Historic Brisbane

Convict Settlement to River City"

Historic BrisbaneSusanna de Vries, award-winning author, and Jake de Vries, former City Architect of Brisbane, have pooled their talents to compile a joint book on the building of Brisbane, which transports us back to the first years of Brisbane's bleak existence.

Susanna's lively text is accompanied by fascinating images, produced by pioneer artists and photographers who visited or lived in Brisbane while photographs made by Jake de Vries show some of the same scenes today.

The book shows the Convict and Officers' Barracks and convicts digging roads along what became Queen Street and North Quay. Professional artist Conrad Martens paints the Customs House and Kangaroo Point. The book recounts the effects of Brisbane's building boom of the 1880s when every‑one borrows money and major buildings like the Mansions, the old Museum, the second wing of the Post Office and the Treasury are completed. In the depression years of the 1890s some Queensland banks and architects go broke. A visiting Canadian artist named lefèvre Cranstone draws rural Toowong, the Regatta Hotel and the Toowong Rowing Club. River Road, [later Coronation Drive], once used for droving cattle from Brookfield, becomes a thoroughfare for the carriages of the wealthy from Indooroopilly and Milton.

G.H.M. Addison, a talented artist and architect, enraptured by Venetian architecture, designs Brisbane's first Museum and The Mansions on George Street before going bankrupt and so does the equally talented Francis Stanley, architect of the first Supreme Court, the Queensland Club and the Ports and Harbours Building.

While Jake de Vries has used his architectural skills to redraw maps and plans, Susanna provides a fund of fascinating stories about the bridges of Brisbane and their collapses due to marine borers and floods. The saga of Queensland's Government House reveals successive Governors complaining to the Premier that the furniture has to be moved around in order to hold a ball. The Governors also complained how, in unsewered Brisbane, the sanitary arrangements were so bad that their children would become ill. This is a fresh look at history to see things as they really were.

We learn about Brisbane's historic colonial homes like Newstead, Milton House, Silverwells, Cintra House, Moorlands and Windermere and relive the outrage of the midnight destruction of the Bellevue Hotel. We see how the success of Expo '88 changed South Brisbane into the major entertainment area we now call South Bank.