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16 October, 2020

Art Deco Capital of Australia

In 1879, Ireland-born Thomas Henry Fitzgerald came to the Cassowary Coast region to establish a sugar industry.

By Peter McCullagh

The house built by Fitzgerald (which was the first established in the area) was named Innisfallen, after the largest island in the Lakes of Killarney, Ireland. 

Inis Fail (Island of Destiny) is an early name for Ireland itself. In 1879, the settlement was named Geraldton, (after Fitzgerald) but was retitled ‘Innisfail’ in 1910 to avoid confusion with the Western Australian town of the same name. The Art Deco designed architecture of Innisfail can be credited to a devastating cyclone that wiped out the region in 1918.

Many buildings made out of timber and corrugated iron were destroyed or damaged extensively, and the two buildings that remained in the Innisfail CBD were built from reinforced concrete. As the town was rebuilt, it was decided that it would be necessary to cyclone-proof Innisfail, and with Art Deco being the internationally popular style of the time – Tropical Art Deco was born. 

Throughout the Innisfail CBD you will discover Art deco facades inspired by Italian, French, Spanish, Moroccan and Anglo-Saxon architecture. 

These global influences are homage to the diverse and multicultural past of the Cassowary Coast region. Innisfail is rapidly becoming recognised as one of Australia’s great Art Deco towns, with the CBD showcasing one of the largest concentrations of Art Deco buildings in the country. 

Due to the climate of Far North Queensland, the traditional Art Deco architecture style was adapted to include wide awnings and peaked roofs to provide relief from heavy rains. 

This means that the beautiful buildings are distinctive and are rarely seen anywhere else in the world. Innisfail is one hours’ drive from Cairns and well worth the visit. If you visit, download the Tropical Art Deco App from the Play store and take a 2.5 hour guided walk through this magnificent town. 

Spend a little longer, visit Oliveri’s Deli and have lunch at Sapore di Italia on Rankin Street. 

You will be guaranteed a magnificent day.

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