Monday, November 30, 2009

Mooney Memorial Fountain

I'm not sure how this would go down today, but back in 1877 the Brisbane Municipal Council decided that the area around Queen St and Eagle St needed a lift. The civic-minded aldermen of the time decided that they would construct a fountain to beautify the area. And not just any old fountain - what they had erected, complete with a plaque listing all of their names for posterity, was this rather overstated drinking fountain.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #108572)

The 10 metre high fountain was designed by the city engineer, Mr WH Chambers, sculpted by William Webster, and built at a cost of £627. For the purposes of comparison, this newspaper archive shows that Richard Gailey was selling quarter-acre blocks of land at Toowong for £25 in the same year. Whether there was an outcry about the cost, or because it was just too expensive for the Council to fund totally, I cannot say, but there was a public subscription to raise some of the money required. This subscription happened to coincide with another fund-raising effort - one to raise money for a memorial to James Mooney, a volunteer firefighter who had been killed fighting a fire in Queen St. As a result, the self-serving aim of the councillors was diluted somewhat, because the people of Brisbane came to associate the fountain with the collection for Mooney. Even though a memorial to him was actually built at his burial site at Toowong Cemetery, the Eagle St fountain became known as the Mooney Memorial Fountain. The fountain has survived, and here is a current photograph of it.

(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Below is a photograph from 1891, showing the fountain in place at the intersection of Queen and Eagle Sts. The procession is to celebrate Eight Hour Day.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #190686

In the 1930s, the Brisbane City Council planted a weeping fig tree behind the fountain, and the magnificent tree now provides welcome shade over the fountain.

(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The fountain needed some restoration work in 1988, and at that time, the Council decided to formalise the association that the people had recognised since it was built. A plaque commemorating James Mooney and all firefighters who had lost their lives protecting the city was incorporated into the fountain.

(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

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Next: In the navy

Friday, November 27, 2009

Reddacliff Place (Brisbane Square)

At the time that I left school to enter the workforce, there was no shortage of jobs available - unlike today when even university graduates can't be sure of success in finding work. I was able to apply for a job at a number of government departments, banks and insurance companies, all of which absorbed large numbers of young people entering the work force for the first time. Because I began work in an insurance office, I got to know where all the insurance buildings were. This one (below) was my favourite. It is the Prudential Building that used to stand on the corner of Queen St and North Quay, and I loved its art deco lines and the brick facade. Prudential was a well-known British insurance company that opened branches all over the British Empire, and this building housed its Queensland Head Office. The photograph dates from 1958.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; # 201413)

Regrettably, the site has been redeveloped. That's a word often used as a euphemism to describe the destruction of something that may have had historical significance or artistic merit to be replaced, usually with something bland and modern. I have been in the Prudential Building many times, and it was a delight. I suppose that its six storeys just didn't provide enough of a return for its fairly large footprint.

(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Here is what the site looks like today. We have what passes for "green space" in the front - just concrete with an occasional tree for comic relief. The concrete reflects our tropical heat straight back up to pedestrians - more on this when I revisit King George Square in a future post. A huge rectangular office tower that is not really any different from most of the others around it is nearby, with the only offset to this drabness being the colourful blocks with their abstract windows at the lower levels. This area is quite significant, because it is close to where the colony began back in 1825; and it is also part of the vista from Victoria Bridge as you cross to the CBD. As a personal view, I don't think that the redevelopment has the same impact as the older building, more's the pity.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Firefighters' fountain

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Corner of Creek & Adelaide Sts

We've mentioned elsewhere in these pages the significance of the role that Brisbane played during WWII. A total of over one million US service personnel were based here at various times between 1941 and 1945, and when you consider that the normal population of Brisbane was only 330,000 then, it is not hard to see that there would have been some issues. Tomorrow is the anniversary of one of the most reported incidents - the infamous Battle of Brisbane that occurred throughout Thursday 26 November, 1942 - Thanksgiving Day for the Americans. I won't describe the whole circumstances here, because there are plenty of reports available. One of the better ones is recounted in the book Radical Brisbane, which you will find at your local library. There is an electronic excerpt here. The main commotion occurred on the corner of Creek St and Adelaide St in the city, outside the US canteen. That canteen was based in the Primaries Building, shown below in a photograph taken around 1940 - click the photo to see a larger image. It is the large dark brick building on the left side of Adelaide St, towards the centre of the picture.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #109967)

The building remains, and here is the same view down Adelaide St today.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The American PX (Postal Exchange) was situated on the ground floor of the building, and it was both a symbol and a symptom of the simmering unrest between Australian service personnel and their US counterparts. As described by Evans and Donegan in Radical Brisbane, the PX was "groaning under a profusion of American luxuries - cigarettes, alcohol, hams and turkeys, ice-cream, chocolates and nylon stockings - items that to Australian servicemen and civilians were either out of bounds, heavily rationed, or far more highly priced elsewhere." A skirmish in Albert St earlier in the day escalated into violence later in the afternoon and evening. Reports say that over 2000 Australians tried to storm the PX in pursuit of some American servicemen, and as a result, the PX was severely damaged. The following image, originally from the Sunday Truth newspaper, shows workmen repairing broken windows in the aftermath of the disturbance. (Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #106429)

In fact it was more than a mere disturbance. Shots were fired in attempts to quell what had become a full-blown riot. One Australian was killed and seven others received injuries from shotgun blasts. Eight or nine of the Americans needed medical attention, and many others from both sides received "black eyes, split lips, swollen cheeks, broken noses and various abrasions." Even after this particular episode was broken up, tensions continued. Rumours of multiple deaths swept the Australian camps, and many of the servicemen from them came into town on following evenings bent on retaliation. There were further fights and bashings, and American MPs and any US servicemen seen with Australian women were particularly targeted.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Today's photograph of the building (above) gives no indication of the chaos and violence that took place here all those years ago. And, despite this sour note, many American soldiers look back favourably on their time here. It would be uncharitable to say that was because the alternative venues involved being shot at by the enemy. Australia in general, and Brisbane in particular, were known as being friendly and hospitable towards the US service personnel. Many of them took home Australian brides, and the two countries remain staunch allies.

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Next: Transformation

Monday, November 23, 2009

Boggo Road Gaol

Jails are to Brisbane as flour is to bread - gradually add free settlers, buildings, roads and transport; carefully separate from New South Wales; leave to bake in the sub-tropical sun for 150 years and voila - a modern city of almost two million people. Brisbane originated as a jail because Sydney wanted to send its very worst convicts somewhere else, and so it's no surprise that jails have loomed large since then. I can't imagine the conditions that the free settlers in Brisbane must have endured, let alone the squalor and deprivation that would have surrounded the convicts. The picture below shows what the present site of the GPO looked like in 1850. St Stephen's church is in the background, and the building standing where the GPO is currently placed is a female convict factory.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library, ; #153725)

The factory was created by Commandant Logan to separate the female convicts from the rest of Brisbane's population, both free and convict. Women prisoners were subsequently moved to a stockade at Eagle Farm, and this site became a jail in 1837. Here is a photograph from 1863, showing blankets being distributed to aborigines outside the former female convict factory, which by then was being used as a police station.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; # 7773)

Brisbane's most notorious jail for both men and women was Boggo Road at Dutton Park, which first operated for male prisoners in 1883. A separate facility for women was opened in 1903. There had formerly been jails at Petrie Terrace and St Helena Island. The entrance to Boggo Road Gaol (historical spelling) is pictured below around the year 1936.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #62056)

In 1913, Queensland was the first Australian state to abolish capital punishment, but before then, executions were carried out at the prison. The gallows at Boggo Road are pictured below.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #110876)

The history of the facility continued until 1992, when the jail finally closed. There had been a deal of prisoner unrest during the 80s, largely as a result of the deteriorating conditions and poor sanitation there. A Commission of Review into Corrective Services was formed, and its findings led to the end of Boggo Road as a jail. For a while, it was possible to tour the jail, but the State government made the decision to convert the property into an "Urban Village", so the site is currently closed while this development takes place. A list of current correctional institutions can be found here, at the Queensland Government's Department of Community Safety web site. You can click here to see the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society web site.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Boggo Road is being gentrified, and my current photo, above, shows the front of the old prison and some new landscaping on the steep hill in front of it. It seems we can convert anything into housing these days - warehouses, wharves, wool stores, power houses, gas works and now - jails!

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Battle of Brisbane

Friday, November 20, 2009

Jacob's Ladder

It is a fairly steep uphill walk from the CBD in Brisbane to Spring Hill. The steepest part is right at the end - the final part of the trek from Turbot Street to Wickham Terrace. Years ago, you used to be able to catch a tram to Spring Hill from the city. The trams originally travelled from Queen Street right through to Gregory Terrace, but in 1947, the final part closed and the trams then stopped at Wickham Terrace. Pedestrians could walk up to the Terrace through King Edward Park, along a path that became known as Jacob's Ladder. Here is a picture, from 1915 or thereabouts, taken looking down Jacob's Ladder towards town. A couple of women are on their way up - must have been difficult in those long dresses of the era (click the pic for a larger image). Notice that, although there are handrails, there are no steps! King Edward Park is on the right in this picture. Steps were built here in the 1920s and the City Council renewed them 1961.(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #187175)

When I first started work in the city in the sixties, Brisbane had a much smaller population, and the world had never heard of global warming. There was abundant street parking available in the streets of Spring Hill, and from memory, I think you could park your car in a Parkatarea parking meter and leave it there all day for twenty cents. After work, large groups of people would walk up Jacob's Ladder to their cars and then drive home. Over the years, King Edward Park and Jacob's Ladder stagnated, but recently the City Council has spent up big and given the area a much-needed facelift. One of the cool things is what they have done to Jacob's Ladder. When you look down the Ladder (like in the older photo above), you see a rainbow of colours because you can see the large landing areas only, not the steps in between (see my photo below). At night, images are projected onto these large, flat landings, making a sort of light show for any evening strollers.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

However, when you are at the bottom of Jacob's Ladder looking up (see below), you can see only the stairs, not the landings - and the stairs are bright red!
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Click here to jump over to Brisbane Daily Photo, where Cara has a great photo of the stairs.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: "We are all just prisoners here..."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Shock horror! What is going on here? A bloke goes to photograph a place for a blog post and it's gone! Well, all but gone. After decades of operating at its Newstead site, the Eagers car yard is being moved to Newmarket. This photo (below) is the sight of the site when I visited recently. The showrooms were empty and the forecourt, normally crowded with cars, was totally bare except for a lone vehicle belonging to a workman, tellingly parked right next to a skip that was being filled with rubbish. Brisbane's past was being converted to its present right before my eyes. (Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic) 

The Eagers name goes right back to 1913, when Edward Eager and his son Frederick formed an automotive firm that was to become a well-known Brisbane Holden dealer. The following photo shows the official Queensland launch of the FX Holden at Eagers' showroom in 1948.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #111267)

In fact it was selling General Motors vehicles before the Holden was built in Australia, and the picture below shows the Newstead showrooms in 1937 with a lineup of Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles and Buicks.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #7156)

As well as selling cars, Eagers also developed a large workshop and parts business. It also assembled vehicles from parts imported from overseas. The following picture shows the workshop area at Newstead around the year 1924. During WWII, a part of the site was used as a parts distribution warehouse for Allied forces.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #7136)

And here is a recent photo of the Parts division of the business.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

In 1957, Eagers was listed as a public company, and in 1992 it merged with the AP Group, another large automotive business to become AP Eagers Group Limited, a congolmerate of car dealerships, other automotive businesses and insurance. The company sells Holden, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Land Rover, Volvo, VW, Jaguar, KIA, Mazda, Porsche, Subaru, Peugeot, Mitsubishi and Lexus vehicles from various dealerships in Queensland and interstate. And what of the Newstead site? I was able to discover that Eagers sold it in December 2006, but I can offer no news on its future.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Stairway to heaven

Monday, November 16, 2009

Centenary Pool

In 1959, for the centenary of the formation of Queensland, the Brisbane City Council constructed the Centenary Pool complex designed by Council architect James Birrell, which includes a wading pool, an Olympic-sized swimming pool and separate diving pool. At that time, the whole of Australia was in an Olympic haze, basking in the afterglow of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games in which Australia had performed extremely well, especially in swimming. The photograph below was taken in 1960, shortly after the pool opened.

(Photo: D Finlay, State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #lbp00211)

The Centenary Pool was the only diving pool in Brisbane, and the Olympic standard pool immediately became the pre-eminent aquatic facility in the city, and remained so until the Sleeman Complex was completed at Chandler in 1980. The Centenary Pool still operates near Victoria Park on Gregory Terrace, and here is a more recent picture of it.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Originally there was a restaurant here, but now there is a fitness centre and some medical suites. The wading pool makes it popular still with families that contain young children. It is also still sought after as a training venue, as evidenced on my recent visit.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The complex also was a recent co-star along with famous current Aussie swimmer Stephanie Rice in a television advertisement for SunRice.

here for a Google Map.


Next: Eager for a deal

Friday, November 13, 2009

Port Office

That wonderful early Brisbane combination of Mr FDG Stanley, who was the Colonial Architect, and John Petrie, builder, were again at work in the construction of the Port Office in Edward St. This building was erected in 1879-80, complete with wharves and slipway, and is pictured here in 1884, looking up Edward St towards the CBD, and then in 1889 looking in the other direction, towards the river.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #API-004-0001-0010)
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #100099)

In 1988, the building was incorporated into the development of the five-star Heritage Hotel. Thankfully, by that time Brisbane was over its former destructive form of development where our wonderful colonial buildings were reduced to rubble to accommodate glass and concrete towers. On this occasion, the building was actually restored to its original 1880 glory. In fact, the end balconies, which were part of Stanley's original plans but never included in the initial construction, were added at this time.
(Photos: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The Heritage Hotel is now the Stamford Plaza, still at the upper end of the hospitality scale, and well worth a visit for a look around and a cool glass of your favourite beverage.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Centenary project

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Glengariff, Hendra

Bank managers, while well thought of today, must have been absolutely worshipped years ago. And also paid significantly more. In 1886, the Queensland Turf Club sold five acres of land at Hendra to a Mr Edward Jones, who was the first Queensland manager of the Commercial Bank of Australia. During the period 1888-9, Jones had constructed on this land an extensive residence, designed by architect HGO Thomas, which he called "Dura". However, it's not Jones that we're interested in - by the time today's photo was taken in 1923, the house had a new name and a new owner.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #145445)

The house became the property of well-known Brisbane businessman TC Beirne in 1898, and he decided to call it "Glengariff". It was to become the site of many functions and parties - as well as the huge house, the grounds boasted a tennis court and and croquet lawn. Beirne also engaged prominent architect Robin Dods to undertake some improvements in 1907.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The Beirnes remained at Glengariff until TC Beirne died in 1949, at which time the house was bequeathed to the Catholic church which Beirne had supported all his life. The church held the property until 1985, using it to house senior religious personnel, and then it was sold to private owners. Since then, the size of the grounds has been reduced and some alterations have been made to the house - indeed on my recent visit there to take the photograph above, there was scaffolding and a tradesman's vehicles evident.

Click here for Google Map.


Next: Port to Plaza

Monday, November 9, 2009

Trades Hall

Firstly, an apology to readers. The State Library, from where the majority of my "Past" images are sourced, is making changes to its web servers. Without going into too much nerd-speak, the result of that is that these images must be posted to my blog in a different way by the end of this month. That means editing almost 150 posts! During this time you may come across the occasional missing image. It also means that as the posts are republished, those of you who subscribe to the blog may get repeat messages pertaining to posts that you have already seen. However, I hope that these inconveniences won't last for too long. Thanks for your patience. Thanks also to the staff at SLQ who gave me advance warning of this issue. tff

Today's historical photo dates from around 1928, and shows the top part of Edward St at the intersection with Turbot St. Unfortunately, virtually nothing in this photo is still standing today.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #71110)

From the left of the picture, we can see:
- the Boer War statue, now removed from here and standing in Anzac Square
- Jacob's Ladder, still standing, but has recently had a makeover
- Trades Hall, built in 1923, sold in 1984 and demolished shortly after that
- an unknown residence.

Naturally, the area looks totally different today, as evidenced by my recent picture below.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

In place of the Boer War statue, we now have several sculptures by Italian artist Arnaldo Pomodoro that were commissioned for Expo, and were recently in King George Square. Jacob's Ladder now not only has stairs, they are painted bright red. On the site where Trades Hall stood guard over the workers of Brisbane (I remember it with a huge neon sign advertising Tritton's furniture store on the top - I thought it was a tad ironic), we now have the multi-storey IBM tower. Of course, the trams that struggled so mightily up the hill from the city have also gone, replaced by cars that seem to take no heed of pedestrians. I miss the old days!

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: TC's house

Friday, November 6, 2009


Tomorrow is the anniversary of one of the worst acts of vandalism and political bastardry in Queensland's history. It was twenty-seven years ago, in the early hours of 7th November 1982, when Brisbane's iconic Cloudland Ballroom was demolished - it was sent tumbling into a pile of dust and rubble in a matter of hours. The hilltop Bowen Hills site was wanted for the development of units, but there was fierce community resolve not to let this happen. I don't think that the appropriate development approval ever eventuated - what happened instead was that the infamous Deen Bros were contracted to knock the building down in the dead of night, all with the tacit approval of the Bjelke-Petersen government of the day. The unique clam-shell entrance to Cloudland is shown in the photo below, and for a further nostalgic glimpse of its history, take a look here.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #61681)

My own memories of Cloudland are varied. Initially, I went there as a student, to sit exams from time to time. Then a girlfriend asked me to be her partner for a Debutante Ball, for her "coming-out" - the quaint term of the time, meaning entering society. We had to rehearse the Debutantes' Waltz over a period of several weeks prior to the event. On the night, the girls were dressed in their absolute finest, including a corsage bought by each male for his partner. The boys wore dinner suits, and if memory serves me correctly, a pair of white gloves. We had to escort the girls as they were introduced to the dignitary of the evening (I'm fairly sure that it was the Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane), and then we all performed the waltz before the rest of the attendees joined in. I recall that I was hopeless during the rehearsals for the waltz. They kept clashing with my football matches, so I missed a few. The ones I did attend didn't go well either- I kept making mistakes, much to the annoyance of my girlfriend who was so keen for all to be perfect on the night. Fortunately, when the evening finally arrived, I performed magnificently for her - didn't miss a step, so she was very pleased with me. Following that event, I remember attending several balls at Cloudland - always a ton of fun, too. All of that is history, but, more importantly, whatever future Cloudland may have had as an entertainment venue has been destroyed along with the building.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

And what did we get instead? A gated complex of town-houses and units. I'm sure they have superb views, and even though I'm now an apartment dweller myself, I didn't welcome their arrival. This is the street view to the entrance to the place - all that is left of Cloudland now is the name that is included in the stylised logo visible above the garage at the front.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Trades Hall

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Old Government Printery, William St

It's worth reflecting on how much printing has to be done by a government. For a start, the day-to-day business of the parliament has to be recorded and preserved; then you have the publication of the resulting legislation; not to mention the various statutes, gazettes and the numerous other publications that emanate from government. The colony of Queensland opened its first printing office in 1862 - it was a two-storey timber building in William St, right across the road from the Commissariat Store, and seen below in this image from around 1869.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #61128)

Predictably, that original building was outgrown as the colony itself grew, and it was replaced by a brick building in 1874. The new building was designed by the Colonial Architect, Mr FDG Stanley, and is pictured below in 1983.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #61417)

The extent of the Printing Office can be gleaned from the photographic records at the John Oxley Library - too many to reproduce in this blog. There is a series of pictures taken in 1921 that show: the monotype department, the lithograph department, the composing department, the binding department, the letterpress department and the linotype department. I think that we can assume that the Printing Office was a significant employer. And it probably still is, as the Printing Office relocated to new premises in 1984, after 120 years at this location. But the building that Stanley designed remains, and here it is today.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

It is now the Public Service Club, a place for today's government employees to relax after a hard day's yakka at the coal-face of public service.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Dancehall destruction

Monday, November 2, 2009

Breakfast Creek Bridge

We take an awful lot for granted these days. One of the things that I have come to realise as I research and write these pages is that being an early settler here in Brisbane would have been tough - very tough. As we sit back in our air-conditioned houses, or travel to work on modern public transport, or drive around the city of Brisbane in our cars, we should spare a thought for our forbears who developed the place. For example, consider the bridge builders. To get to South Brisbane initially meant using a boat or a ferry, until the construction of the Victoria Bridge. Similarly, to develop what are now Brisbane's northern suburbs, a bridge had to be built across Breakfast Creek at Newstead. There is an account of the opening day of the first bridge in The Moreton Bay Courier of Saturday, 21st August, 1858 that describes some of the difficulties of construction at the time. Prior to the completion of this bridge, there was a pedestrian crossing only. Here is the first bridge, photographed around 1875. Click the photo to see a larger image.

Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APE-022-01-0006)

That bridge was made of ironbark timber, and stood until continual erosion forced the construction of a new bridge that was opened in 1889. The second bridge is pictured below shortly after completion - it gives you an idea of the undeveloped nature of the surroundings at the time.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #49063)

And here is a later photograph, taken looking across the bridge from the city side around the year 1921, in which a lot more development is evident, including the Breakfast Creek Hotel in the centre of the picture.

  (Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #152974)

The bridge was still important to pedestrians - and fishermen too - judging by this image from 1949.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #42921)

By the time we reach 1958, the bridge is unable to handle the daily vehicular transport, including trams, the important public transport of the day, so a new bridge had to be constructed. The picture below is from 1958, and it shows the older bridge, complete with a traversing tram, prior to its demolition to make way for the new one. Newstead Park is in the background.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #115106)

The latest bridge, this time constructed of concrete, was opened on 28th November, 1958, and this is the bridge we still use today. My recent picture, below, shows today's bridge traffic, and also Newstead Park in the background.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: The home of Hansard
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