Coopers build quite a legacy
BUILDING ON FIRM FOUNDATIONS By Lorraine Dooley ( Self- published) $ 59.95
BUILDING on Firm Foundations is the story of five generations of the Cooper family, from Robert Cooper in 1855 through to Roderick Cooper.
The family has certainly left its mark on the built heritage of Hobart and Tasmania.
It is more than an interesting story – it is also quite revealing. It amazed me how many well- known landmarks in Hobart were built by the Cooper family.
Sadly, a number of the buildings are no longer with us, having been replaced by modern, but may I add inferior, structures.
The book begins with the arrival of Robert Cooper, the first line of the Cooper masons, builders and architects, when he migrated to Tasmania from Scotland.
Six sons were to be born to Robert and wife Euphemia. It was not long before Robert’s talents were put to work – he was employed as a stonecutter on Hobart’s Government House ( well known for its exceptional stonework) and later the Campbell Free Church in Oatlands.
Sons William and Francis followed in their father’s footsteps and began tendering for building works in 1890.
They were then contracted to build the foundations for the chancel of St David’s Cathedral, Hobart.
They then went on to construct the Wesley Sunday School at New Town, the Treasury Chambers in Davey St, the stone and brickwork for Magdalen Home at Mt St Canice and the west- end tower of St Mary’s Cathedral, in Harrington St, Hobart.
The book devotes a page or two to the history of the individual buildings and a chapter to William Cooper, who was involved with the Tasmanian Cricket Association.
Other well- known buildings William Cooper was involved in building were the Tasmanian Public Library ( 1906) and the first G P Fitzgerald’s Department Store, which opened in Collins St, Hobart, in March 1884.
In 1899, the firm became William Cooper and Sons – those sons being Harry and Claude.
In 1914, the sons built the Blind and Deaf Institute in North Hobart ( now Rydges Hotel), while among their many other buildings was the Bank of New South Wales, in Elizabeth St, Hobart.
Later came the Strand Picture Theatre, in Liverpool St, which was well known as the “bug- house”.
William Cooper and Sons were the contractors for the Tramway sheds and offices.
Schools also were built by the firm, including the Princess Street School in Sandy Bay, St Joseph’s School on Macquarie Street ( now part of St Michael’s Collegiate school) and the Campbell Street School, which was constructed on an old burial ground for convicts, soldiers and officers.
The additional three storeys of the Cascade Brewery were built by Claude Cooper and Sons in 1926.
Who remembers the old Brownell’s Department Store in Murray St? The construction was one of William Cooper and Sons’ major projects. It involved additions and alternations to the original Brownell’s building, which was erected in 1895.
The author details the story of Claude Cooper, a businessman and sportsman who died in 1960.
Claude was involved with football, rowing, yachting and cricket. He was a very successful builder and a contractor for more than 50 years. One of his many triumphs was the building of the Royal Hobart Hospital and the Launceston General Hospital in the 1930s.
There is also a chapter on Roderick William Cooper, son of Claude and wife Gertrude, an architect who carries the Cooper name into modern times.
Even though it is a book about a particular family, the appeal is much wider, as readers will recognise the various buildings which the family was involved in and will learn much of their history.