It started as a visit to Miller Park beside the old Commissariat Store in William St but ended in disillusion at the disrespect shown to some of Brisbane’s most beautiful architecture.
Rather like money changers in a temple, the city’s oldest and most ornate heritage buildings have been turned over to gambling establishments.
At the risk of being a wowser, banners depicting a set of rolling dice just don’t look right hanging from Victorian masonry.
And to think the city’s forefathers built such proud edifices to work for the state and to stand as monuments of which the people of Queensland could be proud.
It’s just such a shame to see it turned over to a limited audience of gamblers and the doors permanently closed to the people.
Looking down William St, which is out of bounds to people and traffic for another four years while yet another casino is built, 30 pieces of silver come to mind. Such a pity.
On the bright side, at least the old buildings were heritage listed and not demolished as has been the case with some of Brisbane’s other classic buildings that got in the way of progress.
And the Commissariat Store has remained a museum to the city’s past, which is precious considering that it is a relatively short history compared to many cities around the world.
Wedged between the old stores and the former Queensland Library building, Miller Park has been a government reserve since the end of the convict era.
It has also survived the onslaught of progress, for now at least.
It’s a small section of sloping land that links William St with Queen’s Wharf Road.
It is opposite what was originally the King’s Wharf – until Victoria took the throne in 1837 – where convicts, officers and suppliers first stepped into the new colony.
Pocket-handkershief sized, it is little more than a grassy slope zig-zagged with paths and fences to provide both steps and wheelchair access between the city and the river – as it has done since the mid-1800s.
The park is named for Lieutenant Henry Miller, a soldier who arrived from England in 1823. He was responsible for establishing the Moreton Bay penal settlement in May 1825 and became its first Commandant.
It was declared parkland in 1980 in recognition of its historical significance as the main point of access for the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement.
At one stage, in the early days of Brisbane, tents for single male immigrants went up in the park to provide temporary accommodation the influx of arrivals.
It also has an access door to the middle floor of the Commissariat Store.
When the park was landscaped during renovations to the Commissariat Store in 1978-81, a new set of stairs was built and most of a wall which predated 1838 was replaced.
One section remains adjacent to the former State Library driveway.
On the opposite side of William St is the beautiful old four-storey Land Administration building, which was completed in 1905. From 1905-71, it was the executive building where both Executive Council and Cabinet met.
It was heritage listed in 1992 and since 1995, has been the hotel for the Treasury Casino, which is located nearby in the magnificent old Treasury building. Shame about that.
The Lands Department building is recognised as the most prominent Brisbane example of Queensland Government building activity associated with the economic recovery of the late 1890s and also federation in 1901.
Symbolic of Queensland’s achievement, it was a showcase for granite from Enoggera and Mount Crosby; and freestone from Helidon and Yangan near Warwick. Mantelpieces, not that you will see them unless you are hotel guest (and presuming they are still there) were Queensland maple, cedar, black bean and silky oak.
On the other side of Elizabeth St, the ornate Old Treasury Building is on the site of convict-built officer and military barracks.
The grand new building went up in three stages between 1883 and 1928 and housed government offices for the premier, the colonial secretary, registrar-general, treasury, mines, works, police and auditor-general.
Since 1995 it has been the Treasury Casino. Shame about that too.
On the opposite side of William St, the old Queensland Library building was also added to the heritage register in 1992.
It is in two parts. The colonial building is modelled on 16thcentury Italian style completed in 1879, which was purpose built for the Queensland Museum. It had outgrown the premises by 1899 and relocated to the old Exhibition building in Gregory Tce.
It then became home to the State Library from 1902-88.
To accommodate the growing library, a four-storey modernist extension was built in 1958-59 on the centenary of separation.
The large glass mosaic mural on its western wall became a landmark for William St and the library.
Walk up the stairs past the elegant bronze plate announcing State Library of Queensland today though, and you will end up at the locked door of Star Entertainment which is behind the huge redevelopment of the next casino and resort complex.
The gambling company originally wanted to destroy all but the facade of the heritage-listed library as part of its massive hotel and casino development, but thankfully was refused.
William St was closed for six years from Sunday, January 1, 2016 for the construction of a monster new complex and demolition of three old buildings.
It appears “Bris Vegas” is living up to its name and before long, will become more like the new world cities of Hong Kong and Macau than the historic capital of Queensland.
The external fine examples of some of Brisbane’s oldest buildings are worth the walk down William St, but there is a degree of sadness seeing them locked up as casinos and hotels and not accessible to Queenslanders. Such a shame.