Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Paddington tram depot fire and Ithaca Fire Station

(Photo: K Howard; wikipedia)

On this day forty-eight years ago, Brisbane residents awoke to news of a terrible fire that would cause public transport chaos in the days ahead. On the night of 28 September 1962, one of Brisbane's fiercest ever fires blazed away at Paddington, destroying the Paddington Tram Depot and with it, 65 of Brisbane's trams. The photograph above shows people coming to see the remnants of the depot, whilst in the photo below, firemen are still spraying water onto the burnt-out shells of trams visible on the upper floor.  
 (Photo: Courtesy BCC; #BCC-S35-9311213)

The sudden loss of almost one-quarter of the tram fleet caused both immediate and then lasting damage to Brisbane's public transport network because it was a precursor to the end of trams in Brisbane. That finally eventuated in 1969. Here's Clem Jones at the business end of a tram about a year after the fire.
(Photo: Courier-Mail)

The picture below, from around the year 1942, shows three buildings that were affected by this fire. The Ithaca Fire Station. on the left, was the closest fire station to the fire; the square building in the centre of the photograph is the sub-station that provided the electricity for the trams; and the white roof on the far right of the photo is the tram depot.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #73407)

For the news media's take on the fire, click below to see a Flashback story, thanks to Channel 7 Brisbane, who were kind enough to provide it for this blog. Click your browser's back button to return here after the video is finished.
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(Video: © 2006 Channel 7 News)

Particularly noteworthy is the news that many of the tram motormen became bus drivers, some not so successfully! In the immediate aftermath of the fire, the first order of business was to restore as much of the tramway service as possible, and to achieve this, whatever spare parts that could be rescued from the destroyed depot were cobbled together to make trams to replace those that were lost in the inferno. These trams were known as "Phoenix" trams, and had their own logo on the front.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The fire station and the electricity sub-station are both heritage listed, and can be seen in my recent photograph above. Today, the Paddington Central shopping centre (below) stands where the tram depot used to be.(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


What type of bus is that?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tram lines

This week we have a mini-series about Brisbane's public transport, starting with trams.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #BCC_B54-29538)
(Photo: Courtesy flickr; lindsaybridge)

Trams were discontinued in Brisbane in 1969. The top photo above, taken in 1966, shows the terminus at Belmont, and the colour one below it shows two trams at the same terminus in 1963. These days, if you want to see any of Brisbane's tram memorabilia, you need to go to the Brisbane Tramway Museum at Ferny Grove.
(Photo: Courtesy DERM)

Or you can visit Old Cleveland Rd at Carina (above), not too far from the site of the top picture, where you can still see actual tram lines in situ. Just looking at them gives a feeling of nostalgia. As my dad used to say to me: "No flies on you, son ... but you can see where they've been!" Here they were laid in the middle of a quite wide road, and there was still room for two lanes of traffic in each direction. Below is a photo of that section of track with a tram on it.(Photo: Courtesy flickr; lindsaybridge) 
This type of layout, properly planned to integrate with traffic, would have enabled trams to continue in service in Brisbane. Oh well!

Click here for a Google Map.



Friday, September 24, 2010

Victoria Barracks

(Drawing: © S Woolcock; 1988)

When I came back to Brisbane in the early seventies after working in Mount Isa for a couple of years, I had ambitions of travelling overseas. In order to save the money to do so, I found myself a second job. I worked in the evenings as a cleaner, emptying the wastebaskets, sweeping the floors and cleaning the urinals in the building we are seeing today, the Victoria Barracks. And, looking back, trying to remember details of what it was like, the thing I first recall is that I didn't have any ID like a pass or a badge, didn't have to go through any clearance procedure, and barely saw any sign of life in the place. Strange. It's probably different now, judging by the Keep Out signs and protective fencing. Here are some current images - ironically, I wasn't game to go inside!

(Photos: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The first military barracks in Brisbane were built by convicts near the river in Queen St, at the site that is now the casino. When Queensland separated from New South Wales, the new governor of the colony was Sir George Ferguson Bowen, and he felt it necessary to have troops to defend Queensland against any invader. It was decided to build a garrison for troops on Petrie Terrace next to the jail that had been built by Andrew and John Petrie. The specifications had to come from London, and the barracks were constructed in 1864 by Robert Hope for a mammoth £6820. Here are a couple of early pictures of the barracks; the photograph is from 1868 and the drawing from 1872. The establishment was named Victoria Barracks in the 1880s to honour the monarch.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APE-072-0001-0017)

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #146231)

Other buildings have been added to the site over the years, and it still operates as a military facility. These days it is mainly office space, although there are creature comforts such as an officers' mess and one of Queensland's oldest grass tennis courts.

In a quirk of timing, my bloggy friend Hels has just posted a blog on Sydney's Victoria Barracks, situated in the Sydney suburb of Paddington. Take a look - it's worth comparing the two.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Tracks

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Police Barracks, Petrie Terrace

Brisbane's second purpose-built jail was constructed by contractors Andrew and John Petrie in 1860, on a site known then as Green Hills, and known today as Petrie Terrace. The jail was designed by Charles Tiffin, then New South Wales Clerk of Works, and cost £25,000 to build. It consisted of two two-storey cell blocks, as well as guard houses, storerooms, laundry and kitchen facilities, lavatories and washrooms.
(Drawing: © S Woolcock; 1988)

In 1883, a new jail was built at Boggo Rd and prisoners were transferred there, so the buildings were converted to use as a police barracks. Around 1885, the military barracks next door was renamed Victoria Barracks, and the whole Petrie Terrace complex was split between the defence force and the police force. Over ensuing decades, the shortcomings of the building for the purposes of accommodating and training police became apparent, and at the end of the 1930s it was decided to construct a new purpose-built police barracks and training facility. Architect RC Nowland of the Public Works department designed a three-storey brick and cement complex that would provide accommodation, offices, training facilities and recreational areas for police. The building was opened on 29 September 1939, and here is a photograph of it from 1951.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #10191-0001-0004)

Nowland's red brick building was perched on the ridge above Roma St, and its distinctive appearance and size made it easily recognised over much of Brisbane. During WWII, the barracks were also used by various Australian and US military personnel. After the war, police continued to be housed and trained here until the opening of the new police headquarters at North Quay in the early 60s and the creation of the Oxley Police Academy in 1973. In the late 80s, the buildings in the complex were sold, and the former stables became a nightclub (the famous Underground!), while the former wireless transmission building became a restaurant. The rest of the site fell into disrepair for many years.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

In 2008, the complex was redeveloped as The Barracks, a shopping and restaurant precinct, and a current picture of the main building can be seen above.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Vic Barracks

Monday, September 20, 2010

Normanby Hotel

I have moved to a new blog template to give a clearer reading experience and allow for the placement of larger images. Let me know what you think!

This week we are in the Petrie Terrace precinct, and I am indebted to the book "Petrie-Terrace Brisbane 1858-1988", R Fisher & S Woolcock; from where the wonderful Steve Woolcock sketches were sourced.

The picture below shows one of Brisbane's most talked about hotels
currently. It is the Normanby Hotel, situated just outside the CBD at Red Hill, near the busy Normanby Fiveways. Its proximity to the city, and to Lang Park Suncorp Stadium, makes it extremely popular for the footy fraternity.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Apparently Sundays here are huge, probably helped by cold beer and barbecued beef around the beer garden. An old Moreton Bay fig has been included in the configuration of the exterior of the hotel - a nice touch.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The hotel has had its share of notoriety lately. State of Origin legend Alfie Langer was photographed dancing semi-naked there after a recent football game where his team, the Broncos, lost heavily. This was despite the fact that the Broncos were reported to have given up going to the place because of other unsavoury incidents. But all of that isn't just a new phenomenon - I found a newspaper article from 1893 where a drunken brawl at the Normanby resulted in a murder charge. I'm not suggesting that the Normanby suffers from constant problems, but that, like many licenced establishments in Australia today, it experiences alcohol-related issues from time to time.

Anyway, the hotel is old. Built in 1890 and replacing an earlier hotel on the same site that had opened its doors in 1872, the Normanby was designed by JB Nicholson (he also designed the Princess Theatre) for the Burton family who had owned the original hotel too.
(Drawing: © S Woolcock, 1988)

Here it is (below), pictured circa 1891. I believe this image is actually a photograph of an oil painting. Alterations were subsequently made to the structure in 1917, and the architect then was GHM Addison.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #167072)

And here is a later photo, from around 1929, taken from Kelvin Grove Rd. The Normanby Hotel is at the back on the far right of the picture. Note the fig trees - those big ones in Kelvin Grove Rd were the subject of community action when it was proposed to relocate some of them for the construction of the Northern Busway.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #191817)

Click here for a Google Map


Next: Copper home

Friday, September 17, 2010

Toowong Cemetery

This small park is situated near the city end of the William Jolly Bridge, between Eagle Terrace and Skew St. It was the site of Brisbane's first cemetery.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The First Brisbane Burial Ground was the final resting place of almost all who died in the Brisbane settlement between 1825 and 1843 when it was closed. When the site was no longer considered suitable, burials took place at the North Brisbane Burial Grounds at Paddington, on the site where Lang Park Suncorp Stadium now stands. (Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #21561)

As Brisbane grew, the location around Paddington filled with houses, and health concerns put an end to this cemetery. The next cemetery is one that is still in use, Brisbane General Cemetery. It is now more commonly known as Toowong Cemetery - it is situated right on the big roundabout on Milton Rd at Toowong. The photo below shows the entry gates and fence that were designed by FDG Stanley.
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(Photo: © 2006 Noel Hall)

It is interesting to see the different memorials, ranging from simple to spectacular, spread out over this large area. On a hill in the centre of the cemetery is a large monument to former Queensland governor Samuel Blackall. His was actually the first burial in the cemetery, back in 1871. His monument is the tall one on the left at the rear of the photo below, and the other tall monument nearby is in remembrance of Sir Charles Lilley, prominent barrister and politician who also became premier of the state for a time.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The rather opulent memorial headstone below is that of notorious land-owner and city council alderman Patrick Mayne.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The Brisbane City Council recently announced the commencement date of the Northern Link project, which will see tunnels dug from the Western Freeway to the Inner City Bypass, passing under the cemetery. Concern over the possible damage to grave sites has caused the engineers to decide to double the depth of the tunnel to 17 metres as it passes beneath the cemetery.

Click here for a Google Map.


Normanby invasion

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bowen Park

When the first white settlers came to Australia, they were unfamiliar with the land and the climate, as well as the plants and trees that were found here. So they imported their own familiar species from Britain, and then others from elsewhere. In 1863, a large parcel of land on the outskirts of Brisbane Town was granted to the Queensland Acclimatisation Society. Their role was to introduce and "road test" new species, and if they successfully acclimatised to the new environment, they would be propagated and distributed. The gardens were open to the public, and were actually quite a showpiece. The following photo, from around 1875, shows the neat gardens, including some terracotta statues, and possibly the head gardener's residence in the background. Although it mainly featured plants, animals such as llamas, rabbits, goats, pheasants and partridge were displayed in the park at times.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APO-038-0001-0002)

The gardens are situated opposite the Royal Brisbane Hospital at Herston, now an inner-city suburb. They were named the Bowen Park Acclimitisation Society Gardens after Governor Sir George Bowen, who was instrumental in the establishment of the Society. The original land holding was quite large, but it was subsequently reduced to allow the Royal National Association to hold its annual exhibition at the St Pauls Terrace end of the park. Further resumptions for the RNA, the railway and the construction of Bowen Bridge Rd greatly reduced the park, and the Acclimatisation Society decided to move elsewhere. In 1917, the park was purchased by the Brisbane Municipal Council for use as a recreational area. This is the way it looks today.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

During the 1950s, the park was under the supervision of Harry Oakman of the Brisbane City Council, who wanted it to provide a colourful spectacle for park visitors, tram passengers and those in the hospital over the road. The picture in the previous post, taken from the park and looking towards the hospital, gives an idea of the flowerbeds and the neat layout of the park at that time. Unfortunately, the flower beds have been removed, and it is mainly the larger species of trees that remain. Although a restful area, it is no longer the showpiece it once was.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Cemeteries

Monday, September 13, 2010

Royal Brisbane Hospital

The first Brisbane Hospital was in George St, where it remained until 1867. This is a photo of the residence of the medical officer for the hospital, Dr Barton. His residence was in the hospital grounds.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #63577)

A large tract of land had been set aside at Herston for a new hospital, and Charles Tiffin designed the first building on the property, built by Andrew Petrie and completed in 1867. This photo of it was taken in 1883. (Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APO-040-0001-0001)

The hospital in those days depended on voluntary contributions to remain afloat, and the scarcity of these funds didn't allow for the expansion of facilities that was needed in the growing state of Queensland. The state government took over the running of the hospital in 1917, following a financial crisis in the hospital's administration. The Hospitals Act of 1923 and the formation of the Brisbane and South Coasts Hospital Board in 1924 allowed the hospital to continue to provide much needed health services to the people of the state. The huge area of land allowed the hospital to expand, and since the early twentieth century the hospital has been enlarged significantly. Some of the progress can be seen in the photos below.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #81082)

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #186866)

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #9310970)

The last photo above was taken from across Bowen Bridge Rd in Bowen Park in 1954, showing an already large hospital presence. At the end of the 1930s, this was the largest hospital in the country, and still growing. Compare it to the photo that I took recently (below), and you will see the enormous change that has taken place in the ensuing fifty years.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The hospital complex now boasts auditoriums and theatres. It has its own integrated bus station, as well as a bicycle station to encourage commuters to use it as a transport hub. Clicking on the link to the Google Map will give you an aerial view of this huge complex.

Click here for a Google Map.


Acclimatisation Society

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cintra House

(Photo: © 1979 National Trust of Queensland)
(Photo: Courtesy DEHM)

Situated on the side of a hill, somewhere between Cloudland and Miegunyah, is this lovely home originally known as Cintra, pictured above in 2009. It was constructed in 1863 at Bowen Hills for a George Webb and the Georgian influence in the design came from architect Benjamin Backhouse. Here is a current photograph.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

In 1877, Cintra was purchased by Mr BD Morehead, who was to become Premier of Queensland in the years 1888-1890. Here is a picture of the house from around 1882 - it is situated on the top LHS of the image. Morehead extended the building considerably during the 1880s, including adding the dual verandahs that were not present when this photo was taken.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #78892)

Subsequent to Morehead's death, Cintra was owned by businessman Acheson Overend until 1925, when the large property was divided into two separate holdings. After some alterations, the southern property (not shown here) became a nursing home, and the northern residence became a convent attached to Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church. In 1973, that property was released by the church; it was bought and restored by Queensland developer Noel Kratzmann. Subsequently it became an art gallery, Cintra House Galleries. In 1987 the property was sold, and has once again become a private residence.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Hospital

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Peter Jackson, The Black Prince

Being somewhat of a sports nut I was a trifle surprised, when searching through information relating to the Toowong Cemetery, to come across a story previously unknown to me about an Australian boxing legend who is buried there. He was black, but not Aboriginal - he came initially from the West Indies, descended from African slaves - and he became a world famous sports figure in his own lifetime. His name is Peter Jackson.(Photo: courtesy

Jackson was born in the Danish West Indies in 1861 and arrived in Sydney at 17 years of age. He worked on the waterfront initially, and then started boxing around 1882, training under Larry Foley, a boxer and fight promoter. Jackson was a big man of about 187 cm and 90 kg, and fought as a heavyweight. In those times fights were often bare knuckle contests and had no maximum number of rounds - the fight was only finished when one of the contestants could no longer continue. Jackson first fought for the Australian title in 1884, losing to Bill Farnan, but two years later he won the title in a 30 round contest against Tom Lees. This fight was to propel him onto the world stage. After beating everyone in Australia game enough to fight him, Jackson travelled to America and Britain in 1888 in search of the world title.

The following extract from his biography illustrates the overt racism of the times that Jackson confronted: "Termed the 'darkey' or worse early on, Jackson became known as 'Peter the Great' or 'The Black Prince'. He was always deemed a 'gentleman' and a 'real whiteman'. His great sportsmanship and modesty reflected his nature, and also was a role forced on him by the exigencies of a black fighter in a white world. His deference, good looks, fine speaking manner and skill made him universally popular: he was one of the few boxers, black or white, allowed to move freely in the National Sporting Club rooms in London."

Although Jackson was undefeated after the Farnan fight right through to 1891, he was unable to secure a championship fight. The world champion was John L Sullivan, an American, who refused to fight "a negro". Some suggest that may have camouflaged the real reason - his reluctance to fight someone as good as Jackson evidently was. As a result of Sullivan's refusal to fight him, Jackson went on to fight "Gentleman" Jim Corbett in May 1891 (below). This contest was adjudged a draw when neither fighter could proceed - after 61 rounds! Corbett then defeated Sullivan and claimed the world title in 1892.
(Photo: wikipedia)

Peter Jackson's last notable fight was in London in May 1892, when he fought fellow Australian Paddy Slavin for the British title. Jackson won a fight that was reported as "vicious" in ten rounds. Unfortunately the years of punishment from his fights and his heavy use of alcohol then started to have a detrimental effect on Jackson, who went through the motions with exhibition bouts and stage productions in order to survive. He was hospitalised in Vancouver before coming home to live in the Queensland town of Roma where he died from tuberculosis in July 1901. He was forty years old. The London Sporting Times wrote: "Peter had a soul above all the miserable tricks that so frequently degrade the professional pugilist; in short, he was at heart a gentleman and Boxiana would be all the better today for a few more like him. Peace to his ashes."

Money was raised by public subscription to build a monument for Jackson's grave at Toowong cemetery. It stands on the top of a hill, and is inscribed with a Shakespearean quote: "This was a man". (Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

In 1908 The American Jack Johnson became the first black man to win the world heavyweight boxing championship, and shortly thereafter he visited Australia, making a pilgrimage to Jackson's grave to pay his respects.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Cintra

Monday, September 6, 2010

Thomas Dixon Factory

I've written before in these pages about some of Brisbane's entrepreneurial businessmen. I've also indicated that the boom days of Brisbane provided lots of opportunity for individuals who were prepared to take a calculated risk and work hard. The hero of today's story had lots of luck - mostly bad - but with sheer perseverance, he was able to prevail.

For many reasons, we have very little manufacturing industry today - at least compared with the early days of Queensland. Would you believe me if I told you that, in the early twentieth century, there were more than twenty boot manufacturers in Brisbane? It sounds a lot, I know, but providing boots for the Australian working man and shoes for his family was quite an industry back then. One of those manufacturers was Thomas Dixon, who in 1873, at the ripe old age of 26, established a tannery at Hill End south of Brisbane Town. Shortly thereafter, he started making boots.

Then came a couple of events that would test the mettle of young Dixon. Fortunately, he was not found wanting. In 1885, a fire completely destroyed his operations. He decided to restart his business, and actually expanded it in doing so. Then, as is often the perverse way of misfortune, Brisbane was inundated with its worst flood ever in 1893. The flooding was particularly bad on the south side of the river, and Dixon lost around £1500 - a small fortune by the standards of the day. In a wonderful example of persistence, he knew that he could recommence his manufacturing business, and keen to build a presence that might protect it from fire and flood, he engaged the redoubtable Richard Gailey to design a brick premises for him on the corner of Montague Rd and Drake St at South Brisbane. The factory was completed in 1908, and here is an undated photo showing some of the staff gathered outside the Drake St entrance.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #165835)

Dixon was rightly proud of his new building, and understood the importance of his ability to stick to a task. Here is a verbatim excerpt from his correspondence that illustrates his feelings:
(Reproduced from "From boots to ballet shoes" - Queensland History Group)

Below is a recent photo showing the same frontage of the building. It is a testament to Gailey's design that the building loses nothing in comparison to today's constructions. If you look closely (just click for a larger image) you can see the sandstone block above the door that Dixon describes. It has the inscription "Established 1873" - the year Dixon started his tanning business. It is also visible in the earlier photo, but unreadable.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The size of the factory can be gauged by the next image, probably showing the Montague Rd side of the structure. Once again, a significant work force is pictured outside the building. Reports indicate that Dixon was a fair employer who provided his staff with good working conditions, and as a result many of them stayed with the company for a considerable time.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #165836)

I recently took a photograph of the Montague Rd aspect of the building, and here it is. It is now known as the Thomas Dixon Centre, and the name of the current tenant can be read on the brick fence at the front.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

In 1973, the Thomas Dixon building was sold, and the shoe manufacturer moved out to a larger building at Wacol, south-west of Brisbane. In 1975, the building was purchased by the state government for use as a store, but then, in 1991, the building was refurbished to enable it to become home to the Queensland Ballet. Recently the building celebrated its centenary, and a booklet "From boots to ballet shoes" was produced by the Brisbane History Group - much of the above information was obtained from that source.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: The black prince

Friday, September 3, 2010

St Paul's Anglican, Cleveland

When Captain James Cook sailed up the east coast of Australia he named Cleveland Bay, on the southern side of Moreton Bay, after the Duke of Cleveland. (How did he manage to do that, I find myself asking? Did Cook carry a very early copy of Debrett's Peerage with him on his voyages, or did he just have an encyclopaedic knowledge of English nobles?) The area around the bay started to be settled in the 1840s, mainly by farmers and fishermen. In 1874, the residents built an Anglican Church which was then consecrated in 1876. It is St Paul's Anglican Church, and it is shown below in 1905.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #141595)

The church was designed by James Furnival and built for around £500. In 1908 the shingle roof was replaced with asbestos slate, and the original wooden bell tower was also replaced. For the church's golden jubilee in 1924, Lange Powell did some renovations and also designed an extension to the church in the form of a front porch, which can be seen in today's photographs below.
(Photos: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

A rail connection to Brisbane was initially vital to move goods to and from Cleveland, but later became useful for the people of Brisbane to be able to visit the bayside town for recreation and bathing. From those humble beginnings it has grown into a large suburb of Redland City. Recent canal developments have led parts such as Raby Bay to contain some of south-east Queensland's most expensive homes.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Boot maker
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