moving very slowly. Much as we wanted to go, we knew we wouldn’t have enough time to wait in line and get to our tour. So we went into the Treasury buildings that were open outside the tour instead.

to be continued . . .

 

open house hobart: day 2 part 1

part 1: supreme court

part 2: construction house & jarvis house

part 3: town hall, carnegie building & henry jones

Sunday 10 November 2019

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.

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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.

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The arch

There’s a project underway to 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.

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Corner of the restaurant

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Cool planter box

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Behind the reception desk

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Reception area

Check out the bathroom floor!

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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.

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River House

No bookshelves though so I don’t think I could live there . . .

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River House bedroom

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River House kitchen clock

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Kitchen appliances

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In the kitchen

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How cool are these chairs!

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River House living room

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And back to the bedroom

open house hobart: day 1 part 3

part 1: supreme court

part 2: construction house & jarvis house

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.

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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.

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Underground, Town Hall. A very cool space.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Transformed at Night by Matthew Armstrong in Landscapes restaurant

Upstairs is a function room that used to be the offices of the factory.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

open house hobart day 1 part 2

Part 1: Supreme Court

After our tour of the Supreme Court, Lil Sis and I had some time in town before our next tour so we rushed through three buildings in quick succession. The crypt at St David’s Cathedral, which sounded a bit grim but turned out to be a couple of small underground storerooms. At least we know what’s down there now.

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St David’s Cathedral crypt

Next stop was City Hall in Macquarie Street, which is a very cool building dating back to 1915.

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City Hall, Macquarie Street

Last time I was there it was full of rallying unionists. Today, it was empty. We had access to the caretaker’s cottage and the roof so there were some good views across the city and some potentially interesting photo opportunities.

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City Hall, interior

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City Hall, rooftop

Construction House on Bathurst Street is an awesome example of mid-20th century modernist architecture, and that was where we headed next.

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Construction House

It was designed by the architects Bush Parkes Shugg and Moon and built in 1956. I recently learned it was originally their offices before the Department of Education moved in. It is known for the massive rubber plant that grows up the staircase and for the beautiful mosaic by Max Angus on the front. I also recently learned that the original building only had three levels, with the other two added later.

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Staircase + rubber plant

My dentist operates out of this building, after the building that previously housed his practice at 173 Macquarie Street (also, coincidentally, designed by Bush Parkes Shugg and Moon) was demolished to make way for the Ibis hotel. I’ve never been as good at remembering to go to the dentist as I am now. I have a theory, after seeing other dentist practices in beautiful modernist buildings, that dentists operate out of lovely buildings to encourage their clients to visit regularly.

Today, thankfully, was not a dentist visit and we had access to the staircase and the rooftop, which was great because of the views and the chance to see the rubber plant all the way up.

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Construction House staircase

We didn’t stay long because we had another tour booked in Bellerive and had to leave for that. This was the Jarvis House, which is one of the many sensational houses designed by Esmond Dorney. This one is from 1959.

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Esmond Dorney drawings for the Jarvis House

The owner of the house, Carol, was recently featured on an ABC radio segment about the house and as I was listening to it, I was wishing I could actually see what they were talking about. Today was that opportunity.

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Jarvis House

It’s a lovely house with great views (which would be much improved by removing the tree over the road . . . . ) but if you go over the road the outlook across the river to kunanyi is breathtaking.

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View from Bellerive across the river

It was worth the trip just for that and the house was a bonus! One interesting feature of the house is the way the ceiling actually slopes downwards towards the back of the house, which isn’t immediately obvious until someone points it out to you. (Look at the drawing!)

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How gorgeous are these curves!

It’s been (sympathetically) extended over the years and Carol has been very passionate about keeping it consistent with its original form. It really is remarkable and I am very grateful that Carol was so willing to share it with us.

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Jarvis House front deck

So that was our Open House morning, with much more to look forward to in the afternoon and the next day.