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Cairns Courthouse Project


Summary

Three years of detailed work have returned the old Cairns Courthouse to its architectural glory days – with Australian Heritage Specialists (AHS) playing a key role in its refurbishment. 

The landmark building in Abbott Street is one of three State heritage-listed buildings that will be incorporated in the new Cairns CBD Art Gallery Precinct.  

From bringing a hallmark example of early 20th century architecture back to life to uncovering a raft of astonishingly well preserved artefacts during the restoration, it has been an amazing journey. 

The challenge

The former Cairns Court House was constructed between 1919 and 1921. Renovated in 1998, it served as the Cairns Courthouse Hotel before being acquired by the council in 2016. 

The aim was to restore it to its original condition and re-open its spaces for council and community use. 

The restoration and adaptive re-use of the building spearheads the creation of the new Cairns Gallery Precinct, which links the city centre to the Esplanade parklands and waterfront. 


How we helped

A complex project, AHS assembled a team of top professionals with many years of experience in this field.   

AHS was involved with the project from start to finish. Since 2018 when the first concept designs for the place were being developed, AHS has worked alongside Cairns Regional Council and the Project Team. 

In 2018, we prepared the Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for the Court House which was a guiding document in the refurbishment of the building and grounds. 

The CMP ensured the heritage values of the Court House were maintained while expanding the potential of the building both as a cultural arts centre and entertainment space. 

The document outlined priority maintenance and repair works required, and provided masterplanning advice for the adaptive re-use of the building. 

AHS has also provided ongoing heritage advice for the refurbishment of the Court House and created various technical reports for the site. 

Another key contribution was assisting in the development of a historic and appropriate paint scheme for the building, determined through microscopic paint analyses. This included the restoration of the Abbott Street Coat of Arms, which now sits as a colourful and vibrant key feature to the building’s facade. 

During the construction phase, AHS also played a key role in the archaeological management of the site with our local archaeologist salvaging important artefacts across the grounds. 


The results

Heritage listed in 1992the courthouse has found a new role almost 100 years after its construction on Abbott Street and will help cement Cairns status as an arts and cultural capital of northern Australia. 

With Cairns Regional Council investing $8.28m in its restoration, it increases the amount of space for the Cairns Regional Gallery with the vision for the precinct including international touring exhibitions and contemporary indigenous art. 

The precinct will also support a variety of creative artists, musicians, writers, performers, photographic services, film production and tourism. 

Already since opening in February this year, the precinct has hosted an open day attracting more than 700 people, an engaging live performance by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and local artist Kaweyova. 

Through careful restoration and conservation, AHS has helped ensure this historic building will have a continued use and presence in the Cairns community. 

We wish to congratulate the broader team of architects, builders, engineers, tradespersons, and council members who have all contributed greatly to its revitalisation. 

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The Challenge

The former Cairns Court House was constructed between 1919 and 1921. Renovated in 1998, it served as the Cairns Courthouse Hotel before being acquired by the council in 2016. 

The aim was to restore it to its original condition and re-open its spaces for council and community use. 

The restoration and adaptive re-use of the building spearheads the creation of the new Cairns Gallery Precinct, which links the city centre to the Esplanade parklands and waterfront. 



How we helped

A complex project, AHS assembled a team of top professionals with many years of experience in this field.   

AHS was involved with the project from start to finish. Since 2018 when the first concept designs for the place were being developed, AHS has worked alongside Cairns Regional Council and the Project Team. 

In 2018, we prepared the Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for the Court House which was a guiding document in the refurbishment of the building and grounds. 

The CMP ensured the heritage values of the Court House were maintained while expanding the potential of the building both as a cultural arts centre and entertainment space. 

The document outlined priority maintenance and repair works required, and provided masterplanning advice for the adaptive re-use of the building. 

AHS has also provided ongoing heritage advice for the refurbishment of the Court House and created various technical reports for the site. 

Another key contribution was assisting in the development of a historic and appropriate paint scheme for the building, determined through microscopic paint analyses. This included the restoration of the Abbott Street Coat of Arms, which now sits as a colourful and vibrant key feature to the building’s facade. 

During the construction phase, AHS also played a key role in the archaeological management of the site with our local archaeologist salvaging important artefacts across the grounds. 

Results

Heritage listed in 1992the courthouse has found a new role almost 100 years after its construction on Abbott Street and will help cement Cairns status as an arts and cultural capital of northern Australia. 

With Cairns Regional Council investing $8.28m in its restoration, it increases the amount of space for the Cairns Regional Gallery with the vision for the precinct including international touring exhibitions and contemporary indigenous art. 

The precinct will also support a variety of creative artists, musicians, writers, performers, photographic services, film production and tourism. 

Already since opening in February this year, the precinct has hosted an open day attracting more than 700 people, an engaging live performance by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and local artist Kaweyova. 

Through careful restoration and conservation, AHS has helped ensure this historic building will have a continued use and presence in the Cairns community. 

We wish to congratulate the broader team of architects, builders, engineers, tradespersons, and council members who have all contributed greatly to its revitalisation. 

You might also like to read:

Case Study

Restoring Brisbane’s iconic Naldham House

Case Study

AHS protects Aboriginal Cultural Heritage across renewable energy sector

Case Study

AHS analyses iconic Queens Plaza façade

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History of Wynnum Seventh Day Adventist Church unlocked

Case Study

Extensive war history unearthed at Milman Hill Complex on Thursday Island

Case Study

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

Case Study

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

Case Study

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

Case Study

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

Case Study

Conserving Willard’s Farm, one of the oldest surviving farms and residences within the Redlands on Brisbane’s Bayside

Case Study

AHS projects with Cairns Regional Council include a CMP for Mulgrave Shire Council Chambers

Case Study

AHS uncovers a lengthy historical legal challenge while researching the William Mitchner Shelter

Case Study

AHS helps visitors experience the history of Cairns Court House

Case Study

AHS helps to conserve the Mount Morgan Coronation Lamp and Boer War Memorial

Case Study

Discovering the evolution of Queensland ambulance services at Charters Towers

Case Study

AHS helps preserve one of Buderim Mountain’s oldest surviving houses

Case Study

Rediscovering a heritage home’s socialite past in New Farm

Case Study

New tourism opportunities for Mount Morgan Railway Station

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AHS advises Rockhampton City Council on maintenance and heritage protection of the iconic Rockhampton Customs House

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Adaptive reuse in action at Port Douglas Sugar Wharf and Shed

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