Brisbane City Hall history and description
Brisbane’s first Town Hall was built in Queen St in 1864 and by 1882 was already considered inadequate to house the council chambers yet, due to dithering about location – Petrie Bight or the current swampland - and with public opposition to anything of substantial cost, it took until 1930 for the Brisbane City Hall to be finally built.
In the interim a foundation stone was laid by Governor Gould in 1917 in the council-owned swampland to raise public enthusiasm for the job and the architectural firm of Hall and Prentice asked to submit a design.
In 1930, the swampy land that was chosen on the merits of being owned by council and easily resumed, a decision which would come back to haunt BCC some 80 years later.
By 1919 the design was submitted and it included an Angel of Peace on top of the clock tower, horses and chariots and copper domes in corners. A second foundation stone was laid by the Prince of Wales in 1920 (complete with time capsule of coins, council records and newspaper clippings underneath) to get the ball rolling again.
Again the building efforts were stymied by both public outcry over costs and wet weather which hampered building and in which the site was flooded so badly a workman inspecting it was drowned.
With the chariots and horses and angel of peace canned to cut costs work progressed and by 1927 the Council had moved in although the building wasn’t completed until 1930, when it was officially opened, complete with stunning sculptured tympanum by Daphne Mayo. In an extraordinary effort by any era’s standards she would arrive every morning at dawn with her tools, scale the scaffolding and hand carve until day’s end until it was finished.
The 92 m high Clock Tower, which was the tallest structure in the city until 1973, may be visited via the original 1930s cage lift when the City Hall is open. It has four chime bells weighing 3 tonnes each and one hour bell that weighs 4.3 tonnes and is one of the few places in the world where visitors can stand inside a giant clock face. Visitors to the tower have included the Beatles, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana and Prince Charles and the Dalai Lama.
The auditorium is a stunning art deco space with an organ containing 4747 pipes.
Today the City Hall’s swampy origins continue to haunt it as it is closed for major structural repairs, with water having penetrated the tower structure - a direct result of its site location.