Friday, May 26, 2017

Dear readers

I am currently on vacation overseas.

"Your Brisbane: Past and Present" will return in July.


Monday, May 1, 2017

Matthew Flinders missed the Brisbane River

A recent news article about the search in London for the remains of sailor, cartographer and explorer Matthew Flinders interested me on several levels.

Firstly, the existential ones: what do we leave behind when we die? If buried, how long do those remains last? How can we identify someone from remnants of their body in a disturbed graveyard hundreds of years after death? Is it even possible? Obviously modern science has techniques that are helpful in identification, but there is nothing foolproof yet. The archaeologist quoted in the news item admitted that an intact coffin with a legible name-plate is the best bet for accuracy, but time and previous activity at the burial ground often prevent these from being present. I hope that they are successful in this venture, but it seems like a major undertaking.

My next poser is one that I have articulated before on these pages, and that is: how brave were those explorers of yesteryear? They set off on unknown and therefore largely unplanned journeys of discovery not even sure of being able to return home. I suppose today's equivalent would be setting foot on the moon or the potential for space travel to other planets - a one-way journey in terms of today's science.

Matthew Flinders (pictured below) was born in Lincolnshire on 16 March 1774 and died in July 1814, just 40 years old. But his accomplishments in those years are simply amazing. He joined the English Navy at the age of 15 and, in 1795 after early journeys with Captain William Bligh and others, found himself on a ship bound for Port Jackson that was carrying the next governor of New South Wales, Captain John Hunter.
(Photo: SLNSW MIN 52)

Flinders must have been a curious and adventurous seaman. He and ship's surgeon George Bass explored Botany Bay and then Lake Illawarra in a couple of small vessels named Tom Thumb I and Tom Thumb II. Then Flinders, by then a lieutenant, was tasked to discover whether Van Diemen's Land was separated by a strait from the mainland. In 1798 Flinders, commanding the Norfolk, discovered Bass Strait (named after his fellow-adventurer) and circumnavigated the island we now call Tasmania, thus charting a quicker way to reach Sydney from England. After this voyage Flinders continued northwards and in July 1799 he spent a couple of weeks sailing around Moreton Bay - he was the first English explorer to enter the area. Although landing at a few points and even leaving his ship to climb Mt Beerburrum, Flinders did not find the river that Captain Cook had surmised would be thereabouts - it was left to John Oxley to discover the Brisbane River in 1823.

Flinders sailed home to England aboard Reliance in 1800, whilst there publishing his accounts of the discovery of Bass Strait, not to mention getting married to Ann Chappell in April 1801. He was ordered to command Investigator back to Australia to further explore its coastline and Flinders was to set off this voyage in July 1801. Here there was some controversy, as Flinders had wanted to take his wife with him on Investigator, even though this was not allowed by Admiralty. When these plans were uncovered poor Flinders was specifically warned against taking his wife on the journey, thus causing the two to be separated for nine years.

We now know that Flinders' major nautical achievement, the circumnavigation of Australia, took him from 6 December 1801 through to 9 June 1803, and was achieved despite a leaky ship that needed constant maintenance and repairs during the voyage and was actually deemed to be unseaworthy on its return to Sydney. 

Space does not allow me to present Flinders' subsequent adventures, but he was imprisoned by the French (who were at that time at war with England) on the isle of Mauritius from 17 December 1803 to 14 June 1810, then arrived back in England in October of that year when he was promoted to captain. Flinders wrote his superlative work "A Voyage to Terra Australis" that was published on 18 July 1824, the day before he   died. 

The Australian Dictionary of Biography says of Flinders' final resting spot: "He was buried at St James's, Hampstead Road, but later alterations to the churchyard have obliterated his grave, so he was 'pursued by disaster after death as in life'."

I very much doubt whether any identifiable remains of Matthew Flinders are likely to be unearthed in this huge project, but imagine the excitement if it happened.




Monday, April 24, 2017

Kalinga Park, Kalinga (formerly Anzac Memorial Park)

Brisbane (then known as Moreton Bay) was originally settled in 1824 by New South Wales's worst prisoners and the soldiers to guard them, all sent forth from Sydney in a bid to reduce that settlement's high crime rate.

It was not until 1838, some fourteen years later, that the first free settlers arrived in the form of about twenty German missionaries who were encouraged by Rev JD Lang to come to what must have been a very inhospitable setting.

These pioneers established their mission at a place they called Zion Hill on a grant of land furnished by the New South Wales government. It was situated between Brisbane Town and Eagle Farm, the area used to grow crops for the settlement. There was a stream that provided water for the settlers, and they named it Kedron Brook which, like Zion Hill, was a biblical reference. The place became known as German Station and is now the near-city suburb of Nundah.

Unfortunately for these hardy souls the settlement could not sustain itself and the missionary work was hardly successful. The settlement was terminated in 1843.

After that, the Zion Hill settlement was allowed to run down, although many of the pilgrims remained in the area on individual plots. Around them grew an industrial and then a farming area and a small portion was declared a water reserve to be known as Kalinga Park. In 1910 it became a sporting venue, and then, following the harrowing years of WWI, a set of memorial gates were erected at the entrance to the park in remembrance of local men who gave their lives in the war.

The gates were dedicated in October 1920, and here is a photograph of the guard of honour formed by the local Boy Scout troop at the ceremony. The impressive portal can be seen behind them. For a time the area became known as Anzac Memorial Park.   
 (Photo: wikipedia)

During WWII Kalinga Park was used as a staging camp and an aerial photograph can be seen below.
(Photo: SLQ5357)

The solid Helidon sandstone gate-posts are still standing as sentinels guarding the park and are themselves protected by being listed on the Queensland Heritage Register.  
(Photo: © 2017 the foto fanatic)

As we approach Anzac Day 2017 it seems that the world is moving closer to Armageddon by the minute. Not since the Bay of Pigs stand-off in the sixties can I recall such dire straits for the world. Unfortunately it seems that we have a number of belligerent leaders at the name-calling stage, and people of the world are holding their collective breath in the hope that the arguments don't turn more violent.

One has to wonder at the failure of the world in general to learn its lessons from the past. There always seems to be a problem over who owns what, who believes what and who does what. If it were kids in a sandpit having a blue about who owns the bucket, who believes that a god lives in the sandcastle and who kicks the next sandcastle over, you would send them all to bed without supper. Unfortunately the stakes in this scenario are much, much higher.

The humanitarian and ecological problems of the world will not be solved while territorial posturing continues and ever-increasing funds are being squandered on arms. Armed conflict seems to beset the world at various intervals, however given the quantity and the technology of current weapons the next major conflict could be terminal.


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Monday, March 20, 2017

Wynnum School of Arts

Have you ever wondered about the term "School of Arts"? If so, you are not alone. As a kid I thought the Bulimba School of Arts was a place where one went to study painting. You probably could do that in some of them, but their original purpose was to be the focal point of the community - as a meeting place, as a library, as a learning centre. Mechanics' Institutes provided a similar purpose, and we have previously looked at the South Brisbane Mechanics' Institute that was to become the South Brisbane Library.

Australia's first Mechanics' Institute was formed in Hobart in 1827, right around the time Moreton Bay penal settlement, the forerunner of Brisbane, was being established. It was not until 1851 that Brisbane saw its own School of Arts established in a building on the corner of Queen and Creek Streets, and it moved subsequently to the well-known building in Ann St.

As new districts and suburbs emerged, many built their own School of Arts for the same reasons. Today we are looking at one of them - the Wynnum School of Arts which was built on Bay Terrace in 1913. Here is a photograph made just after its completion, and it includes the workmen from the project.    
(Photo: SLQ 72379)

And I'm pleased to say that the building remains and still performs some of its original functions.
(Photo: BCC)

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Wynnum Post Office

This humble structure at Wynnnum South, photographed in 1912, was the area's post and telegraph office in the early 20th century. Its appearance suggests that it probably contained quarters for the postmaster in addition to its commercial role. I don't know whether it was purpose-built - it may well have been a house converted for that use.

(Photo: SLQ 77567)

A new post office was erected in Bay Terrace in 1923-24. This building looks a lot more business-like, doesn't it? The district's telephone exchange is also housed in the building, pictured below in 1925. The telephone exchange operated here until 1955, while post office business was wound up in 1995.
(Photo: SLQ 80383)

After Australia Post quit the premises in 1995, the building became available for commercial use. The current occupants are a dental clinic and medical suites.
(Photo: BCC)

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Junction Park State School, Annerley

Today we are looking at a grand old school building at Annerley - Junction Park State School, pictured here in 2015.
(Photo: Heritage Branch Staff; EHP)

As mentioned previously in these pages, this was my first primary school. I was a pupil there for about five years in the mid-1950s. Yes, the middle of last century! I can't quite believe it myself!

My memories of the school are fairly minimal now, but the main recollection is that it was very imposing. I suppose that is only natural to a five year-old leaving the security of home for a six or seven hour day in an environment of strangers.

At the time I was there, there was an infants' school that catered for years 1 and 2, and the rest of the grades through to year 8 were housed in the main school. The infants' school had its own head, and in my years there that was a Miss Flannery. Memories of those first years include writing on slates with slate pencils that were sharpened by rubbing them on concrete; "tidy boxes" which held the items cleared from each student's desk at the end of the school day; reciting the alphabet (A like an apple on a twig, A says "a"); parades where we were lined up in order of descending height.

Graduating from the infants' school to the "big school" was a rite of passage that was greatly anticipated. The head of that school in my time there was Mr Irish, a huge man with a loud voice and a reputation for fearsome corporal punishment. I'll never forget the day that he addressed the morning parade and ordered anyone wearing denim pants to go straight to his office after parade. It appeared that I was the only one! "You're gonna get the cuts!" whispered the kid next to me, helpfully. I was nearly throwing-up by the time that I arrived at Mr Irish's office. But the reality didn't match the reputation. He was kind and considerate, but told me that I mustn't wear jeans to school. When I reported this at home my mother said "We'll see about that!" Next day she was up at the school telling Mr Irish that I would be wearing jeans to school, as the alternative would be for me to continue my education in my underwear. That was the end of the matter!

But that's enough of my history - let's look at the school's history.

The school originated as a provisional school with a dozen or so students in 1888 in a different site near Stones Corner. As the attendance increased it was necessary to have permanent facility. With the help of William Stephens MLA some land near Ipswich Rd was obtained in 1890 and a school building and a teacher's residence were erected shortly after. The school opened on 31 March 1891 in the expectation of attracting up to 280 pupils - 425 turned up! In 1892 the name of the school was changed from Thompson Estate State School to Junction Park State School. As befits one of Brisbane's oldest schools, there were some significant changes over the ensuing years. In 1910 it became the first state school to have its own swimming pool and in fact it opened a second larger pool in 1929, which meant that the earlier pool could be used to teach infants to swim. I had my first swimming lessons in that pool, not without some difficulties at times.

In 1936 a new brick school building was completed for a reported £28,000, designed by the State Public Works office and constructed under the Forgan Smith government's program to provide jobs during the depression. The classic design and masonry construction have ensured that the school has stood the test of time. Here's a photo from 1936, around the time of the opening of the school's new building.
(Photo: BCC-B120-81041)

During the post-war baby boom enrolments of around 1500 positioned Junction Park as the largest school in Brisbane, requiring the construction of new buildings and amenities.

Further extensive details of the school can be found on this page of the State Government's Heritage Register, and also on the school's own web pages.

It appears that being heritage-listed doesn't come without disadvantages however. Recent reports indicate that repairs to another school of this era have risen from stratospheric to other-worldly as a result of the heritage factor.

And in the midst of the current hot spell in Queensland, it was also claimed by the news bulletin that school pupils were treated badly by comparison to prisoners, because jails have air-conditioning while many schools do not.

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Killila, Lutwyche

This blog's closing post for calendar 2011 concerned Brisbane's proposed Roman Catholic cathedral that was never completed and its prime mover, Archbishop James Duhig.

Today's post is the last one for a rather disrupted* 2016 and it again features a building connected to Archbishop Duhig.

But a comparison of the two buildings could hardly be more striking, for today we are looking at a humble dwelling that was Archbishop Duhig's boyhood home, Killila, situated in Lutwyche, a near-northern suburb of Brisbane.

Thirteen year-old James Duhig arrived in Brisbane in 1885 in the company of his mother Margaret, a widow, and two siblings. Even though three older siblings had preceded them to get established, the family was not able to purchase a house at that time and so lived in various rented accommodation at Paddington, Spring Hill and Petrie Terrace. When James started work as a clerk in the city, still not yet fourteen years old, his weekly wage helped the Duhig family pay a deposit on a relatively new cottage at Stoneleigh St Albion, now Lutwyche. When they moved to their new residence in early 1888, they named it Killila Cottage after their former home in County Limerick, Ireland. Even at that age it appears that James had an eye for real estate as he advised his brother by letter that the family had purchased the property for £250, but that they "could double our money at any time". 

The house must have provided young James with opportunities for self-reflection because it was during his years there, and while working to augment the family budget, that he began to think about the priesthood as a vocation. He went back to school in 1890 to prepare for five years of religious instruction in Rome, and finally returned to Australia in 1897 as a Catholic priest, destined to become one of the most significant and influential (and controversial) Queenslanders of the twentieth century.

And what of the house? Margaret Duhig lived there until she died in 1901, and the house remained in the family until 1937. The former Duhig residence still stands and is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register.  
(Photo: Shiftchange 2015)

An internet search indicates that the property sold in November 2011 - click here for details and some interior photos of the house.

Click here for a Google Map.


*A few months ago my closest friend passed away after suffering a brain tumour. I don't really have the words to adequately describe our relationship here, but we first met 50 years ago this month and in the intervening time we worked together at two different employers; we lived together in a couple of houses during our single days; he was best man at my wedding and I was MC at his; we travelled overseas together with our spouses; and I am the proud godparent of his only child. He is sadly missed by his wife and daughter and I share their pain at his passing. He was a good man - intelligent, witty and generous - and is a great loss to many.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Copyright 101

This blog is all about comparing the old with the new, and because it seeks to do this visually I trawl the internet for images that I can use to tell stories. 

I try to be careful with the provenance of images. I have no interest in passing off someone else’s work as my own and I do not monetise the blog with advertisements in order to profit from the work of others. I even block some links in the comments section if they are a blatant plug for a commercial entity. I do this so that places that might otherwise charge for the use of an image might allow that use without demanding a fee. It is usually sufficient.

Most of the older images that I use are out of copyright and just need a simple attribution. Some copyrighted works need specific permission for any type of publication and that is normally granted immediately for this blog given that it exists purely as a historical reference for interested readers. Whenever I have contacted universities, museums etc - even television stations - permission has been granted for me to use relevant material with appropriate attribution. I took the view that newspapers already had their information readily accessed electronically, so they would not mind it being reproduced with the proper attribution.

Imagine my surprise at receiving a terse email from one of Rupert Murdoch’s minions instructing me to remove any and all News Corp copyrighted images within 48 hours. Or what? It didn’t say, but Rupert has far deeper pockets than your humble blogger, so I am in no hurry to find out.

Technically they are within their rights to refuse to allow this blog to republish their copyrighted images without express permission, no matter what attribution might be used. I did reply, asking if there could be any exception for a non-commercial blog and was told that News Corp charges a fee for use of images and that it does not allow them to be posted on blogs. The reply went on to say that they would normally demand a fee for this misuse but would not in this case if the images were removed within 48 hours.

So I have removed the images. There weren’t a lot. This occasional message now appears throughout the blog:

I am disappointed in this action. It would seem to me that a few random images (acknowledged to be copyrighted to News Corp) on a little-known blog that might appeal to the occasional history nerd would hardly cause any loss or damage to News Corp. What is the difference between the posting of an attributed image on a blog and the sharing of the same image on Facebook?

But sending out gruff emails has given someone an important job in a big organisation, so let’s move on.

PS - I have chosen not to provide links to the now-missing News Corp images.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Ellersie, New Farm & Thomas Glassey, labour pioneer

We take an awful lot for granted today.

Consider the following work history of unionist and politician Thomas Glassey, born in Armagh, Ireland in 1844:

First employed in an Irish linen mill at the age of six. That's not a typo - age 6!
Became a letter carrier at the pay rate of one shilling per week. That's 10 cents in today's coinage, although the real value equivalent would be in the order of $6.
Factory worker - four pence per day.
Moved to a new town; employed as factory worker at the rate of five pence per 12-hour day.
At age 10 left home, employed in a new job at eight pence per day
Around age 13 moved from Ireland to Scotland and became a coal miner at eighteen pence per day.

It comes as no surprise that from those humble and physically tough origins Thomas Glassey became involved in the trade union movement in Scotland and later in Queensland.  He was blacklisted because of his union activism in Scotland, moving to Bedlington in England in 1867 where he was active in politics and charitable works, becoming a member of the local Board of Health in 1881-83.

He emigrated to Australia in 1884, initially joining the post office then becoming an auctioneer, but coal mining was not far from his thoughts. He was approached to convene a meeting in 1886 that was the inauguration of the Ipswich Coal Miners' Mutual Protective Association of which he became secretary.
(Photo: National Library of Australia; nla.pic-an23431938)

In 1888 Glassey was elected to parliament in the seat of Bundamba, representing the interests of the labour movement, and he is seen as being Australia's first Labor MP. He was parliamentary leader of the Labor Party in Queensland 1894-99. He had an unsuccessful attempt to unseat Sir Thomas McIlwraith in North Brisbane in 1893, and was then in a political merry-go-round for a few years until emerging as a Queensland Senator in the federal parliament in 1901. Seen as a zealot by some of his contemporaries, Thomas Glassey was a progressive politician for the times and quite popular with electors. Here are some of the policies he pursued in state and federal politics:
  • Eight Hour Day
  • Married Women's Property Bill
  • Cessation of Kanaka labour; although he did support a White Australia policy
  • Federation
Glassey's wife died in 1899 and he lost his senate seat in 1903. He was unsuccessful at several further attempts at politics and he accepted a role as an immigration officer in England for Queensland in 1911-12.

In 1909 he purchased a house named Ellersie in New Farm where he lived until he died in 1936, the property remaining in his family until the 1960s. The house is still standing next to New Farm State School and can be seen in the following photo. Ellersie, listed on the BCC Heritage Register, was built around 1888 in the Brisbane boom years and was possibly designed by Andrea Stombuco.

In the final phase of his life, Glassey became somewhat estranged from the Labor Party as a result of becoming a director of New Aberdare Colliery Ltd from 1913, then joining the formation of the Queensland Nationalist Party in 1917.

However in 1938 a monument to Glassey's service to the coal mining industry was erected in the heart of Ipswich mining territory on Limestone Hill.

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Evesham, Hamilton

It’s always a welcome occurrence when people provide information for the blog. Most of the information in this post was sent to me by reader Lyndon who has researched the building we are examining today. The building is named Evesham and it overlooks the Brisbane River in the classy suburb of Hamilton. My thanks to Lyndon for allowing me to publish some of the information he has gathered about Evesham. Here is a view of it taken just after the building’s completion.

And here is a more recent image.
 (Photo: Caco Photography)

Evesham was designed by leading Brisbane architect Mervyn Rylance for Mrs Evelyn Thomason who moved into the building in June 1937. Mrs Thomason was a well-known Brisbane socialite and the Brisbane newspaper Truth carried an extensive article on the Spanish Mission styled structure on 11 July of that year. Although it appears as one residence, she commissioned Rylance to design the building as four large flats, each with unobstructed views of the river. I assume that the intent was to live in one and derive an income from the others.


(Photos: L-Truth 1937; R-Caco Photography)

Evelyn Thomason (nee Horsman) was born in Cooktown in March 1880 and grew up in Rockhampton where her father was a publican. The family moved to Sydney in 1904, but Evelyn moved back to Brisbane in 1906 to marry HW Thomason, a partner in a thriving chemist practice around the Woolloongabba-South Brisbane precinct. A building in the Woolloongabba Fiveways still has the Thomason name at the top as has another at Stones Corner. In 1907 they moved to a house on the Rathdonnell estate at Auchenflower. The estate became available for purchase in 1911 and it was bought by Mrs Thomason who moved into Rathdonnell House and subdivided the land, selling off the house that she had originally occupied.

During the thirty years that the Thomasons lived at Rathdonnell it was the scene of many parties, social gatherings, sporting events and fund raising activities. Music, in particular, was at the centre of much of the entertaining that occurred - Evelyn was an accomplished violin player and all the family played an instrument. The family was obviously very well-off as there were regular holidays to Tamborine and Southport and southern cities as well as overseas trips. HW Thomason was almost twenty years older than his wife Evelyn and was aged 76 when the family moved to Evesham. Newspaper reports indicated that he had still been working as a chemist on his 74th birthday, but I do not know when (or if) he retired or when he died.
(Photo: pinterest)
This social life did not change when the family moved to Hamilton. Lyndon reports that the German opera singer Madame Lotte Lehmann was a temporary resident at Evesham while she was performing a season at Brisbane's City Hall. It was Madame Lehmann who "discovered" the von Trapp family singing in a garden in Austria and encouraged them to enter a musical contest which they won, subsequently the genesis of the famous film "The Sound of Music". Here is a photograph from Brisbane's Telegraph newspaper showing Madame Lehmann at the piano at Evesham entertaining a kookaburra. Kookaburras must have fascinated her as there is video evidence of her singing a duet with one.

Evelyn Thomason lived at Evesham until she died in 1970, but family members continued to live there for a time after that. The building, then under one title, was eventually sold to the Kirby family in 1980.

Evesham's four apartments have since been strata titled, and my correspondent Lyndon tells me that the body corporate has been diligent in preserving the character of the building which will be 80 years old next year.

Here is a final look at Evesham nestled among neighbours overlooking the river.
 (Photo: Caco Photography)

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, July 25, 2016

The irregular posting to the blog is the result of a recent bereavement. Things are still a bit tough but I hope normal transmission will be achieved shortly.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Moana, New Farm

Theodore Oscar Unmack was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1835 and came to Australia in 1853. After several years in Victoria he moved to Queensland in 1860 where he achieved success in business and politics.

For a time Unmack was engaged in the wholesale produce business with another German immigrant, Johann Heussler, and they operated out of Tara House (later to become the home of the Irish Club) in Elizabeth St. It appears that Unmack gave a regular market report that was published in the press for the benefiit of his fellow citizens. From The Queenslander:
WHOLESALE. (The Queenslander, 21 August 1875)
There is little change in the market since
last week; business has, if anything, improved.
The holidays have, however, tended to keep it
quiet. Flour steady; maize brisker; demand
good ; bran in average request; potatoes very
dull of sale, market being crowded with sellers,
and consumption moderate; hay still over
stocked and quiet; butter well supplied, and
in moderate demand. Bacon, 9d per lb ; bran,
£9 per ton j butter, 9d per lb; flour, best
Adelaide, £24 to £26 per ton; flour, Tas
mania, £22 to £24 per ton; hay, lucerne, £9
to £10 per ton ; hay, oaten, £8 to £9 per ton;
maize, 5s 8d to 5s 6d per bushel; oats, 4s 6d
to 5s per bushel; potatoes, nominal; onions,
none ; pollard, £9 10* per ton; soap, £30 per
top ; mould candles, 51/2d to 6d per lb

Unmack, a prominent Freemason, was the German Consul for two years as well as president of the Chamber of Commerce. In 1888 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly as the member for Toowong and subsequently acted as the Postmaster-General and Secretary for Railways. Here is a photograph from 1889.
 (Photo: SLQ 69368)

In 1885 Unmack purchased land at Moray St, New Farm where he built the subject of today's post - the imposing house overlooking the Brisbane River that he named Moana, a Hawaiian word meaning water or sea, but probably "borrowed" from the name of a hotel. Here are photographs of it, front and back, from 1932. The view from the rear also includes the maids' quarters, testament to the status of the owner of the house.
(Photo: SLQ 19407)

(Photo: SLQ 19406)

Architects Banks and Carandini designed Moana and it is believed to be the last surviving example of their domestic architecture. The Unmack family lived there until the early 1920s when it was converted to flats. Theodore Unmack died in 1919.

Moana appears on the Brisbane City Council heritage register. Although it has been modified in the conversion to flats and then the conversion back to a single dwelling in 1986, much of the original character of the house remains. The latest sale of the property I could find was in October 2010 for a tad over $3 million. This is what it looked like at the time.

And here is today's quick look over the fence at Moana.
  (Photo: © 2016 the foto fanatic)  

Click here for a Google Map.

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