Friday, April 30, 2010

Allgas Energy Building, Southbank Parklands

Another Stanley St monument to the past is the Allgas Energy Building in Southbank Parklands. This building, pictured below in 1900 or thereabouts, was then the South Brisbane branch of the Queensland National Bank, and we have seen it before in this post.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #79945)

This building has a varied and interesting history. Originally named Caledonian House, it was built in 1885 for the well-known drapery firm, Allan and Stark. Brisbane had a bad flood in 1890, and an even worse one in 1893. These floods caused so much damage and created so much pessimism about the South Brisbane riverfront area that many businesses uprooted and set up again across the river in Brisbane.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #101305)

Allan and Stark was one of these - in 1893 their building was flooded up to the first floor, as seen in the photo above (the building is at the right rear of the image). After the flood receded, they moved to a building designed by Richard Gailey in Queen St. Caledonian House was firstly leased to the Queensland National Bank in 1897 and the bank purchased the building in 1909. The South Brisbane Gas & Light Co leased a portion of the building in 1897, and remained there after the building was purchased by the bank. The building went through a series of different changes and was eventually bought by South Brisbane Gas & Light in 1967. This company became Allgas Energy in 1971. Here is a current view of the building.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

This building was used as both a bank branch and an administration centre during Brisbane's Expo '88. After Expo, it was refurbished and remains an administration building at Southbank Parklands.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Going to the 'loo

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Plough Inn, Southbank Parklands

Where would Brisbane be today without its Irish hoteliers, I wonder? Publican Daniel Costigan had the Plough Inn, below, built in 1885 to replace the earlier pub of the same name. The picture dates from 1939.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #37973)

The Plough Inn, situated on busy Stanley St, was popular with the shipping industry employees in the South Brisbane area. It was designed by Alexander Wilson and built by contractor Abraham James for £3,300. GHM Addison did a substantial makeover in 1922. Some say Brisbane hit its straps with the advent of Expo '88, those heady days of beer halls and the infamous chicken dance. The Plough Inn was central to the festivities there too, and indeed had been specially prepared for Expo in the prior year.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

After Expo finished and Brisbane got back to work, the Plough Inn was refurbished by architect Bruce Buchanan, and my photo above shows how it looks now.

Click here for a Google Map.

Next: All gas, no energy

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cremorne Theatre

This week we are looking at the area around Southbank Parklands. What did Brisbane people do for entertainment before television and before movies? Well, live theatre was very popular; and one of the most popular live theatre venues was the Cremorne, built on the river at South Brisbane. It opened in 1911, and here is a photo of it from 1950.
(Photo: QPAC Collection, John Oxley Library; #1997_061_062)

In its early days, the Cremorne was an open-air theatre, somewhat of a handicap in Brisbane's sub-tropical climate when an evening thunderstorm could drench both the actors and the audience. During WWI, various attempts were made to weatherproof the theatre, and in 1917 the Brisbane Courier recorded: 'Open-air entertainments are delightful on summer evenings in Brisbane, and the popular “Cremorne” theatre, situated on the river bank, South Brisbane, facing the south-east, and open to the cool breezes, is always a favourite resort. During the cool evenings, and when the weather is threatening or unpropitious, the popular theatre is converted into a huge canvas hall, and completely enclosed in waterproof awnings and side screens which afford protection against inclement weather. The main head covering is composed of best waterproof tarpaulin, and the water is caught in large gutterings, and carried through special drains direct into the Brisbane River. The sides are fitted with canvas screens reaching to the ground, thus preventing the rain from beating in, and affording complete protection from the wind. Agricultural drains in the auditorium render it impossible for moisture to affect the floor of the theatre. “Cremorne,” therefore, is perfectly warm, snug, and cosy, and when one witnesses the excellent entertainment provided by Mr. John N. McCallum’s “Courtiers,” it is not surprising that large audiences assemble there nightly.'
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #2000_019_002)

One of Brisbane's favourite Cremorne performers was George Wallace, a comedian. He was described as "small and tubby, with goggle eyes, mobile expression and a croaky voice". That's George, on the left in the photo above, at a back-stage party at the Cremorne. His son, George Jr, was also an actor and vaudeville performer, and became one of Brisbane's first television "stars" on channel BTQ7.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The Cremorne operated until it was destroyed by fire in 1954. After that time, the Theatre Royal in the city became the venue for much of Brisbane's live theatre. In 1974 it was decided to build a new art gallery on the site of the old Cremorne at Southbank, and at the same time to build a Performing Arts Centre as part of the same precinct. This centre, known as QPAC, contains the Lyric Theatre which hosts large live events, and the smaller Cremorne Theatre, named after the original, for more intimate events. A picture of the new Cremorne Theatre can be seen above.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Plough on Inn

Friday, April 23, 2010

La Scala, New Farm

(Photo: © 1982 National Trust of Queensland)

Just up the road from where I live is this spectacular house, right on the border of Fortitude Valley and New Farm at 517 Brunswick St. It reminds me of a giant chocolate layer cake. In 1914 it was built to a design by the architect TR Hall, who later designed Brisbane's City Hall. Click on the photo to see a larger image, it's worthwhile! The original owner was a doctor, and the building, which he had named Craig Athol, was laid out so that he could operate his practice from the ground floor and live in the house above. After being sold, the house continued as a doctor's surgery with new owners, and then was eventually converted to flats. Here is a photograph from 1963 when it was in use as flats.
(Photo: Brisbane City Council; BCC-B54-20780)
In 1980, the house was bought by Brisbane architect Robert Riddel, who used it as both office and house. He renamed the house La Scala, and it is still known by that name. Riddel's firm, Riddel Architecture, is extremely well-regarded for both conservation and modern architecture work in Queensland. They are responsible for conservation work on Customs House and the former National Bank head office.

La Scala is currently occupied by a firm of real estate valuers, and their web site shows some interior views of the building, including the original ornate plaster work on the ceilings.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Vaudeville

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ortiga (formerly Isis) Restaurant

Restaurants seem to come and go pretty frequently here. It must be a fairly difficult industry, dealing with health regulations, licensing laws, Occupational Health and Safety concerns - and all of that before a plate is turned out to a customer. For a few years, one of my favourite "special occasion" restaurants was Isis Brasserie, at 446 Brunswick St in the Valley. It helped that we could either walk if we were feeling energetic, or catch a bus if the weather was too hot or wet. During 2009 the restaurant closed unexpectedly (to us anyway). It became a fairly forlorn sight as I travelled past on the bus - the windows were pasted over with newspaper and the building almost looked ready for the wreckers.

After lots of rumours, the place suddenly became alive again and reopened in the new guise of Ortiga; still run by the previous owner Simon Hill. This is the way it looks now.

(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

I haven't yet been there - I tried to make a reservation recently but it was totally booked out. And I'm not a food critic anyway, so my opinion would be useless to anyone else. Best leave it to one of the best, John Lethlean from The Australian, whose verdict you can read here. Brisbanites may prefer to hear Tony Harper's viewpoint. Both of those gentlemen have indicated that Ortiga is worth a visit.

The building that houses the restaurant was designed by famous Brisbane architect Robin Dods, and was built in 1908 as a store for brothers Michael and Patrick Corbett, who were grocers and wine merchants. Dods designed the building to take advantage of the slope of the land, so the there is a single story at the front while the rear has a basement level. There is an internal staircase to connect the main level and the basement, and it seems that the restaurateur has been able to make the best of those features.

It's certainly refreshing to see an older building, even a relatively simple one such as this, being "recycled" into a different yet effective life, rather than being knocked into oblivion.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Chocolate layer cake

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fusions Gallery, Brunswick St

Brunswick St is one of the oldest streets outside Brisbane's CBD, and as such, has many interesting buildings. This week we are going to look at three of them - none of them particularly famous, but all interesting nonetheless. Brunswick St starts at the intersection of Bowen Bridge Rd and St Paul's Tce at Bowen Hills, the site of the old museum building. It winds up and down for nearly five kilometres along the ridges of Brisbane's hilly terrain through the suburbs of Fortitude Valley and New Farm until it reaches the Brisbane River at New Farm Park, and it includes a pedestrian only section at the Valley Mall. The first building in our trio is the one below, situated at 483 Brunswick St, and it is the former Fortitude Valley Primitive Methodist Church (click to see a larger image).
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Brunswick St is a street of extremes - boarding houses and houses of ill-repute; priests and prostitutes; night clubs, restaurants, movie theatres, new and recycled apartment buildings and derelict residences. After getting married in a civil ceremony at Newstead House, the lovely mrs tff and I had our wedding reception at what was then one of Brisbane's well-known reception venues - Coolden on Brunswick St. The original Coolden has now been demolished and replaced by a residential apartment complex of the same name.

But, returning to the Primitive Methodist Church. It was built in 1876 to a design of prolific Brisbane architect Richard Gailey, and cost
£1,100 at that time. The opening service occurred on 24 September 1876, and this church became "the centre of Primitive Methodism" in Brisbane. After the congregation joined the Fortitude Valley Presbyterians to form a Uniting Church in 1977, this building was no longer needed. It was sold to the Queensland Potters Association in 1982, and now it is the home of Fusions Gallery - well worth a look, too. The real estate sign in my picture gives a smile - it advertises some space to let in the building with the bold headline "Hallelujah!!!"

Click here for a Google Map.


¡Hola! - where's Isis?

Friday, April 16, 2010

West's Furniture Emporium

Today's story unfolded in reverse to the usual way I post these blogs. I happened across this article in The Australian recently, and decided that I had to write about it too. Also this article in New Farm Village News. The articles discuss Brisbane architect Robert Riddel's recent restoration of this old furniture store in Fortitude Valley. Thanks to Google Maps, this is how the building looked prior to its recent restoration.
(Photo: Google Maps)

Here is West's Furniture Emporium in 1953, over the road from this crowd of shoppers - you can just see the sign "West's" behind the Brisbane tram.
 (Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #185459)

West's Furniture Emporium's new showroom was designed by Karl Langer in 1953, and according to the articles mentioned above, it was a highly unusual work for the time. It featured sloping glass windows at the front - and incorporated at the base of the windows was a fish pond!

If you click on this link, you will be transported to Riddel Architectures web pages, where you can admire the stylish restoration of this building presented in a much better way than I could do it. It's wonderful to see someone taking the initiative to restore a building rather than knocking it down and starting over.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Hallelujah!!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Wynberg is an old suburb of Cape Town, South Africa. When George Willcocks from South Africa arrived in Brisbane to make his fortune building railways, he built an expansive (and expensive) house on Brunswick St at New Farm, and called it Wynberg. The name is Dutch or Afrikaans and means "vineyard". Around the corner in Moreton St, Willcocks also built four identical adjoining houses as an investment, and we have seen them before in these pages. Our historical photo today shows a fountain in the tropical gardens at Wynberg - it was taken around the year 1940.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #199505)

Brisbane's Catholic Archbishop Duhig, always the one to recognise good property, leased this house as his residence in 1928, and the church eventually bought it in 1932. It has served as the Archbishop's residence ever since, although Archbishop O'Donnell chose to remain living in his previous residence, Dura (also known as Glengariff). The present incumbent, Archbishop Bathersby, lives at Wynberg now.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The statue is visible from the front gate of Wynberg, and it is from there that I took the recent photo above, so you get to see part of the house in the background. You'll get a much better appreciation of the house and grounds if you click on the link to the Google Map.

Click here for a Google Map.


Furniture emporium

Monday, April 12, 2010

Parliament House

By the year 1859, Queensland was a separate colony with a newly appointed governor, Sir George Bowen. By 1862 Bowen had moved into the purpose-built Government House at the river end of George St. The Queensland legislature at that time had both an upper house and a lower house, and in 1864 it was decided that a Parliament House to accommodate both should be built next to Government House, thereby establishing a government precinct at that end of George St. A Commission was established to call for suitable designs for a construction costing up to £20,000. After a confusion of selecting tenders that were too expensive, then tenders that were unsuitable, (sounds a lot like government tenders these days, too!) the Commission finally settled on a design by the then Colonial Architect, Mr Charles Tiffin. The foundation stone was laid by Governor Bowen on 14 July 1865, and the main (George St) wing was completed in 1867. This is how Parliament House, built on the south-west corner of George St and Alice St, was looking in 1887.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #57387)

The pages at the State Government's Heritage Register say this about the design: "Now described as Classical Revival in style, it was then described as renaissance as adopted in the Louvre and Tuilleries, but of a less ornate character and more in keeping with the position of the colony. The external walls are constructed of freestone from Mr Jeays quarry at Woogaroo and the roof was originally of English slates..... the ridges and mansards terminated with iron cresting."
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Although old Government House next door has been converted to another use, Parliament House is still the functioning seat of government here in Queensland. Queensland sensibly did away with its upper house in 1922 (I still think that we Australians are overgoverned - how much duplication and redundancy must there be in three levels of government?). My photo (above) shows a few changes from the older image: the completion of the Alice St wing; the addition of a porte-cochere on the George St side; and the removal of some decoration around the roof-line are the obvious ones. In fact, we Queenslanders spent $13 million in 1982, replacing the roof, adding air-conditioning and upgrading fire and security measures. I think that it's a great building.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Cardinal rules

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hotel Orient

Brisbane architect Richard Gailey has appeared in this blog before. Gailey was an Irishman from Londonderry who emigrated to Brisbane in 1864, establishing his own practice in the following year. His work in Brisbane extended over the next sixty years until his death in 1924. What better canvas for an Irish architect's talents than hotels? Gailey was involved in the design or refurbishment of more than thirty of Brisbane's hotels, including the Empire in Fortitude Valley, the Regatta at Toowong, and the subject of today's post - the Orient Hotel on the corner of Queen St and Ann St at Petrie Bight. It is pictured below in 1936.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #106575)

Writing these pages has made me wonder about hotels: why were there so many of them in a relatively small and still-young city? And why is it that so many have survived to the present day, many of those now heritage listed? Plenty of other types of building have not been so fortunate, but hotels and churches seem to have had charmed lives in Brisbane. Perhaps it is because they were the most used buildings, although church attendances have certainly declined in recent decades. Of course, successful hotels do generate lots of revenue, of which the government gets its fair share in the form of licencing fees, tax on alcohol, and now taxes on gaming machines- could that be a factor?

Anyway, ponderings suspended (with no conclusion having been reached), let's get back to the Orient. Originally called the Excelsior Hotel, it was constructed in 1875 in a wonderful postition - right on the main thoroughfare from Fortitude Valley to the city, and brilliantly designed by Gailey, including his further extensions in 1884, to take advantage of a triangular block of land - this can be appreciated in the old photo. Like many of Gailey's pubs, this one also had elaborate verandahs in its original guise, but these had already been removed when the hotel was photographed back in 1936. (Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The Orient is one of the oldest surviving, still operating, hotels in the city, and can be seen in my recent photo (above). Only four other hotels pre-date it, and they include the Port Office Hotel in Edward St and the Treasury Hotel in George St. The Orient is situated only a block away from where the National Hotel once stood on the corresponding Queen and Adelaide Sts corner. The Hotel Orient doesn't seem to be as heavily patronised as it may have been in the past. Sometimes I catch a bus from right outside, and the silence is deafening.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Anyone for Tiffin?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The "Truth" Newspaper

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #88749)

Back in the pre-digital sixties, Brisbane was served by several newspapers. In the mornings we had the Courier-Mail, a serious broadsheet that emanated from Queensland Newspapers, part of the Murdoch empire. The afternoon newspaper was the Telegraph, a tabloid that came from the same stable and was lighter in content with a heavy emphasis on sport coverage. The Courier-Mail also had a Sunday version called the Sunday-Mail, whist the Telegraph had a special Saturday sports edition printed on pink paper (don't ask me why - it's a mystery to me!) that was known by all and sundry as the Pink Sports. There was also another tabloid, the Truth and its weekend sibling, the Sunday Truth. We didn't get them at home because they were slightly salacious in content - if you look up Wikipedia, you'll see them referred to as "scandal sheets". Here's a Truth delivery truck from around 1940.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #14904)

In 1937, a new building was being erected in busy Fortitude Valley, on the south-western corner of Brunswick St and McLachlan St. It was to be the new home of the Truth, and here it is pictured during construction.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #103734)

Brisbane's Truth eventually also fell into Murdoch's hands in 1960. The creation of News Limited subsequently caused acquisitions, amalgamations and sales: the Telegraph was closed in 1988 and the Truth, which by that time had been renamed the Sun, followed suit at the end of 1991, leaving us with only the local Courier-Mail, and The Australian, the national broadsheet (also Murdoch-owned).(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

So, what do you do with an old newspaper building? Why, convert it to apartments of course! And that's exactly what happened. My recent photograph (above) shows the front of the Sun Building, which instead of journalists' offices and printing presses, now contains a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Great for those who want to live in the heart of Brisbane's live music and club precinct, Fortitude Valley.

Click here to see a Google Map.


Next: The Orient
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