SITE HISTORY

HERITAGE

We are committed to honouring and protecting the rich heritage of Howard Smith Wharves by merging the past and the present, for everyone in the community to access and appreciate.

We’re all about adaptive reuse — repurposing existing materials and giving them a second life that our visitors enjoy and appreciate.

The site’s rich history is incorporated into our venues, landscaping, signage and public spaces. All heritage buildings have been retained and are central to the charm of the site and visitor experience.

As part of our improvement process, we continue to develop innovative ways to integrate the site’s rich heritage into our visitor experience.

 

The Wharves

Old wharf buildings, previously unable to be accessed and under-appreciated, have been brought back to life and are now home to some of our most popular destinations, enjoyed by thousands of visitors every day.

We are constantly challenging ourselves to reuse existing materials and continue to incorporate recycled timber from the Wharves into some of our operational and maintenance works.

Site History - Today

 

Air raid shelters

The Council Development Approval for Howard Smith Wharves states the air raid shelters, uncovered during the construction of Howard Smith Wharves, are to be retained on site.

However, as they do not meet current building standards, they are not safe to be reused in their current form, and instead are to be incorporated into the landscape.

The shelters are being integrated into the overall experience of the development and interpreted for the benefit of the public.

We are also in the process of providing more information about the air raid shelters on site, so visitors can appreciate the important role these structures played in Brisbane’s history.

We welcome visitors to visually explore the shelters and discover an important piece of Brisbane’s history.

Heritage

 

Heritage Hero Status

Howard Smith Wharves is the first site in Brisbane to achieve Heritage Hero Status by the National Trust and is currently the only precinct in Queensland to meet this benchmark of excellence.

This accolade is awarded for excellent acumen in management of a development that impacts on all three aspects of heritage — built, environmental and cultural.

We are proud of this accolade which is testament to our outstanding heritage preservation and commitment to opening up previously dormant artefacts so they can be enjoyed and appreciated by the whole community.

At the 2019 National Trust Queensland Heritage Awards Howard Smith Wharves was awarded Silver in the Adaptive Re-use Category.

National Trust

 

Custodians of Brisbane’s history

The buildings and associated infrastructure, and the wider Howard Smith Wharves site, are entered in the Queensland Heritage Register of the Department of Environment and Science as a State Heritage Place, under the provisions of the Queensland Heritage Act 1992.

The site is also subject to the Heritage Overlay and the Heritage Planning Scheme Policy of the Brisbane City Council Plan 2014 (City Plan Heritage Register).

Brisbane City Council allows for a range of uses, while emphasising the retention, conservation and adaptive reuse of the heritage buildings and other structures.

 

TIMELINE

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.

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 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.