Open House shares city's historic stories
TOOWOOMBA Open House is as much about the people and stories behind the buildings as the buildings themselves.
That's according to architect, National Trust branch chair and volunteer Open House co-ordinator Stephanie Keays, who has called Toowoomba home since 1992.
"It's the story of the buildings, the architects, the people who lived or worked there and the people who remember it ... perhaps a story someone remembers from their grandmother,” Stephanie said.
To that extent, everyone's experience of the 19 houses on display on Sunday, May 28, will be slightly different.
”The people here are really passionate about heritage,” Stephanie said.
"But I think sometimes it's easy to take what you have around you for granted.
"Open House gives people an opportunity to look into places they've wondered about, poke about behind the scenes and see it from a different perspective.”
With that in mind, you may need to be careful following the event, because Stephanie said many people found themselves looking up, beyond shopfront faces to the beautiful architecture above.
"It's like classical music. They say the more you understand about it, the more you can appreciate good music - and it's the same with architecture when you realise how much thought and effort goes into creating something, managing to balance the practical necessities with still making it an interesting building,” she said.
Standouts in this year's program for Stephanie include the Flexi School on Chalk Dr, a modern building with a "really intriguing design” that "challenges the way people think about education and schooling”.
On the flipside is Augusta's Cottage in Campbell St, the history of which the National Trust is still trying to solve the puzzle of.
While it is believed to have been built in the 1860s and was owned by Augusta Alford, wife of Toowoomba mayor Henry King Alford, it's not known if the couple ever lived there. You can enjoy scones and tea in the garden as you try to figure it out.
In an unusual twist, one of the buildings of note is actually the men's toilet in Russell St.
Built in 1919 and the oldest known existing public urinal in Queensland, Stephanie said it was one of the state's first pieces of sewerage infrastructure.
She notes that in a very forward-thinking move, the mayor of the time also included a park around the toilet for beautification but didn't give the building a roof.
Up to 3000 people generally attend various properties during Open House, which Stephanie said was often a revelation that "really opens people's eyes to what their city has”.
The full list of buildings and times they will open to the public is available at www.toowoombaopenhouse.com.au.
The website also gives details on special events including the Laneway and Hidden Building Secrets Discovery Walk, the Tombstone Tour, Architects' Design Tour and Railway Heritage Tour, which start on Saturday, May 27, in the lead-up to Sunday's event.