The Kingston Powerhouse
The construction of the Canberra Glassworks inside the existing fabric of the Kingston Powerhouse has carefully preserved the heritage values of this iconic Canberra building. Many of the original finishes and fittings remain and the building includes a range of heritage interpretation signage to give visitors a glimpse into the past life of the building.
The Kingston Powerhouse is Canberra’s oldest permanent public building. It was built between 1913 and 1915 and was designed by the Federal Government architect, J S Murdoch. Murdoch also designed other important heritage buildings in Canberra such as Old Parliament House and its East and West Blocks, Gorman House, the Hotel Canberra (now the Hyatt) and the Kurrajong Hotel.
The Powerhouse was originally intended to be a temporary structure and was used to supply Canberra with coal-generated electricity from 1915, continuing to operate as a powerhouse until 1957.
It is said that the Powerhouse is a good example of early 20th Century industrial architecture and that like the other buildings designed by Murdoch it uses the ‘Federal Capital’ style – which is a modern interpretation of classical architecture where the ornamentation has been stripped back to plain geometrical forms.
The Powerhouse is built of reinforced concrete strengthened with river gravel on a steel frame.
It was sited on the banks of the Molonglo River and used the river water to convert to steam to generate electricity. This site was also located alongside the railway line, which brought coal to fire the boilers. The impressive coal elevator remains affixed to the Northern side of the building today. The elevator lifted coal from the trains into the hoppers in boiler room.
The Powerhouse and surrounding Precinct is included on the ACT Heritage Places Register and the Register of the National Estate.