Sunday, 13 October 2013

Brisbane Open House 2013: Windmill Tower and Craigston

The concept of Brisbane Open House is a winner for all those interested in architecture, history and culture. This years' BOH was a lot of fun and I was able to satisfy my inner-house voyeurism, yet again.

And there is nothing better than being a tourist in your own town - we should all go out and see more of what makes Brisbane...Brisbane. It's a way of gaining a wider appreciation of our history and will hopefully educate people about the importance of preserving the great buildings dotting our suburbs.

Windmill Tower Spring Hill
I had the privilege to visit a number of historical buildings that I have always wanted to see. Brisbane's oldest building, Windmill Tower, is a landmark in Spring Hill near the CBD. It was built by the convicts back in the 1820s and has obviously stood the test of time as it is now the oldest windmill tower left in Australia. In the 1860s, after it had ceased operating as a mill, a central spiral staircase was constructed to allow it to be used as a signal tower.

Looking down the spiral staircase at the top of Windmill Tower

Casement windows in the Windmill Tower on the ground floor

This year at  BOH, small tours were allowed to ascend the top of the tower. I was lucky to be one of the successful people in a ballot for a tour of the Windmill Tower. It was unbelievably cool to stand at the top of the oldest convict built structure in Queensland. The Windmill Tower is on the Queensland Heritage register - you can read more information here.

View of the mid-century Tower Mill Hotel from the Windmill Tower

Looking up Wickham Terrace at the Tower Mill Hotel and Windmill Tower

Afterwards, I met up with Elizabeth from Walk Among the Homes, my new best 'house voyeur' buddy, who was successful in the ballot for a tour of the Spanish mission style Craigston. It's located across the road from the Tower.  Again, what a fabulous experience to view Brisbane's oldest concrete and steel high-rise building which was built in 1927 (same vintage as the Sow's Ear...).

View of the Craigston from Windmill Tower

Craigston was originally built to house medical chambers on the ground floor and doctors' residences in the flats above. When constructed, each floor had a residential flat and over the years some of the flats were subdivided into smaller units, such is the scale of the floor plan.

A photograph of Craigston shortly after the building was constructed. You can see that one side of the building was open verandahs with awnings. They were closed in later,  purportedly after a severe storm

Yesterday we were given a tour of floors 7 and 6 which were entirely intact - the flats were huge. We were also able to visit a compact studio located in the basement level - it is a contemporary renovation and plays host to a very cool architecture practice.

Craigston basement studio with French industrial Jielde lights

Dumb waiter in the basement, now used for the recycling rubbish
I was completely enamoured with the Floor 7 flat that is larger than many houses. In the good old days, it also had servants' quarters for two maids. The owners, who bought the flat four years ago, were very gracious and generous with their time and knowledge. They've made a beautiful home and have decorated the space beautifully.

Exquisite Craigston flat on Floor 7
Craigston floor plan
Floor 6 was originally the home of the Dr SF McDonald who was the first chairman of the building and had introduced the concept of cooperatively-owned multifunction office and residential space. All the silky oak wood panelling is original and is very much how it was when it was first built. It was literally like stepping back in time when we entered the main living and dining rooms.

The flat on Floor 6 
If you would like to know a bit more about Craigston visit here.

Craigston window details
That concludes my BOH tours. It was such a fantastic experience and I am looking forward to next year's open house event. I hope it gets bigger every year!


  1. I've been following your BOH tours via IG - amazing! I've got to do it next year. xx

    1. Definitely! It was a great day out. I'm hoping Boggo Road, of all things, will be open again. xx

  2. Lucky you! I have always wondered about the windmill, I've passed it often. Is there any truth to the rumour there are secret passage ways underneath that go down to the river? I hope so! Also - how amazing is the Craigston?! Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Yes, I was much the same re the windmill. It's always been something I wanted to see up close and personal. Sad, eh? And Craigston was an absolute gem. We have some superb and diverse architecture in this city. xx

  3. Perth's OH is coming up soon and I'm really looking forward to it. It is such a privilege to have a close look at old buildings like these in the flesh. I can't end this comment without mentioning those gorgeous Jielde lights. How awesome does the orange look against that dark grey ceiling?! I would love some in my house - bit pricey for me though!

  4. I agree!!! Those lights and the studio looks amazing! We have open days like that too, it's a wonderful oportunity to have one's curiosity satisfied:-) Love that windmill! There's something about windmills and lighthouses, the functionality- generated designs. beautiful!!

  5. I have always wanted to go inside the old mill- lucky you! and I was just admiring Craigston the other day as I was sitting opposite in the park after seeing the plastic surgeon. Those curved brick fireplaces are beautiful as are the curved bay windows, hopefully next year I will get my butt into gear and join the BOH experience. mel x

  6. I like the idea of a 'telephonette'. Is it small, female or both?

  7. By all accounts this year's BOH was a real success. I am definitely going next year and will get in early so as to hopefully secure a ballot to something interesting. I still want to see Boggo Road Gaol. Thanks for showing us the photos ... feels like I've been to the Windmill and Craigston.

  8. Both buildings are beautiful. I've always been fascinated by windmills and lighthouses too, but I've never been inside one. Craigston is lovely. I'm surprised that so much of its charm has been preserved over the years. It always saddens me a little to think of some of the things people have sheetrocked and plastered over.

  9. I did the same two buildings this weekend, they were botch fantastic. I also managed to get into Jacobi House- that was a real highlight.

  10. Thanks for the review. It's wonderful to see an increasing interest in Brisbane's heritage buildings.
    Your Brisbane: Past and Present

  11. I loved unit 7 of Craigston, I was stunned. Thank you for being my sticky-beaking buddy :)

  12. Oh, I love those kind of tours! In Spain they hardly ever happen, there is a stately home which I have been wanting to visit for ages, in theory, you can visit but in practice, they never do open it for the public.

  13. Thanks for shearing information about Brisbane City Accommodation

  14. Wow, blast from the past. I remember years ago trying to find our way through Brisbane to visit a supplier who had set up in a nearby building. If it wasn't for that tower we would have been lost, as we parked just near it. It looks wonderful inside, didn't realise it was that old. The no 7 floor flat looks fab too, what a treat to sticky beak.


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