Friday, October 30, 2009

Supreme Court

As Brisbane came into being as a result of the way courts dealt with convicted criminals in the nineteenth century, it should be no surprise to find that courts were significant buildings in the town. One of the finest buildings we had in the city was the Supreme Court building in George St, designed by the Colonial Architect, FDG Stanley, and built by the Petrie Construction Company in the 1870s. This grand building graced George St for almost one hundred years until it was torched by an arsonist and destroyed in 1968. The picture below shows the wonderful building around the year 1889.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #80784)

The current Supreme Court building was erected in the 1970s to replace the original. To my mind, it is a rather bland and nondescript construction. I hope that it is functional! My photographs (below) are of the messy entrance to the Law Courts in George St, and the statue of the Greek goddess of justice, Themis, which stands in front of the court building.

(Photos: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

And we must still be a fairly lawless lot here in Brisbane, because lack of room is forcing the construction of a new courts complex further west along George St. An artist's impression of the proposed new building can be seen here, on the web-site of the Department of Justice and Attorney-General.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Crossing the creek

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

St Mary's Catholic Church, South Brisbane

There was a great deal of controversy surrounding this church for some time, although it does seem that an uneasy truce has been reached now. This is the building of St Mary's Catholic Church at Merivale St, South Brisbane, pictured around the year 1900.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library, #16357)

Because I am not a regular church goer, let alone a member of this community, I could hardly be an authority on what has gone on here. I don't know whether media reports have necessarily been free of bias, but to summarise them it appears that the former parish priest at the church participated in or condoned certain activities within the church that were not wholly in accord with Catholic doctrine. For example, gay worshippers were welcomed, and certain parts of the mass were adjusted from the viewpoint of political correctness. Apparently though, the congregation kept growing, reversing the trend that has occurred in Christian churches elsewhere. You can read a bit more about all this here, at fellow-blogger Cara's Brisbane Daily Photo. After protracted disagreement, the Catholic Church decided that it could no longer support the priest and he was asked to leave. Another parish priest has now been appointed in his place. Here is my current view of the exterior of the church, and below that is a picture from 2007, showing the beautiful interior. The congregation is preparing for a baptism.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

(Photo: State Library of Queensland & John Oxley Library; #7718-0001-0011)

Members of the former community now worship down the road at the Trades and Labor Council building in Peel St. It seems somewhat of a shame that the rigid structures of the Church were not able to cope with something a little different but still within the broad framework of "religion", and which obviously appealed to so many people. It seems like a story heard before - about events that occurred around two thousand years ago.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Supreme

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fortitude Valley Police Station

Let me start today's post by declaring that I have never been in this building. And I don't really want to either, because a visit to a "cop shop" is usually structured around bad news of some sort. Come to think of it, I believe the only police buildings that I have entered have been overseas - I have managed to lose luggage in quite a few places in the world, thus necessitating a visit to the local gendarmerie to file a report. The most spectacular was in Athens, when I spent a few hours on each of several successive days trying to explain how my luggage was stolen outside the airport terminal. They basically couldn't care less (not surprising, really - I'm sure that they had better things to do) but after a great deal of persistence on my part I finally ended up with a police report for my Australian travel insurer - written in Greek. Anyway, this post is set in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley, not Greece, so I'd better move along before I am arrested for loitering :-) The Fortitude Valley Police Station was opened with a great deal of fanfare in 1936, when it was heralded as the "finest, most up-to-date, and most comfortable police station in Queensland." I'm guessing that they meant comfortable for the coppers, not for the crims! The photo below, with two Queensland policemen (I think they are real - if they are statues, someone has nicked 'em!) guarding the entrance, was taken shortly after the building's construction in 1936. Click the pic to see a larger image.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #111966)

As Brisbane grew, the Valley was one of the earliest places to be settled, being only a few kilometres from the centre of town. Many immigrants settled in the Valley and nearby, and the Valley became an important commercial centre too, so it was necessary for this growing population to be supported by a police presence. Police still operate from this building, and in fact, it has just undergone a major refit costing in the order of $16 million to ensure that it will keep doing so. This is the way it looks now.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The police station is situated on the corner of Wickham and Brookes St, just down from the Valley Pool, and over the road from the Holy Trinity Anglican Church. It is a solid-looking, no-nonsense structure that was designed by Raymond Nowland of the Department of Works. I'm sure that it can house the long arm of the law for a while yet.

Click here for a Google Map.


Catholic TLC

Friday, October 23, 2009


It's darned hard to take a photograph at a railway station these days. For a start, there are some rather nebulous laws that seemingly only railway employees know about, which are to prevent people from taking pictures, thereby avoiding acts of terrorism. Secondly, because of high voltage electric wires, railway stations these days have so much in the way of steel bars and protective wire mesh to prevent people from hurting themselves, either intentionally or unintentionally, that taking pictures is almost impossible. In fact, any terrorist needing a photograph of a suburban railway station would resort to Google Earth anyway. Here is my recent photograph of suburban Wooloowin railway station. I do try to make my photos as attractive as possible - honestly I do. But this scenario was just about impossible.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

I wanted to photograph the station in a similar way to today's historical photo (below), which shows Wooloowin Railway Station on 23rd March, 1909. People dressed in their "going-out" clothes are waiting to board a steam train that is pulling into the platform.
(Photo: State Lbrary of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APO-034-0001-0028)

There is something about trains that appeals to little boys, and big boys too. I wanted to be an engine driver when I was a kid, and I asked Santa for an electric train set for many years without success. Not because I was a naughty boy (although I'm sure I had my moments!), but because a large family living on one wage in a housing commission home couldn't afford such luxuries. However, I did actually get to play trains - I was able to build real trains on the school holidays prior to my last year at school. Diesel-electric trains used to be built by a company called English Electric in the Brisbane suburb of Rocklea, and I helped to build them. All right, if you want the truth, I had a menial labouring job in the paint division, where one was getting its final paint job while I was there. Here is a couple of photographs of it, taken with my first camera.
(Photos: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Yes, that spindly youth leaning nonchalantly on the side of the train is yours truly, aged sixteen. The notations made in my schoolboy handwriting on the back of the Ferraniacolor slides (a little known film brand that disappeared eons ago) say "19-1-66; 201/K". That translates as the date - 19th January 1966, and the number of the diesel locomotive - "K" series, number 201. You can see from the name on the front of the locomotive that it is bound for Western Australia.

The internet is an amazing resource. With a little bit of on-line sleuthing, I was able to track down the history of this locomotive. A site called carried the information that the loco was purchased by the West Australian Government, then onsold to Goldsworthy Mining. Goldsworthy Mining was taken over by BHP, and my train was sent to BHP at Port Kembla. (Details from

Subsequent to that, the engine was retired, and apparently lives in peaceful seclusion at a museum rail yard at South Dynon in Melbourne. Here is the evidence - a photo of the loco (although the paintwork has changed from the way I left it in 1966!) showing its serial number K 201 under the front platform - click the photo to see a larger image.
(Photo: Courtesy wongm's rail gallery at

So, the poor old thing looks a little rough around the edges and in desperate need of a face lift - much like me really :-) That's the end of our trainspotting - I'm putting the anorak back in the cupboard.

Click here for a Google Map.


Comfort for coppers

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Spring Hill Baths

Take a moment to think about the first European arrivals to Brisbane, from when the penal settlement commenced in 1824 through to the twentieth century. How would they have coped with the sub-tropical heat and humidity, particularly given the then much more formal standards of dress? Seeing the indigenous inhabitants parading around in next-to-nothing cannot have helped their disposition on a sultry summer day, when their own northern hemisphere garments would have been stifling. It is no wonder that bathing became very popular - firstly in the Brisbane River, and then in the public swimming pools as they were gradually constructed. It took over seventy years for the first one to appear in 1896 at Spring Hill, and here it is, pictured around the year 1959.
(Ph0to: Courtesy Brisbane City Council; Image #BCC-B54-11585)

The Municipal Public Baths were opened by the Mayor of Brisbane, James Hipwood, who then was reportedly the first to take a dip in the pool. A complex system of hydraulics enabled the pool to be filled daily from holding tanks that were fed from the river, and then the water was drained out at the end of each day. This system was maintained until the introduction of a filtration system in 1961. The pool still functions, and here it is today.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

This pool was the only one in town until the construction of the Valley Baths in 1925, and initially, bathing was segregated. Pictured below is a group of female swimmers inside the pool building, around 1910.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #98708)

The interior is relatively unchanged, and my recent photo is below. Although a group of women were doing an aquarobics class when I visited the pool, I was warned at the front desk that, whilst they would let me inside to capture a couple of images, I was not to take any photos that included people. And that's fair enough, really - I wouldn't take a photo of someone in a swimming costume without asking them first. Some places aren't enlightened at all, and just place a blanket restriction on photography.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The pool itself is surrounded by wonderful little changing cubicles, each one individually painted - some of them are evident in my photo, but for a better look, click here to see Cara's colourful picture at Brisbane Daily Photo. This pool was used competitively for many years, and Australian swimmer (and Empire Games medallist) Tony Fingleton trained here, as discussed in the book "Swimming Upstream" that he co-wrote with his sister, Queensland Magistrate Di Fingleton. It is available at your local library, and was also made into a great film that starred Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Trainspotting

Monday, October 19, 2009

Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Fortitude Valley

A Mr FDG Stanley (Francis Drummond Greville to his friends!) was the Colonial Architect in the early days of Queensland, and in his spare time, he liked buildings! He was a rather busy man at work and at play, because his work is still turning heads all over Queensland. His list of Brisbane achievements is quite extensive - the Port Office, St Paul's Presbyterian, the former State Library building in William St, and the old Government Printery, to name a few. He also designed today's building, which is the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Fortitude Valley - right opposite the Valley Police Station in Wickham St. Brisbane people must have been quite devout in the late nineteenth century, judging by the number of churches constructed in that period. This church was completed in 1877, and the following photo dates from the 1880s.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #21972)

The State Government's EPA site, noting that Stanley designed the church, also records: "Although he was employed as Colonial Architect at the time, the Holy Trinity church was one of his many private projects." It might be assumed that there were not many architects in the colony at the time, so work would have been quite plentiful. The church, described as "a mid - Victorian interpretation of Early English Gothic architecture", still graces our presence today, and here it is.(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The Holy Trinity parish was established in 1856, splitting off from the parish of St John's in town. Residents of Fortitude Valley used to walk into Brisbane to attend church at St John's, a difficult feat on uneven and swampy tracks. As the growth in Fortitude Valley became apparent, the Anglican Church initially rented a cottage on the corner of Ann and Ballow Streets, but eventually, in 1857 (prior to separation), the colony of New South Wales granted the church a tract of land between Ann and Wickham Streets at Brookes St to enable a new church to be built. This is the second church built on the site, replacing an earlier church which had become too small for the growing congregation.

Stanley also designed the rectory adjacent to the church. It was completed in 1889, and is pictured below around 1940.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #64176)

The rectory also is intact today - still operating in its original function too. Although conspired against by a fleet of huge trucks parked outside it and the rather large tree overhanging the building, I did manage to photograph it, and here it is.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Segregated swimming

Friday, October 16, 2009

Edmund Rosenstengel

Back in 1922, a Toowoomba-born man set up a furniture manufacturing business at 524 Brunswick St, New Farm. He had learned his cabinet-making craft as an apprentice to his father in Toowoomba, and further refined it in places as far away as Sydney, Auckland and Vancouver. His name was Edmund Rosenstengel, and he was to become a well-known Brisbane furniture maker whose pieces are still sought after today. Here is his showroom, pictured in the days of horse-drawn deliveries.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #141057)

Ed Rosenstengel lived just around the corner from his business premises, at 72 Harcourt St, New Farm. He is pictured here at home, relaxing in a lounge chair that was made in his own factory.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #141008)

The quality of Rosenstengel's work and his use of native Queensland timbers meant that he had custom orders from well-to-do Queensland residents, as well as other places of interest. There is a host of detail in this frame that he made for the opening of Brisbane's City Hall - click to see a larger image.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #139990)

Rosenstengel was commissioned to build a bedroom suite made from Queensland maple that was to be installed in Government House for the visit of the Duke of Gloucester in 1934, and he also designed a maple and satinwood jewellery box (below) that was presented to  the Duchess of York (later in her life, she would be known as the Queen Mother) during her visit to Brisbane with her husband (who was to become King George VI) in 1927.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #141013)

I'd like to report that the Rosenstengel business continues, but he retired in 1956, and died in his New Farm home in 1962. His showroom and workshops have gone too, replaced by a modern office building.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Mr Stanley, I presume?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

St Brigid's, Red Hill

Before moving to apartment living at Teneriffe, we lived in Brisbane's western suburbs for years. During that time, I would drive out of the city after work each afternoon, and head west for the trip home. Just after the Normanby Fiveways, I would pass this magnificent Gothic structure. It is St Brigid's Catholic Church, built in a very prominent position on Musgrave Rd at Red Hill. Click the photo to see a larger image - look for the statue of St Brigid in the central gable on the top of the church.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

I've never had cause to go to this church, so I made it my business recently to find out a bit more about it. It seems that this structure wasn't the first catholic church on the site - a previous building had been erected in 1877, and is pictured here from around 1910.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #7917)

But the increase in parishioners in those inner-city suburbs around Milton and Paddington meant that a larger church was needed, so in 1912, work commenced on a new church designed by Robin Dods of Hall & Dods. Archbishop Duhig wanted a grand structure, and he got it. Modelling it on a cathedral in Albi, France, Dods made it large enough to seat 1000 worshippers. It is certainly imposing, and its position on a ridge makes it visible from many parts of the city. I would love to know how many red bricks were used!

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #18854)

St Brigid's was opened by Archbishop Duhig on 9 August 1914, in a large dedication ceremony that was also attended by Archbishop Mannix from Melbourne. The photo above records the scene from that day.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Toowoomba boy makes good

Monday, October 12, 2009

Brisbane staples: Soft drinks and ice creams

On a hot day in the Brisbane of the fifties and early sixties, the signs on this corner shop would be enough to send a kid into rapture, given that they suggest some of the best-liked refreshments of the time: Sawtell's pure fruit juices, Pauls ice cream and Tristram's soft drinks. The shop itself is in West End, on the corner of Vulture St and Besant St.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #131738)

These two streets meet at a rather sharp angle, so the building has an unusual shape, reminiscent of the famous Flatiron Building in New York. It is still a corner store, but with some changes - the signs are now for coffee and sandwiches. The balcony on the upper level has been removed.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

I think that Sawtell's fruit juices were made in Maryborough with fruit from Queensland's citrus belt, but the juice is no longer available. Here's a label, though.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #190715)

Pauls and Tristram's were manufactured in Brisbane, not far from this shop. Here's a picture of the Tristram's Soft Drinks factory from 1950.

(Photo: Courtesy Brisbane City Council; Image number BCC-B54-657)

Although Tristram's Soft Drinks are no more, their factory building remains in Boundary St, South Brisbane, and is now known as The Markets. It contains a number of retail stores.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The Pauls factory could be found a little further on, down on Montague Rd by the river. Although the Pauls brand is still seen on milk and ice-cream, the company is now overseas owned - its parent company is the Italian conglomerate Parmalat. So, the passage of time has dealt harshly with these former Queensland brand icons - more's the pity for today's kids who don't know what they are missing. :-)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Red church at Red Hill

Friday, October 9, 2009

Ithaca Town Hall

Before Brisbane became a city, it was made up of a number of shires. One such shire was Ithaca, just to the west of the central city, and including areas we know today as Kelvin Grove, Red Hill and Paddington. The name "Ithaca" is Greek in origin, and this district evidently got its name from the birthplace of Lady Bowen, the wife of the state's first Governor. Unfortunately, the name is now one of those that exist as localities only, not actual suburbs. Ithaca was proclaimed a town in 1887, and then a shire in 1903; and the Ithaca Town Hall was completed in 1910. Here it is, as photographed in 1919.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #161133)

As might be expected from such a substantial-looking brick building, it still stands on Enoggera Terrace at Red Hill. As the town of Ithaca no longer exists, there is no need for a town hall. However, the building still does its civic duty, having been converted to use as a kindergarten and library for the local citizens. Here is my recent picture of it.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

When Greater Brisbane came into being in 1925, the Brisbane City Council became the owner of the property, and still owns it today, along with several other former town halls, each of them a reminder of our past.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Boyhood treats

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

South Brisbane Railway Station

Here's another of those delightful Shell postcards from yesteryear, this time depicting the "Entrance to the Melbourne St Railway Station in South Brisbane", and it dates from the period 1906-1910.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APE-062-0001-0004)

The railway station was built in 1890 as part of Brisbane's embryonic local rail system - up until 1901, there were only two other city stations, Roma Street and Central. However, it was to become a major hub in our suburban rail network, and was also extended to include embarkation points to the Gold Coast, Cleveland and Beaudesert, as well as interstate travel. When I first started work, I travelled to Sydney each year on cricket and football trips that departed from this station, which by then was known as South Brisbane Interstate Station. It was an overnight journey to Sydney, and my main recollections are the devious methods we had to employ to smuggle large quantities of beer onto the train. In preparation for Brisbane's Expo, the interstate terminus was moved to Roma St, and South Brisbane Station reverted to local rail use only.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

This is today's view of the station (above). Somehow it seems a little less grand than before - perhaps that's the pastel colours now evident.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Ithaca

Monday, October 5, 2009

St Patrick's, Fortitude Valley

Amidst the present-day commercial hustle and bustle of the Valley sits another heritage-listed Catholic church, St Patrick's. The original St Patrick's was the second Catholic church in Queensland, and was built in 1860 on the corner of Wickham and Duncan Streets. Twenty years later, the increasing Catholic community of Spring Hill, the Valley and New Farm demanded a larger place of worship, so Bishop Quinn purchased a fairly sizeable chunk of land east of Ann St for that purpose. Here he decided to build a 1500-seat church, and he engaged architect Andrea Stombuco to provide suitable plans. The new St Patrick's was built over a couple of years, and consecrated by Quinn in 1882. This is the way it looked around the year 1914.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #7908)

Although New Farm subsequently was to build its own Catholic church, St Patrick's continued to serve a large community, predominately Irish and Italian immigrants, from the surrounding areas through to the 1950s. As with other Christian places of worship, attendances dropped off after that time, such that the parish of St Patrick's was dissolved around 1990, and the church is now run from the Cathedral of St Stephen in the city, which is only a couple of kilometres away. The cathedral's web site says "St Patrick’s Church is at the centre of a small and devoted parish community." I guess it becomes problematic for the Catholic church (and indeed, all churches) as parishes become smaller and smaller - the grounds themselves would be enormously valuable if they could be sold, but the heritage listing of the church would prevent any major development there.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

In any case, this is what St Patrick's looked like after mass on a recent Sunday (above). The stone exterior of the church is attractive, and the interior, including the stained-glass windows, is equally fetching. I have to agree with the rest of the words on the Cathedral's web page - "The spirit and calm of the church offers prayerful sanctuary from the business world outside."

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Interstate travel

Friday, October 2, 2009

Albion Park Racecourse

Although keen on sport generally, I have never really been interested in horse-racing. But plenty are, particularly here in Australia where it has often been said that the general population would bet on two flies crawling up a wall. There are currently only two tracks in Brisbane at which horses are raced - Doomben and Eagle Farm, which are right next to each other in the Ascot/Hendra area. But there have been others, and one is the Albion Park Raceway, situated just past the Breakfast Creek Bridge around 4 km from the CBD. I couldn't establish the precise date of its construction, but it seems to have appeared just after the new Breakfast Creek Bridge was built in 1889 and the opening of the Breakfast Creek Hotel in 1890. The following picture was taken around 1900 at Hamilton, and shows the racecourse with Newstead in the background. I think you can just make out the hotel in the right centre of the photograph - click the picture to see a larger image.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #142834)

This next image is from the finish of a race on the sand track in 1937 and shows the houses on Hamilton Hill next to the course.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #106090)

The sport of racing is currently going through a period of rationalisation and amalgamation, and there is a proposal to sell off some of the land in this complex to allow further development. My recent image from a similar position (below) indicates that the 17ha of real estate available at the course would be extremely valuable if redeveloped, given that it is situated next to the exclusive suburb of Hamilton and its proximity to the city. Gallopers no longer race here, as the track is now used exclusively for greyhound and trotting races.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

During WWII, sister Brisbane racecourses at Eagle Farm and Doomben were used as camps for the large numbers of US service personnel posted to Brisbane. Albion Park kept operating as a race track during that time, and was a popular venue that the servicemen used for R&R. American film star John Wayne made a promotional visit to Albion Park in December 1943, and he was pictured there (below) with a Lt-Col Blackween.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #102486)

As uninterested as I am in racing, I have even less interest in gambling, because I find that money is too hard to come by just to throw it away. My father impressed on me that bookmakers are the ones with the expensive cars and houses, whilst the punters usually are from "struggle-street". The following photograph, taken at Albion Park in 1941, appears to show bookmakers on their way home after a spectacularly unsuccessful day in the betting ring. However, they are shoeless merely because of one of Brisbane's spectacular afternoon storms.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #66225)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Hidden sanctuary
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