Public opinion of the finished Government House was overwhelmingly positive. The press declared it a “structure highly creditable to the colony” and reported that “the building itself appears to be well adapted in point of coolness and ventilation to the climate of this colony; the rooms being large, lofty and airy, and furnished in a plain but exceedingly tasteful manner”.
The building’s orientation caused the only major point of criticism, in that it faced the river rather than the adjacent Botanic Gardens. Some felt this resulted in an ugly view of the Kangaroo Point stone quarry, described as ‘a dull, flat and unprofitable face of rock’. However a likely explanation for the placement is that it was designed to be an impressive sight for visitors arriving by ship: as they circled the point, the grand house sitting high on the promontory would come into view as a symbol of Queensland’s potential prosperity. Against the backdrop of early Brisbane – a frontier town of dirt tracks and huts scattered throughout the bush, where straying pigs were a major public nuisance – Government House stood tall as a vice-regal palace.
Queensland’s first Governor, Sir George Bowen, took up residence in May 1862 and was delighted with his new home, calling it “handsome”, “commodious” and “beautifully situated”. Governor Bowen was the first of eleven governors to live in the House over its 48 years of service as a vice-regal residence. In that time four children were born, two governors died, and countless key moments in Queensland’s history took place within its walls.