Murphy's Pub with scaffolding in readiness for the renovation.
Murphy's Pub with scaffolding in readiness for the renovation. Rob Williams

'It's cracking': Builders move in to save iconic Ipswich pub

SCAFFOLDING has gone up at the iconic Murphy's Pub in the CBD.

It's the first obvious sign of intricate restoration works undertaken by Ipswich City Council as part of the CBD redevelopment.

The council promised to preserve the heritage listed building, which was visibly damaged.

Cracks had appeared in the front of the hotel as the foundations began failing and the building became unstable.

The gaps seen outside are reflected inside with some openings between walls as big as 20mm, with cracking in the front wall up to 50mm.

During the past few months, workers have been seen coming and going and the council says Queensland Rail has undergone a thorough inspection of the train tunnel running underneath.

Now the restoration works have reached a new milestone with preparation underway to remove parts of the building's front.

Those pieces will be moved into storage while the restoration works continue, then brought back later.

Part of the works, according to the report submitted with the development application, include rebuilding the stairs, reinstating the ceiling and walls and rebuilding the verandah.

Council planning chair Cr Andrew Antoniolli said the cost was about $3 million.

"It is painstaking, it is delicate and it is expert work," Cr Antoniolli said.

"It will be an expert restoration.

"At the end of it we will show footage throughout the restoration so residents can see the extent of the restoration for themselves."

Residents can expect the building's interior to be returned to a raw form with certain heritage features.

But there won't be a fit-out with the council leaving that to the future tenants or owners to decide.

According to the cultural report listed with the development application, penned by JM Pearce Architects, the hotel was cracking due to a lack of support under the walls and footings.

The soil underneath had become "liquefied", a geotechnical investigation found, and demolishing the neighbouring buildings would have contributed to the destabilisation of the ground under the hotel.

Murphy's Hotel, formerly the Commonwealth Hotel, was built in 1910.

In 1988 plans to expand the hotel were put forward with the additions significantly increasing the bar area and rear yard.

In the same era a new railway station was built and the Kern Corporation undertook an extensive CBD refurbishment.

According to J.M. Pearce Architects, that period of construction signalled the beginning of the problems for Murphy's.

The report states;

'Since the construction of the adjacent Ipswich City Mall buildings and underground carpark, the retained earth on the hotel property has become increasingly unsound. There has been significant loss of ground support at the foundations under the hotel building following an ongoing liquefication of the soil, as identified by the geotechnical investigation....'

The council was unable to give a timeline on the restoration works, again stressing it was a complicated process.