Parliament House, Hobart - Construction


Parliament House was originally designed as the Customs House in colonial Georgian architecture style by skilled convict architect John Lee Archer in 1830. The site for the building had originally been a market, but had been converted into timber yards in the 1820s. The site was reserved in 1832 for the building of a customs house due to its close location to the wharves of Sullivans Cove (the building was originally closer to the water's edge than it is today following further reclamation).

Between 1832 and 1840 golden honey coloured sandstone was quarried from locations in the Queens Domain and Salamanca Place (now the site of Salamanca Square), and a small railway was constructed to ferry the blocks to the construction site. Construction began in on 5 January 1835, and using mostly convict labour, the basement level had been completed by March 1836. By 1838 the second story had been added and the building was ready for staff of the Customs Department to move into on 1 September 1840.

By 1841 the building was operating as the colony's customs house. At that time, the Legislative Council, which had been formed in 1825, were meeting in a room adjacent to the old Government House, but the location was less than adequate for such meetings. It was proposed that the meetings should be held in the spacious new 'Long Room' of the Customs House, and 19 June 1841, the first Legislative Council meeting was held within the building.

Following the establishment of responsible self-government in 1856, the building was renovated in April of that year in order to make provisions for housing the new bicameral parliament. The new House of Assembly met in the Long Room, where the Legislative Council had previously met, and the Legislative Council moved into a new ornate Chamber, where they still meet today.

The Customs Department finally moved out of the building altogether in 1904, moving to a new location in Davey Street next to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, leaving the building be solely occupied by the Parliament of Tasmania.

Between 1938 and 1940 Parliament House was again renovated to construct a new chamber for the House of Assembly, and convert the Long Room, where they had been meeting for the previous 82 years, into a Member's Lounge. The new House of Assembly Chamber was formally opened on 14 May 1940, whilst Tasmania was involved in Australia's World War II commitments. In December 1940 extensions were also added to the Legislative Council Chamber to create the Murray Street wing.

Further alterations were made to the building beginning in 1977. Member's offices, a Hansard office, Parliamentary Library and Museum, committee rooms, a dining room, reception area, interview rooms and other additional facilities were added, and a formal re-opening was held on 16 April 1980. The most recent alterations began in 1998 and are currently still underway (as of 2008), and are in the form of conservation work, and restoration of sections of the building to try and revert it to its original character.

The Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom features prominently throughout Parliament House in stained-glass windows and engravings. This reflects Tasmania's former status as a British colony, and that the building was predominantly constructed during that time. Tasmania continued to utilise the Royal Arms on official documents until 1953, despite having adopted its own arms in 1919.

Read more about this topic:  Parliament House, Hobart

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