Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Naldham House

The early settlement of Brisbane depended entirely on travel by ship from places far away, and it required sailing up the Brisbane River to the present site of the city. As the settlement grew, wharves were constructed at various points along the river. One of those areas was the bottom of Eagle St where the Eagle St Pier complex is presently situated. Naturally, shipping companies were essential and profitable businesses, and one of the earliest companies of that ilk was the Australasian Steam Navigation Company, later to become the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company (AUSN), a very well known and dominant shipping conglomerate. In 1864, the original company ASN built its headquarters on the corner of Eagle and Felix Streets. The building was subsequently extended and redesigned to become this building, here pictured sometime around 1935.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #168436)

In 1915, the building was taken over by the firm McDonald Hamilton, from where the building received its current name - Naldham House. "Naldham" is a corruption of the names McDonald and Hamilton, and was actually the firm's telex address. (Remember telex machines?) McDonald Hamilton remained in the building until 1986, after which the interior of the building was completely refurbished to become the home of the Brisbane Polo Club. Today, the building is securely nestled in amongst high-rise office towers and apartment complexes, and this is how it looks.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The Polo Club borrowed heavily from the history of the shipping companies that had traded extensively with India, and sported a Raj-liveried doorman, complete with a scarlet coat and white pith helmet, and a lavish wood interior, complete with bearskin rug. Remnants of the original building dating back to 1864 are still visible in the Club's cellar. The exterior of the building is now largely shaded by trees and palms, which I find a tad disappointing in that the lines of the building are shielded from view. It's not terribly PC to criticise trees, but the palms are untidy and unattractive, in my view.

Naldham House also has some historical significance as a marker for the depths of Brisbane floods. Click on my fellow blogger Cara's recent post in her Brisbane Daily Photo blog here.

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