Friday, February 26, 2010

Apothecaries Hall

Thousands of people pass by this building in Ann St (near Brunswick St), Fortitude Valley each day, and most of us don't give it a second thought, even though it is one of Brisbane's older buildings. "Established AD 1862" proclaims the text at the top of the building, "Apothecaries Hall". Here is a picture of the building from 1990, when it seems that it was looking for a tenant.
(Photo: BCC-C120-8528)
My bus travels past here on the run home from the city, and many times, as the bus pauses in the heavy Ann St traffic, I have wondered about the history of the building, currently a shoe shop.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

I had a vague idea of what an apothecary was - an early version of a chemist or pharmacist. A dictionary tells me that in England they were able to prescribe medicine, and that may well have been the case in Brisbane in the very early days of the colony. Referring to the Brisbane History Group's publication, Sites of Separation, I found that the building was constructed for Mr Moses Ward who arrived in Brisbane from Devonshire in 1862. Ward was a multi-faceted fellow: he was an importer of drugs and surgical implements, a chemist, a dentist and also somewhat of an entrepreneur. An advertisement in The Courier, Brisbane's newspaper, provides illustration of his talents. The column on the LHS of the page provides an English translation of the OCR results :-) Click for a larger view.
(Excerpt from the Brisbane Courier, 15 September 1863)

"Elastic Stockings, Knee Caps, Enema and other syringes, Trusses, and Surgical Appliances always on hand. Dental Operations performed with Instruments of the most Modern invention." And, if all of those medical marvels fail to entice you onto the premises: "Licensed to sell postage stamps."

Ward's practice thrived, but as we shall see in a later post, a fall was yet to come.
After selling Apothecaries Hall in 1875, he moved to a Gailey-designed Queen St premises. In 1882, he bought Bowen House, which had been the first Government House, and renamed it Adelaide House. That residence is now The Deanery at St John's Cathedral.

The next time you are travelling up Ann St, look out for Apothecaries Hall on the RHS just before the Brunswick St mall.

Click here for a Google Map


Next: The RE

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

National Hotel

Back in the days when there seemed to be a hotel on every Brisbane CBD corner and one or two in between, the one that stood on the corner of Queen and Adelaide Sts at Petrie Bight was the magnificent National Hotel. An impressive sight that by the late sixties had sophisticated cocktail bars and restaurants, this hotel became infamous in the Royal Commission into prostitution and police corruption that commenced in 1963. It bobbed up again in the Fitzgerald Inquiry into corruption of the late eighties.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APO-002-0001-0005)

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #22309)

Above (top) is the National Hotel with the Customs House in the background, and a more direct view (bottom), both pictures from around 1890. Below are later photos of the hotel in 1939 and 1972.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #78353)
(Photo: NLA; #nla.pic-vn4361600, Bruce Howard)

At the time that I first remember the National, in the late sixties, there was an extremely popular cocktail bar called "Warren's Bar" which was quite the risque venue because of the eponymous cocktail barman Warren. Warren was very theatrically flamboyant, with a witty repartee of suitable double entendres - behaviour that would perhaps now be described as "camp". Brisbane at that time was not a very worldly city, and looking back on the environment now, it is hard not to wonder at the cruel jibes that would have been heaped on Warren. I hope he survived it all. I found the following work portraying Warren by artist David Collins at the Bett Gallery in Hobart.
("Warren: The National Hotel (Brisbane)" 2009 by David Collins. Reproduced by kind permission of David Collins and Bett Gallery, Hobart)

(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

In my recent photograph (above) Customs House with its copper dome can be seen in the background, now dwarfed by the large building behind it. On the RHS of the picture, the hotel has gone, replaced by another large office tower which has a coffee shop on the ground floor. These days, there is a coffee shop on every corner of the CBD, often with one or two in between. I suppose that it's one way of humanising glass towers.

Click here for a Google Map.


The apothecary

Monday, February 22, 2010

Eagle St Fig Trees

Of course, it's not only buildings that provide links to our history. Down in Eagle St there is a reserve, planted with trees, that was specially given to the people of Brisbane by Queen Victoria. On 16th May 1889 Queen Victoria's representative in Queensland, Governor Sir Henry Norman, signed a document that granted a small piece of land at the intersection of Creek, Elizabeth and Eagle Sts to the city as a "reserve for plantation". Brisbane's first superintendent of the Botanical Gardens, Walter Hill, planted three fig trees on the triangular site to provide a place for workers to rest. The trees are still there, fulfilling their original purpose.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

There are some plaques in the reserve - one (below) has a narrative about the history of the site, and the other shows a map of the creek that used to flow past.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The words on the plaque say:
"The land on which these old fig trees now stand was included in just over ten reserves granted in 1889, by Governor in Chief of the colony of Queensland and its dependencies General Sir Henry Wylie Norman, to the municipal council of North Brisbane.
A freshwater creek originally flowed from Roma Street through the city centre, north of today’s Creek Street, along this site, emptying into the Brisbane River near Charlotte Street. Its course is mapped as accurately as historical information allows on the plaque opposite.
It is said by the late 1820s, the then convict settlement’s wheat fields extended on either side of the creek in this area and that the creek was known as Wheat Creek.
Shipping was the main means of transport, bringing in supplies and immigrants and taking away the produce of the fast developing settlements.
With the decline of shipping as the main form of transport, associated activity in this area of the city decreased.
However, with extensive building development, this area has again returned to prominence, bringing a new commercial heart to the city.
These old fig trees have become a significant part of the environment and are are listed by the National Trust of Queensland and the Australian Heritage Commission."
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

So, these superb old trees are getting on for 120 years of age. I love looking at them - firstly the leafy canopy, then the powerful trees with their buttressed trunks, and then the prop roots that hold up those massive branches (above). An oasis of calm surrounded by the madness of a modern city - all thanks to Queen Victoria.

Click here for a Google Map.


Warren's Bar

Friday, February 19, 2010

Festival Hall

What do Drew Barrymore and Brisbane's Festival Hall have in common? Well, not much really - it's a tenuous link at best. Barrymore has recently directed her first movie, and it is called "Whip It", sounding vaguely like a bondage piece, when it is in fact about the "Roller Derby". Festival Hall (RIP - it has been "redeveloped" too) was the host of roller derby games in Brisbane back in the day. You don't remember the roller derby? It is sort of like football, but the players wear roller skates and chase each other round an oval track. I'm sure that if you go and see the film you'll catch on pretty quickly. Festival Hall was Brisbane's multi-purpose entertainment venue of yesteryear. Situated on the corner of Albert St and Charlotte St, this is what it looked like in 1959.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #79168)

Originally known as The Stadium, Festival Hall was built in 1910, and was extensively refurbished and renovated by the State government in 1959 for Queensland's centenary, when it was renamed. My father used to go there to see boxing matches in his youth, and boxing was still happening many years later. Tony Mundine (Anthony's father) fought there, and so did local favourite Hector Thompson. The influence of second-rate American television "entertainment" brought the aforementioned roller derby to the Hall, along with professional wrestling and its cast of pantomime characters such as Killer Kowalski and Andre the Giant. But Festival Hall's greatest memories, I think, abide in the shows by well-known performers such as The Beatles, Neil Diamond, and The Police to name a few. I didn't see The Beatles, but I saw the others, and I did go and see Paul McCartney and Wings when they performed there. Here is a photo I took of Neil Diamond when he was appearing at Festival Hall in 1976.(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Festival Hall was demolished in 2003 to allow the construction of the residential block Festival Towers, below.

(Photos: © 2010 the foto fanatic)
In fairness, there was no aesthetic reason to keep Festival Hall, and its capacity of about 4,000 meant that it was far too small to continue to attract top-line performers. And, all is not lost - if you walk through the sliding glass doors at the entry (above), you can check out the Walk of Fame (below), a photographic roll-call of some of the acts and performers from across the years, nostalgically surrounded by what looks to be woodwork from the
original seating. Yes, even the roller derby and the professional wrestlers have their mementos there.

(Photos: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The close-up (above) is of one-time Brisbane boy and long-time entertainer Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. Judging by the haircut, it dates from back before he started to sing falsetto.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Gift from Queen Victoria

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

St Thomas' Anglican Church, Toowong

Only four kilometres from the CBD and easily accessible by boat up the river, Toowong was one of the first villages to be established outside Brisbane. An early settler in the area, Richard Drew, first proclaimed Toowong as the name of the village around 1862 - it was named after the call of a local bird. By 1865, settlers in Toowong decided that they needed a church, and they raised £150 to construct a Church of England. The aforementioned Richard Drew donated some land in Curlew St (on the other side of Moggill Rd to the current building) and the first church and school were built there, being completed in 1866. At that time, the church formed part of the Brisbane parish of All Saints' Church.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #93380)

In 1870, the parish of St Thomas' separated from All Saints', and as the congregation was growing, one of the first orders of business would be to build a bigger church. The Church of England was able to acquire appropriate land in Toowong's High St from the Cribb family in 1876. A foundation stone was laid in early 1877, and the new church, designed by parishioner and well-known architect Mr FDG Stanley, was officially opened in October 1877. The photograph of it (above) was taken in 1923. Another Anglican church that Stanley designed about the same time was the Holy Trinity in Fortitude Valley.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The church today (above) can still be found at the intersection of High St and Jephson St at the start of Moggill Rd. The gardens have grown, preventing a photograph from High St as the original was taken, so I have adjusted the angle slightly.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: The Stadium

Monday, February 15, 2010

418 Adelaide St

The scene in the photograph below shows people lining the streets at the intersection of Queen St and Adelaide St at Petrie Bight. It was taken in 1954, when the citizens of Brisbane were lining up for a look at the new queen, Elizabeth II. However, what we are interested in today is the building in the centre rear of the picture, below St John's Cathedral. "Castlemaine Perkins Limited" it says, in big letters along the side. They are were the makers of Queensland's popular XXXX beer, and this was their head office. (Queensland's iconic beer has had a slew of owners in the last few years - the rot started when Alan Bond bought it, then it went to Lion Nathan, who have now been taken over by Japanese brewing giant Kirin. My father, a WWII digger who fought the Japanese in New Guinea and was very partial to his XXXX, would surely not understand this new world order.)
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #129007) 1954

The original building on this site was constructed around the year 1900, on land hewn out of the cliff face in Adelaide St below the big house previously owned by Dr Hobbs that had been used as our first Government House. It was a warehouse, subsequently acquired by Castlemaine Brewery in 1910. After the end of WWI, the company engaged architect TR Hall to adapt and improve the original construction. He was later to be involved with the design of City Hall. The renovated three-story building had very modern fittings and staff amenities, and further work was performed by Addison and Macdonald in 1930 and again in 1935.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Castlemaine Perkins sold the building in 1985, but the handsome building remains occupied by a leading architectural firm, and my photograph (above) shows how it looks today. The date at the top of the building (1871) refers to the origins of the Castlemaine Perkins brewing business.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: High street church

Friday, February 12, 2010

Petrie Bight retaining wall

Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

One of the disadvantages of building on hilly terrain is that the need often arises for the construction of retaining walls. Just ask me - in two houses at The Gap, we had various retaining walls constructed from boulders, brick, stone, railway sleeper and treated log. I don't know whether the retaining wall in my picture above is Brisbane's oldest, but it was built in 1881-2 to assist with the levelling of Queen St near the Customs House.

I remember the area on the river side of this wall being a wharf, and when that use was discontinued, it was one of Brisbane's open-air car parks (obviously in an era when driving into the city wasn't being actively discouraged). Continued development along the river and the arrival of restaurants and hotels to the area have seen the former wharf and car-park transformed into landscaped terraces to allow access to the river from Queen St. If you walk along Queen St between the Customs House and the Marriott Hotel, you can walk down steps to view this old retaining wall which is still in quite good condition.

Click here for a Google Map.



Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bellevue Hotel

It has been mentioned in these pages before that I am a cricket lover, having been raised on the sport. This post is about infamy in cricket and in government. In the days when he led the Queensland government, Joh Bjelke-Petersen was a self-proclaimed "pro-development" Premier. He knew the state was doing well, he used to say, when he looked out of his Parliament House window and saw the CBD skyline filled with builders' cranes. Development in those days was rather crude. Little or no relevance was accorded to historical or architecturally-significant buildings; if a developer put a half-reasonable proposition forward, the existing building could be demolished in an instant to allow the new one to emerge indecently from the rubble. Those days are now thankfully behind us, because Queenslanders finally realised that they had had enough of their heritage being smashed right before their eyes. The two most potent symbols of this demolition derby of destruction were Cloudland and the Bellevue Hotel. The Bellevue was on the corner of George and Alice Streets, across the road from Parliament House, and this is the way it looked in 1903. Part of the fence surrounding Parliament House can be seen in the left foreground.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #7717)

The hotel was built in 1885-6, and a feature of it was the beautiful filigree cast-iron work on the verandahs, which can be seen more clearly below, in an image from 1940. A glimpse of Parliament House can be seen in the background (click photo to see in a larger form).
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #126833)

The Bellevue in its prime was the place to stay for wealthy visitors to Brisbane. Favoured by politicians, graziers, actors and sportsmen, it oozed opulence. A newspaper report from 1886 waxes lyrical about the hot water tap in every room, as well as the electric bell for summoning staff, not to mention the two lifts - one to send luggage to the upper floors and one for food. Below is an advertisement for the hotel that proudly proclaims that "the English team are staying at the Bellevue Hotel". This is reportedly from 1933 (I expected grammar to have been better back then!), and although it doesn't indicate the sport, I believe that the team in question was the England cricket team led by Douglas Jardine in the infamous Bodyline series. The fourth test in that series was played in Brisbane, commencing on this day seventy-seven years ago - on 10 February 1933, and won rather easily by England.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #74141)

The English players may not have welcomed the publication of their venue, because by the time the team reached here they were being pilloried by the Australian public and press as a result of the "leg-theory" tactics adopted by Jardine and executed with such perfection by his express-paced opening bowler, Harold Larwood. But Jardine's cold-hearted and bully-boy actions on the cricket field paled into insignificance when compared to those later committed by the Bjelke-Petersen government, which had acquired the Bellevue Hotel site in 1967 because it wanted to erect government offices there. This was not endorsed by public opinion, but against that feeling the government proceeded with its plans. Just recently, cabinet documents from 1979 were released to public view, and they indicated that the Bellevue was worth preserving. However, the government bean-counters worked out that it would be far cheaper to trash it. Demolition bovver-boys the Deen Bros were engaged to knock down the Bellevue, and this was done in the middle of the night on 20 April 1979. Here's a photo of it in its death throes - I can't help but think of it being on a par with harpooning a whale, such is the emotion even today.
(Photo: Brisbane - Our Town; Helen Dash. UQ Press)

It's well worth reading an ABC report of the political furore that raged over the incident here. The only positive that emerged from this thuggery was that the public's outrage over the destruction was so immediate and so powerful that the government was forced into doing something about framing legislation to preserve heritage buildings. So what do we have on this site now? An important government building? Not likely - we are left with a statue of the Queen; she is curiously portrayed in a long dress, clutching an evening purse, and frowning as if to wonder what all the fuss is about. The rest of the site is a nondescript mish-mash of pathetic gardens and wind-swept pathways. Such a shame.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Oh, almost forgot - there is also a plaque set into a wall in this now-abandoned space; almost as if to taunt us as to what might have been (click for larger).(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: A retainer

Monday, February 8, 2010

Commonwealth Bank, King George Square

We have previously looked at the Albert St Uniting Church. The parish itself is one of the oldest in Brisbane, having kicked off in 1849 as the Albert St Wesleyan Church, situated then on Albert St between Adelaide St and Burnett Lane. The initial small church hall only seated 150 people, so it was rebuilt on the same site in 1855, this time facing Adelaide St instead of Albert St. Here is a photograph of that building from around 1883.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #56618)

This second church was much larger than the original, having room for 500 worshippers. It had large Gothic windows at each end, together with further windows down each side. The church was opened in December 1856, and was sold when the church moved to the current building on the corner of Albert and Ann Sts some thirty years later. The Albert St/Burnett Lane site was later to become the home of a branch of the Commonwealth Bank, shown below in 1954 when it was kitted out for the royal visit.

(Photo: Courtesy National Archives of Australia; # J2669, 540)

At the moment, I can't tell you when this bank was built; but it lasted until 1966 when it was replaced by a newer, multi-storey bank building, shown in my photo below.(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Remember the Bellevue!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Eagle St Wharves

Current visitors to Brisbane often are drawn to the Eagle St Pier area, for there is a collection of the city's best restaurants together with the attractions of the river, such as CityCats, ferries and cruise boats. This is the way it looks currently, with a ferry and a paddle-wheeler in dock.(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Naturally enough, this area was extremely important in Brisbane's early days when the port was vital, as it brought people and supplies to the new colony. This was also the site of Brisbane's early fruit and vegetable markets, which from 1867 through until 1881, extended down to around the current Mary St and Market St intersection. Larger markets were subsequently built at Roma St to take advantage of the railway line.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #151607)

The photo above was taken at Eagle St during Brisbane's monster flood of 1893, and shows riverside buildings completely inundated with water, while several sailing ships are anchored at the wharf.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Church to bank on

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New Farm Park

A ten-minute walk from my place gets me to New Farm Park, on the Brisbane River at the end of Brunswick St, and one of the city's more scenic places of relaxation. It wasn't always so - before European settlement, the local Turrbal people used it extensively as a food source. The swampy terrain was home to the tortoise that they hunted with some relish. It then became a place for the European settlers to grow their food, as Captain Logan ordered it to be cleared as the "new farm" (in addition to the existing farms at the Botanical Gardens and South Brisbane) for the settlement of Brisbane. Convict labour was used to grow maize and vegetables needed for the penal outpost. Some years later, the land would be sub-divided for smaller tenant farms.

Then land-holder and solicitor Thomas Adams leased his holdings to the Moreton Bay Jockey Club, and the annual races moved from the outlying area of Coopers Plains into the suburb now known as New Farm. Race-goers could attend by travelling down the river from Brisbane by boat. Racing subsequently moved to Eagle Farm in 1865, and the area surrounding the old race track was ear-marked for housing. Proximity to the city and then the electric tramway system's extension down Brunswick St saw some of Brisbane's most prominent citizens build houses in the area. After some activism from locals seeking the establishment of a recreation reserve, Brisbane City Council acquired the land that had been the old race track, and New Farm Park was established in 1914. From the outset, the Council saw to beautification of the park with extensive landscaping and planting, and the park's position on the bank of the Brisbane River enhanced its drawing power. Picnickers could frequently watch boats of all sizes pass by (below, top), and that also holds true today - although the boats are more likely to be powered by motor rather than sail (below, bottom).

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #7708-0001-0026)

(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The fifteen hectares of parkland on the river soon became a hit with locals, and the Council extended its use by creating a cricket pitch and other sporting facilities. In addition to extensive rose beds, poinsettias and jacarandas were also planted; and a kiosk and bandstand were erected in 1915. The following colour image from around 1950 shows people wandering amongst the jacarandas and enjoying the park for picnics. That's the kiosk in the background.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #lbp00043)

In 2000 a fire destroyed the kiosk, and since then there has been argument and controversy about a replacement. A temporary commercial venture (below) operates there at the moment. Regrettably, some of the old jacarandas have been lost, probably due to the drought conditions here in Brisbane recently. The City Council took a right old bollocking about removing them, even though they claimed that the trees were unsafe.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The park is still enormously popular, especially at weekends and on public holidays. Extensive apartment and other high density residential construction has occurred in the surrounding areas, and the park has become the "back-yard" for many of their inhabitants. Construction of barbecues and benches under the shade of the huge fig trees has added to the community aspect of the park. The lovely bandstand remains, and is a popular venue for weddings, parties...anything.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: City wharves

Monday, February 1, 2010

Regent Theatre

One property of the extensive portfolio owned by Dr James Mayne and his sister Mary was the land in Queen St on which, in 1929, Brisbane's Regent Theatre was constructed. Designed as a "picture palace" in the American fashion, and able to host live theatre as well as movies, the Regent opened on 8 November 1929. It was one of four Regent Theatres built in Australia during the 1920s, and featured a 2,500 seat auditorium (one of the largest in the country) complete with orchestra pit, organ, VIP boxes and chandeliers. Here is what it looked like, when photographed in 1955.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #135073)

The opulence was also apparent in the foyer, which boasted gilded walls, a marble staircase and murals in the arched ceiling.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #195537)

Whenever I came here as a child, it was like entering another world. The ornate surroundings were indeed like a palace, and they were a portal through which you could enter the magic of cinema. Of course, there were other, more tangible treats available at the sumptuous milk bar, too.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #65247)

During the 1970s, the cinema chain Hoyts proposed the demolition of the Regent. Fortunately there was enough of an outcry against their plans that they were not able to proceed, although the magnificent auditorium was lost. It was converted into a four-cinema complex that opened in 1980. The entry foyer and staircase are now heritage listed. There is a coffee shop run by the Aromas chain at the entry.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Unfortunately it does appear that the redevelopment saga has been reopened. It has been stated by the operators that the four-cinema configuration does not make money, and now there are plans for a multi-storey office block to be erected on this and adjoining sites, the Hilton Hotel and the Wintergarden shopping arcade. The State government initially rejected this proposal, but in the latest information emanating from George St the government appears to have shifted ground, as they are now saying that they should not sponsor a commercial venture that is not paying its own way. Current indications are that the cinemas will be gone forever, with the foyer retained as a facade and incorporated into the new construction. If you do not wish to lose any more of the Regent, you may be interested in the Save the Regent movement. There's lots more nostalgic information about the Regent in those pages too.
(Photos: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

My recent photos (above) show the exterior of the Regent (or as much as I could frame in my camera, given the profusion of food stalls now in the Queen St Mall), and samples of the murals and decor in the foyer.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Racing at the park
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