Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ng House

The Queensland National Bank was formed in Brisbane in 1872, and was taken over by the National Bank of Australasia in 1948. It had quite a strong branch network, including a branch at South Brisbane, originally situated on the corner of Russell and Stanley Streets, pictured here around the year 1890.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #2823)

In 1896, the branch was moved to the corner of Stanley and Ernest Streets, to a building originally built for Allen and Stark, the Queensland drapery store. That building is shown below in a photo from 1900.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #7945)

Finally the bank built its own building, designed by Addison and McDonald, on the corner of Melbourne and Grey Streets, and it was opened in 1928. The photo below is from around that time.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #201357)

The South Brisbane branch of the bank was closed in 1978, but the building remains. No longer the business or shopping precinct it once was, the area is now a cultural precinct with Queensland Performing Arts Centre, the State Library and the Museum of Queensland in close proximity.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The building is now called Ng House, and is owned by the principal of a chartered accounting firm.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: The Duke goes to the races

Monday, September 28, 2009


Set high on a hill in Windsor, this fabulous house was built in 1898-9 for Brisbane solicitor John Flower of the venerable law firm Flower & Hart. It was designed by GHM Addison, who obviously was able to turn his hand to residences with as much success as to his commercial ventures. Called Kirkston, the house was originally set on almost three hectares just under five kilometres from the GPO. Kirkston is pictured below in 1931 and again in 1943.

(Photos: Courtesy State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #16489 and #88513)

The house has 360 degree views over Brisbane, and, although it appears that some extensions and modernisation have taken place, it is still a wonderful family home. My recent photograph is below.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: South Brisbane art deco

Friday, September 25, 2009

Brisbane Trams

Don't you love the way language evolves? When tram lines criss-crossed the city, Fortitude Valley was a central hub for the trams, and also a very busy retail centre. So, a common request by the passengers to the tram conductor was "Two to the Valley!" - an order for two tram tickets to that destination. But then the phrase also came to mean something else. It became a polite way of saying something quite impolite, probably stemming from the hand signal that semaphored the same message - two fingers pointed upwards in the reverse-victory formation. These days, it seems the signal used is the raised middle finger alone, in the American way.

Well, today's post is about trams - Brisbane's
long lost and much lamented trams. They disappeared from our streets forty years ago, and that is a decision that many politicians wish they could revisit now. Brisbane's then Lord Mayor, Clem Jones, who did so much that was right in Brisbane, commissioned a report from a US urban consultancy firm, Wilbur Smith, to develop an infrastructure plan for Brisbane. Wilbur Smith recommended an upgraded motorway system, and the abolition of the electric trams and trolley-buses in favour of diesel buses. Unfortunately, Clem's usually accurate civic judgement was awry on this point, and the electric public transport system duly bit the dust.
Two to the Valley to you, Wilbur Smith!

Wilbur Smith also recommended that Brisbane's train network should be reduced - thank goodness that didn't eventuate! Can you imagine the state of Brisbane's traffic now if that had also occurred? Below is a collection of photos of the various styles of trams seen in Brisbane over the years. Click any photo to see a larger image.

(Photos: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; from top #6030 , #picqld-2006-03-16-13-40, #10341, #183358, #104198)

The last Brisbane trams ran on 13 April, 1969. The trams were crowded - over 70,000 people travelled on trams on that day. There were reminiscences, sadness, parties, placards and near riots at various points of the tramway network. Here is the official last tram, No 554, on that last journey. Car 554 is what is known as a Phoenix Tram, and the Phoenix symbol can be seen on the side of the front cabin just below the motorman.
(Photo: Courtesy Brisbane City Council; BCC B120-30522)

It is possible to ride in a tram once more, as I discovered recently. A visit to the Brisbane Tramway Museum at Ferny Grove will allow you to take your seat on several versions of Brisbane's trams for a brief journey up a hill, round a couple of bends, and back again while the museum's volunteers patiently explain the evolution of the tramway system. The motorman and conductor wear their traditional livery, including the Foreign Legion caps; and you even get your ticket punched by the conductor, just like the old days! This fresh, open-air method of transport is sorely missed, and the clanking of the tram along the track, together with the ringing of the bell that signalled the driver (once to stop, twice to restart) was a real nostalgia rush for me. It is good fun and quite educational, and I recommend it, particularly for boys of all ages. Here are some of the trams on display there - click for a larger image. The tram in the middle image of the top row is No 554, that official last tram, preserved at the museum for future generations.
(Photos: © 2009 the foto fanatic)
Click here for a Google Map.

A Windsor castle

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

CBC, Fortitude Valley

Back in 1834, a new bank started up in Sydney, joining the two existing banks - Bank of New South Wales and Bank of Australia. The new bank was to be known as the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney. None of these banks exist today, except that Bank of New South Wales changed its name to Westpac Banking Corporation and still operates under that new name. The CBC of Sydney became one of the larger banks through until its merger with National Australia Bank in 1982. When I was working at AMP, the CBC was the bank my employer used, and I had associations with various branches - Maryborough, where I worked for six months, and Mount Isa (two years). Then, when I was back in Brisbane as the AMP Cashier, I had to transport the day's receipts to the bank's Queensland Head Office which used to be on the north-eastern corner of Queen and Creek Streets. Back in those days, banks used to be keen on owning their own premises, unlike today, where the preference is not to have those assets, with leasing being better for the bottom line. Today's picture shows the CBC branch at Fortitude Valley, on the corner of Brunswick St and Ann St. The photo was taken in 1954, and the building is all dressed up for the visit of the new Queen.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; # 189945)

The Valley has moved on from its days as one of Brisbane's retail centres, and now the focus is more on entertainment - pubs, nightclubs and markets. The Valley Markets were in full swing on the day I visited the old CBC premises at the top of the mall. In keeping with the current trends in the neighbourhood, the building has been restyled as the Bank Vault lounge. Live entertainment, drinks and food are now the currency here.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Two to the Valley

Monday, September 21, 2009

Perry Park

It is clear that a successful businessman in the early days of Brisbane could become quite wealthy. William Perry was one such entrepreneur who, through his ironmongery business Perry Bros, became a substantial landholder in the Breakfast Creek area. William Perry bought Newstead House in 1891, and he also held substantial land at Bowen Hills, where the family home, Folkestone, was situated. The family also built Miegunyah (now also a historical site) on that land, and the area at the bottom of the hill where they used to run their horses and cows is now Perry Park.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library, #106353)

Perry Park is a prominent Brisbane sporting ground. I can remember playing cricket on it in 1967, and it was in use for many years as an AFL venue and the home ground of the Mayne Aussie football club. The picture above, taken in 1938, shows a match between Taringa and Kedron. In WWII, the ground became Camp Perry Park, the home of many servicemen. Click here to see how it looked then.

(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Perry Park is still used as a football ground - now soccer. There is a large general park area adjoining the football ground which is also used to house the trucks and mobile homes that bring the Ekka to Brisbane each year. In my recent photo (above), the well-maintained soccer pitch is evident, and the street behind the oval is Folkestone St, named after the original Perry residence. On the hill in the background is the spire of Our Lady of Victories, the church built on the site of that residence after William Perry passed away.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Entertainment bank

Friday, September 18, 2009

Windsor Shire Council Hall

Back in the 1860s, after the construction of Bowen Bridge to cross Breakfast Creek at Herston, a quarry was developed at Windsor to mine the local porphyry or "tuff" stone for the construction of buildings and roads. The quarry was mined out by the 1920s, but the remnants of it can still be seen today as you drive along Lutwyche Rd near the turnoff to the Albion overpass. (Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

One of the buildings that used the stone was the hall built for the Windsor Shire Council in 1897. That building is right next door to the quarry, and here is a picture of it from 1929, by which time the Council no longer existed, as it had been folded into the Greater Brisbane Council.

(Photo: Courtesy Brisbane Images, Brisbane City Council, Image No BCC-B54-11583.JPG)

When the Greater Brisbane Council was formed in 1925, the first Lord Mayor was William Jolly, who had earned his mayoral chops in this building between 1918 and 1925 as an alderman on the Windsor Town Council, including a period as mayor.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Now the building is the home of the Windsor and District Historical Society and the Brisbane branch of the National Trust.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: The old cow-yard

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bulolo Flats

Are you happy with the way your employer treats you? Are they concerned for your welfare? Would they assist with your housing arrangements if you moved from elsewhere to work with them? Here is a story of an employer with a heart of gold, who did have altruistic attitudes about his mainly female (and often quite young) staff. But first, a slight diversion to New Guinea, and a gold mine at a place called Bulolo, where they started dredging for gold in 1932. In total, they exported 40 tonnes in the period through to 1965. The almost inaccessible terrain in New Guinea made the importing of the dredges and the exporting of the gold a logistical nightmare. Take a look at this video to see what I mean. The following photo from the National Archives of Australia shows gold ingots from Bulolo.
(Photo: Courtesy National Archives of Australia, Image No A6513, 66)

And what on earth has the Bulolo Gold Mine to do with our post today (apart from the heart of gold reference?) Well, if you have ever driven northwards over the Story Bridge and veered right to go down through the Valley via McLachlan St, you have driven past this modest block of flats at 9 McLachlan St, Fortitude Valley.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The name over the front door is Bulolo, and it has been stated that the flats, built in 1934 by Valley businessman TC Beirne, were named after the New Guinea gold mine that was very newsworthy at that time. Beirne had the flats constructed to house young women who came from the country to Brisbane to work in his store, just a few minutes walk away in the Valley shopping precinct. Flats constructed for single women were reasonably common in London and even Sydney, but these were the first of their kind in Brisbane. We have previously mentioned Beirne, a prominent Brisbane businessman of the time, and his generosity. This is another example of the altruistic spirit of a wealthy and well-intentioned man.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Jolly beginnings

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fraser Island

Although not exactly in Brisbane, Fraser Island is close enough to it for me to be able to relate this story. In 1836, only a dozen years after the settlement of Moreton Bay, a Captain James Fraser sailed past it on board his ship the Stirling Castle, on his way from Sydney to Singapore. As well as his normal passengers, cargo and crew, Fraser had with him his pregnant wife, Eliza (pictured below). The Stirling Castle never made it to Singapore - it ran aground in waters off North Queensland. Eliza gave birth soon after the shipwreck, but unfortunately, the infant did not live. The Frasers and some of the ship's complement then set off in a long boat towards Moreton Bay and the settlement there.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #31364)

The Frasers actually landed at Waddy Point, near Orchid Bay, on Fraser Island, where they were met by the aboriginal inhabitants of the island. From here, the story blurs, and becomes the subject of conjecture and controversy. Some future newspaper articles were to publish lurid stories of the party's capture, enslavement and torture and even the death of some of them at the hands of the aborigines. The aborigines, however, did feed the party and even tended to Eliza's sunburn. Whether she was treated as a slave or not, Eliza Fraser survived the ordeal, although her husband passed away on the island - either he was killed by the aborigines or died as the result of the trauma of the shipwreck on top of his existing ailments. Eliza Fraser was eventually rescued by former convict John Graham, who himself had lived with aborigines for a time. Eliza was taken to Brisbane for recovery from the ordeals she had suffered. After having been given substantial sums of money from public donations in Australia, Eliza returned to England, where she portrayed herself as a penniless widow in order to receive more money. She went on tour in England, speaking to paying audiences about her experiences.
(Lake MacKenzie, Fraser Island. Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic))

Fraser Island was originally seen by Captain Cook as he sailed up Australia's east coast. He called it Great Sandy Peninsula, not realising that it was not attached to the mainland. When this was discovered, it became known as Great Sandy Island (indeed, it is the largest sand island in the world), until renamed Fraser Island as a result of the story of the Frasers. It is now a national park, and tourists travel from across the world to experience its natural beauty. In fact, tourism is creating its own issues, and has to be managed wisely to ensure that the island's heritage can be maintained into the future. For instance, problems between tourists and the island's dingoes have led to calls for the dingoes to be culled, but it is probably the number of tourists that should be culled.
(Central Station, Fraser Island. Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Heart of gold

Friday, September 11, 2009


Bicycles have been around for yonks - probably 150 years or so, although the bike we recognise today really dates back to around 1886 when the first chain-driven cycles appeared. I do not know when bicycles reached Australia, but here is a photo from around 1896 that shows some people cycling through Brisbane's Botanical Gardens. The fact that they are female people (click the photo to see a larger image) gave me pause for thought - I admit to thinking that it may not have been "acceptable" for women to ride bikes at that time. On checking Wikipedia - lo and behold! The article on the bicycle includes a section headed "female emancipation" that credits the humble push-bike as being a catalyst for greater freedom for women.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #7871-0001-0023)

Cycling became very popular at the beginning of the twentieth century - once pneumatic tyres and gears became available, there was a real boom in bicycles. Then came the motor car. Now that the automobile has just about reached saturation level, the wheel has turned full circle (groan!) and cycling for fun and fitness has been reinvigorated. These days cycling is the new golf, and hundreds of thousands of weekend riders squeeze into lycra, spin round the block or the park, and then hit the cafes on a regular basis. All of that is fine, but the sight of a legion of those shaved (male) legs in lycra puts the Sunday morning bacon and eggs in jeopardy sometimes. :-)
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

In my recent photo, I have also captured some female cyclists, albeit dressed a little differently from a century ago, competing in a race at the Nundah velodrome. Technology has also altered the bikes significantly - these ones are now made with modern alloys designed to make them lighter and therefore faster. You've come a long way, baby!

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Eliza Fraser

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Original Queensland Museum building

When I wrote an earlier post about the "old" Queensland Museum, I didn't realise that there was an even older one. Back in 1876, the State government commenced work on the construction of a purpose-built museum designed by the Colonial Architect, Mr Francis Drummond Greville Stanley, on land in William St, North Quay, near where the settlement had begun. The museum itself had been established in 1855, years before Queensland separated from New South Wales, with exhibits that were displayed in another building. The following photograph shows the new museum building around the year 1885.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #64729)

The building was designed by the Government architect and built for around £10,000. However, by 1899 the premises were too small for the growing exhibits of the museum, and the museum moved to the former exhibition building at Bowen Hills, the subject of the earlier post. The William St museum building was converted into the State Library, which moved into the building in 1902. I love the columns on the second level, seen a little more clearly in my recent picture below.
(Photos: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The building was further expanded in 1958 with the addition of an exhibition hall, shown to the right of the original building in my photo above. The attractive mural on the front of that building was the winner of a competition held for the purpose, and the expanded premises were opened by Princess Alexandra in 1959. The State Library has now moved on too - it has very modern new premises across the river (below).
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Girls on bikes

Monday, September 7, 2009

Centenary Place

There are a few confusing elements about the subject of today's post. I'm not sure that I have all the answers, but let's examine the information.

Queensland celebrates its 150th year since separation from New South Wales this year, as Queensland officially came into being on 6 June, 1859. Maths wasn't my best subject at school, but I can add up! That means that the centenary celebrations should have occurred in 1959, doesn't it? Indeed they did! And yet, here we have Centenary Place, situated right where the CBD becomes Fortitude Valley, which was commenced in 1924 and officially opened in 1925. Why is this so? It turns out that the Centenary being celebrated by the establishment of the park is 100 years of European settlement in Queensland, and that dates back to 1824. Well, any reason for a party I guess. :-) The picture below was supposedly taken around 1925 when the park was opened, and shows a schoolboy on the steps in the park under the "Centenary Place" sign.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #83069)

The statue behind the schoolboy is that of Robbie Burns, the famous Scottish poet - you can read more about the statue and Burns here. However, the State government's EPA site says that the statue of Burns was not commissioned and erected until 1929, so the photo could not have been taken before then. A further confusion occurs because there is another statue in the park - one of former Queensland Premier, Thomas Byrnes, by all accounts a very popular man himself. And, this park is only five minutes walk from the shopping district at Fortitude Valley, where there used to be the TC Beirne's department store. "Meet you at Beirne's in the Valley!" Burns, Byrnes, Beirne's?
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

During the sixties, Centenary Park became the Brisbane centrepoint for free speech, and there was a regular forum there each Sunday to allow soap-box orators to vent on all manner of topics of the day. The park had a makeover in 1999-2000, but the stone stairway featured in the original photograph remains, recaptured in my recent photo (above). Wary of offering a schoolboy a treat to pose for a photograph in the park, I have no human form to show you! Even the statue of Poet Burns (not Premier Byrnes!) has now been camouflaged by greenery, much as Centenary Place itself is camouflaged by mixed messages.

(Click for larger: Left
- Burns; Centre - Byrnes; Right - Beirne's.
Photos: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Oh - and by a complete fluke, today's post happens to be the 100th on this blog! Another centenary! Time for a party! :-)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Museum to library

Friday, September 4, 2009

Bishop James Quinn

Irish-Catholics were very prominent among Brisbane's early settlers, and the Catholic church was involved in the development of many aspects of the city: religion, education and property to name a few. The church appointed a Bishop of Brisbane in 1859 - prior to that Brisbane had been seen as part of the colony (and therefore the archdiocese) of New South Wales. The first Bishop was James Quinn, a forty year-old Irishman, who was sent out here from Ireland and arrived in 1861 with Mother Mary Vincent Whitty and other Sisters of Mercy. Quinn must have got cracking fairly quickly, establishing a school at St Stephen's with the help of the Sisters, and then starting to buy property for the expansion of the church in Queensland. According to the John Oxley Library's accompanying records, the following image of Quinn dates from around 1860, but perhaps that information is not accurate. Firstly, Quinn didn't get here until 1861 - not in itself an issue. But he didn't call himself James O'Quinn before 1875, according to the Australian Dictionary of Biography and John Oxley's own records. Seeing that the document records the date of Quinn's death, I believe that the photograph of him is more likely to be one taken later in his life, rather than when he first arrived here.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #63315)

The following image is annotated as being from 1865, and shows a much younger-looking Quinn.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #177993)

It seems that Bishop Quinn was a doer. He set about improving the church's finances, he organised the immigration of thousands of his fellow Irishmen into Queensland to help the colony grow. In fact, such was his zeal in this area that the government stopped it, fearful of being so overrun by the Irish that the place would need to be known as "Quinn's land", not Queensland. He was also an autocrat, convinced that he was God's instrument and therefore not to be trifled with. Stories of feuds with the Sisters of Mercy and fellow priests are thick on the ground. For further information on Bishop Quinn (including the reason for the change of name to O'Quinn), I recommend that you read "James Quinn: Monarch of all he surveyed", the 1979 Aquinas Lecture delivered by Dr TP Boland, which can be read here. It is an enlightening and entertaining portrayal of a man Boland describes as an enigma.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Perhaps it is the Cathedral of St Stephen in the centre of Brisbane with which Quinn is indelibly associated. It became a cathedral upon his appointment, and he laid the foundation stone of the larger new cathedral, built next door to the original, in 1863. A statue of Bishop O'Quinn stands in the cathedral grounds, and it is shown in my photograph above.

Click here for a Google Map.


Centenary - what centenary?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Breakfast Creek Hotel

We have looked at a few of Brisbane's old hotels before, and I have denied having been in most of them. That isn't the case with today's post - it features the Breakfast Creek Hotel, which has been one of my favourites over the years. I'll try to explain why, but firstly let's look at the history of the place. The hotel is rightly heritage listed, and you can read the State Government's EPA record here. It appears that there has been a hotel of sorts in the area just on the northern side of Breakfast Creek since 1862 and possibly even earlier than that - in other words, almost since Queensland first separated from New South Wales. However, the current building dates from around 1889 when the foundation stone was laid. The two-story hotel was opened in May 1890, just twelve months after the Breakfast Creek Bridge was completed. Here is a photo of the Breakfast Creek Hotel from shortly after that, when Brisbane was battling the 1893 floods. Notice the boats in the foreground of the hotel - perhaps some thirsty travellers looking for some refreshment. :-) Click the picture to see a larger image.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #99230)

The hotel has had notable publican family owners over the years. It was constructed for William Galloway, who was the mayor of Brisbane at the time. Galloway's initials, WMG, and the date, 1889, are inscribed in the gables at the front of the hotel - see my recent photo below (click for a larger image). Michael McGuire followed after Galloway's death, and subsequent to that, the Cavill family held the licence for many years. It was during their tenure that I first became aware of the hotel and its famous Spanish Garden barbecue restaurant.

(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

I don't know whose idea it was to open a beer garden, decorate it with Spanish bullfighting posters, and cook the patrons' personally selected cuts of beef on a barbecue in front of them, but it has worked a treat over many, many years. Add to that Queensland's Fourex beer still served from wooden kegs in a public bar that welcomes everyone from wharfies to CEOs of some of the country's largest businesses and you surely have a licence to print money. Recent renovations have added a more up-market garden bar at the front of the hotel, and "The Creek" seems to be more popular than ever.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: The mighty Quinn
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