This single storeyed timber building was erected in 1870 as the Telegraph Office in Cardwell. Designed by the Colonial Works office, the Superintendent of Roads and Buildings at the time was Charles Tiffin. The contract for the building was let to George McCallum of Brisbane. Records indicate that the building was prefabricated in Brisbane and shipped to Cardwell where it was erected on the present site. It is considered to be one of the earliest examples of prefabricated post office buildings, reflecting the need to erect substantial Government buildings in remote settlements where structures were otherwise relatively unsophisticated.
The Cardwell town reserve was proclaimed in July 1864, and Cardwell was settled with a great deal of confidence and Government support for its future role in the development of North Queensland, as it had a deep, sheltered harbour. A substantial government infrastructure was established in Cardwell, including a pilot's quarters, police barracks and lockup, customs house and sub-collector's residence, lands office, and telegraph station, which reflected this enthusiasm. A Post Office was opened in Cardwell in 1864, the first Post Master also officiating as the District Registrar, Sub Collector of Customs, Clerk of Petty Sessions and Harbour Master.
The telegraph office and the police station were among a group of government buildings erected on Section 42 of the town reserve, also referred to as the Government reserve. Tenders were called for the erection of a telegraph office in Cardwell in October 1869, and the office opened in 1870. A combined post and telegraph office was established soon after, and the majority of Post Masters from 1870-1893 were employees of the Electric Telegraph Department. It was made an official post office in 1893, as part of a state-wide move to make official all post offices at telegraph offices.
The erection of a telegraph office in Cardwell coincided with the expansion of the telegraph service in Queensland. The establishment of a telegraph line from Bowen to the Gulf of Carpentaria was considered desirable for two main reasons; to serve the settlers in the area, and there was the possibility of joining the proposed overseas cable from Java. The telegraph line reached Cardwell in December 1869. Tenders had been called in September 1869 for the erection of telegraph lines from Cardwell to Gilberton and then to the Gulf of Carpentaria, and the two sections were completed in 1871 and 1872 respectively. Although the overseas cable joined the South Australia Overland Telegraph line at Darwin in 1872, the line from Cardwell successfully served the settlers in the Gulf region.
The port of Cardwell never developed into an important port for North Queensland, as access between the harbour and the hinterland was obstructed by the mountain range to the west of the town. Townsville became the principal access point for inland travel, and rapidly bypassed Cardwell in growth and development.
The configuration of the building with four core rooms and detached kitchen was the most common form of timber telegraph/post office buildings in the nineteenth century. The Cardwell office appears to have been the first of approximately thirty buildings erected in this form during the period 1869-1885.
The design of the building required adaptation to suit the tropical climatic conditions. The timber shingles on the roof rotted, and by 1890 had been covered with iron. In 1904 the shingles were removed and iron roof replaced. The building had been constructed on low stumps without ant caps, and had been infested with termites by the 1890s. Renovation of the building in 1897 included the replacement of some floorboards and restumping the building on higher stumps with ant caps. A chimney and fireplace erected as part of the original building were removed.
The verandahs were progressively enclosed to include a bedroom, bathroom, and extension of the office. The original detached kitchen appears to have been demolished and replaced by a larger kitchen by 1896. The kitchen was linked via a covered walkway to the main building by 1904.
The post office was made an unofficial post office in 1966, and sold by the Commonwealth Government in 1967. It was acquired by Mr Bill Wilson, a former Cardwell Post Master, and it continued to serve as an unofficial post office until c1983 when a new post office was opened in Cardwell. The building has been used as residence in recent years and was acquired by the present owners in 1988.Place Description
The former Cardwell Post Office is located on the southern corner of Victoria Street, the main street of Cardwell, and Balliol Street opposite the foreshore fronting the entrance to Hinchinbrook Channel. It is part of a precinct of government buildings, including the former Shire Hall, Police Station and residence, former Court House, CWA building and Cardwell State School.
The building is a single-storeyed timber structure, consisting of four rooms with a central corridor, surrounded by verandahs to all four sides with a kitchen house at the rear connected by an enclosed walkway. The building has a hipped corrugated iron roof, with a break in pitch to the verandahs. There are some concrete stumps, but most are of timber.
The northeast verandah, and much of the northwest, has been enclosed with corrugated fibrous cement sheeting and has both timber sash and aluminium sliding windows. The western verandah corner is enclosed with chamferboard, part of the southeast has also been enclosed with chamferboard to form a bathroom, and the other verandahs have been enclosed with glass louvres and fibrous cement sheeting. The kitchen house is of single-skin chamferboard with sash windows and a hipped corrugated iron roof.
The single-skin building has weatherboard to the verandah walls with beaded horizontal boarding to the inside face of the two northeast rooms. Internal walls have vertical boarding and tie rods have been inserted connecting the top plates of opposite walls. Ceilings are boarded, with the outer edge being raked to the walls. Doors are timber panelled, with the front and back doors having glass fanlights.
The northern room was used as the post office and retains some early timber fixtures including shelving and drawers. This room has a counter, with a timber battened panel above, opening to the enclosed northern corner verandah. The eastern room has a large louvred window in the northeast wall, and a timber fireplace surround attached to the southeast wall over an enclosed doorway. Both rear rooms have tall casement windows, and verandahs have unlined ceilings.
A Coconut Palm is located at the northern corner of the site, another Palm is to the west of the building, and a Mango tree is at the south of the site. The property has a timber post and rail fence with wire infill to both street frontages. A weatherboard toilet is located to the south, and a timber tankstand with concrete stumps is located to the northwest, of the kitchen house. A Telecom Substation adjoins the southwest boundary.