Brisbane’s first local government power station was an early project of the Jolly Council (the first Council of Greater Brisbane) built on land that had been purchased by Brisbane Council in 1915 for a park – the site of the former first racecourse of Brisbane. The new Greater Brisbane Council resumed part of New Farm Park in 1926 for a powerhouse. It was designed by Council architect Roy Rusden, and it took from 1926 to 1930 to build along with nine substations, to form a network of electricity production to power the tram system and the suburbs of Yeerongpilly, Ithaca and Toowong
The New Farm Powerhouse, as it was called, was designed as an elegant Modernist industrial structure. It began operations in 1928 producing electricity from coal transported by rail, and by pumping water from the River. In 1963 the Powerhouse was acquired by Southern Electric Authority of Queensland from Council. It continued to be a very effective producer of electricity, but by 1969 it was in decline with maintenance issues looming. Swanbank Powerhouse came online in 1971 and this led to the closure of New Farm Powerhouse by SEA because of serious structural concerns.
After decommissioning as a generator of electricity the Powerhouse building was used as an Army training ground, and a store for dangerous chemicals. Opposition to this storage from local residents succeeded in having the State Government abandon the practice. Brisbane City Council purchased the building back from Queensland Electricity Commission in 1989. Street kids hung out in the derelict structure and this led to walls being covered in graffiti. The redevelopment in the late nineties preserved their graffiti as part of the building’s history and character. This development designed by Peter Roy has produced a fine lively centre for the performing arts, opened in May 2000 and refurbished in 2007 to extend its catering services and community participation.
Further information is also available at the office of the Historical Society, next to the New Farm Library, open Thursdays from 2.00pm to 4 pm or by appointment.