90th anniversary of the opening of Brisbane City Hall

Brisbane City Hall opened on this day 90 years ago after a decade of construction.

Laying the foundation stone for the new city hall, Brisbane, Queensland, July 1920. (John Oxley Library collection)

Construction site of the Brisbane City Hall, 1923. (John Oxley Library collection)

City Hall workers tried to use locally-sourced materials and were proud to handcraft the finer details of the building. The building's exterior is built from ashlar coursed sandstone from the Helidon district near Ipswich. Inside the building, Queensland maple and silky oak timbers were used.

It was a proud time for Brisbane’s citizens, when this elegant sandstone building, inspired by the architects’ passion for New York’s art deco stock combined with interwar academic classical references, suddenly rose well above all surrounding structures.

Daphne Mayo working with John Theodore Muller on the central figure of the Brisbane City Hall tympanum, 1930. (Photo courtesy of University of Queensland)

Construction of Brisbane City Hall's tower, ca. 1930. (John Oxley Library collection)

In her poem, The City Hall, Mabel Forrest (1872-1935) described:

The loveliness of tower and of wall,
Of sculptured beauty crowned with stately spire,
Built on foundations of a people's love —
A man's ambition welded, to his toil —
The star supreme of architectural grace,
Crying: "This shall be worthy of our land.
Queensland — with majesty — we crown thee Queen!"

Forrest’s full poem — written for the occasion of the opening of the new City Hall and read at the opening ceremony — is now on a plaque in the hall in a beautiful frame built by Ed Rosenstegel.

The opening ceremony was described as

'A Spectacle of Splendour'… as the great and representative assemblage gradually filled the Concert Hall this afternoon for the official opening of the City Hall by the Governor (Sir John Goodwin), the scene was brilliant… a most impressive setting had been provided for the historic event. But it was not until the hall was filled by the representative guests, and all the lights were up that the splendour of the scene burst forth.

Except from The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld). 8 Apr 1930, p.5.

Carved frame built for the opening of the Brisbane City Hall by Ed. Rosenstengel, 524 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.(John Oxley Library collection)

Official opening of City Hall, Brisbane, Queensland, 1930.(John Oxley Library collection)

Queensland Governor at the inspecting troops at the opening of Brisbane City Hall, 1930. (John Oxley Library collection)

Interior view of the Brisbane City Hall, April 1930. (John Oxley Library collection)

Over the years it has become one of Brisbane's greatest icons and community meeting places. The building has played an important role in the lives of our local community in times of war, peace, celebration and refuge and has rightly earned the title of the 'People's Place'.


Further reading:

Toni Simmonds - Program Officer, State Library of Queensland


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As Brisbane Town Crier, I'd be happy to participate in a belated 90th or special 91st anniversary for the City Hall. Someone's got to read the Mabel Forrest poem, or at least a bit of it. Cheers, Mandy Partridge.