Municipal Magnificence tells the story of the Hobart Town Hall’s site from its earliest days as an Aboriginal landscape, through the location of the colony’s first government house and the design and completion of the present Town Hall complex.
The generously illustrated publication details the evolution of the building and its ongoing use by the Hobart community.
Built in 1866 by John Gowland, and designed by Henry Hunter (known for designing many buildings in Hobart throughout his 30 year career, such as All Saints Church, Macquarie Street; the Church of the Apostles, Launceston; the Mariners’ Church, Franklin Wharf) the Town Hall has seen Hobart through the early days of settlement, watched it grow into a fledgling city, and has seen it blossom into a thriving metropolis.
After the formation of a city council (who previously held meetings in the Governors ballroom) in 1863, talk of a Hobart Town Hall culminated into the magnificent building that still stands today. The hall was also to house the police offices, the municipal court and the State Library of Tasmania. After a competition was held for the grand honour of designing the new building, controversy abounded after Henry Hunter was appointed without having won the place.
Officially opened on the 25th September 1866, the Mayor at the time hosted a grand feast that he opened to all classes of society, to include all walks of life to celebrate. Many an event was held there and in the 1870’s, the grand concert organ was installed.
In 1893, electric trams were introduced to Hobart, and 6 years later the Town Hall was included on the electric power grid, to be trialed at the annual naval ball in 1899 with grand new electric chandeliers replacing the previous gas ones.
When the First World War broke out, the Town Hall became a focal point, where Hobartians could gather, and then celebrate the peace that followed. When the Second World War broke out, the roof was sandbagged and became a lookout point for Japanese planes. Celebrations were once again held on VJ day in 1945.
The 1950’s saw the commencement of citizenship ceremonies in the same week that the first Australian ceremonies were held at the Melbourne Town Hall. For the 1954 Royal visit of Queen Elizabeth over 5,000 people lined the streets around the Town Hall hoping to catch a glimpse of Her Royal Majesty.
The 1960’s saw both flood and fire ravage Hobart, where the hall became the emergency centre for people who lost their homes. The grand organ was also rebuilt, and the Davey Street wing was completed in 1969.
In the years that have followed, many children have danced in the hall, many floral exhibits have sent wonderful scents wafting through the hall, many choral groups have sung in her exalted ballroom, many symphonies have held audiences captive, many curious people have meandered through taking in the history and elegance that encapsulates our proud historical architecture.