18 August, 2021
A step in time
The Longreach Archival and Historical Research Group write about the historical significance of three historical sites in Longreach.
The volunteers of the Longreach Archival And Historical Research Group Inc. have used all reasonable endeavours to ensure this information is as accurate as possible. It gives no warranty or guarantee that the information is accurate, complete, current, or fit for any use whatsoever. If you believe any of the information may be inaccurate, please let us know.
AUGUST 2021 is a special time for Longreach as this is when three of the town’s historical sites have celebrated their centenary.
The Longreach Powerhouse, now home to the Powerhouse Museum (owned and administered by the Longreach Regional Council), turns 100 as does the former swimming baths.
They are both located in Swan Street.
Next door in Ibis Street is the third member of the 100-year club – the former Queensland Ambulance Transport Brigade (QATB) building, which is now home to the Arts & Cultural Association.
All three of these life-changing additions to the town were constructed by the local firm of Edwards, Martin Ltd.
The site chosen for the powerhouse was opposite the State School (established in 1893) and behind the artesian bore.
After extensive research, it became clear that a plentiful supply of water would be required for the powerhouse for cooling purposes.
It was also known that the electricity generated would be DC (Direct Current) which does not transmit over a great distance, so the powerhouse needed to be close to potential customers.
Swan Street was the ideal site. The local Council at the time was fortunate to obtain a grant from Treasury for the construction of the powerhouse complex.
Upon completion, imagine the pleasure of being able to light a room with the flick of a switch.
In 1921, items like electric refrigerators, electric washing machines, electric stoves and electric irons hadn’t yet come into use.
The cooling ponds for the powerhouse served a dual purpose and were a welcome addition for many people as they were used as swimming baths.
Due to the changing nature of electricity generation and supply throughout Queensland, the powerhouse was decommissioned in 1985.
The building was about to be demolished for scrap metal, however, the quick-thinking Council CEO at the time got wind of the sale and proposed demolition, and saved this important building from extinction.
The Council once again became the owner of the powerhouse.
The QATB building became a permanent home for the extremely important ambulance service in 1921.
Up until then, the service had operated out of several other venues.
Due to the untiring fund-raising efforts of Mr Archibald Solway, the first Ambulance Superintendent of the Longreach QATB, and his fellow bearers, the construction of the building was a significant milestone in this valuable and necessary service’s life.
It is quite amazing that over 3000 pounds ($6,000) were raised for the construction of the QATB building by 1921, considering that at the same time, people of the town and district were contributing generously and unstintingly to the Patriotic Funds during World War I.
The grazing community was most generous with donations of wool for sale, as well as monetary gifts.
The magnificent, double-storey QATB building was opened free of debt.
The building provided a safe place to house the ambulance vehicles and there was accommodation for the Superintendent and his family downstairs, while other bearers resided upstairs.
When the Ambulance service moved to the Longreach Hospital in 1958, the lower part of the QATB building was left vacant, but the upstairs was rented as public accommodation.
In due course, the building became unsafe and was in danger of being demolished.
However, a far-sighted member of the Hospital Board made strong objections to this taking place.
At the same time, there was a surge in enthusiasm for arts and crafts in Australia, presumably stimulated by immigration of folk from Europe and other overseas countries.
Following a well-attended meeting, the Longreach Arts & Crafts Assn. was founded.
Their new home was to be the QATB building. After much fundraising and successful grant applications, the artisans were able to move in.
In 2021, the building is used to its full capacity.
An upstairs gallery which was established and opened in 1979, gives local craftspeople an outlet for their items which are sold on a commission basis. This is manned by volunteers seven days a week during the tourist season. There is a flat which is rented, plus a tutor’s room which visiting tutors may use during their stay in Longreach.
Happy 100th birthday to these icons of our town.