IT’S funny how you can pass something a thousand times and never really see it. Such is the case of the old Windsor Council Chambers on busy Lutwyche Road, one of the main routes heading north out of Brisbane.
There she sits in all her splendour, in direct line of view of the busy traffic-stream of a major road and yet, possibly because it has been there for more than a century, it has become part of the scenery and goes largely unnoticed.
It’s beside the Albion quarry that once supplied the colony with stone – porphyry or Brisbane tuff as it was better known – which of course was the natural choice of building material.
Sandstone blocks around the doors and windows add the character.
Jack Mann, a sprightly 91-year-old volunteer for the Windsor and District Historical Society, who really knows his stuff says the way to recognise quality Brisbane tuff (pronounced as in woof) is that it has a tinge of pink and this building is famous for its uniformity of pink. Not surprising, as I imagine they had the pick of the quarry stone right next door.
The chambers were built in 1897 to house the Windsor Shire Offices.
Business was quiet in those days as it has only five rooms – the main council chambers, a public office where property owners could come to the window to pay their bills, the president’s office as the shire chairman was known, the clerk’s office and a strong room with a fireproof door for storing files.
There’s also a front verandah and a fine public entrance where a tablet gives the names of the councillors of the day.
When Windsor graduated from shire to town in 1904, the word “shire” was concreted over in the name at the top of the building and the word “town” chiseled out in its place.
Time has taken its toll. See it now and there is a jumbled mix of letters at that point on the façade. Time took another toll more recently, when the Airport Link tunnel was built.
It’s 22 metres below the historic building but it has cracked some of the old walls.
Inside the main council chamber is the chair made in 1911 especially for the mayor, William Jolly, who gave his name to the bridge in the city.
He was an alderman and mayor of Windsor and then, in 1925, when 18 shires, towns and the city were united to form Greater Brisbane he became the first Lord Mayor of the new Brisbane City Council.
The Windsor building is now a treasure trove of the area’s history.
A sign at the front has pictures and tells some of the story but if you go between 1pm and 4pm on a Sunday or Monday, Jack and other volunteers have the old building open to visit the displays and tell the stories.
It’s well worth the visit and parking is easy in Palmer Street right beside the building.