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


  1. wow, great post

    thanks on many points

    * interesting story
    * driven past that point a fair few times, i'm embarrassed to say i don't think i ever actively looked at the building
    * i'm pleased it's still there
    * the post made me look at nearby areas on google maps' street view - it's interesting to see the valley now; my grandmother lived in new farm; to visit her we would drive across the Story Bridge and down McLachlan St then go to Bowen Tce; it's intesrsting to see how much it's changed, good to see that there is a lot still the same
    * one other thing, jsut two blocks away from Bulolo Flats ... Martin St, my mum used to say that Martin St was full of "prowlers" in the 50s - seems as if it gets plenty of light these days - my memory of it from the 70s/80s is that it was a dark street, and i could easily magine a prowler or two

  2. I had the pleasure in living in one of the upstairs apartments about 10 years ago. It has been refurbished inside and is a stunner. The original internal staircase is gorgeous. My bathroom was completely original, had a terrazzo floor with brass inlays; the huge bath tub was the deepest bath I have ever been in, and the original deco style toilet pedestal with a timber toilet seat was still there.
    The stairs go up to the roof which is actually a decked area that covers the whole roof area. Great views of the city and valley.
    Despite where it is, it was relatively quiet and walking in the door is like stepping back in time. If you ever get a chance for a peek inside....go.

  3. Wow - thanks for that info Sando. It sounds delightful!


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