In 1908 Surveyor Charles R Scrivener was instructed to carry out a detailed reconnaissance of the Yass-Queanbeyan area as a potential site for the national capital. His report submitted in February 1909 recommended the Molonglo Basin suggesting – amongst other things – it lent itself to the formation of artificial lakes as a central feature of the city-to-be. Scrivener’s report was accepted in 1911 and the subsequent design competition rules specified the examination of the provision of “ornamental waters”. In his winning design Walter Burley Griffin provided for the creation of this central feature of the future national capital.
It was not until the early 1960s that the National Capital Development Commission set about creating the lake by commencing the construction of an impounding dam and the bridges on Commonwealth and Kings Avenues, and the establishment of foreshores and landscaping to provide settings for national buildings and public, social and recreational use. The lake filled in 1964 and was “inaugurated” in a ceremony by Prime Minister Robert Menzies.
The engineering works of Lake Burley Griffin, which include Scrivener Dam, the Commonwealth Avenue and Kings Avenue Bridges, the altered shoreline and Aspen Island, reflect best practice at the time. Their major significance led to them being awarded a National Engineering Landmark, in that they created a central feature uniting the two halves of the national capital, as was originally envisaged by Scrivener and Griffin. The setting has become one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world.