Brisbane Airport BNE Issue 5 - page 12

The public will get a rare peak inside some of our most interesting buildings
during Brisbane Open House, as
Elisabeth Galvin
Open for inspection
rom private homes to Parliament House,
from innovative workplaces to a Windmill
tower, 89 of Brisbane’s most historic,
unique, unusual and technologically advanced
buildings will be open to the public for special
tours on 11 and 12 October. In particular it’s
an opportunity to see how some very passionate
owners have made an effort to preserve our
architectural heritage.
Toonarbin, West End
Five years, 30 specialist tradespeople and 50
skips of rubble and garden waste: it is difficult to
comprehend the extraordinary feat of restoring
one of Brisbane’s oldest residences from an
uninhabitable shell to a magnificent home
but that’s exactly what the current owners of
Toonarbin at Highgate Hill have achieved.
Toonarbin was originally the home of
Irish captain Henry O’Reilly, then it was a
convent for 70 years, then the once stately
mansion stood empty for 10 years before the
current owners bought the property in 2007
and discovered a neglected Georgian beauty
behind the red brick façade.
The owners enlisted friends and skilled
craftsmen from as far afield as Scotland to
help remove gyprock and the ‘institutional’
beige paint that covered the walls and ceilings
to reveal a glorious trove of red cedar skirting
boards, ornate cornices, ceiling roses, windows
with original stained glass and 10 fireplaces.
Upstairs, 100 windows were removed, stripped,
reglazed and painted.
The challenge was to restore the property in
the absence of any records of what it originally
looked like inside, while at the same time
using craftsmen such as a blacksmith. It took
18 months alone to restore the ceilings using
a traditional technique of lath and plaster.
Furnishings and fittings have also been sourced
to reflect the original period of the house as
much as possible.
Toonarbin, on Dornoch Terrace, was built
by esteemed architect Benjamin Backhouse
and is estimated to have been erected in the
mid-1860s. The fact that Toonarbin’s birthday
remains a secret adds to the charm of the
beloved landmark.
“People often knock on the door and tell
us how they used to have music lessons in the
kitchen,” say the owners.
“We love sharing it with people. To some
extent it’s not just our house. It belongs to the
city. Our hope is to have restored it in a manner
that means it will be preserved for ever.”
| BNE October/November 2014
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