By CAITLIN CROWLEY
THE HISTORY of healthcare on the Darling Downs will be preserved and showcased for future generations thanks to a bold renovation project transforming a grand old house on the Baillie Henderson Hospital site into a museum.
Toowoomba residents may be familiar with the heritage-listed Medical Superintendent’s House, which is visible from Hogg Street, and has sat boarded up and empty for the last decade.
It was built in 1888 for Dr James Hogg, the first Medical Superintendent of what was then called Toowoomba Lunatic Asylum, now known as Baillie Henderson Hospital.
Now it’s a construction site as builders embark on the painstaking task of restoring the home and reimagining the area into a museum precinct complete with offices, a cafe, gift shop and outdoor amphitheatre.
Hospital Foundation CEO Alison Kennedy said the Museum of Health collection featured historically significant artefacts, from clothing and equipment to staff records and stories – and was one of the largest collections of its kind in Australia.
“The foundation has been the custodians of the museum pieces since the 90s so to have a home for our museum pieces, we are beyond excited,” she said.
“This site itself is going to be absolutely beautiful. It’s a really exciting project because we are bringing back to life this Superintendent’s quarters that has just laid dormant on this beautiful acreage at Baillie Henderson.
“We believe the history of the health service needs to be captured and we thought we were the right people to bring it forward.”
Sean Lees (pictured below) from Hutchinson Builders said while it was a technically challenging project, restorations like this one were also very rewarding.
“It’s been a fairly long time between drinks since it’s had a bit of love, so we’re proud to be here, doing the work on it,” Lees said.
“Often it takes pulling them apart to recognise what you’re actually dealing with and this one’s been no different.”
It’s hoped the Museum of Health will be ready to welcome its first visitors by Carnival of Flowers 2024 and eventually it will be a short walk from the new Toowoomba Hospital, which will be on the other side of the sprawling Baillie Henderson site.
Stage one of the project has been fully funded thanks to government grants and a generous donation of $1.5 million from Toowoomba businessman and philanthropist Clive Berghofer.
Alison Kennedy said Toowoomba Hospital Foundation would be looking to the community to help fund stages two and three of the project.
“You can actually buy a paver and be part of history. We’re encouraging family and friends, or people who have previously worked at the health service, you can put your name on a paver and be part of history.”
Those interested in supporting the project can “purchase a paver” here.