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Quirky's Quirks: Custom House

Check out the interesting facts about Customs House on Queen Street in Brisbane:

• During the 19th Century, Customs Houses were built along all major Australian ports and were crucial to local, national and international trade.

• Brisbane’s first Customs House was built in 1850 at the northern end of the Town Reach.

• At the time shipping activity was centred on the South Brisbane Reach and the decision to locate a customs house at the northern end of the Town Reach acted as motivation for the development of wharves along this part of the river.

• As the Port of Brisbane grew, the need for a larger Customs House also grew and in September 1886 construction began on a new building.

• The new, larger Customs House included a sequence of grand columns, a large dome and is an example of Victorian Free Classical style design.

• The contract was let to one of Brisbane's oldest and most respected contractors, John Petrie & Son, who tendered with a price of £37,342.

• The contract time was 30 months but because of difficulties with the supply of some materials, especially stone for the foundations, and alterations to the original plans, the building took longer than anticipated to complete.

• On 2 September 1889 Customs House was officially opened to the public.

• Despite no government in the country having a coat of arms at the time, the building features a depiction on its facade of a shield between an emu and kangaroo.

• After Federation in 1901 the Customs House became part of the Commonwealth Government's customs service and some of its elegant rooms were used as offices.

• Surrounded by busy wharves and trams, Customs House became one of Brisbane's best known buildings.

• Conscious of the heritage value of the House, the Commonwealth government negotiated a lease with the University of Queensland which agreed to restore the property. Customs House re-opened in October 1994.

• You can learn more about the history of Customs House and take in the grand architecture of the building by visiting Customs House at 399 Queen St.

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