From Cathedral to Cathedral Place
Cathedral Place is now built on the site of what was once to be a cathedral. The history of the formerly proposed Holy Name Cathedral site is a fascinating story about the aspirations of a generation of Catholics and their archbishop to build Brisbane's finest cathedral.
The site was originally known as Duncan's Hill as it was named after William Augustine Duncan, Brisbane's first Collector of Customs who built his home Dara here. This single-storey, Tuscan-style abode became the property of the Catholic Church in the 1860s when it was acquired as the residence for Bishop James Quinn and later Archbishop Robert Dunne. Dara was demolished in 1891 and replaced with a much grander residence for Robert Dunne. James Duhig, who succeeded Archbishop Dunne as the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane in 1917, decided that the imposing site occupied by the second Dara was the best place to build the new cathedral.
Architect Jack Hennessey of the Sydney firm Hennessey and Hennessey drew up plans for a massive Renaissance basilica.
The Catholic Church donated land to the Brisbane City Council to widen Ann Street in exchange for building a retaining wall along the street frontage to Dara. The Council resumed the land bounded by Wickham, Ann and Gotha Streets in front of the proposed cathedral forecourt for a park. Centenary Place was opened in 1924 to commemorate one hundred years of settlement in Brisbane.
James Duhig vacated Dara in February 1927. He turned the first sod on the site a few months later in June assisted by the Mayor, William Jolly and prominent benefactor T C Beirne of department store fame. The foundation stones of the cathedral dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus were laid in an impressive ceremony on 16 September 1928. The whole Australian Roman Catholic hierarchy, the Governor, the Premier, the Lord Mayor and other dignitaries with some 35,000 others were in attendance. One foundation stone was laid by the Papal Legate, Cardinal Cerretti, and the other by Archbishop Gilmartin of Tuam. Marble and soil from the Roman Catacombs and Irish soil were buried under the foundation stones along with newspapers and coins. Both foundation stones are now lodged at St Stephens Cathedral.
Debt and the depression years brought building work on the cathedral to a halt. Nevertheless, heartened by continuing contributions despite the bad economic times, Archbishop Duhig ordered the completion of the crypt. It was opened for public worship in 1935.
The Catholic Church sold the land in 1985 and the crypt was demolished in 1992. The Ann and Gotha Street walls are the only visible remains of Archbishop Duhig's dream.
In 1999 Devine Limited completed the new vision for Cathedral Place, an impressive 1.5 ha site bounded by Gipps, Wickham, Gotha and Ann Streets on the edge of Fortitude Valley and Brisbane's CBD. To preserve something of the history and flavour of the site various apartment-blocks surrounding the central oasis are given the following titles: Notre Dame, Cambridge, Oxford, Sandringham, Westminster, Kensington, Canterbury and Duhig. Brisbane Lord Mayor, Councillor Jim Soorley, officially opened Cathedral Place on Friday the 30th April 1999.
(Historical information courtesy of the Brisbane City Council)
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