Friday, April 29, 2011

Country war memorials

In terms of casualties, WWI is still the most costly war fought by Australians. From a population of fewer than 5 million, more than 416,000 men enlisted. More than 60,000 of them died, and a further 156,000 were injured, gassed or taken prisoner. I suppose that it is evidence of our "Britishness" at that time that so many Aussies volunteered to go off to fight in a foreign war, virtually on behalf of England. The attrition rate among the AIF soldiers was amongst the highest, if not the highest, of any country involved in WW1. The Australians left at home were proud of their boys who volunteered for this conflict and grief-stricken at the heavy losses that resulted.

Of these volunteers, rural Australians were over-represented.
Many small country towns found that virtually all their able-bodied men went off to this war. Many didn't return, and those that did return were often in poor shape physically and mentally.

Just as in the city, country towns dug deep to build memorials to those who served, especially honouring those who paid the ultimate price. Beaudesert, south-west of Brisbane, was one such town. It erected a monument showing the names of the 524 men who enlisted, including the 91 of them who died. Here is the monument photographed on the day of its unveiling, 28 September, 1921. The governor, Sir Matthew Nathan was in attendance at the ceremony.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #45691)

The monument was designed by Melbourne firm Standard Masonry Works, and the construction was supervised by Brisbane architect AH Conrad. It cost £1340 to build, making it the fourth-most expensive WW1 memorial in Queensland. The Queensland Heritage Register makes the following comment about the cost of the monument:
"The cost of the monument and the number of enlistments is reflective of the strong patriotism of the district. The number of enlistments is above both the state and national averages and the cost is comparatively high for a rural district."

(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

It seems that Queensland WWI memorials commonly displayed a statue of "the Digger", whereas in other states it was more usual to use an obelisk. The Beaudesert memorial has both. I was able to photograph it recently (above) - it stands on a triangle at the intersection of two major streets in the town centre, and is now unfortunately flanked by American-based fast food outlets.

The following image shows a Digger statue at Pimpama, a little town situated between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. This statue is situated in the grounds of the Pimpama Uniting Church, and the old Pimpama cemetery is in the background.
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map for Beaudesert, and here for Pimpama.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Anzac Cottages

The recent floods and cyclone in Queensland have caused havoc at many locations in the state. Following these disasters, there has been a rush of community goodwill to those affected, and stories of people donating money, clothing, goods and labour are legion.

This is not a new phenomenon. Perhaps families are more insular these days - many of us don't know our neighbours and are therefore surprised when they provide assistance out of the goodness of their hearts.

In the aftermath of WWI, from which many Australian servicemen did not return and many more returned with terrible injuries and poor health, there was a similar outpouring of grief and then philanthropy for survivors and sufferers.

One way this was manifested was in the construction of Anzac cottages, built in many states - often with donated land and materials as well as volunteer labour. The first ones seem to have been built in Western Australia, but about fifty were built in Queensland (forty of those in Brisbane), many of them constructed with funds from the state lottery, the Golden Casket. The following photograph at the State Library is recorded as being a group of volunteer workers on the job of building one of these houses.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #23417)

The first Anzac cottage was built at Wynnum, and was opened in August 1917 by the governor. Parliamentarian Harry Coyne initiated the concept of funding the houses from the Golden Casket, and Casket draws number three, four and five were earmarked for this purpose. All sold out quickly, and the draws were held at the Stadium, the forerunner of Festival Hall.

One of these cottages has been heritage listed. It is known as Strathearn and is situated in the Brisbane suburb of Alderley. Here are a couple of pictures of it.

(Photos: Courtesy DERM & EPA)

Strathearn was number 37 of these cottages, and was completed in July 1920. It was provided for a Mrs Mary Warner and her five children. Mrs Warner was widowed when her husband John died in March of that year. The government's CHIMS pages say this about his service in the Great War:
English born John Thomas Warner was 42 when he enrolled at Enoggera, although he gave his age as 38 years old. Private Warner was buried in a shell explosion at Ypres in 1917. Rescued the following day he was sent home. He died during March 1920 and was buried in a war grave in Toowong.

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Anzac Day 2011

(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

I arrive with the intention of photographing another monument when I see him, vigorously cleaning this one. He is totally involved in his work, whistling a bright little tune. I stop to chat.

"How are you?" I ask. "Good son, good!" is the reply (I'm over sixty years old!).

The monument he is working on is dedicated to the Corvette class of ship in the Australian Navy. "Are you cleaning it up for Coral Sea week?" I ask, thinking how clever I was to put together navy and monument to come up with an event that is just a couple of weeks away.

"No!" he says, somewhat indignantly, "It's Anzac Day on Monday!" I give myself a mental slap on the forehead. Of course it is. I'm feeling a little embarrassed, so I stay silent. He turns to me with a smile. "And it's my birthday on Tuesday!"

"Happy birthday" I manage, weakly. "Yes," he says, "After the 8 am service here on
Monday, I'll march and then have a few beers. Then I can have another beer on Tuesday." There's a bright gleam in his eye.

"I'll be eighty-six!" he proudly announces. "I've cleaned this little beauty every year since we put her up in '88." I look at the central plaque on the monument, the one he is cleaning as we speak. It was unveiled by Brisbane's Lord Mayor Sallyanne Atkinson in 1988.

(Photo: © 2013 the foto fanatic)

He's cleaned and polished this monument each year for almost a quarter-century. A sacred duty for Anzac Day. "I used to live at Newmarket, so it was no trouble, but now I live at Kallangur and it's a bit harder to get here." I do the mental arithmetic. Kallangur is about 35 km away - that's a 70 km round trip. "But I still do it," he continues. "I'm one of the younger ones, the others are a bit too old."

I also check the time. It's 7 am, and it's only just full daylight. He must have left home in the dark to get here for his important chore. He has made good progress with the cleaning too, he's obviously no slacker. "These are all the Corvettes," he says, pointing at the plaque on the right hand side of the monument. It contains three vertical lists, each list is an honour-roll of ships' names.

(Photo: © 2013 the foto fanatic)

"See the names?" he asks me. I look. "They're all Australian towns", I say. "Country towns, country towns!" comes the reply. I look again. He's right, of course - no capital cities here, they are all Australian provincial towns.

"This one's mine," he says, pointing. I see the name Cootamundra four names from the bottom of the first list. It is positively gleaming from freshly-applied elbow grease. "It's the brightest one, " I say to him. "'Course it is,"
he says, "Why wouldn't it be!" Big smile. "And my mate served on this one - he's dead now," he says. He points again, but I don't know which name he means. It might be Ipswich, I'm not sure. It's not important - they're all his mates really.
"Well, have a good day Monday" I say, meaning the Anzac Day march.

"Could be my last one!" he says, still polishing energetically as I walk away.

I hope not. I really hope not.


Click here for a Google Map.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Kurilpa Library,West End

"Kureelpa" is an aboriginal word that allegedly means "place of the water rat". I say allegedly because the aborigines were known to have a sense of humour on these matters, at times misleading the whites about the meaning of words from their language. There are also reports that "kureelpa" means field mouse - they were plentiful in the area that is now West End and South Brisbane, and was formerly referred to by the anglicised name Kurilpa. You can still see evidence of Kurilpa: the pedestrian bridge from the CBD to South Brisbane has been christened the Kurilpa Bridge, and there used to be a state electoral district of that name. There is also the heritage listed Kurilpa Library, prominently situated on Boundary St at West End. It is pictured below, from 1962.
(Photo: Courtesy BCC; BCC-B54-18613)

The library is an imposing brick building designed expressly as a library by the city architect in 1929, and built by the Brisbane City Council in the same year. That architect was AH Foster, who had trained under well-known Brisbane architect GHM Addison. Foster also designed the Valley Baths. Kurilpa Library was the first municipal lending library in Queensland.
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

I think there is something formal and permanent in this building, unlike some of the later libraries. The clock tower gives it something of a civic feel too. I like it.

Click here for a Google Map.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

German Station, Nundah

It may surprise some to know that the first free settlers in Brisbane were German. They were missionaries who came here at the behest of Rev JD Lang in order to "civilise" the indigenous population. The first mission was formed at Zion's Hill in 1838, and was a joint effort between Lutherans, Presbyterians and Pietists (a Lutheran offshoot). Zion's Hill was the name the missionaries themselves gave to the mission station they established on Kedron Brook just north of Brisbane Town, which became known to others as German Station. We now call the suburb Nundah. The first fifteen members of the missionary band arrived in April 1838 and a further number arrived in June. At the time of landing in Moreton Bay the party was comprised only of adults, but it didn't take too long for the children of these first free settlers to arrive - there were eleven babies born by 1841, the first children of free settlers in Queensland.

The missionaries set about making themselves self-sufficient, planting crops and raising cattle. They also studied the language of the aboriginal inhabitants, the Jagera and Turrbal people; indeed, they were far more assiduous at this than the English soldiers and convicts had been. The initial relationships with aborigines were quite cordial. The sketch below was made in 1846 by Carl Gerler, one of the missionaries, and it shows a group of aborigines being schooled by a missionary teacher as well as the cattle-raising and farming activities developed by the whites.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #67294)

Although these families formed a cohesive and productive group, the success of the mission would only be judged by the conversion to Christianity of significant numbers of the native population. In this regard the mission was deemed a failure - the aborigines preferred their own Dreamtime stories and were not to be seduced by the fairy tales of the missionaries. Funding to the community by the New South Wales government was withdrawn in 1843, after only a few short years of operation. There were other factors at work too - the English inhabitants of the colony were suspicious of these "foreigners" and jealous of the large parcel of ideal farming land that had been handed to them. The mission station was gradually run down, although many of the German immigrants remained in the area. The photo below shows the remnants of the mission station housing, taken around 1895.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APE-032-01-0001)

There are still reminders of these early settlers in the names of some of the streets in the area: Gerler, Rode, and Zillman are a few. In 1938 the centenary of the first mission was celebrated with the unveiling of a memorial to the settlers by the premier of Queensland and other dignitaries. Here is a photo taken then.
(Photo: Courtesy UQ Library)

The memorial is situated next to the main thoroughfare, Sandgate Rd, which has now been diverted around the old Nundah shopping centre evident in the picture above. The memorial is marooned on an island and thousands of cars whiz by it daily without a thought for these Brisbane pioneers.

(Photos:; D Watson)

Click here for a Google Map.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Natural Arch, Numinbah Valley

Mostly we look at man-made items in these pages, but today I'm showing a series of pictures of a natural location in south-east Queensland. Why? Well, I was struck by the way we mortals treat things of natural beauty. Mostly we commercialise them; sometimes we despoil or deface them; but rarely (in my experience, anyway) do we leave them just as they are. This is one beautiful spot that has been a favourite of mine for many years, and has changed very little in that time. It's in the Springbrook National Park in the Gold Coast hinterland. There's no admission fee, no compulsory bags of food to buy, no shops that charge extraordinary amounts for food and drink. It is certainly beautiful, and it is peaceful too. The first photograph I have is from around 1938.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #API-075-0001-0004)

Here is a current photograph from inside the cave.
(Photo: © 2014 the foto fanatic)

And here is a colour image from 1958.
(Photo: Courtesy Gold Coast City Council; LS-LSP-CD508-IMG0001)

The following description accompanies the above photograph:
The natural bridge was formed at the lip of an old waterfall, which developed over a hard resistant basalt salt flow. Softer, brecciated (broken up)lava flow or agglomerate beneath the basalt was eroded by the swirling waters of the falls to form the cave behind. Just upstream of the waterfall, a deep pool was scoured in the basalt by the abrasive action of the swirling rocks. Eventually the hole broke through to the cave beneath, allowing the creek to plunge through, and leaving the lip of the waterfall as an arch. The cave has since eroded back further from the foot of the new waterfall. The deposit of silt and stones in the floor of the cave may have resulted from a mudflow in the creek, formed by a landslide upstream.

(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

And here is my recent photograph (above), taken using a long exposure with my camera mounted on a tripod.

Click here for a Google Map.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wairuna, Highgate Hill

One of Brisbane's earliest department stores was Allan & Stark, situated in Queen St just down from George St. It was founded by James Allan and Robert Stark, and it made them both quite wealthy. Allan & Stark was taken over by Myer in 1950. Robert Stark lived at Richmond Rd, Morningside, while James Allen lived at Highgate Hill in this house, Wairuna. It was designed for him by famous Brisbane architect RS Dods, and the photograph below is from 1945.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #56617)

The State Library of Queensland is about to launch an exhibition on Robin Dods. Called "Art in Architecture", it will highlight Dods' work in the early twentieth century which did so much for Queensland architecture. The Brisbane Times has previewed the exhibition in an article entitled "The man who built Brisbane" (click here), and many of the photos in that article originated from this blog. I know - shameless self-promotion!
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

Allan's residence took three or four years to build, and was completed in 1900. He lived there until his death in 1938, when Wairuna was acquired by the Presbyterian church. It is now privately owned again. The state government's heritage pages describe the house as a:
"finely designed building following the Arts and Crafts tradition with a high pitched complex roof, multi gabled and bayed projections and an overall picturesque quality, achieved whilst obtaining a comfortable and livable Queensland house."

Click here for a Google Map.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Queensland Workers Dwelling Act

William Kidston, a Scottish immigrant, arrived in Rockhampton in 1883. He ended up having one of the most topsy-turvy political careers ever seen in Queensland, being alternatively a Labor treasurer and a Liberal premier. In 1909, the Liberal government (of which he was leader) introduced into the parliament An Act to Enable the Government to Assist Persons in Receipt of Small Incomes to Provide Homes for Themselves, commonly known as The Workers' Dwellings Act of 1909. Its goal was to provide houses for low-income Queenslanders, and between 1910 and 1940 it produced over 23,000 houses for those who needed them. According to the state governments cultural heritage pages, the house pictured below was the very first of them.(Photo: More Historic Homes of Brisbane; National Trust of Queensland)

And here it is today - still standing, but with significant alteration to the front. The verandah has been enclosed, losing the balustrades and beautiful timber fretwork evident in the earlier picture.
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

The little house is in the near-northern suburb of Nundah, and is the prototype "timber and tin" dwelling that, over time, morphed into the Queenslander. It was designed by the architect's office of the Workers' Dwelling Scheme, and it cost £220 to build in 1910. By 1914, the Workers' Dwelling Scheme was producing houses that looked like this one.
(Photo: Courtesy BCC; BCC-B120-80891A)

As well as designing and constructing the houses, the government also financed them. The first house at Nundah (top photo) was built for a Mr & Mrs Weissner, and the Workers' Dwelling Board funded a mortgage of £190 which was to be repaid over 20 years at 5% interest. This method of building and financing houses for low-income residents eventually became the Queensland Housing Commission.

Click here for a Google Map.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Amity, New Farm

Back in the sixties and seventies when I was avidly playing and watching rugby (these days it's watching only!), I was aware of a part of the Brisbane premiership competition known as the Welsby Cup. It still exists, and is played between the first and second placed teams at the end of the first round. The cup was donated by and named after Thomas Welsby, a former half-back for Queensland in the first inter-colonial rugby match. He was a president of the Queensland Rugby Union for ten years, and later a life member. He was a keen sportsman, loved sailing and fishing, and is pictured here at Amity Point on North Stradbroke Island.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #17123)

Thomas Welsby was also an accountant, author, company director and politician. He built a house on the river at New Farm in 1892, just prior to his marriage, and called it Amity, probably after John Oxley's ship of that name. It is not known who designed the house or who the builder was, but Welsby moved in good circles - his friends included the Petrie and Stanley families, so it is quite likely that friends helped with the planning and constuction of the house. Welsby grew up in his parents' house in New Farm, and after moving to Amity, that house became his home for the rest of his life; so his whole lifetime was spent in the suburb. The disastrous 1893 floods came within inches of the house, but fortunately left it undamaged.
(Photo: Copyright DSEWPaC; rt21570)

Amity remained within the Welsby family until 1952 when it was purchased by CSR, who operated the nearby sugar refinery (now an apartment complex), and for some years it was used as the residence for the refinery manager. On the other side of Amity to the refinery was the Brisbane naval base HMAS Moreton (now demolished), and eventually Amity was sold to the commonwealth government for the use of the base commandant. It is pictured above when it was in that stage of its life - there is no date attached to the image - and I suspect that we are looking at the southern side of the building. (Photo: © 1979 National Trust of Queensland)

(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

I'm pleased to say that Amity is still standing - it's only about 500 metres south of my place. A busy river walkway passes right in front of it, and it is dominated to the left and right by tall residential buildings. It appears to be privately owned once again, and although still in that wonderful riverfront position it is now sheltered by shrubbery from the river traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian. That makes it a tad hard to photograph, but the pictures above shows the eastern aspect as viewed from the river boardwalk.

Click here for a Google Map.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Oogarding, Bardon

(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

One of Brisbane's heritage listed beauties is currently for sale in the inner-western suburb of Bardon. It features in the Weekend Magazine of The Australian this weekend, and the listing details can be seen at - you can see photographs of the lovely interior there too, as well as the agent's detailed description of the property.

According to The Australian, the asking price is $3.5 million, and if I had that kind of cash I'd be queuing up, I can tell you. The house was built by Mr Jan Cupka in 1940-41 in the Mediterranean Style from a design by Brisbane architect Mervyn Rylance. It is situated well away from flood problems, high on a ridge with views to the city skyline. The original owners of the residence were the Joyce family, who owned the Helidon Spa soft drink company which originally bottled aerated water from the spa at Helidon near Toowoomba, but no longer exists.
(Photo: DERM)

The name of the house, Oogarding, is the aboriginal name for the spa that started the Joyce family business. The picture above was taken in 1999, and the one below in 2009.
(Photo: DERM)

Click here for a Google Map.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Andrea Stombuco, architect

Because it started out as a penal outpost of the nineteenth century English justice system, Brisbane's early days were heavily influenced by English customs, laws and architecture. But it isn't only the the English that we need to remember, there were plenty of non-Anglo influences also. The Irish (they don't like being lumped in with the English!) were heavily represented in early Brisbane, as well as a goodly portion of Europeans - mainly Germans - and Chinese. One of Brisbane's pioneer architects was the Italian, Andrea Stombuco, and I have just finished reading about him in a book written by Piero P Giorgi, published in Brisbane in 1998. It is called Stombuco: the building of Brisbane in the 19th century, and is available at your local library. Here is a picture of him.(Photo: State Library of Queensland)

Early details of Stombuco's life are sketchy. He was born in Florence in 1820 or 1821, and in his twenties moved to South Africa where he apparently owned a quarry and worked in the building industry. He married Jean Miles in Cape Town in 1849, and together they came to Australia two years later. During that voyage, Jean converted to Catholicism from her original Anglican faith; not necessarily at Andrea's request, but rather owing to her meeting a charismatic Catholic priest on the ship. It is believed that the Stombucos moved immediately to the Bendigo area where gold had just been discovered.

Life cannot have been easy for them at this point. Giorgi describes Jean as being the only woman in a mining shanty town, with Andrea trading in gold to make a living. This was not at all profitable for the family and was terminated when a valuable asset was stolen from their tent, forcing Andrea, Jean and their firstborn, Marie, to remove themselves to Melbourne. The foundation for Stombuco's later reputation of being "eccentric" or "volatile" probably originated there - Stombuco, trying to make his way as a sculptor, entered a couple of stone statues at the 1854 Exhibition. One was the Madonna, and the other a classical Greek representation of Palamede. They were not well received, says Giorgi, possibly because of attitudes towards nudity in those times. Evidently Stombuco smashed the works in a fit of anger.

Stombuco arrived in Brisbane in 1875, via Kyneton in Victoria, where he erected the Catholic Church of St Mary (below, top); and Goulburn NSW, where he helped design and construct the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul (below, bottom). The view of St Mary's is very similar to the church Stombuco later designed in Fortitude Valley, St Patrick's. Stombuco was advertising his services as "architect-builder, sculptor and monumental mason" in Kyneton, but nothing seems to be known about his qualifications for any of these professions, other than experience. He probably wasn't the only person in the new colonies who was progressing his career in this way. Although living well in Kyneton, things did go awry for the Stombuco family at times - they lost two infant children who died there during the 1860s.
St Mary's: (Photo:
Cathedral of Sts Peter & Paul: (Photo:

It was in Brisbane that Stombuco really hit his straps in terms of the number of his commisssions. One report says that he designed 54 works in Australia, and that at least 20 survive in South-East Queensland alone. Giorgi says that he designed eight churches, three schools, thirteen residences and eight commercial buildings during his stay in Brisbane. We have looked at some of his works in these pages already: Palma Rosa at Hamilton and St Patrick's Catholic Church at Fortitude Valley, and the All Hallows' School's main building. Stombuco came here on the advice of Rev Patrick Dunne (later to become Bishop of Brisbane) and Stombuco was immediately asked to design St Mary's Presbytery in Ipswich. Following the completion of that commission, Stombuco applied for a hotel licence for the Royal Oak Hotel in Leichhardt St, where he was living. He was a publican for two years. Around this time he invented a new type of water closet, in which he tried (unsuccessfully) to interest the local council. He also paused long enough to become a citizen of the colony of Queensland in 1882.

But it was ecclesiastical works that were Stombuco's primary focus when he resumed architecture. Although his and Jean's
Catholic faith could only have helped him in his work in those sectarian times, not all were Catholic church buildings - he designed St Andrew's Anglican Church at South Brisbane. Some believe that Stombuco was the architect for the Brisbane Synagogue in Margaret St after he won a competition for its design. The state government's heritage page lists the designer as Arthur Morry from the government architect's office, but the synagogue's own pages attribute it to Stombuco. I contacted the state Department of Environment and Resource Management for clarification, and I am really grateful for the detailed reply I received from Ms Catherine Chambers, the department's Principal Heritage Officer.

"Thank you for your query about the architect responsible for the Brisbane Synagogue
, which is a place entered in the Queensland Heritage Register (600127). The architect described as being responsible for the design in the entry for this place, parts of which are available online, is Mr Arthur Morry. Having looked through our research file and consulted our reports collection, I can confirm that this appears to be correct.

There are two articles in The Brisbane Courier one dated 12 August 1884 and the other 8 July 1885 which report that he was the architect for the Synagogue. (These can be read at -

The other source is a Conservation Study prepared by Russell Hall Architects in 1993, which might clarify the information provided on the website of the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation. This study consulted architectural plans, and Board of Management and Building Committee minute books held by the Congregation. It states that the Building Committee rejected the only plan submitted to it for the new Synagogue during its first design invitation round, that by Andrea Stombuco, and moved to re-advertise for competition entries.

Copies of the entries received by the Committee do not remain intact, nor is there any list of entrants. It is apparently the Building Committee minute books that suggest that the winning entry was received from Mr Edward Wells Russell, who had recently arrived in Qld and was working for FDG Stanley, but that Arthur Morry obtained his permission to take over the work. Married to his sister, Morry had come to Qld with EW Russell and was employed by Stanley too until he quickly went to Qld Public Works. It is unclear who can lay claim to the original design, but it seems certain that Morry carried it through to completion of the building."
Stombuco also designed at least part of St Joseph's College on Gregory Terrace; his own residences Bertholme and Briar House at New Farm, and Petrie Mansions on Petrie Terrace; as well as several commercial buildings, the most notable of which was probably Her Majesty's Theatre (below) in Queen St. This building was demolished in the 1980s to enable the construction of the Hilton Hotel and the Wintergarden shopping mall. A poor trade in my view, particularly seeing that the developers (Kern Corporation) were supposed to leave the facade, but didn't. (Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #166135)

I thought that it might be instructive to hear the views of a current architect about Stombuco's contribution to Brisbane, so I asked Brisbane conservation architect Peter Marquis-Kyle for a comment. This is what he wrote:
Andrea Stombuco is a terrific example of the sort of self-made architect who could thrive, for a time, in the boom-and-bust of colonial Queensland. Quite a few of his buildings have survived. They aren't the finest works of architecture, but they do express the gusto of their architect and the times he lived in. Three different houses he built for his own family are still standing; my favourite is the grandiose Sans Souci (later Palmarosa) which almost sent him broke.
I think the demolition of Her Majesty's Opera House in 1983 to make way for the Hilton Hotel in Queen Street was a sad loss for Brisbane. I can't look at the Hilton without thinking of what used to be there."

The Queensland economy tanked in the late 1880s, and when that happened Stombuco left Brisbane for the emerging city of Perth, probably because he felt that the discovery of gold near Perth would provide a building impetus to that city. His wife did not accompany him - she remained here as the postmistress at Eight Mile Plains. Their descendants live in that area today. Andrea Stombuco's health declined in the early twentieth century, and he died in Fremantle in 1907. Here are photographs of his two self-designed residences at New Farm - Bertholme (top) and Briar House (below). The elegant Bertholme has been home to the Moreton Club, a Brisbane women-only club, since 1958.(Photos: © 2011 the foto fanatic)
Stombuco was certainly many-faceted - builder, architect, sculptor, inventor, publican, gold trader, stone-mason, quarry owner. He is variously described as "flamboyant", "volatile", "eccentric" and "extravagant". In his book, Giorgi takes exception to these descriptions, citing national stereotyping as the basis for them. I think that in order for Stombuco to have thrived in so many diverse ways, there would have to be an element of truth to some of them.

Click here to go to a State Library of Queensland video about Andrea Stombuco.

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