From cottage to classic

Have you ever wondered about the history of the University of Queensland's St Lucia campus? Find out more about the oldest building on the original university site in this blog from UQ Archivist Bruce Ibsen.

One could be forgiven for thinking the oldest building on the St Lucia campus is the stately Forgan Smith building, however it’s not.  Nestled beside the W.E.P. Harris oval, across from St. John’s College is the Campus Kindy.  Perhaps surprisingly, the core building of the Kindy holds the distinction of being the oldest building on the original St Lucia site.

Image of St Lucia site prior to construction of Forgan Smith Building with location of Campus Kindy highlighted. Aerial 1936 UQA S908 p3           Image of St Lucia site during the construction of Forgan Smith Building with location of Campus Kindy highlighted. Aerial 1947 UQA S908 p1730

Prior to the development of St Lucia for the University, the building, constructed in early 1934, was the Principal’s residence when the site was occupied by the St Lucia Farm School.  Following two years of planning the school was set up in 1934 to help unemployed or disadvantaged youth develop skills that might improve their chances of gaining a job.  Eventually the Farm School was re-located to Moggill farm or as it is known today, Pinjarra Hills.  With construction set to begin on the main administrative building, the Principal’s residence was moved to a site where the JD Story building now stands.     

Initially rented out, a decision was made in 1949 to house the University caretaker in the residence.  In those days the caretaker assumed the role of today’s Security section by ensuring the site was secured at the end of classes and responding to any emergencies that might arise.  The caretaker’s cottage, as it was then known, stayed in that location until around 1963 when the site was cleared for the construction of the J D Story building.  Rather than demolish the building, it was moved, once again, to the south in the area now occupied by the Skerman building.

Cloisters construction UQA S973 p3      Caretakers cottage 1964 S908 p564

Pressure to move the cottage emerged again following the proposal to build the Microbiology building on the site.  Initially a proposal was put forward to move the cottage behind the Avalon theatre, however the Brisbane City Council rejected that suggestion on developmental grounds.  Finally the movement to establish a kindergarten or crèche combined with their need for a suitable building came together in July 1970 when Senate approved in principle the proposal to remove the caretaker’s cottage to a suitable site for the establishment of a Kindergarten/Crèche Centre.

Since that time the building has remained a focal point for the Kindy, meeting the early childhood needs of several generations of staff and students, most of whom would have been unaware of its historic significance.

Campus kindy 2016 UQA S178 b646


  • University of Queensland Archives; UQA S130, First Administrative Series; file – Sites-St. Lucia 1929-1936 box 435
  • University of Queensland Archives; UQA S131, Second Administrative Series; file - 33770.11160.00.01
  • University News; 22 May 1996
  • University of Queensland Senate minutes; 2 July 1970
Last updated:
7 June 2021