The Powerhouse used to be as its name suggests when it was opened in 1928, with its primary purpose to supply power to the tram lines and electricity to nearby suburbs. However, Brisbane was slowly but surely growing and the supply was soon unable to meet the demand. While the Powerhouse continued operations, other stations that were owned by private companies appeared and in 1961 the Powerhouse was sold. It was finally decommissioned in 1971 when Brisbane converted from tram to bus services.
The area became derelict and at one point the building was used to store dangerous chemicals, later becoming a squat for the homeless. Vandals painted graffiti on both the in and outsides, most of which still remains today as a part of the Powerhouses’ character. In the 1980’s it was given a new lease on life when land rights were re-acquired by the city, and refurbishments were soon underway. Many of the old turbines, boilers and “art” were kept to remind the visitors of local history.
The building is now used as an arts and culture precinct by the Brisbane City Council, with festivals of every kind calling the area home each month of the year like the Brisbane Comedy Festival (cue the Wil Anderson flashbacks). The Powerhouse is equipped with two theatres, river views, bars and terraces, which can be booked for groups and functions.
For food with a view or post-entertainment fare, there is WATT Restaurant and the New Farmer’s Kitchen, located on river level next to the “flood” installation that doubles as a jungle gym for big and little kids. Jan Powers’ Farmers Markets are held on Saturday mornings, and New Farm Park nearby provides free Council fitness classes like Tai Chi, public barbecues and plenty of greenery to sit down and spread a picnic blanket. Come on down, have a coffee and buy some French pastries – but leave the spray paint at home.