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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. 

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

Conservation of Wyllie Park Roadside Rest Area – Petrie

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Bunya to the Bay Educational Project

Case Study

Restoration of Archer Park Rail Museum – Rockhampton

Case Study

Revitalisation of Mount Carmel Centre – Wynnum

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

Conservation of Wyllie Park Roadside Rest Area – Petrie

Case Study

Bunya to the Bay Educational Project

Case Study

Restoration of Archer Park Rail Museum – Rockhampton

Case Study

Revitalisation of Mount Carmel Centre – Wynnum

Contact Australian Heritage Specialists for a free consultation for your project from one of our award-winning consultants.