Queensland Places - Victoria Memorial Institute, Thursday Island

The Victoria Memorial Institute building was an important part of the Thursday Island landscape for around ninety years, before being demolished in the early 1990s to make way for new council offices.  This photograph shows it as a well designed, impressive building with its name featured prominently over the front entrance.  It would, no doubt, have been a familiar sight to residents over the many years of its existence.

Victoria Memorial Institute Thursday Island, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Victoria Memorial Institute Thursday Island, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

The genesis of the Victoria Memorial Institute building appears to have been as an outcome of a series of public meetings held in the late 1890s, to consider how to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

The first of these meetings was held on 8 May 1897 with the organising committee formed  to undertake the necessary planning involved including Messrs Douglas, Gummow, Smith, Bowden, Lamb, Seymour, Father Buisson, Doyle Hudson, Dr. Salter and Mr Cooper.  Amongst the ideas discussed at this first meeting, as well as at future meetings, were the commencement of a water scheme for the island, additions to the hospital and the purchase of a town tower clock.  The idea of a building does not appear to have been discussed at these early meetings, however, commemorative buildings in other parts of the Empire, to mark Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, were not uncommon, and many survive to the present.  In view of this, and the fact that the building dates to 1901, the year of Queen Victoria’s death, it appears likely that the building itself and its rather grand name, were intended be the island’s tangible commemoration to the Queen.

Over time, the building was used for various social events and gatherings including dances, community meetings and the like.  The building was also used for general administrative purposes and was often referred to as the Thursday Island “town hall”.  However, it was not the only building available for the community’s general use, with a School of Arts having been built in 1885.

Brian Randall - Senior Librarian, State Library of Queensland

 

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