Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Union St, Spring Hill

Spring Hill is an inner-city suburb - probably the most "inner-city" of all. Its post code is 4000, the same postcode as the GPO, and it is a short (but admittedly uphill) walk from the CBD. It is a very eclectic suburb - it contains old convict-built buildings, workers' cottages, apartments, free-standing houses, shops, private schools and office blocks; as well as a couple of hospitals. Spring Hill got its name from the spring that originated up the hill from the settlement of Brisbane. The spring must have become a creek, because that's how Creek St was named. The cross street at the bottom of today's pictures is Water St, so clearly there was a fair bit of H2O around! Today's historical photo of Spring Hill gives an idea of how densely populated the suburb has always been. You can see workers' cottages and more substantial houses, as well as St Paul's Presbyterian Church up on St Paul's Terrace.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #145401)

The information with this photo at the John Oxley Library dates it at around 1862, but according to the history of St Paul's church as recounted on its web site, the foundation stone of the church was not laid until 1887, and the church was dedicated in 1889. Prior to the construction of this church, the congregation worshipped in a wooden building in Creek St. Perhaps the old photo comes from around 1892 rather than 1862.(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

I chose just after sunrise one morning to recreate the old shot (above) - click on it to see a larger version. The sun is still low behind the Marriott Hotel, now visible behind St Paul's church. The taller buildings of the current CBD are readily seen on the skyline, and in a strange dichotomy, we now see a plethora of power lines that are counter-balanced by an abundance of arboreal carbon-munchers. Wickham Terrace in Spring Hill is now the Brisbane version of London's Harley St or Sydney's Macquarie St, as there is a great number of medical specialists, dentists and other health services situated there. Spring Hill is still a very desirable place to live because of its proximity to town.

here for a Google Map.


Next: Taking on City Hall

Monday, April 27, 2009

Grandmother Martin

Brisbane's first drive-in shopping centre, where all the shops were under one roof, opened in May 1957 at Chermside. In fact, it was the first in Australia, and somewhat of a coup for Brisbane to beat the southern capitals on something so population critical. I can remember the opening, and that Brisbane residents took to this new type of shopping like ducks to water. Prior to this, shopping was done in the city or at one of a few suburbs that had larger strip shopping precincts, such as the Gabba or the Valley. Grocery shopping was done locally at the corner store. Here is such a shop, Grandmother Martin's at Dutton Park - just down the road from Boggo Road gaol. This photo dates back to around 1900.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #76982)

When I was in primary school we lived at Annerley, and there was a corner shop at the end of our street. Not as big as Grandmother Martin's, which looks like it had her residence on the upper storey, our shop was also run by a little old lady - a Mrs Horrocks. She was very accommodating, running weekly credit accounts which families "fixed up" every pay-day. I frequently would wander down to the shop for my mother, with no money in my pocket, to pick up some bread or sugar. If it was bread, it was often a half-loaf, and then I could tear some of the fresh bread out of the crust and eat it on the way home. Bliss! But the trick was to not eat so much that my mother would have reason to complain - a little was expected, but if I arrived home with the mere shell of the bread, then there would be trouble :-)
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Sadly, Grandmother Martin's fine establishment has gone, replaced by the building in the photo above. When I went to take this photo, I found that the property was directly across the road from an old block of flats that a friend had lived in back in the late sixties. It was the scene of more than a few parties, as I recall. So I got a double dose of nostalgia - firstly remembering my early journeys to the corner shop, feeling very grown-up and important; and then my early days in the working world, once again feeling very grown-up and important!

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Spring or creek?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Lest We Forget

Anzac Day. The words alone have an unmistakable resonance.

25th April each year commemorates that ill-fated landing at Gallipoli, when thousands of young Australians and New Zealanders were sent ashore to be met by a hail of machine-gun bullets from the entrenched Turkish soldiers. It is hard for us to even imagine the death and devastation that occurred that day, but each year
we gather to honour those who went there, and those who followed in subsequent battles all over the world. In Brisbane, the main ceremonies take place at a shrine that was dedicated to Australian soldiers on the anniversary of Armistice Day, 11th November, in 1930. The picture below, taken around 1939, shows the Shrine of Remembrance that surrounds the Eternal Flame in Anzac Square - click on the photo to see a larger image.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #107302)

At the rear of the memorial is Central Station, and the clock over the entrance to the station can be glimpsed through the columns. There are eighteen columns in the Shrine, representing the year of the initial Armistice Day in 1918. The names of famous battlegrounds are inscribed in the coping over the columns. Each year, a dawn service is held at the memorial, and it seems that attendance at these services increases year by year.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

In this recent photograph (above), the Shrine's position in the middle of Brisbane's CBD is apparent as the surrounding office buildings tower protectively over it, emphasised by my fish-eye lens (click on the image for a larger view). Anzac Square is traversed by thousands of Brisbane's workers each morning and evening as they commute to and from those city office towers. Somehow, I think that is just the way the Diggers would have wanted it.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: The corner shop

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The disappearing cake shops

Plenty has been written about the increasing tendency towards obesity in developed countries, including Australia, so we can do without labouring the point with statistics here. But, I ask myself (I do that a lot, particularly when I find one of life's mysteries), whatever happened to all the fabulous cake shops we used to have right here in Brisbane? My memories are replete with cake shops, seemingly all over Brisbane, their displays filled with of all sorts of scrum-yumminess (I know there's no such word, I made it up just now!) from napoleons to fruit cakes to custard buns. Has the increase in fast food outlets like the pizza, fried chicken and hamburger chains more than made up for the loss of the cake stores in the avoirdupois dilemma? Anyone who has read Hugh Lunn's book about growing up in Brisbane, "Over the top with Jim", will know that Lunn's dad Fred had a cake shop at Annerley Junction, and there was another just a couple of blocks further down Ipswich Rd. I know there was also a good one at the Gabba, right where we used to catch the trolley-bus to my aunt's place at Norman Park, and I think there was also one at Stones Corner. It seemed that every suburb had its own cake shop or bakery. And as for the city, well there was selection aplenty. The Shingle Inn in Edward St, my mum's favourite. Adams Cakes in the Brisbane Arcade. Here's a photo of the staff at one of the Adam's shops - they were scattered all over the place - that was taken in about 1938.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #10342)

I think that George E Adams Rich Cakes originated in Sydney, but there was no State of Origin sentiment about cakes. Take a look at the front display cabinet from their Brisbane Arcade store, absolutely jam-packed (sorry!) with tasty goodies, and tell me where you can see that sort of thing now. Just click on the photo if you need to examine this bounty more closely :-)

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #52161)

Of course, there are coffee shops everywhere now, but to my mind they all seem to serve the same generic carrot cake and muffins. The Shingle Inn still exists in a couple of locations, but I hear that they no longer have the same selection of mouth-watering delicacies that used to have women queuing up. When I worked in the city, a birthday or similar celebration meant a trip to the Shingle Inn to buy a cake for your colleagues to share at morning tea. I wonder what happens now? In France, you don't have to walk too far to see a patisserie, and the French are reputed to have a healthier diet than we do. It must be because they still value cooking at home, and generally abhor the fast food chains.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

As for the Brisbane Arcade (see photo above) which was built on the site of the former residence of Patrick Mayne and still is property of the estate of his children, it is still a stylish place for specialty shops, but no cake shop. It's a shame really.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Eternal flame

Monday, April 20, 2009

Red Brick Hotel

There are some interesting hotels around Brisbane town. Drinking at a hotel was quite a different thing a couple of decades ago. Think of some of the changes that have occurred in that time: no smoking rules introduced; introduction of poker machines; breathalysers brought in to reduce drink driving; increased trading hours; full Sunday trading; women allowed in public bars. That's right - it was only as recently as the sixties (OK, OK - it seems recent to me!) that women were not allowed in the public bar of a hotel - they were restricted to the lounge bar only. All of that came to a head one day when a couple of women chained themselves to the foot rail of the public bar at one of Brisbane's grand old pubs, the Regatta Hotel on Coronation Drive at Toowong. Here's a photo of another grand old pub, Burke's Hotel in Annerley Rd at South Brisbane, taken around 1929.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #1864)

The hotel has had a couple of changes since it was erected in 1890. I first knew it in one of its earlier guises, the Red Brick Hotel. And not because I drank there - I don't think that I have even been inside. Back in my footballing days, there was a team from this hotel in the rugby competition I was involved in, and there wasn't a meaner or uglier group of rugby players anywhere - I just hope none of them are reading this. :-) I wasn't a fast runner then, and I'm even slower now!
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

It doesn't matter now how mean or ugly they were; they must have supported the hotel well enough because it is still standing at 83 Annerley Rd, just up from the Mater Hospital. It may now have reverted to its original name, and I can't provide any current information on their sporting prowess. The hotel itself has changed somewhat - the red brick from which it took its name during my rugby years has been rendered over, and the magnificent balconies have been removed. The roof line still looks like something from an old Hitchcock movie, though.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Disappearing calories

Friday, April 17, 2009

Valley Baths

Imagine the names of swimmers who must have passed through the doors of the Valley Pool. Once Queensland's main competition pool, the Valley Pool, or "Valley Baths" as it used to be called, is still a vital part of swimming for fun and for competition in Brisbane. Because of the climate, swimming has always been popular here. Residents used to swim in the Brisbane River before the first public swimming pool was built at Spring Hill in 1886. The Fortitude Valley Municipal Swimming Bath was designed by city architect AH Foster and built in 1925, and became a popular venue immediately. The photo below was taken some time between 1930 and 1940, and shows a "multiple dive" from the various diving-boards at the pool. And you thought that synchronised diving was only a new sport!

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #39245)

Through the years since it was built, the Valley Pool has seen school swimming carnivals and amateur swim club meets, as well as Commonwealth and Olympic trials, child swimming classes and water polo matches. That all sounds pretty municipal to me. Although the interior of the pool has been modernised, the historical facade has been retained, and is readily visible to the thousands daily who travel down Wickham St towards Breakfast Creek. This is how it looks.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

These days, it seems as though any person with a camera anywhere near children or teenagers, particularly if they are wearing a swimming costume, is automatically presumed to be a paedophile. Rather than incur the wrath of any overzealous official or parent, I have restricted myself to taking a photo of the exterior of the pool only - click on the photo for a larger image. In any case, I love the seeming formality of the brickwork and the importance of the "Municipal Swimming Bath" caption above the entrance. It seems to be the exact opposite to the way I would imagine a recreational swimming pool - lively and laughter-filled, with adults and children of all ages relaxing in the cool water.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Red brick

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Back in the olden days, before iPods, before computer games, even before television, dinosaurs roamed the earth sorry, kids used to READ for entertainment! Hard to believe, I know. I remember a series of children's books called Little Golden Books - they had cute stories for kids like "The Little Engine that Could"; and "Dr Dan the Bandage Man'. That one featured the universal remedy, the Band-Aid, and for ages after I read it, any time I scratched myself I had to have two Band-Aids applied in the shape of a cross to make sure I healed properly. What my mother had to put up with! There was also a story about a tugboat called Scuffy who felt that he was destined for bigger things, much like the hero of today's blog. I give you the mighty tug "Forceful", built in Scotland in 1925 and destined for bigger things right here in Brisbane, where she arrived in March 1926. Here is a picture taken some time after that, as she manoeuvres the passenger liner Orion in the Brisbane River.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland & John Oxley Library; #7708-0001-0024)

Forceful (what a great name for a tug!), a coal-burning steam vessel, plied the Brisbane River and Moreton Bay through until World War II, when she got called up by the Royal Australian Navy to work out of Darwin for a couple of years. She then returned to her tugly duties in the Brisbane River until retirement in 1970. Wait - did I say retirement? Look, dear reader - here is a picture of Forceful in the Brisbane River taken only recently. Click on the picture if you want to see the climbers on the Story Bridge (oh! - and a closer view of Forceful). :-)
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Yes, Forceful was saved from the dreaded "R" word (no Jimmy - not Recession. We still have to have that!) by the lovely people at the Queensland Maritime Museum, who have carefully maintained her since 1971. She now lives at the old dry-dock at Southbank, and takes people on tourist trips up and down the river and around Moreton Bay. And I think that's a perfect way for her to grow old.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Bath time

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Our Lady of Victories

During the years from 1917 to 1965, James Duhig was the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, and he was responsible for enormous growth in the church - not only in terms of congregation, but also education and perhaps most notably, property. During this period he presided over the construction of more than 400 new church buildings, many on prime hilltop sites in Brisbane, and he became known as "James the Builder". One of the earlier churches built during his tenure was the Our Lady of Victories church in Bowen Hills, constructed in 1924-5 on land purchased from the Perry family (Perry House, Perry Park - more on them later). Here is a photograph of the church from around 1928.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #71096)

This church is unique in that it was constructed not only as a place of worship, but also as a memorial to the Catholic servicemen who were killed in the Great War. The Spanish mission styled church was designed by Brisbane architectural firm Hall & Prentice and constructed by a Mr H Cheetham (just as well his first name wasn't Ian or Ivan!) for £9435, which included the £400 architectural fee. In 1955, Archbishop Duhig handed the church over to the Polish community, and the Franciscan Brothers have provided mass in English and Polish from that year onwards. Those wishing to read more about the history of this church should visit this Queensland Government EPA site. Because of its landmark position at Bowen Hills, together with its 40-odd metre spire, the church is readily seen from many parts of Brisbane. My photo, below, was taken from the deck of a CityCat on the Brisbane River.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Another feature of the church is the blue neon cross on the top of the spire, ensuring that the church stands out at night as well as during the day. I thought this may have been a more modern addition to the church, but in fact "the large electrically illuminated cross" was evident from the very beginning, as reported in a Catholic newspaper of the time. It may have provided some comfort to the many soldiers stationed just down the road at Camp Perry Park during WWII.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: May the force be with you

PS: There will be no posts over the
Easter holiday break. For those regular readers (hi, Mum!) my next post will be on Wednesday 15th April.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Smellie & Co

The Times in London reports that some of England's oldest family names are dropping out of use because they might be rude or offensive. Some of the names have been around since the Middle Ages, but the report in The Times says that many have died out over the last century as people with unusual names change them to something less embarrassing. Here are some of the solid old English surnames that people are abandoning: Cock, Daft, Death, Jelly, Shufflebottom, Smellie. A couple of those names will be familiar to residents of Brisbane. TH Cock Pty Ltd is a well established electrical contractor, and one of Brisbane's oldest buildings is the Smellie & Co building at the bottom of Edward St. Here is a composite picture of the Smellie & Co establishment from around 1920.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; 111862)

Smellie & Co in Brisbane dates back to the 1860s, when the RR Smellie & Co foundry was established in Alice St. A burgeoning Brisbane ensured that the firm grew, and by 1882, it had become Smellie & Co, a hardware and machinery retailer. A three-storey building (bottom of photo above) designed by Richard Gailey was constructed on the corner of Edward St and Alice St in 1888, but still further expansion became necessary and a bulk warehouse (top of photo above)was constructed in Edward St in 1895-6.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The higher of the two buildings now contains a restaurant and apartments, and the smaller bulk warehouse also survives as an office at the bottom of Edward St, just opposite the Stamford Plaza hotel. Here is a photo of it that I took recently (above). Click on it if you wish to see a larger version. Although the original name isn't apparent on the taller building (I guess it's not too trendy to live in the "Smellie Apartments") the Smellie & Co name is proudly displayed on the front of the smaller building, and I hope that it never goes out of fashion there.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: James the builder

Friday, April 3, 2009

Brisbane City Hall

When it was built, Brisbane's City Hall, with its distinctive clock tower, was the tallest building in the city, and it remained so for another 30 years. The clock could be seen and heard all over town. When I started work in the city in the latter half of the sixties, City Hall was just being pipped for height by a couple of office blocks. One of them was the MLC building on the corner of Edward and Adelaide Sts, which later added to its height by installing a weather beacon on the top. By a system of changing lights which could viewed over much of Brisbane, you could tell whether it would be rainy or fine weather. These days you can do that with an iPhone! The foundation stone for City Hall was laid by the Prince of Wales in 1920, and the building was finally opened in 1930, when this photograph was taken from across Ann St.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #31184)

We learn now that City Hall is suffering from "serious structural, electrical, mechanical, hydraulic and safety issues and may have to close permanently", according to the City Council's web site. Estimates for the repair of the building vary between $100 million and $200 million, but fortunately the consensus seems to be that City Hall must be saved. Actually, that part of town is looking quite bedraggled already - King George Square is being redeveloped because of the construction of the Northern Busway, and the closure of City Hall for major repairs will increase the look of abandonment. Here is a picture taken of City Hall before King George Square was cleared for its makeover.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

It would be a shame to lose this icon of the city,and I think that the funds for the building's restoration just have to be found somehow. I can't imagine Brisbane without a City Hall, and if not this one, then where? Tearing it down and rebuilding would be anathema to most Brisbanites.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: What's in a name?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lamb House

Although it no longer exists, for generations Edwards & Lamb was a well-known drapery store in Queen St, Brisbane. One of the founding partners, Mr John Lamb, selected Brisbane's prime piece of real estate to build his dream house, which he simply called "Home" in a rather understated way. It was also known as Lamb House, and it was constructed in 1902. Here is a picture of it from around 1904.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #60861)

The information filed with the picture says: "Home was designed by Brisbane architect Alexander Brown Wilson and built by W. Anthony". The house is perched on top of the cliffs at Kangaroo Point, directly opposite Gardens Point, so that it originally would have had extraordinary views both down- and up-river. Up-river views have been somewhat curtailed with further development in the area. The views were obviously a feature of the house for both the owner and the architect, given that an observation platform was constructed as part of the dwelling. The large wrap-around verandahs on both levels of "Home" would also have maximised the wonderful outlook from this building. "Home" is still standing, and here it is today.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

I'm not absolutely sure, but I think that a descendant of John Lamb still lives at "Home". Sadly, the building seems to have lacked some maintenance in recent years - broken tiles and peeling paint are evident, even from quite a distance. The vacant block in front of the house has been sold a couple of times recently for substantial sums, thus proving the old real estate adage "Position, position, position".
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

And, let there be no doubt about the position. On the day I photographed the house, I also took this image from in front of it, looking down the city reach of the river towards the CBD. I doubt if anyone could tire of this view, given that you have water, trees and city lights to see.

Click here to see a Google Map.


Next: Chimes
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