Looking Back: City Hall stands tall and proud 109 yrs on

Architect Robin Dods designed the plans for City Hall.
Architect Robin Dods designed the plans for City Hall.

ONE OF Maryborough's best known buildings, City Hall, was officially opened 109 years ago, on 17 June 1908.

Remarkably, the substantial brick building was entirely financed from a donation by local citizen George Ambrose White.

He had earlier donated the funds for the public swimming baths in the botanic gardens. The one condition of that gift was that children always be admitted for free.

To provide the design for the City Hall, the council engaged one of the most accomplished architects to ever work in Queensland, Robin Dods of the renowned Brisbane firm, Hall and Dods.

Dods is best known for his residential, church and commercial designs. The Maryborough City Hall, with its American Colonial and Georgian stylings, is in fact the only known example of municipal work by him.

Dissatisfaction with Maryborough's first timber Town Hall, on the opposite side of Kent St, prompted several unsuccessful attempts in the 19th century to replace it with a masonry building that the councillors felt would more suitably reflect the importance of Maryborough in the colony.

The new hall was constructed with the intention of being the finest public building in town.

Dod's design, a substantial red brick building with steeply pitched gabled roof and six Tuscan Order columns defining the portico, reflected the Victorian ideal of municipal buildings.

Local MP Andrew Fisher, conducted the opening ceremony and a few months later he became Australia's fifth Prime Minister.

City Hall was initially received with mixed reviews by the Maryborough community.

Not everyone was impressed with the exterior although the interior of the building found more universal appeal with finely crafted internal mouldings and joinery and well-proportioned rooms.

This landmark building is much more than just a headquarters for council administration.

It has been used for countless functions for more than a century and continues to serve the needs of the community.

As I was leaving my office there on Friday, the auditorium was being transformed from the university exam centre of the past week to the night's Blue Light Disco, whilst tourists were learning about our region in the visitor information centre.

I really enjoy working in this building, there is a real sense of history in its fabric.

Everywhere you go within the building is an opportunity to connect with the history of Maryborough, be it in the 900 seat auditorium with its high barrel-vaulted ceiling, in the darkened wings to the sides of the stage, in the cushioned chairs of the mezzanine level, through the hallways, up the stairs, and of course within the finely crafted council chambers.

Over the past century a few changes have been made to the building.

Soon after the opening, plans were made to alter the entrance stairs with outward sweeps added to the staircase and plinths for lighting to be incorporated.

In 1918, four World War I honour rolls, made by Fairlie and Sons, were hung in the auditorium.

Most noticeably, substantial additions were undertaken in 1935 that included the erection of a clock tower, the construction of a curtain tower at the rear and the widening and lengthening of the verandahs flanking the auditorium. Further office space was added in 1948 and 1978,

1964 saw the wording on the building's facade changed from Town Hall to City Hall. Why this occurred then is unclear as Maryborough had been declared a city several years before the building's construction, in 1905.

The former timber town hall hasn't been completely lost. It was moved a few blocks away, to Richmond St, where it is now used as the RSPCA Op Shop.

Topics:  city hall george seymour history column looking back

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