Friday, January 30, 2009

Bulimba Ferry Terminal

Once upon a time, back when it used to rain, Brisbane had its fair share of floods. In fact, we have just passed the 35th anniversary of one of our biggest, and possibly our last ever, Brisbane flood - the Australia Day flood of 1974, caused by the infamous Cyclone Wanda. Our local council claims that its flood mitigation work, done since 1974, will prevent further flooding; but Brisbane has been in a prolonged drought recently, so that claim has hardly been road tested.

I can remember quite vividly experiencing cyclones in Brisbane as a child. These days it's rather rare for one to appear this far south. This is no doubt due to global warming, which somehow is connected to my Foxtel box. In any case, the point about cyclones and flooding in Brisbane is that they used to occur rather more frequently. Have you also noticed that children are immediately attracted to any excess of surface water? It only has to rain for a minute and you'll find kids playing in overflowing gutters or riding bikes across flooded roads. Proof that there is nothing new under the sun (or even under a rain cloud!), this picture tells a story of kids, pets, floods and water.(State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #168355)

The building in the photo is the Bulimba Ferry Terminal, situated at the end of Oxford St. There is no date appended to this image, but the terminal was built in 1922, and there were a couple of flood events in Brisbane later in that decade, so I am guessing that it might have been taken in 1927 or 1929. Don't you love the dog in the foreground? And I notice that it is not only the boys who want to play in the water! The sensible adults are waiting patiently on dry ground inside the ferry terminal. This terminal was constructed in the Federation Queen Anne style, and there is a good deal of information about it here, on a State Government web page.

You'll not be surprised to learn that the Bulimba Terminal is not only alive and well, but still operating. Here is a more current photo of this marvellous little building.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

A rather tall pine tree has grown behind the terminal in the intervening years, and there is now a safety fence (a very ugly one, too!) along the river bank. The terminal still provides access to the cross-river ferry (pictured) and the CityCat calls in on its up- and down-river trips. In fact, ferry and CityCat usage, along with other forms of public transport, has increased in these carbon conscious times, so the terminal will be in service for a while yet.

Crikey, I've just taken a look at the sky, and it looks like it might rain! Better keep my camera dry - see ya!

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Four Harley-Davidsons

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ann St air raid shelters

To my knowledge, no bombs fell on Brisbane during World War II, but its citizens were certainly prepared for the possibility that they might. Part of their planning was the construction of air raid shelters to protect Brisbane's inhabitants from a Japanese bomb attack, should it occur. The bombing of both Pearl Harbor and Singapore had shown that aircraft carriers could transport enemy planes to within striking distance of Allied positions anywhere in the world; so air raid shelters were built in various locations around Brisbane, including some in Ann St, shown with and without the shelters in the pictures below.
(Photo: NLA; #nla.pic-an23209961; Frank Hurley)

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #42867)
These shelters, built for city workers, were quite large, as can be seen by comparing them with the car in the centre of the image. For those who want to know more about the shelters, I commend this web page, from Brisbane's Living Heritage Network, which sets out a walking tour of WWII Brisbane, and includes description of the construction of the shelters. Further examination of our WWII photo, though, shows several Ann St buildings, including the RS Exton building, the Elphinstones building, the Masonic Temple, Shell House and St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, which is on the corner of Creek St. Further in the background can be seen the City Hall clock tower.

We can see from today's picture that,
fortunately for Brisbane's commuters, the air raid shelters have been demolished , but that several of the buildings remain. Take a look below.(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)Still visible, from the left hand side of the photo, are the RS Exton building (partially obscured), the Masonic Temple, Rothbury Hotel (formerly Shell House), and the church. The Elphinstones building, which was next to RS Exton & Co, has been replaced by a newer construction, simply called 333 Ann St. The City Hall tower has now been blocked from our view by the Commonwealth Government office block on the far corner of Creek St.
As I'm a baby boomer, I wasn't around during World War II. But looking at this old photo makes me wonder about my parents and grandparents who lived in Brisbane during that dark time. Their lives must have been so different from ours today, and we owe it to them to ensure that these events do not recur.

Click here for a Google Map.

Next: Floods and ferries

Monday, January 26, 2009

Edward Street

The streets of Brisbane's CBD are named after royalty. Male names run east-west and female names run north-south. I don't know how this quaint custom originated, but I quite like the idea of having some sort of naming convention. So, if it hadn't been royal names, what might it have been? First Ave, Second Ave, etc? Boring! (for anyone bar accountants and engineers, that is!) Aboriginal names? We do have plenty of suburbs that have aboriginal names, and although they have a lovely cadence to them (Coorparoo, Woolloongabba, Indooroopilly), most are too long to be useful as street names. "Meet me on the corner of Woolloongabba and Indooroopilly - I'll allow an extra half an hour in case you have to ask directions!"

Maybe Aussie film stars? Flynn, Taylor, Finch, Kidman, Ledger, Watt. What? One of our northern suburbs has streets with film star names, but in any case, there weren't too many famous Australian actors around when the founders of Brisbane were deciding on street names. And, they weren't terribly original when they ran out of royal first names - try Creek St or Wharf St, for example. So, we are stuck with what we have - best enjoy them as much as possible, really.

Here is photo that I love, taken in about 1920, and I guess that it may have been hand coloured, although there were early examples of colour film even then. In this image, you are looking down Edward St towards the Brisbane River.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #187173)

The large statue in the foreground is a memorial to the South African War, but it has now been moved to Anzac Square, and we will see it again, in its new position, later in this series. If you look further into the picture, you can see a smartly dressed Brisbane woman, and also a rather stylish tram of the era. The People's Palace, which was a low-cost, temperance (no drinking, smoking or gambling tolerated) establishment situated near Central railway station, is also visible on the right. You may need to look at the larger image (just click on it), but in the background you can see the ochre-coloured cliffs at Kangaroo Point. Now, here's today's image from the same vantage point.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Proof that not drinking and not smoking does indeed prolong life, the People's Palace survives. It is now a backpacker's hostel, so it is fulfilling at least part of its initial charter! I bet that the no drinking rules have been relaxed, though, otherwise backpackers might be a little scarce :-) Edward St is now one-way towards the centre of town, and the electric trams are sadly no longer with us. High-rise office towers give a much more crowded feel to the street, but the Kangaroo Point cliffs are still just visible. Although I am happy with my own photo, I much prefer the ambience of the older version. What do you think?

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Bombs in Brisbane?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Australian Estates Wool Store

Brisbane was a pretty important place in World War II. US General Douglas MacArthur, who was Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific Area, was headquartered here in Brisbane at the office of the AMP Society on the corner of Queen and Edward Streets - more on that in a future post. The building reverted to AMP after the war, but when the insurance giant moved to new premises in Creek St during the 1970s, the older building was renamed MacArthur Chambers (now MacArthur Central, a new shopping mall, has been built next to it) in honour of the famous general. MacArthur wasn't the only Yank in town at the time, although being from Arkansas, MacArthur probably would have resented being called a Yankee. Ships of the US Navy were regularly here at the Teneriffe Wharves, and the Australian Estates & Mortgage Co Ltd (below) wool store building was used by US personnel. There were US Navy barracks in Dixon St and also in Sydney St, and the US Naval officers' barracks were on the corner of Ann St and Commercial Road. Apparently the tram rides between the City and New Farm were heavily favoured by Brisbane girls as an opportunity to meet US servicemen.

The wool store was situated in Macquarie St, and completed in 1926. Here is a photo of the wool store taken in 1928, showing carriers of the day (some motorised, some horse-drawn) loaded with wool outside it. There is an Australian flag flying proudly on the flagpole. Click on the photo to see a larger image.(Photo: State Library of Queensland, John Oxley Library; #167372)

And here is a picture of some US Navy subs berthed at the wharf in front of this building during the WWII - unfortunately quite low resolution, but it gives you the idea. At the top edge of this image, you can just see the Australian Estates wool store.
(Photo: Courtesy

In later years, this building became a very large retail furniture store. Then, when the gentrification of the Teneriffe precinct began, it was converted to apartments, and once again following the New York lead, they were named Saratoga Apartments. This is the way they look now.(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

I have been able to include some modern motor vehicles for comparison, but alas, no horse-drawn vehicles were available when I took this picture! I would suggest that parking in front of the building is far more problematic now than it may have been in 1928. Although the flagpole is still present, the current residents aren't flying the Southern Cross these days.

Click here for a Google Map.



Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Farm Powerhouse

I've never really thought about electricity all that much. Not since Grade 5 anyway. My Grade 5 Reading Book had a little aphorism (is that the word? I get it confused with the one for those tiny insect things that grow on roses) that said "Electricity is a good servant but a poor master". My 10 year-old self imagined Electricity dressed up in a butler suit serving me food from a silver tray without spilling any of it on my brand new school shorts.

Since then, I've not really thought about electricity, even when I've plugged in some important electronic item like my Foxtel box. Plug it in and it works. What more is there to know? But recently, the papers have been talking a lot about global warming and carbon footprints. Apparently I have a big carbon footprint because of my Foxtel box. "Crikey you've got big feet", my dad used to say. "I could use those bloody shoes as a canoe". So I don't need my carbon footprint to be any bigger, thanks very much.

Well, it turns out that I can't get electricity into my Foxtel box unless someone somewhere throws coal into a big furnace, and it's the resultant smoke etc that causes my carbon footprint to grow. Years ago, there were lots of power stations around Brisbane and electricity was cheap. Now we've only got one big one hundreds of kilometres away, and electricity costs a fortune. There's a possibility that we might even join a big grid with NSW and Victoria so that electricity can cost us even more.

Anyway, this is the power station that used to serve the trams (when we had them) and some parts of Brisbane, situated at the northern end of New Farm Park. The picture was taken around 1950, and that's the northern face of the building that we are seeing.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #74913) 

If you look closely at the picture (just click on it to see a larger image), you will see the huge stack of coal (and they didn't even have TV then, let alone Foxtel boxes!) for firing the furnaces, complete with a little front-end loader to get it to them. You can also see a conveyor belt arrangement that hauls the coal inside the power station. Notice also the large chimneys belching thick black smoke into Brisbane's atmosphere.

The power station has survived - partly. The taller building at the back has gone, except for two walls. The walls are seemingly used for circus performers and graffiti artists to practice their respective skills. Here is the modern Powerhouse, viewed from a slightly different position.(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic) 

The smoking chimneys have gone, replaced by mobile phone network transmitters. (Will radio waves be the pollution of the next millennium?) The building is now used for cultural purposes such as concerts and plays. There really is a circus based there, and they teach people circus acrobatics and climbing techniques. There are also bars and restaurants which have excellent river views and funky interiors. Our friends recently had their wedding there, and the reception was in a huge room with graffiti-covered walls. It was absolutely terrific. In addition, there is a farmers' market held there every couple of weeks, and it enjoys quite a deal of support from the locals. Now they get organic provisions from the Powerhouse, rather than carbon emissions. 

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Submarines in the Brisbane River

Monday, January 19, 2009

Goldsbrough Mort Company Limited

Beatles or Rolling Stones? It was always the million-dollar question, wasn't it? The Beatles visited Australia in 1964. In addition to 5000 screaming (mostly female) fans, they were also greeted on arrival at Brisbane airport with a small mob throwing rotten fruit and eggs (they must have been Stones fans), as well as some holding placards saying "Haircuts only 5 bob" (those signs also had a rainbow motif - g'day Stefan!). Despite this mixed welcome, they played a concert at Festival Hall on 30th June of that year, and I am sure that many still remember it.

The Beatles stayed at Lennons Hotel in the city (more on that later), and I doubt that they would have visited Teneriffe. Yet there is a link to the Fab Four here. One of the wool stores that existed down here back in the time that Australia was riding the sheep's back was a fairly large brick edifice run by the Goldsbrough Mort Company Limited. Here it is in the early 1930s.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #182586)

As usual, the picture deserves closer inspection. The railway in the foreground was part of the Newstead line that serviced the sugar refinery, the power house,the wool stores, the wharves, and the canning factory. It is no longer used, and although remnants of the tracks can still be seen in certain places, they have largely been dug up or covered over. Examples of the motor vehicles of the day are parked in front of the building, and there are decorative rams' heads fixed at various points on the front of the building, further emphasising the purpose of the warehouse.

Well, the building still stands at 88 Macquarie St, and consistent with the redevelopment of the area, it has been converted to apartments, and this is how it looks now.(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The greenery softens all of that brickwork, but otherwise, the building has held up very well. Inside it (I have friends who live there - lucky me!) there are photos of the old wool store including a very large print of the top photo in this post, as well as memorabilia from the days when wool ruled the wharves. The rams' heads are still there, almost like gargoyles. And the building is now grandly called "Dakota Apartments", replicating the name of the New York building outside of which John Lennon was shot back in December 1980. Typically, there are also commercial tenants on the ground floor, including one called "Sparkle Dental", presumably where we Teneriffians can go to get all those coffee stains removed from our teeth.

Again, I have tried to make my picture as similar as possible to the original. A tree (you can see some of the branches) has been planted right where I needed to stand. Honestly, some people must have nothing better to do than plant trees. (Memo to greeenies: that is meant to be HUMOROUS! Please don't stand outside waving placards and singing "Kumbiya".) And the original picture was probably taken with what we now call a view camera, where the lens moves independently to the camera body, thus allowing the photographer to present the building with square corners. My camera, with a wide lens, makes the building taper in at the top. Only tall thin people can live on the top floor these days!

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Power to the people

Friday, January 16, 2009

Winchcombe Carson Wool Store

Our daily paper here in Brisbane is The Courier-Mail. People in the finance world have often called it "The Curious Snail", firstly because it is a clever play on words, and secondly because for many years it seemed to live up to the nickname in matters financial - very concerned about unfolding events, but rather slow in getting the information out to the reader. That was probably true of a lot of matters pertaining to Brisbane back in the day. Often looked on as a "big country town" or a "branch office city"; even snootily referred to as "Brisvegas" by those from the deep south who thought we all wore white shoes. I did! Played cricket in 'em! :-)

But things have changed. The Courier-Mail has been punted straight into the 21st century with its own web presence, and is right up to the minute with the latest news. Rather too much celeb gossip for my taste, but hey! The news, sport and finance pages are fine.

Anyway, The Courier has been around since Adam wore short pants (alright - before Federation, at least; it was initially "The Moreton Bay Courier" and then "The Brisbane Courier", and dates back to 1846), so that makes it older than this grand old lady, the Winchcombe Carson Wool Store. Here she is in her hey-day as depicted in The Brisbane Courier in 1913.(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #53112)
With her name and purpose emblazoned across the front, as well as the date of completion, 1911, she must have been an attractive addition to the area. Not to mention big - she takes up a whole block. It would have been some feat to be moving bales of wool around inside in a humid Brisbane January, I would wager. You can see where she was situated in my previous post - bottom right of picture, on the other corner from the cannery I identified in that post.

And this building has stood the test of time, arguably adapting better than the primary industry on which it was first dependent. Now it is filled with New York-style l
oft apartments, definitely a change from its blue-collar beginnings. Take a look.(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)
Still glorious after all these years. In addition to almost 100 up-market apartments, it boasts some commercial tenants (including a coffee shop, naturally!) on the ground floor. Situated at 54 Vernon Terrace, right in the trendy zone of Teneriffe and surrounded by more coffee shops, restaurants, bars and even a gym, the Winchcombe Carson Wool Store has been completely transformed into the very model of modern living.

This photo was meant to look as much like the original as possible. Here are the excuses reasons that it doesn't look exactly the same:

  • I had to stand on the white line in the middle of Vernon Terrace to replicate the original viewpoint. Boy, those Council buses move fast, don't they!
  • To include the entire height of the building, I had to tilt the camera upwards. This causes the building to look like it is falling over backwards. It isn't - I don't think so, anyway.
  • I corrected the falling over backwards thing in Photoshop with the tool that I use to make myself look thinner.
Click here for a Google Map.

John Lennon?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Teneriffe Wharves

I live in inner city Brisbane, in a suburb that I call Teneriffe. Most of the other people who live here call it Teneriffe too. In fact, it has been called Teneriffe for about a hundred years, give or take. Why am I mentioning this? Well, Australia Post, in its postcode wisdom, doesn't recognise Teneriffe. It wants us to call our suburb Newstead or New Farm, according to whichever side of an arbritary boundary we might happen to live on. Confused? You ought to live here! For a while, some magazines that I subscribe to were being sent to Tenerife in Spain (true story!) - but I digress. Anyway, there is currently a groundswell of support at the local political levels to restore the original name, and hooray for that, I say.

As it happens, I live on the site of what was once the Teneriffe Wharves. Teneriffe used to be an industrial area, notable for the wool stores that were built here so that Australia's most famous export could be transported overseas by ship from the Teneriffe Wharves. The
area that I live in is the Teneriffe Wharf Complex, and the apartment blocks that now replace the wharves all bear the various names of the old wool stores.

Recently I became aware of a huge archive of old photographs of Brisbane, including some of Teneriffe and its wool stores, that were being kept by The State Library of Queensland and the John Oxley library. These photographs are accessible online, and most of them are free of any copyright restrictions.

Wouldn't it be fun, I asked myself, if I took photographs today of the places that are in these old images so that people could see how Brisbane had changed over the years? Indeed yes, I answered myself (bear with me - I'm alone a lot!) and so I have started to do exactly that, commencing with Teneriffe and some of the nearby areas including the city centre; and I will broaden horizons from there.

So, here is an aerial picture of the Teneriffe Wharves dating from around 1925, showing the extent of the wharves and the wool store infrastructure that supported them.(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #6551)

There is a lot to look at in this photo (click on it to see a larger image). Firstly, the aerial viewpoint shows the way the Brisbane River bends around the New Farm - Teneriffe area on its way down from the city of Brisbane, which would be just outside the top right corner of this photograph, towards its mouth at Moreton Bay. This makes the area somewhat of a peninsula. Then you might notice the five quite large ships that are berthed at the wharves. Then, behind the wharves, there is a group of large buildings, some of which are wool stores. The last building, at the bottom right of the picture, is a cannery, as we will discover later.

Now let's look at a current photo of the area. Too cheap to hire a helicopter for this purpose ;-) , I have had to make do with a photo taken from across the river at Bulimba.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

No ships visible here, and no wharves either. New apartment buildings have been built along the western bank of the Brisbane River, and the remaining wool stores have been converted to high-density living too.Wouldn't you think that Australia Post would give all of those people their own suburb name?

Click here for a Google Map.


A closer look at wool stores.
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