Toowoomba (nicknamed 'The Garden City') is a city in the Darling Downs region of Queensland, Australia . It is located 127 km (79 mi) west of Queensland's capital city, Brisbane. It has an estimated district population of 157,699, A university and cathedral city, Toowoomba hosts the Australian Carnival of Flowers each September, and Easterfest is held annually over the Easter weekend. There are more than 150 public parks and gardens in Toowoomba. It has developed into a regional centre for business and government services. It is also the provincial capital of the Darling Downs.
It is the sixteenth-largest city in Australia, the sixth largest in Queensland, after Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Townsville and Cairns, as well as being the most populous inland city in Queensland.
Toowoomba's colonial history traces back to 1816 when English botanist and explorer Allan Cunningham arrived in Australia from Brazil and in June 1827 discovered 4 million acres (16,000 km²) of rich farming and grazing land, which became known as the Darling Downs, bordered on the east by the Great Dividing Range and situated 100 miles (160 km) west of the settlement of Moreton Bay. Thirteen years later when George and Patrick Leslie established Toolburra Station 56 miles (90 km) south-west of Toowoomba the first settlers arrived on the Downs and established a township of bark-slab shops called The Springs which was soon renamed Drayton. Land for the town was first surveyed in 1849, then again in 1853.
Towards the end of the 1840s Drayton had grown to the point where it had its own newspaper, general store, trading post and the Royal Bull's Head Inn, which was built by William Horton and still stands today. Horton is regarded as the true founder of Toowoomba, despite the fact that he was not the first man to live there. Drovers and wagon masters spread the news of the new settlement at Toowoomba. By 1858 Toowoomba was growing fast. It had a population of 700, three hotels and many stores. Land selling at £4 an acre (£988/km²) in 1850 was now £150 an acre (£37,000/km²). Governor Bowen granted the wish of locals and a new municipality was proclaimed on 24 November 1860.
The first town council election took place on 4 January 1861 and William Henry Groom won. The railway from Ipswich was opened in 1867, bringing with it business development. In 1892, the Under Secretary of Public Land proclaimed Toowoomba and the surrounding areas as a township and in 1904 Toowoomba was declared a city. Pastoralism replaced agriculture and dairying by the 1900s.
Toowoomba was named as Australia's Tidiest Town in 2008.
Toowoomba is situated on the crest of the Great Dividing Range, around 700 metres (2,300 ft) above sea level. A few streets are on the eastern side of the edge of the range, but most of the city is west of the divide.
The City occupies the edge of the range and the low ridges behind it. Two valleys run north from the southern boundary, each arising from springs either side of Middle Ridge near Spring Street at an altitude of around 680 m. These waterways, East Creek and West Creek flow together just north of the CBD to form Gowrie Creek.
Gowrie Creek drains to the west across the Darling Downs and is a tributary of the Condamine River, part of the Murray–Darling basin. The water flowing down Gowrie Creek makes its way some 3,000 km (1,900 mi) to the mouth of the Murray River near Adelaide in South Australia. Rain which falls on the easternmost streets of Toowoomba flows east to Moreton Bay a distance of around 170 km (110 mi).
The rich volcanic soil in the region helps maintain the 150 public parks that are scattered across the city. Jacaranda, camphor laurel and plane trees line many of the city streets. The city's reputation as 'The Garden City' is highlighted during the Australian Carnival of Flowers festival held in September each year. Deciduous trees from around the world line many of the parks, giving a display of autumn colour. This is particularly rare in Australia, as nearly the entire continent is forested with evergreens.
Architecture and heritage
Toowoomba's history has been preserved in its buildings. Examples of architecture drawing from the city's wealthy beginnings include Toowoomba City Hall ( Toowoomba Indoor Bowls Hall )which was Queensland's first purpose-built town hall, the National Trust Royal Bull's Head Inn and many examples in the heritage-listed Russell Street. Immediately to the east of the CBD is the Caledonian Estate, an area of turn-of-the-20th-century housing, ranging from humble workers cottages to large stately homes, in the classic wooden Queenslander style.
Toowoomba is also home to the Empire Theatre, which was originally opened in June 1911, as a silent movie house. In February 1933, fire broke out, almost completely destroying the building. However, the Empire was rebuilt and reopened in November 1933. The architectural styling of the new Empire Theatre was art deco, in keeping with the trend of the 1930s. After years of neglect, the Empire Theatre was extensively renovated in the late 1990s, but retains much of its art deco architecture and decorations, especially the proscenium arch. Able to seat approximately 1,500 people, the Empire Theatre is now the largest regional theatre in Australia.
The City also is home to the Cobb+Co Museum, hailing to the famous mail company's beginnings as a small mail run in the 1800s to transport mail and passengers to Brisbane and beyond. It also houses Australia's largest collection of horse-drawn vehicles. The museum has undergone a A$8 million redevelopment before reopening in September 2010.
Toowoomba is nationally renowned for the annual Carnival of Flowers, held each year in September. Many of the city's major parks and gardens are especially prepared for the carnival, including an important home garden competition and parade of flower floats. Buses bring people from around the nation, and a popular way to arrive at the carnival from Brisbane is on chartered antique steam and diesel trains, which captures the yester-year aspect of travel to Toowoomba with 19th-century wooden carriages.
In 1953 the Carnival of Flowers was the subject of a sponsored film produced by the Queensland Minister for Lands and Irrigation. The Carnival of Flowers depicts the floral parade, the home gardens competition and the crowning of the Floral Queen and is a wonderful portrait of life in 1950s Queensland.
Toowoomba is also home to Easterfest which is held annually each Easter.