Historical Towns Directory

By clicking on a state or territory on the map, you can access a regional guide to Australia's historic towns, including a wealth of information about organizations, museums and locations.

We invite organisations to submit information for inclusion on this site. Please click here to email your information to the Directory Editor, Ros Stirling.



Find Brisbane

The Moreton Bay area was explored by John Oxley as the site of a potential penal settlement in 1823. On this trip Oxley named the Brisbane River in honour of the New South Wales Governor, Sir Thomas Brisbane.

The original Moreton Bay convict station was established at Redcliffe in September 1824 but this site was abandoned a few months after its original settlement in favoured of the better-watered Brisbane site, 20 kilometres up the Brisbane River.

Brisbane operated as a penal colony from 1825 until its official closure in 1839, during which time free settlers were not permitted within an 80 kilometre radius of the site.

In 1831 the Moreton Bay settlement was comprised of 1066 convicts and 175 soldiers, however little remains of Brisbane's convict era today. The Commissariat Stores, believed to be Brisbane's first stone structure, were constructed as a two storey building in 1828-29. The top brick storey was added in 1913. The building is now home to the Royal Historical Society of Queensland.

The only other convict-built structure remaining in Brisbane today is the old windmill (1828) in Wickham Terrace. Built under the command of Captain Patrick Logan the mill was constructed to grind maize. Wind power was soon replaced by a treadmill where convicts were forced to work as punishment. The windmill became a signal station in 1861 and was later an observatory, fire lookout and television transmission tower.

The Moreton Bay district was officially opened up for free settlement in 1842, after surveys of the land had been carried out over the preceding three years. Settlers initially established the three separate townships of North Brisbane, South Brisbane and Kangaroo Point during the 1840s. Growth during that decade, however, was slow and suffered from a lack of funds from the administration in Sydney.

Queensland's first newspaper, the Moreton Bay Courier, was first published in 1846. It subsequently became the Brisbane Courier and, from 1933, the Courier Mail.

Early pastoralist Patrick Leslie built Newstead House in 1846. Believed to be the oldest extant house in Brisbane, it was bought by Captain John Wickham in 1847. Wickham lived at Newstead House until 1859 and extended the residence for entertaining during this period.

The sandstone St Stephen's Catholic Church was constructed in Gothic-style during 1850 and is the city's oldest remaining church. The twin-spired, Gothic-Revival-style St Stephen's Cathedral, designed by Benjamin Backhouse, replaced it as the main Catholic place of worship when it opened in 1874.

The Deanery, a double storey residence built in 1853, served as the Governor's residence between 1859 and the completion of Government House in 1862.

The northern settlers' gained self-governance in 1859 when Queensland was declared a separate colony from New South Wales. The Brisbane site was chosen in front of other contenders to become the capital of the new colony. At this time Brisbane had a population of around 6,000 residents.

The first Anglican bishop of Brisbane was consecrated in the year Queensland gained independence. 'Bishopsbourne' (1868) was built as the bishop's residence.

Brisbane underwent economic and building booms in the 1860s and 1880s, and these periods of expansion left behind a legacy of substantial structures.

The Classical Revival-style old Government House was built between 1860 and 1862. The porphyry and sandstone building was used as the Governor's residence until 1910, during which time the upper verandah (1873), billiard room (1899) and southwest balcony (1906) were added. It became the original University of Queensland building in 1910 and is now home to the National Trust of Queensland.

An 1864 fire destroyed many of the early buildings in the Brisbane city area.

The French Renaissance-style Parliament House was designed by Charles Tiffin who won 200 guineas as the victor of an Australia-wide competition to design the building. Parliament House opened in 1868, though construction of the building was not completed until 1889.

The late Victorian Classical Revival-style General Post Office was constructed between 1871 and 1879 on the site of the former female factory prison.

Brisbane's tramway commenced operation in 1875 and ran until the system was replaced by bus services in 1969. The railway line to Sandgate opened in 1882.

Construction of the Treasury Building, which extends across an entire city block, began in 1884 and building continued in stages until its completion in 1922.

The National Bank on the corner of Creek and Queen Streets was completed in 1885. The Italian Renaissance-style building with its Corinthian columns, limestone pilasters and opulent interior was considered on of the world's finest banks at the time of its construction.

The Customs House, constructed between 1886 and 1889, features Corinthian columns at its entrance as well as a prominent copper dome. It operated until 1988 when the gradual move of port activities closer to the river mouth resulted in its closure.

Brisbane became a city in 1902.

The first section of the Gothic Revival-style St John's Anglican Cathedral was consecrated in 1910, nine years after the foundation stone was laid. The Cathedral has been built in three stages with the second stage finished in 1968 and the final west end of the church due for completion in 2006.

The sandstone-faced Brisbane City Hall, with its 91 metre high clock tower, was built between 1920 and 1930. The landmark Story Bridge opened in 1940.

During WWII Brisbane became the headquarters for United States General Douglas MacArthur's South-West Pacific Campaign and thousands of American troops were stationed in the city.

Brisbane's development in the last half of the 20th century included hosting the Commonwealth Games in 1982 and the World Expo in 1988.

Brisbane, Queensland - City Hall. Courtesy of Tourism Queensland.

The subtropical city of Brisbane today has a population in excess of 1.6 million residents and is Australia's third largest city. Despite its development during the 20th century it still retains numerous public buildings constructed during the Victorian era as well as thousands of 'Queenslander' houses on stilts.

Brisbane History Group
Information: The Group (founded 1981) aims to encourage and promote the study of Brisbane's history.
Publications: See the Group's website for a list of publications.
Secretary Phone: 07 3351 6371
Contact: P. Cory (Secretary)

PO Box 12
Kelvin Grove QLD 4059

Email: bhg@brisbanehistory.asn.au
Website: http://www.brisbanehistory.asn.au
Brisbane Tramway Museum
Information: View and ride on some of Brisbane’s preserved trams at this museum.
Phone: (07) 3351 1776

Tramway Street
Ferny Grove QLD

Email: info@brisbanetramwaymuseum.org
Website: http://www.brisbanetramwaymuseum.org/
Brisbane Visitor Information Centre
Information: Opening hours: Monday to Thursday 9am to 5.30pm; Friday 9am to 7pm; Saturday 9am to 5pm; Sunday 9.30am to 4.30pm; and public holidays 9am to 4.30pm.
Phone: 07 3006 6200
Fax: 07 3006 6250

Corner Albert and Queen streets
Brisbane QLD

Postal Address:

PO Box 12260
Brisbane QLD 4002

Email: jerrington@brisbanemarketing.com.au
Website: http://www.ourbrisbane.com
Commissariat Store
Information: The two original stories of the Commissariat Stores, built by convict labour in 1829, are Queensland’s second oldest building. The third, brick, storey was added in 1913. The building is today the headquarters for the Royal Historical Society of Queensland and is home to their library and museum collection. Tours are available. See website for details.
Phone: 07 3221 4198

115 William Street
Brisbane QLD

Website: http://queenslandhistory.org.au
Customs House, Brisbane
Information: The Customs House on the banks of the river opened in 1889 and operated as such until 1988. The heritage-listed building has since been restored and now serves as a multipurpose building for educational and cultural activities. Guided tours are available. See website for details.
Phone: (07) 3365 8999

399 Queen Street
Brisbane QLD

Website: http://www.customshouse.com.au/
Museum of Brisbane
Information: The Museum of Brisbane on the ground floor of the City Hall is a social history museum with displays and exhibitions relating to Brisbane’s heritage, people and culture.
Phone: (07) 3403 8888

Ground Floor Brisbane City Hall, King George Square
Brisbane QLD

Website: http://www.museumofbrisbane.com.au/
Old Government House, Brisbane
Information: Old Government House was the official residence of the Governors of Queensland from 1862-1909. Since that time the house has been occupied by the University of Queensland, the National Trust and the Queensland Institute of Technology. Guided tours of the house, with historical commentary, are available by prior arrangement. Open Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm.
Phone: (07) 3864 8005

2 George St
Brisbane QLD

Website: http://www.ogh.qut.edu.au/
Queensland Police Museum
Information: The museum’s 25 displays include police heritage, Queensland crimes, police investigative techniques, medals, police women, operational equipment and transport. Open Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm (closed on weekends).

Police Headquarters, 200 Roma Street
Brisbane QLD

Website: http://www.police.qld.gov.au/aboutUs/facilities/museum.htm
Parliament House, Queensland
Information: Built in 1868, Parliament House is still home to Queensland’s State Parliament. Guided tours are available.
Phone: (07) 3406 7562

Corner of George and Alice Streets
Brisbane QLD

Website: http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/
Mercy Heritage Centre
Information: The Mercy Heritage Centre site has been associated with the Sisters of Mercy since 1863. The a social history museum of the Sisters of Mercy Brisbane Congregation in the All Hallows' Convent opened in 2000. It exhibits permanent, temporary, and smaller scale room-based displays.
Phone: (07) 3831 2252

547 Ann Street
Brisbane QLD

Website: http://www.mercyheritage.com/
Freemasons Ann Street Memorial Centre
Information: The Ann Street Memorial Centre, opened on 10 December 1930, has been classified by the National Trust. Built using local materials, the five level structure features a grand hall with gold leaf ceilings and original furniture made using Queensland wood. There is also a museum and library with a wide range of books on Freemasonry. Free tours are available. Visit the website for more details.
Phone: (07) 3229 3533

311 Ann Street
Brisbane QLD

Website: http://www.uglq.org.au/
ANZAC Square War Memorial, Brisbane
Information: ANZAC Square’s War Memorial includes the Shrine of Remembrance, with its Eternal Flame. Visitors can learn more about the square through touch-tell systems. The World War II Shrine of Memories is located in the pedestrian tunnel beside the square.
Phone: (07) 3221 0722

Adelaide Street
Brisbame QLD

Website: http://www.rslqld.org/
Brisbane City Hall
Information: The heritage listed City Hall (1920-30) is open to the public for free. For a small charge visitors can take the lift to the top of the 92 metre high Clock Tower, travelling between the clock workings on the way up.
Phone: (07) 3403 8888

King George Square
Brisbane QLD

Website: http://www.ourbrisbane.com
St John's Cathedral, Brisbane
Information: St John’s Cathedral, designed in 1888 by John Loughborough Pearson, is a work in three stages and this fine 19th century Gothic Revival style building is still under construction (as of 2007). Tours are available. See the website for details.
Phone: (07) 3835 2248

373 Ann Street
Brisbane QLD

Website: http://www.stjohnscathedral.com.au/
Cathedral of Saint Stephen, Brisbane
Information: The foundation stone of St Stephen’s was laid on the feast of St Stephen, 26 December 1863 and the cathedral was built in stages over more than a century. The cathedral is open daily.
Phone: (07) 3336 9111

Elizabeth Street
Brisbane QLD

Website: http://www.cathedralofststephen.org.au/
Information: This Victorian era home is furnished in the style of the late 1800s. Miegunyah is the headquarters of the Queensland Women's Historical Association. Tours are available.
Phone: (07) 3252 2979

35 Jordan Terrace
Bowen Hills, Brisbane QLD

Website: http://www.connectqld.org.au/asp/index.asp?pgid=15487
Newstead House
Information: Dating from 1846 and furnished in the style of the Victorian period, Newstead House is recognised the oldest remaining residence in Brisbane. Visit the website for opening hours and event details.
Phone: (07) 3216 1846

Newstead Park, Breakfast Creek Road
Newstead, Brisbane QLD

Website: http://www.newsteadhouse.com.au/
Queensland Maritime Museum
Information: The Museum on the banks of the Brisbane River contains extensive collections of historical maritime artefacts, books, documents and photographs. The heritage listed South Brisbane Dry Dock at the museum is home to the ex HMAS Diamantina and the Light Ship CLS 2 Carpentaria.
Phone: (07) 3844 5361

Corner of Stanley and Sidon Streets
South Brisbane QLD

Website: http://www.maritimemuseum.com.au/
Diamantina Healthcare Museum
Information: The museum features a collection of items reflecting the history of over 100 years of healthcare at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. Open Wednesday and Sunday 11am to 2.30pm.

Cornwall Street entrance to the PA Hospital
Annerley, Brisbane QLD

Website: http://www.health.qld.gov.au/pahospital/history/pah_museum.asp
Fort Lytton
Information: This 19th century fort was built in 1880-81 to protect Brisbane from enemy attack. It is now part of a National Park. The museum provides displays and interpretation of important aspects of Queensland's military and social history.
Phone: 07 3393 4647 (Sunday to Friday)

Corner of Lytton Rd and South Street
Lytton QLD

Website: http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/parks/fort-lytton/
John Oxley Library - State Library of Queensland
Information: John Oxley Library contains Queensland's most comprehensive record of documented history, with examples of early printed Australiana and over two million images in the photographic collection.
Phone: Heritage Collections on 07 3840 7880

Cultural Centre, Stanley Place
South Bank QLD

Website: http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/
Queensland Museum, South Bank
Information: Museum of natural history, cultural heritage, science and human achievement.
Phone: (07) 3840 7555

Cnr. Grey & Melbourne Streets
South Bank QLD

Website: http://www.qm.qld.gov.au/
Genealogical Society of Queensland Inc.
Information: A not-for-profit community based organisation and that aims to foster study on all matters relating to genealogy and family history. The Genealogical Society of Queensland Inc has a very extensive library at 38 Fisher Street, East Brisbane, Qld. 4169 and has transcribed the records of many cemeteries throughout Queensland. These are available for sale from the Society.
Phone: 07 3891 5085

PO Box 8423
Woolloongabba QLD 4102

Email: gsq1@optusnet.com.au
Website: http://www.gsq.org.au
MacArthur Museum Brisbane
Information: The Museum is a story of General Douglas MacArthur and the Headquarters Allied Forces South West Pacific Area during 1942–1944, a crucial period in Australia's history. It is a story of Brisbane's unique Second World War history and the alliance between Australia and America whose value is very much in evidence today. Open: Tuesday, Thursday and Sundays - 10 am to 3 pm Entrance fees: Adults: $5.00; Children, Seniors, Groups: $2.50; Families: $12.00.
Phone: 07 3211 7052
Fax: 07 3211 7329

Level Eight MacArthur Chambers 201 Edward Street
Brisbane QLD 4001

Email: info@macarthurmuseumbrisbane.org
Website: www.macarthurmuseumbrisbane.org
MacArthur Museum Brisbane
Information: Brisbane's wartime history is captured with a dedicated Museum to the period of 1939-1945. Surrounding the restored office of General Douglas MacArthur, interactive displays enable people to read the newspapers of the time and see footage of what Brisbane was like during the era. Guides are available for tours. Estimated time required for visit 1 hour. Admission: Adults $5.00, Concession $2.50
Phone: 07 3211 7052

MacArthur Chambers, Level 8, 201 Edward Street
Brisbane QLD 4000

Email: info@mmb.org.au
Website: www.mmb.org.au



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