With so many timber buildings in Brisbane town, the threat of fire in the 1860s was a real one, as had been evidence by two significant fires in Queen Street in 1864, the latter of which destroyed fifty houses, two banks, three hotels and four drapery businesses.
In response to the threat of periodic fires, a Citizen Volunteer Fire Brigade had been formed on 30 January 1865. To celebrate their first year as a brigade, on 2 January 1866 the members of this group marched through the principal streets of the town, before holding a ball and supper in the not-yet-occupied Immigration Depot in William Street. The venue was courtesy of its contract builder, former mayor John Petrie.
For the purposes of this social function, the lowest level of the new building became a dining room. A range of food items was set out. After a number of speeches were made and toasts drunk, the group proceeded upstairs to the William Street level, to what has been designated the ball room for the evening. Flags and evergreens decorated the room, along with some of the fire-fighting apparatus used by the Brigade. According to the Brisbane Courier dancing commenced, ‘shortly after 10 o’clock , and was kept up with vigor until the early hours of the morning.’
- Brisbane Courier, 3 January 1866, p. 3.
- Comyn, TW and FGR Newman, Souvenir: opening new metropolitan station, Brisbane Fire Brigade, November 11th, 1908, p. 5.