• Translate Site
  • Clouds 9°C

Architecture along the ages

Launceston's built history

Launceston is a jewel-box of built styles and design – best explored on foot, camera in-hand. Here is a list of some of the city’s most iconic buildings and storied streetscapes, for visitors to enjoy at their own pace. All locations are closely connected in and around the CBD by flat paths and offer curious stories of ingenuity and innovation that have helped build the real story of Launnie. Visit some in a couple of hours or all in a couple of days and don't forget to stop and enjoy the eateries, boutiques, parks and galleries along the way.

Albert Hall. Built for the Tasmanian International Exhibition of 1891-1892, this space has a compassionate history – used to farewell Australian troops to war, as a makeshift infirmary for the Spanish Flu, and shelter for those left homeless in the 1929 floods.

City of Launceston Town Hall. Built in 1864, the bold Italianate Style by Peter Mills was not to the taste of a local newspaper at the time who wrote: “the designer appears to have studied how far he could outrage good taste and set delicacy by obtruding as many points and angles upon the eye as it was possible.” The Examiner 23 February 1867.

Custom House. Completed in 1888, the scale and grandeur of Custom Hose speaks to the riches coming into Launceston during the mineral boom time of the 1870s and 1880s.

Diana, Venus & Fortuna. In the middle of the old industrial district, three roman goddesses adorn an ornate, Italianate style building. Constructed in 1882 by a prolific local architect and builder Peter Mills, this structure was once his store, showroom, and dwelling. See the goddesses.

Duck Reach Power Station. The first commercial hydro-electric station commissioned in Australia. Completed in 1895, Launceston became the first city in Australia to have electric streetlights.

Henty House. Completed in 1983, Henty House is a bold example of brutalist architecture, unusual for Launceston’s skyline. Minimalist construction and angular geometric shapes deliberately showcase bare building materials like exposed concrete, glass and timber.

Holyman House. Built in 1936, this iconic Art Deco building originally housed Holyman Company’s automobile showroom as well as shipping and aviation interests. The buildings sleek curves and neon-lit spire embodied the owners bold, futuristic vision.

Inveresk precinct. Launceston’s former Railway Workshops have been transformed into a unique cultural precinct including the Queen Victoria Museum at Inveresk.

Johnstone & Wilmot Store. On the corner of St John and Cimitiere Streets, Johnstone & Wilmot Store and Counting house is considered quite unique in Australia. Built in 1842 as a warehouse and general store it has been influenced by English and Dutch colonial warehouse architecture.

Kings Bridge. Dating from 1864, Kings Bridge links to the accessible paths of the magnificent Cataract Gorge Reserve. Fabricated in Manchester, England and transported to Launceston, it was assembled on a pontoon and floated into position before being lowered onto its abutments on the receding tide.

Launceston Gasworks. The oldest buildings on site were built in 1860 from sandstone and local brick. At the top of striking horizontal retort buildings, fancy brickwork spells out “cook with gas.” And nearby, is the steel-frame of the gasometer (where gas was stored).

Macquarie House. Built in 1829-30, Macquarie House is a beautiful example of a Georgian brick and stone warehouse. It was for Launceston merchant Henry Reed. The building was central to the success of the first settlement of Melbourne (arguably Launnie’s most successful start-up) and today is a hub for innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.

Milton Hall, Christ Church and Chalmers Church. Three imposing churches line the southern side of Prince’s Square. Milton Hall was built in 1842 in a Greek Revival style, but the rapidly growing congregation soon called for a grander space. Christ Church was constructed between 1883-85 in Gothic Revival style, complete with stained glass windows. Nearby, Chalmers Church opened in 1860, the Florid Gothic style is typical of the Free Church of Scotland.

Morton House. This Georgian style building was previously St John’s Hospital. On this site in 1847, Dr Pugh was the first Australian doctor to successfully use general anaesthetic.

Old Bank. Built in 1884-5, this grand old building was once the head office of the Bank of Australasia (later known as ANZ) which was established in Launceston in 1836. The architecture speaks to the mining boom of the 1880s which brought immense wealth to Launceston and the state of Tasmania.

Old Brisbane Hotel. Beginning life as the King’s Head in the 1840s, the Old Brisbane Hotel was substantially remodelled in 1888. At the time it was the leading hotel in Launceston nicknamed “Government House of the north” because of its popularity with vice-royalty, governors, and the Tasmanian ‘upper crust’.

Old Umbrella Shop. This 1860s grocery shop was refitted as an Umbrella Shop in 1918 and little has changed since. The shop is one of the last surviving retail experience of the early 1900s and has been cared for by the National Trust since 1978.

Paterson Barracks. This convict-built Georgian building was originally the Commissariat Store and today is home to the 16th Field Battery, which is the oldest artillery unit in Australia.

Prince's Square. Established in 1858 on a disused brickfield, Prince’s Square is known for its dappled light and beautiful Val d'Osne Fountain. Its manicured symmetry belies earlier use as a rubbish dump, military parade ground, and rowdy political meeting-place.

Quadrant Mall. This picturesque Victorian streetscape was pedestrianised in 1979. During construction, an historic well was discovered at the northern end, on land granted to charismatic former convict (and once highwayman) Dicky White.

Queen Victoria Art Gallery at Royal Park. Built in 1891, the Art Gallery designed was chosen as part of a competition. The winner was a young architect by the name of John Duncan.

Queen Victoria Museum at Inveresk. This extraordinary industrial heritage site is the former Launceston Railway Workshops and Blacksmith Shop. Now transformed into a cultural precinct for Launceston.

Ritchie's Mill. Built around 1836, the flour mill operated continuously for 137 years. Along the eastern cliff face of Cataract Gorge, it’s possible to see the remains of the chute that once carried water to the mill.

Shields Street. The stretch of land between the wharves was once a busy industrial precinct packed with grain and wools stores, tins smelters and hotels. Keep an eye out for Esk Brewery which was established in 1881 and purchased by James Boag and his son, in 1883.

St John’s Church. Governor Arthur laid the foundation stone in 1824 and services were held in the incomplete church the following year. Until a dedicated chapel was built for convicts, prisoners would sit upstairs in the gallery, with the free people paying to rent pews below.

Synagogue. Built in 1844, the unusual Egyptian Revival style synagogue is one of the earliest surviving Synagogues in Australia.

Tasmanian Flour Mills. Built in the mid-1800s, the old store fronting the Esplanade was purchased by Thomas Monds as a store for his Carrick flour mill.

The Post Office. Launceston Post Shop was built between 1886 – 1899 in the Queen Anne architectural style. The stout tower (nicknamed the pepper pot) was added a few years later by public subscription, and the clock installed just in time to celebrate Launceston’s centenary in 1906.

Start planning your trip.