Court House Museum

This timber building was constructed on the police reserve adjacent to the waterfront at Port Douglas in 1879.

It is identified as the second oldest surviving timber court house to be commissioned by the Queensland Government. The design typifies the simple architecture which was applied, not only to regional court houses, but to other public use buildings as well.

"Official police use ceased in 1957 and it was unoccupied by 1961.  In 1963 the Department of Works considered the expense of repair uneconomical and the disposal of this building forced its removal from the police reserve. It is due to a large measure of community self-help combined with a large stroke of luck that this building remains in existence, echoing Mrs. Betty Whiting and husband Albert's remarks when purchasing the building from the State Government in 1968 … 'So there is nothing for it but to roll up our sleeves and do the job ourselves.'

The Douglas Shire Council and the Port Douglas Restoration Society took on the mantle of trusteeship and responsibility for the project after a Queensland Government decision to excise the original site from the police reserve in May of 1993.

In October of 1993 the project scope was extended to include sensitive end use of the court house by allowing the Douglas Shire Historical Society to create a local history museum.

"In mid-1993 the building was returned to its original as-built site and after undergoing restoration was opened on 5 April 1997 by the newly formed Douglas Shire Historical Society as a museum."

Today the murder trial of the only woman to be officially hanged in Queensland is featured in the same room where the case first came before a court.  Police and supreme court hearings which led to execution by hanging for Ellen Thomson are now revisited through audio-visual and graphic displays produced by the Douglas Shire Historical Society.  The case, which was highly controversial last century remains so to this day.

Some of the Museum exhibits include:

ELLEN THOMPSON
Ellen Thomson became the only woman legally hanged in Queensland. She was sentenced over the murder of her husband, William Thomson.

ROAD CONSTRUCTION
The route over the ranges to the Hodgkinson goldfield became known as Christy Palmerston's "Bump Track".

CHINESE COMMUNITY
The census of 1886 shows that ethnic Chinese represented almost two-thirds of the district's total population.

POLICE SERVICE
Henry Hasenkamp began as gold escort trooper and retired as sergeant at Port Douglas after 40 difficult years.

SHIPPING NAVIGATION
The impressive Chance Brothers light, a revolving dioptric Fresnel lens of the 3rd order, was the original light mounted on Low Island lighthouse in 1878.

SUGAR CULTIVATION
Settlement on the Mossman River by Dan Hart and Richard Owen Jones led to the construction of the Mossman Central Mill.

CORAL SEA BATTLE
Graphic display of the events centred on the Battle of the Coral Sea 7-8 May 1942 off the North Queensland coast.


The Court House is the second oldest building in Port Douglas after the privately owned school house.  It is listed on:

The work of bringing the court house back to its original site for public inspection was undertaken by:

Douglas Shire Council.
Port Douglas Restoration Society
Douglas Shire Historical Society.
Government, corporate & private sponsors

Restoration has resulted from the community's perseverance over a thirty year period and this effort was recognized in 1997 when the project was awarded a John Herbert Award for Excellence in Heritage Conservation by the National Trust of Queensland.

Police buildings about 1905, left to right: Police Barracks, Lockup, Court House
Victims of the 16 March 1911 cyclone
Finally home with former owner Noel Weare