Next to the City Botanic Gardens, this beautiful little park dating from 1863 is Brisbane’s most important outdoor historical museum. Today it is all that remains of the much larger Queensland Acclimatisation Society’s gardens, having in 1914 gone on to become a Brisbane Municipal Council public park.
From this site the QAS spent years trialling crops and plants, including sugar cane, mango trees, poincianas and fig trees, some of which would go on to become part of Brisbane’s taken-for-granted landscape. In 1880 the gardens were declared to have the best collection of tropical trees outside the tropics, having cemented their reputation as an exotic and lively oasis where the plants were accessorised with decorative sculptures.
These included a whale jaw bone as an entry, a 4m high fountain made from shells and coral, giant clam shells and an island in a fake lagoon curtained by bamboo.
By the early 20th century the QAS had moved on, leaving it to Brisbane Municipal Council and therein becoming one of its earliest parks. Renowned park superintendant Henry Moore was put in charge, replacing over the top exuberance with a decorative restrained elegance, and collaborating with architect Alfred Foster who designed the rotunda in 1914 (similar in design to his 1915 New Farm Park one). The public toilet block dates from 1915 and is the oldest in the city.
Layers of history can be seen with the trees – the hoop, bunya and cook pines and giant fig trees in the centre rockery area having been planted by QAS, the Poinciana ring in 1914 and the ornamental circular flower bed redesigned by renowned 1950’s park superintendant Harry Oakman.