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WCEI New South Wales Calendar of Events 2023 (TBA)
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WCEI QLD – Christmas Soiree
December 8, 2022 @ 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
2022 is coming to a close, and WCEI Queensland invites you and your guests to celebrate the festive season at our annual Christmas Soiree, this year being held at historic Brisbane residence Toonarbin at Highgate Hill, on Thursday 8 December.
Toonarbin was built in the 1860s by prolific colonial architect Benjamin Backhouse (who also created many Brisbane landmarks such as Government House and the Polo Club) as a three-storey Georgian residence on eight acres of land running from Dornoch Terrace – which was, back then, little more than a dirt track – down to the Brisbane River. Backhouse sold the property in 1868 to Captain Henry O’Reilly, and three generations of his family lived there until the 1920s, when it was sold to the Catholic Church. Archbishop Duhig then undertook significant alterations to the building, adding verandahs and enclosing it in the red brick that remains as the building’s exterior to this day. Much of the land was subdivided. The building then served as a Convent for the Sisters of Mercy until the end of the 20th Century. It remained vacant until the present owners acquired it in 2007, intending to return the building to a residence, as it once was. This restoration took five years, reducing the then 17 bedrooms to the original five and all the cedar joinery and original plaster work was restored. The house originally had 12 fireplaces, reduced to five while it was a Convent, and now it has 10.
Toonarbin custodians Carmel Dyer and Allen Hunter (retired psychologists) both grew up in Brisbane and developed a love for historic buildings, especially as they saw the city was losing so many. They saw Toonarbin as a chance to save a particularly significant building from a potentially sad fate. They always intended to share Toonarbin with the community and are doing so now through music, charity and art events.
On the evening of the Christmas Soiree, Allen will host mini tours of the substantial collection of Australian art at Toonarbin, for WCEI members and guests to enjoy. Opera Queensland also will join us for a special performance organised by WCEI Queensland member Megan Kair. Members and guests will enjoy hospitality catered by WCEI Queensland member Penny Culpo’s business, Chez Nous Catering, including French champagne and exquisite canapés.