The fourth annual Open House Hobart was held over the first weekend in November and plenty of people, your faithful correspondent included, took the opportunity to have a good old stickybeak inside buildings that are not normaly accessible to the public. Organised by the Tasmanian Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects as part of Hobart Architecture and Design Month, the Open House weekend offered the chance to see well over forty spaces, including half-built hotels, private homes, public institutions, heritage structures, churches and a cathedral.
Whilst offered completely free of charge, the popularity of the event requires that bookings be made for many of the places, with multiple tours running through the day at many of them. Having missed out on ticketed tours the previous year, I booked four tours on the Saturday, although I missed getting to the Supreme Court in time for my tour as the previouis (and very fascinating) tour of the General Post Office ran longer than advertised – and that is certainly not a complaint.
First ‘port’ of call was the Tasports Tower on the waterfront, used to manage shipping up and down the Derwent River and in Hobart’s docks. The work-a-day interior, which looked like it hadn’t been refurbished since construction in the 1980s, gave way to some panoramic and unusual views, spectacular even on this slightly grey day.
Second stop was the Hobart General Post Office, which underwent an extensive conservation program involving scaffolding on its exterior for some months recently. What had been less apparent is the renovations happening inside the building. With fewer staff based in this inner-city location, Australia Post has refurbished, in striking contemporary style, the first floor offices which our guide said were available for rent.
A ‘courtyard’ (if that is still what you have when it’s on the first floor) surrounds the iron and glass dome that sits over the public postal hall.
The highlight of the tour was being given access to the roof, and then to the inside of the clocktower, where the staff member who maintains the clock gave us an overview of its workings and took us up inside the clock chamber itself.
Here’s a short video showing the mechanism in motion.
Then it was back downstairs for a quick tour through the bowels of the building. Most sorting of mail now happens at mail centres on the outskirts of our major cities and towns, so again, this area was largely empty. Our guide intriguingly suggested that there is a story of a tunnel from the basement of the post office that leads under Macquarie Street, although it has never been found.
Having missed the Supreme Court (and with hope it will be offered again next year), it was off to the old Hobart Fire Station, which sits adjacent to the shiny new Fire Station a short distance from the centre of town. The old station premises now house the Tasmanian Fire Museum and staff social clubrooms. Retired fire officers volunteer their time to collect and restore a collection of fire engines and other items and guided us around the space.