Open House Hobart 2016

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.

Signs like these appeared all over Hobart for the Open House weekend
Signs like these appeared all over Hobart for the Open House weekend
Our guide inside the Tasports Tower
Macquarie Point from the Tasports Tower on Hobart’s waterfront
Container terminal and Tasman Bridge from the Tasports Tower on Hobart’s waterfront
Container terminal from the Tasports Tower on Hobart’s waterfront
Tasports Tower on Hobart’s waterfront
Macquarie Wharf from the Tasports Tower on Hobart’s waterfront
Macquarie Wharf from the Tasports Tower on Hobart’s waterfront
The city and its mountain from the Tasports Tower on Hobart’s waterfront

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.

Main staircase in Hobart’s General Post Office
Main staircase in Hobart’s General Post Office
Main staircase in Hobart’s General Post Office
Renovated offices on the first floor of the Hobart GPO
Inside the renovated first floor of Hobart’s GPO
Dome over Hobart’s GPO

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.

‘Fish-scales’ – Iron framed dome over Hobart’s GPO
GPO Clocktower
First floor courtyard and dome, Hobart GPO
GPO Clocktower, Hobart
Inside Hobart’s GPO Clocktower

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.

The clock mechanism, safely housed in its own case

Here’s a short video showing the mechanism in motion.


Inside the clocktower – any noir film-buff’s dream
Your humble correspondent in the clocktower
One of the four clock faces from inside the tower
In the bowels of the GPO

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.

Macquarie Street from inside the GPO compound
Laneway behind Hobart’s GPO
Colonnade at the front of Hobart’ GPO
The dome from inside the Hobart Post Office

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.

The Tasmanian Fire Museum
At the ready – inside the Tasmanian Fire Museum
An early fire fighting vehicle was pulled and operated by convict labour. A similar vehicle, without the bright red paint job, is held in the collection at the Port Arthur Historic Site.
Early Leyland fire engine
Dennis the red fire engine – bound to become the anthropomorphised star of a children’s television show
Leyland brass
Under the hood
Leyland fire truck
Apparently it takes two people to operate the brakes on this beast
Firepole – sadly no longer in general use
Well-dressed fireman from Hobart’s early days
The carpet in the clubrooms was specially made by a factory in Devonport

Further information


7 Comments Add yours

  1. Mappie Pyper says:

    Thank you, thank you Andrew. Missed all the open buildings because my daughter was over from Dubai and we had a full itinery. We did do Mona though and she absolutely loved that.
    Cheers Mappie xx

    1. Cheers Mappie, hope Margaret is well.

  2. Please consider writing a post in advance of these openings next year. This will alert me to these wonderful opportunities.

  3. Really enjoyed this vicarious journey. Thank you!

    1. Cheers, sorry I didn’t have time to do more this year.

  4. Loved getting an insight into these Hobart landmarks, particularly the views from the Tasport tower.

    1. Thanks. Really enjoyed your latest too.

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