Good times, good schools in Maryborough in 1800s
BUILDINGS capture the spirit of the times in which they are created.
This is particularly true in Maryborough where many of our grandest buildings give lasting effect to the good economic times of the 1870s and 1880s when the Gympie Gold Rush brought prosperity to the young town.
The two school buildings that housed the Maryborough Boys' and the Maryborough Girls' Grammar Schools look directly at each other from a few hundred metres apart: down across their well-kept grounds, through two imposing gates and over busy Kent Street.
Much of this land had been set aside in the 1870s as part of a larger reserve in the centre of town for civic purposes like the railway station, police station, hospital and schools.
Like many other institutions of early Maryborough, these fine school buildings were the result of sustained fundraising, particularly through large community events.
The Grammar Schools Act of 1860 provided that any city which raised 1000 pounds by private subscription could claim a 2,000 pound grant from the Colonial Government to establish a grammar school as well as 500 pouinds for annual running costs.
The bulk of the initial funds would of course be required for building works.
After years of discussions and planning, in 1879 a competition was called by the Board of Trustees to design a substantial building to cope with 50 students along with boarding facilities, which was won by the prominent Brisbane architect John Richard Hall.
Construction began the following year and was completed by 1881.
Typical for grammar school buildings of the time, it was built in the Gothic Revival style.
When the Maryborough Grammar School opened on September 5, 1881 it had 50 pupils (24 boys and 26 girls).
Ten days later, the site directly across Kent Street was reserved for a separate girls' campus.
The building to occupy this second site was designed by another prominent Queensland architect, Francis Drummond Greville Stanley.
When Stanley's building was opened in 1883, it was the first girls' grammar school in Queensland to be housed in its own building.
Designed in the Italianate Revival domestic style, it has softer lines than the boys' building across the street.
Just as the schools found their genesis with the good economic times, they would find trouble in the bad times.
The Great Depression of the 1930s hit Maryborough in many immediate ways with lasting outcomes.
This included a significant reduction in enrolments at the grammar schools.
The dramatic loss of students put the schools' viability in question and in October 1935 the difficult decision was made by the Board of Trustees to transfer control to the Queensland Government.
When the doors to these two beautiful buildings reopened in 1936 they welcomed students to two separate schools: Maryborough State High and Intermediate School for Boys (in the boys' building) and Maryborough State High and Intermediate School for Girls (in the girls' building).
In 1974 the two schools would amalgamate to form the Maryborough State High School we have today.
There is little more important or valuable than a good education and it is fitting that two of our finest buildings were designed and constructed for such a purpose.
These two extraordinary buildings, and the other structures that arose from the ground around them, were the backdrop to the trials and tribulations by which young minds and bodies are moulded.
Some went on to great things academically (including four Rhodes Scholars so far), others competed at the Olympics, and hopefully all would have fond memories of these buildings and their youth spent here.