Several layers of history permeate the site and buildings of this landmark complex on the city fringe, beginning with the establishment, back in 1860 of the first major purpose built gaol for free settlers on what was then known as Green Hill.
The grim bulky buildings, with an imposing and much feared arch that could be seen for miles across town, were built by Andrew Petrie and by 1883 were deserted as the new Boggo Road Gaol had been built across town. The gaol was then demolished although small parts of it remain – the stone and wrought iron fence fronting Petrie Terrace, which are remnants of the second gaol perimeter, and the stone in the wall between the Police Barracks and Victoria Barracks, which was recycled from the gaol.
The next buildings relating to crime and punishment arrived on the site in the form of the Petrie Terrace Police Depot, with the stables built in 1912, police garage and workshop in 1936 and the main 1938-39 built Barracks themselves right on the site of the old gaol.
The sturdy Barracks, designed with an Arts and Craft influence by prominent Public Works architect Raymond Clare Nowland, were built as a Depression works project to house unmarried police officers and those on probation. In World War II it was occupied as an observation post and by the 1950s the former bedrooms were being converted into offices for various police administration branches.
The building which now houses the Hogs Breath café was, in the 1970s, a police headquarters much to the amusement of famed Brisbane punk band The Saints, who started Club 76 in the timber cottage opposite, (on the cusp of Milton Rd and Petrie Tce). Here they performed nightly to a band of followers, clashing regularly with their across the road neighbours.
In 1987 the State Government sold the buildings to private enterprise and, except for the Underground night club, which ran from the former stables at the entrance, the others fell into disrepair and once again became home to the disenfranchised. Today the whole complex has been rejuvenated with the conversion of the Barracks into restaurants and cafés and the addition of the Palace Cinemas.