European settlement began in northern Tasmania (Van Diemens Land) in 1804, under Lieutenant Colonel William Paterson. The first site being unsuitable, Paterson moved his headquarters to the site of present day Launceston in 1806. Although Governor Lachlan Macquarie had the main centre moved to George Town, by 1824 Launceston was the government headquarters in northern Tasmania. By this time the early commissariat building was in a dilapidated condition.
The replacement building (the present structure) was designed by David Lambe and built by contractors Robert Waddington and John Sprunt. As construction proceeded, some changes were introduced and built to designs by William Kenworthy. The Commissariat Store at Paterson Barracks dates from 1828 and is historically highly significant. The building provided food and clothing for convicts and military personnel, and was also used by the Ordnance Department and the Colonial Storekeeper's Department.
One of the oldest surviving buildings in Launceston, the Commissariat is directly associated with the early European settlement of Tasmania and the role of the government in administering the settlement, and the building's solid construction and substantial size reflects its importance in the settlement. The Commissariat supplied food, clothing and other goods to the military and convict establishments. Although it was part of the military system, it was run by civilians. It played a central role in the development of early Launceston, a role increased by it being an agent of the British Treasury.
Further, the Ordnance Department and the Colonial Storekeeper's Department also used the building. In 1843 the building was granted to Ordnance, although by the mid 1850s Ordnance use was declining and the Colonial Government started using the Commissariat for the Public Works Department and the Immigration Department. The building remained in the ownership of the British Government, and was finally given to the Colonial Government in 1880.
Due to fears of Russian aggression, a volunteer defence force was formed in Tasmania and in 1860 the Commissariat Stores became the headquarters for the Launceston Volunteer Artillery Corps. After Federation the Corps became part of the Commonwealth defence forces. After various re-organisations, the unit today is the 16th Field Battery, Royal Australian Artillery. During the twentieth century the rest of the military allotment was developed and the whole was named Paterson Barracks in 1948.
Despite being badly damaged by fire in February 1970, the Commissariat Store remains in use and today has several functions. It houses the quartermaster's store for the 16th Field Battery on the ground floor, Defence recruiting and the officers' mess on the first floor, and offices and training rooms for the 2nd Force Support Battalion (incorporating the 10th Field Ambulance) on the second floor.