Friday, February 13, 2009

Howard Smith Wharves

Occasionally, while on one of the many fitness campaigns I have embarked on over the years, I have run, walked or cycled across the Story Bridge. I have also driven across it many times - the most memorable being early one morning on my way to work at Mt Gravatt, before the completion of the Captain Cook Bridge and the freeway. A young woman emerged from one of the stairways on the southern side clad in a wet suit which she proceeded to peel off, revealing that she was wearing only the bottom part of a bikini, before donning a T-shirt and shorts to wander off, totally unconcerned! The traffic slowed as if there had been a multi-vehicle pile-up!

Apart from being an essential link between Kangaroo Point and Fortitude Valley, the Story Bridge is, of course,
an icon of the city of Brisbane. It is now possible to climb the bridge,and I imagine that the views would be superb, as the views form the bridge proper are already pretty good. We'll have more about the bridge in a future post - today we are more concerned about what can be seen from it. Underneath the northern side of the bridge on the river bank used to be the Howard Smith Wharves. They nestled in below the cliff face at New Farm, and were the main commercial port for Brisbane for many years. This 1938 picture shows the wharves prior to the opening of the Story Bridge. The cliffs in the background, at New Farm, were excavated to allow the widening and deepening of the river to accommodate larger ships.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #167693)

When the completion of the Story Bridge made it difficult for large ships to continue use these wharves, Brisbane's main commercial shipping activity moved to Hamilton, although some smaller vessels continued to berth here. Air raid shelters were constructed here during the war years, and after the war, the area was used by the State Government for the Water Police headquarters and also as a storage area. Some of the wharves' structure was lost during the 1974 floods, and the picture below shows what is left today. Although the image looks as though tff has been imprisoned for crimes against photography, there was actually some safety fencing in front of my shooting location that I was unable to avoid if I wanted to replicate the viewpoint of the original.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The Brisbane City Council has now proposed redevelopment of the site to include a boutique hotel, as well as a gallery and public space. This is controversial, as some believe that the heritage aspect of the area would be lost; but, for once, I'm in the other camp. The area cries out for a friendlier, more useful vibe, and the old air raid shelters and remaining buildings could readily be absorbed into something more beneficial to the wider community. You can see from the second photo (just click on it to see a larger image) that the area is now fairly barren and lifeless, although it is part of the RiverWalk project, and the New Farm floating walkway commences here.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Monty Python


  1. Just wanted to say I'm really enjoying the blog and have finally gotten round to putting a link to yours from mine. You'll find it on the left in the "other brisbane sites" bit. I've only got 2 others so if you can recommend any more that would be great.

  2. Although it doesn't seem to have been updated for a while, there is a lot of Brisbane info on "I Love Brisbane" - there is a link to the right of this page. Other than that, I can only suggest a Google. Thanks for the compliment - I like your blog too. It takes a lot of discipline to post every day.


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