About Salamanca Place
Salamanca Place, part of historic docks area of Hobart is lined with a long row of simple Georgian sandstone warehouses that were built in the 1830s to store fruit, grain, wool, whale oil and imported goods from around the world.
Salamanca Place began taking shape in the late 1820s, when the number of ships carrying whale products, import and export goods, immigrants and convicts in and out of the harbour became too much for the Old Wharf at the foot of Hunter Street. In 1830 the Government agreed to build a new wharf where Salamanca Place now exists. New Wharf, as it was known, soon became one of the great whaling ports of the world and as Tasmania’s export trades increased, the need for dockside warehouses quickly grew.
Hundreds of convicts, housed in hulks moored at New Wharf, were used to quarry out the cliffs behind Salamanca Place, cut the stone and build the row of sandstone warehouses that now line Salamanca Place.
Askin Morrison was a merchant who arrived in Tasmania in 1829. In the early 1830s he imported a cargo of tea from China that reputedly made him a profit of 10,000 pounds. It is thought that he used this money in 1834 to purchase a parcel of land fronting New Wharf. Morrison built a warehouse for his import and export business on the property (now 65 Salamanca Place), where he stored whale oil and products. By 1844 he had purchased an adjacent block and built a second warehouse (67 Salamanca Place). The building was built with a gantry at the first floor level that could lower barrels of whale oil straight out of the building onto a ship’s deck.
Adjacent to Morrison’s first warehouse, Richard Willis, a merchant who arrived from London in 1834, built a warehouse with a covered archway leading to stables in a courtyard at the rear (65b Salamanca Place). Willis imported pianos, wines and silverware until his business collapsed in the 1840s depression. When he lost his building to a creditor, Morrison quickly purchased it at a bargain price.
In 1853 Morrison bought another warehouse from Captain William Young, a whaler and timber merchant who also owned 600 acres of forested land on Bruny Island.
Brothers, Hugh and John Addison originally built the two four-storey warehouses (77-79 Salamanca Place) in 1843 on land purchased from Captain James Kelly. John Addison, an architect, designed the buildings to flank the pre-existing Kelly’s Lane.
Throughout the nineteenth century, the whalers dramatically diminished the whale populations in the waters surrounding Tasmania, leaving some species on the brink of extinction. By the late 1800s Hobart’s whaling days were over and the row of warehouses that lined New Wharf were given new life as fruit processing and jam producing factories.
Tasmania’s climate was well suited to growing stone and small fruits and the export market for jam and processed fruit expanded rapidly in the 1890s. During the next 50 years, many Salamanca Place buildings were expanded into each other to accommodate hundreds of workers producing millions of tonnes of jam and tinned fruit for export all over the world.
Many of the factory workers lived in Battery Point, directly behind Salamanca Place. Throughout the early twentieth century Battery Point was a rough working class suburb, filled with jam factory workers employed by IXL Jams in Hunter Street or WD Peacock & Sons in Salamanca Place.
In 1910 IXL purchased the Salamanca Place jam factory from WD Peacock, but it continued to operate as before and was known simply as Peacock’s factory. After the onset of World War II the factory produced pure fruit juice and cordials as well as canned fruit and pulp for jam.
As jam and fruit sales slowed through the 1960s, many of the warehouses fell into a state of decline, with various buildings and floors rented out and others remaining unoccupied for years. The boom years that gave Tasmania its identity as “The Apple Isle” lasted until Britain entered the European Common Market in 1971 and Tasmania’s main fruit export market collapsed as a result.
By 1974 the Peacock Factory on Salamanca Place had been closed down and was on the market. Fortunately, a group of visionary locals, including Claudio Alcorso (one of Tasmania’s great arts advocates), saw the potential to establish a vibrant community and arts centre in Hobart’s working port area. They formed the Community and Art Centre Foundation, established objectives for the potential Centre and pressured the State Government to purchase the old Peacock Factory. The Salamanca Arts Centre came into being in 1976 when the State Government purchased the seven historic sandstone warehouses in Hobart’s Salamanca Place (along with a cottage in Kelly Street) for the people of Tasmania.
The Government leased the buildings to the Foundation for 99 years at a peppercorn rent. In exchange, the Foundation became responsible for repairing and maintaining the dilapidated buildings and managing a
range of diverse arts programs and events, to be funded through space and venue hire to artists, arts organisations and commercial tenants. Teams of committed and tireless volunteers moved in to clean out nearly 200 years of industrial dust and grime and bring the buildings back to life.
Today, the Arts Centre is the cultural hub of Hobart and the heart of the arts in Tasmania. The buildings themselves house visual and performing arts practitioners, craft and design professionals, film companies, galleries, craft and design shops and retail outlets, arts organisations and public spaces. Rich in history and alive with contemporary arts experiences, exhibitions, music and theatre performances, readings, festivals, forums and workshops.
In 1995, after considerable opposition from the Battery Point Progress Association and the Salamanca Traders Association, the Hobart City Council approved a development application for the Salamanca Quarry. The Salamanca Square complex, comprising apartments, shops, restaurants, offices, residential accommodation and a public square, was completed in 1997.
The wharf and warehouses that serviced the clippers have evolved into a plaza of cafés, restaurants and shops; with pubs, artists, galleries, craft shops, alfresco dining and nightlife adding to the atmosphere of the place. On Saturdays, Salamanca Place takes on a different look and festival atmosphere when it hosts the famous Salamanca Market. Over 300 stallholders congregate to sell produce and craftwork from all over Tasmania as buskers, artists and performers provide entertainment.
The Salamanca Castanets
Salamanca Arts Centre
A Quarry Speaks, Anthony R. Hope, 2006
Photos published with permission from the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office