Fernberg, which is German for ‘distant mountain’ was aptly named by its first owner and resident in 1864, merchant and later MP Johann Heussler. Benjamin Backhouse was the architect commissioned to design this house on its hill on the outskirts of town and the Heussler family resided there happily until 1872 when a sugar downturn and escalating maintenance costs forced them to sell.
Its next owner John Stevenson MP had considerable extensions and renovations done by Richard Gailey, transforming it into a commanding palatial residence and one of the finest Victorian Italianate buildings in Queensland. However John also suffered from the next economic downturn in the 1890s and was also forced to sell.
In 1910 Governor Sir William MacGregor moved in temporarily after the acquisition of the original Government House by the fledgling University of Queensland. When plans to build a new Government House at Victoria Park were thwarted, the Government turned to Fernberg, which it purchased in 1911. At the time it was terribly rundown and neglected.
Renovations were carried out to bring it up to scratch but no further extensions were done until 1937 when a new wing was added and a new domestic servants quarters built.
Significant features in the grounds include the animal ‘Sanctuary’ and ‘Woodland Walks’ created by Sir John and Lady Goodwin while outside the embankments along Fernberg Road are heritage listed.
Conjured up by the then landscape gardener of the Town Council Alexander Jolly in 1917, these stone and succulent plant embankments are part of several to be found around Paddington, Red Hill and Bardon and are rare examples of early 20th century public landscape and street beautification. The idea was basically to ‘decorate’ the dirt embankments in Ithaca Shire which were the result of roads being cut through hills and the distinctive ones of the inner west are made of rough cut stone with palms, shrubs and aloe plants sprinkled throughout.