Site History

Construction of the wharves began in the 1930s in conjunction with the Story Bridge. The Howard Smith Wharves were a project initiated by the Queensland Government to provide locals with relief work during the depression. The site was originally built as the Brisbane Central Wharves and was then leased by shipping company, Howard Smith Co Ltd.

Largely abandoned since the 1960s when the port moved downstream, these astonishing spaces including a two-storey office building, storage sheds and wharfage are still intact and now, heritage listed – a rare surviving example of early infrastructure building in the city.

The heritage listed buildings and historic 3.4-hectare wharf are now being restored to provide a space to celebrate the best of Brisbane; to eat, drink, play and stay.

1840

THE CONSTRUCTION OF WHARVES BEYOND CIRCULAR QUAY

The construction of wharves further downstream was part of the gradual move towards the port facilities in Brisbane, the development began in the 1840s following the opening of Moreton Bay to free settlement in 1842. In the late 1840s and 1850s wharves and warehouses were constructed between Petrie Bight and Alice Street by shipping companies and private investors. Five commercial wharves were spread along the south side of the Brisbane River by 1850.
1881

WILLIAM HOWARD SMITH AND SONS PTY LTD

William Howard Smith and Sons Pty Ltd was an entrepreneurial shipping company established in Melbourne in 1854 by Captain Howard Smith. The company had diverse freight and passenger interests up and down the coast of Australia. From 1880, Howard Smith occupied and leased the Commercial Wharf on the Town Reach from the Brisbane Municipal Council to service these interests.
1898

BOUNDARY STREET WHARF

In the late 1890s, Howard Smith moved downstream from the Commercial Wharf to the Brisbane City Council’s Boundary Street Wharf at Petrie Bight. Both Howard Smith, and William Collin (William Collin & Son) had acquired frontages to the river below Bowen Terrace.
1913

CARGO SHIP MORUYA

Just one of the many ships moored at the wharf. Cargo steamship Moruya moored in the Brisbane River where the Story Bridge is today. In 1913 Howard Smith Company Ltd bought her, reverted her name to Moruya and registered her in Melbourne. In 1914 Howard Smith Company Ltd changed to Howard Smith Limited.
1910

BRISBANE CENTRAL WHARVES

The wharves were extended in the early 1900s and in the 1930s were resumed by the Queensland Government and rebuilt as the Brisbane Central Wharves. The rebuilding of the wharves was completed in conjunction with the widening of the Brisbane River and the construction of the Story Bridge. Work commenced in 1934 and continued into the 1940s. By 1935 the existing facilities occupied by Howard Smith were resumed and William Collin & Sons’ relocated to Short Street Wharf.
1931

STORY BRIDGE SITE

Aerial view of the bridge site in 1931 before commencement of the construction in 1935.
1936

CONSRUCTION OF NEW BUILDINGS

The first of the new structures built in 1936 was a two-storeyed concrete building, used as offices for Howard Smith Limited. This building is being restored and will soon be home to a brand-new restaurant.
1936

CONSTRUCTION OF THE STORY BRIDGE

Looking from the Brisbane River towards a view of the Story Bridge whilst under construction ca. 1936.
1938

FIVE SHEDS

Five sheds in total were planned - constructed from hardwood timber and corrugated iron between 1937 and 1939. Three now remain and are heritage listed. The sheds are being meticulously restored for Brisbane to enjoy.The Story Bridge was completed in July 1940.
1940

SECOND WORLD WAR

As works on-site continued into the 1940s, the Second World War intervened. By 1942 many workers were moved onto other projects.
1941

AIR-RAID SHELTERS ON-SITE

In 1941-42 five air-raid shelters were constructed on the Howard Smith Wharves site due to the threat of invasion and its location near the Story Bridge.
1959

RELOCATION OF HOWARD SMITH LIMITED

Howard Smith Limited held a 21-year lease over the Brisbane Central Wharves Site. After this time the company moved to better facilities downstream near Hamilton in the early 1960s. The site was then used by The Water Police and the Queensland Works Department as storage.
1986-Now

BREATHING NEW LIFE INTO THE WHARF

Since the 1960s the site has remained vacant and is now one of the few wharves remaining and the most intact. We’re now breathing new life into the site for Brisbane locals and its visitors to enjoy for years to come.