History-soaked Tasmanian Treasury building ‘open for inspection’
Need a dungeon in your dream home? Fancy some convict-era architecture with room for a gallows?
This weekend, the public will able to walk through some of what Tasmanians know as the Treasury Building, which is now up for sale.
Each year the Open House program run by the Institute of Architects gives access to spaces which are often closed to the public.
This year’s event featuring the Treasury Building could also double as an “open for inspection” opportunity.
In June, Tasmanian Treasurer Peter Gutwein announced the eight buildings which make up the site would be sold, so tyre-kickers considering a purchase will get chance to look around.
If walls could talk, those in the Treasury Building would surely be worth listening to. Room after room is filled with Tasmanian political, administrative and judicial history from carpet to ceiling.
The Treasury Building complex sits flanked by Davey and Macquarie Streets, with Murray street at the rear.
The first of the Franklin Square public buildings, including the Supreme Court, were completed in 1824.
The roads around the complex were laid out by surveyor James Meehan in 1811, under the supervision of Governor Macquarie, with the main facade facing onto Franklin Square.
A 2004 history prepared by the Department of Treasury describes the area as having evolved from a paddock in 1804 where “initially everyone, including the Lieutenant-Governor, lived and worked in tents” to a place where canvas was replaced by wattle and daub buildings, and then stone.
It would be hard to overstate the place the buildings hold in Australian colonial history.
As recently as 1992, the Field government’s cabinet meetings were held in the building’s executive chamber.
But now they are considered not fit-for-purpose, and the Government has decided the buildings would be better in private hands.
Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman, who practised law in the courts early in his legal career, described the buildings as remarkable.
As a young lawyer, Premier Will Hodgman practised law in the historic court. (ABC News: Jack Tegg)
“I do understand its multi-faceted heritage, whether it be the home for many hardworking state public servants and indeed our courts. It is a remarkable place,” he said.
“I’d love more Tasmanians to see it in some shape or form. It’s not really contemporary, fit-for-purpose for modern day accommodation for public servants.
The Government is looking for interest from investors in the “visitor economy”, possibly a hotel developer, but there is no timeline on the sale.
According to the Treasury website, it will implement “a multi-stage process to divest the buildings, commencing with a detailed due-diligence phase”.
The decision to sell off the Treasury buildings is heavily contested, with the Greens against the sale.
If and when a buyer is found there is expected to be heated public debate of the type the building itself has hosted as a court house and cabinet room for almost two centuries.
This weekend the public will be able to walk through the 1830s watch house, the 1860s courthouse, and the executive council meeting room built in 1883, and imagine what a developer might do with the site if it passes into private hands.
The rooms like this with chandeliers are no longer considered fit-for-purpose. (ABC News: Jack Tegg)