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Adaptive reuse in action at Port Douglas Sugar Wharf and Shed


Assessing potential impacts upon the site’s cultural heritage significance

Port Douglas Sugar Wharf and Shed enjoys pride of place on the township’s historic shoreline, extending from Anzac Park over the sparkling waters of the Dickson Inlet.

The structure has enjoyed its prominent position for more than 100 years, as Port Douglas evolved from a thriving commercial port to a popular destination on Queensland’s tourism map.

The Sugar Wharf and Shed are currently used as a wedding and events venue, an impressive example of the adaptive reuse of a heritage building in a contemporary context. The site has been included on the Queensland Heritage Register since 1992.

When Douglas Shire Council (DSC) needed to improve the wharf’s functionality as an events space they asked AHS to deliver a Heritage Impact Statement (HIS) assessing potential impacts upon the site’s cultural heritage significance. AHS worked closely with TPG Architects to ensure that the wharf shed was upgraded to contemporary standards whilst enhancing the interpretation of heritage features.

Single storey timber framed building

Port Douglas was originally founded in 1877 as the primary port servicing the Hodgkinson Goldfield, however this trade with the mining hinterland ceased in around 1908. By the 1890’s the town had established its position as the region’s principal sugar port and would remain so until 1958.

To support this trade in sugar and other cargo DSC obtained a loan from the Queensland Government in 1904 to fund construction of a new wharf, enabling ships to berth at a more convenient site in the harbour.

The shed is a single storey timber framed building with a timber trussed gable roof, sitting on a timber floor frame and timber decking. It is clad externally in hardwood weatherboards and has a modern corrugated iron sheeting roof.

The wharf to the west of the shed was constructed in 2001 following the demolition of other sections of wharf and small jetties.

The site has had two major periods of change, starting in 1924 when it was moved 3 metres to the east and extended to the south. From 1979 onwards the building was leased to prominent Queensland diver Ben Cropp and adapted to function as his residence and as a shipwreck museum.

Photo showing Sugar Wharf before 1924 extensions, Douglas Historical Society.


Important feature of the Port Douglas waterfront

The Port Douglas Sugar Wharf and Shed is an important feature of the Port Douglas township and waterfront with a strong historical association to its development as a commercial shipping terminal.

The building is a rare surviving example of its type with elements of original or early fabric. Some of these features are the external form and weatherboard cladding, the external sliding doors, and the internal roof trusses, wall framing and early timber decking.

Not every part of the site is culturally significant as it has been altered over the years, however the surviving elements offer interpretability of the building’s early design and function as well as an insight into construction techniques of the period.

Photo showing Sugar Wharf after 1924 extensions, Douglas Historical Society.


Community consultation

The proposed works were intended to improve the venue’s layout and convenience for weddings and events. This included upgrading the toilet facilities, improving the lighting, and removing later flooring to expose areas of the original decking.

The AHS team participated in a community consultation event with our client, TPG Architects and user groups which confirmed the need for changes to the building.

Having also considered the site’s two previous Conservation Management Plans our HIS concluded that the works as planned would not have a detrimental impact on the site’s heritage significance.

To ensure that the heritage values were maintained we provided a schedule of guidelines and mitigation measures to meet the overall conservation objectives required by the project.

The refurbishment of Port Douglas Sugar Wharf has now been completed, allowing the building to continue its new life as one of the town’s most desirable after-wedding venues.

To discover how we may be able to assist on your next project, contact us today here or phone (07) 3221 0000. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn.

Internal view, Tourism Tropical North Queensland.

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The Challenge

Port Douglas was originally founded in 1877 as the primary port servicing the Hodgkinson Goldfield, however this trade with the mining hinterland ceased in around 1908. By the 1890’s the town had established its position as the region’s principal sugar port and would remain so until 1958.

To support this trade in sugar and other cargo DSC obtained a loan from the Queensland Government in 1904 to fund construction of a new wharf, enabling ships to berth at a more convenient site in the harbour.

The shed is a single storey timber framed building with a timber trussed gable roof, sitting on a timber floor frame and timber decking. It is clad externally in hardwood weatherboards and has a modern corrugated iron sheeting roof.

The wharf to the west of the shed was constructed in 2001 following the demolition of other sections of wharf and small jetties.

The site has had two major periods of change, starting in 1924 when it was moved 3 metres to the east and extended to the south. From 1979 onwards the building was leased to prominent Queensland diver Ben Cropp and adapted to function as his residence and as a shipwreck museum.



How we helped

The Port Douglas Sugar Wharf and Shed is an important feature of the Port Douglas township and waterfront with a strong historical association to its development as a commercial shipping terminal.

The building is a rare surviving example of its type with elements of original or early fabric. Some of these features are the external form and weatherboard cladding, the external sliding doors, and the internal roof trusses, wall framing and early timber decking.

Not every part of the site is culturally significant as it has been altered over the years, however the surviving elements offer interpretability of the building’s early design and function as well as an insight into construction techniques of the period.

Results

The proposed works were intended to improve the venue’s layout and convenience for weddings and events. This included upgrading the toilet facilities, improving the lighting, and removing later flooring to expose areas of the original decking.

The AHS team participated in a community consultation event with our client, TPG Architects and user groups which confirmed the need for changes to the building.

Having also considered the site’s two previous Conservation Management Plans our HIS concluded that the works as planned would not have a detrimental impact on the site’s heritage significance.

To ensure that the heritage values were maintained we provided a schedule of guidelines and mitigation measures to meet the overall conservation objectives required by the project.

The refurbishment of Port Douglas Sugar Wharf has now been completed, allowing the building to continue its new life as one of the town’s most desirable after-wedding venues.

To discover how we may be able to assist on your next project, contact us today here or phone (07) 3221 0000. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn.

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AHS ensures cultural preservation of the Mt Coot-tha Kiosk and Lookout, unearthing a rich history at one of Brisbane’s premiere vantage points

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AHS helps to record and conserve Bega’s network of historic granite kerbs and gutters for our client Bega Valley Shire Council

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AHS delivered a Conservation Management Plan for the State heritage listed former Cairns Masonic Temple

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Delivering heritage services including an Archival Recording at the Coffs Harbour Forestry Building

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