After discovering the beautiful Federation Homes of Burnie and delving further into the history of the town, I set out to investigate the civic buildings from this period. These are by no means the only significant heritage buildings in Burnie, they are merely the example promoted by the ‘Federation Walks of Burnie’ pamphlet. The prominent Ikon Hotel was established as the Club Hotel in 1912 by J.T. Alexander. The Alexander family pioneered European settlement at Table Cape and with support from his family, J.T. built his own hotel after leasing the Sea View (now the Beach Hotel) from 1902 to 1910.
Known for his generosity to many needy families during the Great Depression, Alexander faced mounting debts and was forced to sell the hotel in 1933. The three storey building, dominated by the tall pyramidal tower, is an example of Federation Free Style architecture with very fine cast iron valances and balustrades.
Built by the Hobart Bank in 1921, the St. Luke’s building is on the site originally used by the Don Trading Company as their wood yard. ‘Burnie Brick’ was used in the construction of many buildings of this era, dug and fired in the Cooee brickworks until 1967 when the clay was eventually exhausted and the business closed. Federation Free Style often incorporated features from other styles such as the Romanesque semi-circular arches and Art Nouveau pediments above the downstairs windows seen on St. Luke’s.
In 1899, a Baptist Church was established in the town with services held in the Town Hall. Funds were raised to purchase land and erect a purpose built weatherboard church and adjoining two-storey brick manse. By 1925, the church proved too small and the new brick version was completed almost entirely by voluntary labour of the parishioners. There are some medieval elements to the Federation Gothic style including pointed arch windows and doorways, blind turrets and arrow slits and a parapet resembling a battlement.
The Christian Brethren began services in Burnie in 1875 and a simple timber building was constructed a year later. The current Gospel Hall, built in 1915 and enlarged in 1930, is another example of Federation Gothic architecture with a steeply pitched roof, arched windows and the inclusion of Art Nouveau leadlight.
The current SES Regional Headquarters is housed in a magnificent two-storey Federation Filigree home originally built for the Lucadou-Wells family as a combined residence and dental surgery. The ornamental screening on verandahs and balconies was usually timber but in this case it is cast iron.
Constructed in the Federation Free Style for the Commercial Bank in 1913, I think this sandstone and brick structure is looking somewhat neglected. Known as the T.G.I.O. Building (Tasmanian Government Insurance Office) through the nineties, it is now inhabited by Steadfast Taswide Insurance Brokers.
Another beautiful building sits sadly neglected. The former Burnie branch of the Launceston Bank for Savings opened in 1928 and was most recently the premises of the Spirit Bar, a welcoming hub offering Tasmanian beer, wine, cider and spirits as well as delicious fare and live music. The forlorn façade has deteriorated dismally since the unfortunate closure of Spirit Bar a couple of years ago.
My disappointment reached a new level when I saw the condition of the Old Post Office. Purpose built in 1898, it is considered an important example of Federation Free Classical architecture. An enthusiastic couple bought the property in 2014 with plans to renovate but I can find no further reference to that story and it certainly appears deserted and decrepit.
The former Bank of Van Diemen’s Land (V.D.L. Bank) building, just a few doors down from the Old Post Office, has been beautifully restored and maintained. Completed in 1892, the prominent corner position is ideal for what is now ‘Food & Brew’, a successful restaurant and wine bar serving Tasmanian produce and making the most of the stunning period architecture, both inside and out.
I fail to understand why some these buildings that are considered significant enough to be listed on the Heritage Register are not being maintained. Surely the conservation recommendation of, “this place should be retained” indicates an obligation to upkeep the premises? Perhaps some Council coffers could be allocated to restore Burnie’s historical buildings, especially those promoted in brochures to entice visitors to the town?