Townsville’s ‘Sugar Shaker’ hotel is getting a makeover, prompting admirers to sift through its history – Michmutters

Townsville’s ‘Sugar Shaker’ hotel is getting a makeover, prompting admirers to sift through its history

It has been described as one Australia’s most recognizable buildings after the Sydney Opera House, but this icon is set for a face lift.

Townsville’s Sugar Shaker hotel has defined the city skyline for more than 46 years with its original brown sandstone color.

But now the building’s exterior is being completely repainted, prompting admirers to sift through its history.

An old, but color photograph of a busy city street.  A post office sits before a much taller circular high rise building.
The “Sugar Shaker” is located in Townsville’s city heart on Flinders Street.(Supplied: Townsville City Council )

The hotel will maintain its silhouette, which resembles a sugar shaker with a distinctive spout-like shape at its peak.

Dr Mark Jones, a prominent Architect and Associate Professor at the University of Queensland, said the Sugar Shaker had become one of the most recognizable buildings in Australia.

“Most imagery of Townsville incorporates this building, not dissimilarly to the Sydney Opera House,” he said.

“I don’t think, apart from those two examples, there’s another building in Australia that so exemplifies the city in which it’s located.”

A black and white photograph taken from a helicopter captures the construction of a circular high rise building in the 1970s.
Townsville’s “Sugar Shaker” was built in the 1970s and remains the tallest building in the CBD.(Supplied: Townsville City Council)

Dr Jones said at the time the building opened in 1976 as Hotel Townsville there were two similar properties in the country; the Tower Mill Hotel in Brisbane, and Australia Square in Sydney.

“I suspect that the architects for the Sugar Shaker drew some inspiration from those two buildings,” he said.

“But they went a step further with this interesting enclosure on the roof air conditioning cooling towers that gives it a sugar shaker shape.”

A black and white photo of Townsville's Flinders Street Mall.
The hotel is often used in imagery used to market Townsville.(Supplied: Townsville City Council)

46 years after the building was erected in Townsville, debate on whether the resemblance was intentional continues.

“I’m not sure if they were directly thinking of a sugar shaker or if that came from people afterwards,” Dr Jones said.

“Either way, it’s a wonderful symbol for cane-growing region.

“I can’t think of another example, except for the sort of kitschy big banana and big pineapple-type installations.”

A wide shot of Townsville's modern CBD.
Forty-six years after the building was erected, the “Sugar Shaker” is being refurbished.(ABC North Qld: Chloe Chomicki)

Director of marketing for lobby group Townsville Enterprise Lisa Woolfe said there were several local theories about the design.

“Apparently, it was modeled off a sugar shaker that was sold in a nearby cafe,” she said.

“But I have also heard over the years people refer to it as a lipstick.”

A color photograph of a regional city with one circular building preceding over all of the other properties.
There is debate about whether the buildings likeness to a sugar shaker was intentional.(Supplied: Townsville City Council)

Townsville’s deputy mayor Mark Molachino said he suspected the architects were intentional with their design.

“I don’t know the history of design, I will be honest,” he said.

“But whoever did design it has made it look as close to a sugar shaker as possible, so they have done a good job with the likeness.”

The hotel has been known as Centra Townsville, Townsville International Hotel and Holiday Inn over the years, but is currently owned by Hotel Grand Chancellor.

Manager Paul Gray said it was a “daunting” task to choose a new color for the “iconic” building.

“Locals are very passionate about the Sugar Shaker, but it did need a refresh,” Mr Gray said.

A photo of several balconies on a sandstone building.  Half of them have been painted gray and white.
The ‘Sugar Shaker’ is expected to have been completely repainted by the end of August.(ABC North Qld: Chloe Chomicki)

The refurbishment, including a complete repaint of the building, is due to be completed by the end of August.

“The building itself is being painted in grey,” Mr Gray said.

“It’s going to have white running up the risers, just to break it up a little bit as well.

“I think it’ll tie in quite nicely with the buildings around the city and look a lot more modern.”


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