The land on which the Government House stands was originally granted as two separate portions. Portion 223 was bought in May 1860 by Johann Christian Heussler, who also purchased the adjoining portion 291 two years later in partnership with George Reinhard Francksen. In 1864 Francksen died and the land passed to Heussler. At that time the landscape in this outlying suburb of Brisbane may have been close to undeveloped natural bushland.
The Hon Johann (John) Christian Heussler, 1820-1907, was a native of Germany who emigrated to Victoria, Australia in 1852. Due to poor health he moved to Brisbane 1854 and established the mercantile firm Heussler and Co. Over two decades Heussler became a highly respected businessman and citizen of Queensland. He was recognised as a founding member of the Queensland Club, Consul for the Netherlands, German Consul, and Emigration Agent for German shipping companies. In 1866 he was appointed to the Queensland Legislative Council.
Heussler commissioned Brisbane architect Benjamin Backhouse to design a residence for Heussler, which was constructed in 1865. Heussler named his home Fernberg, giving it a name of German origin that meant “distant mountain”.
The decision to lease Fernberg as a temporary Vice-regal residence was made in February 1910 following the formal dedication on 10 December 1909 of the original Government House as Queensland’s first university, the University of Queensland. At the same time, plans for a new Government House to be erected at Victoria Park were being prepared; however, work on the new House never progressed beyond the construction of footings. In June 1911, despite reports that Fernberg was too small, the government purchased Fernberg as a permanent government house.
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