Friday, July 29, 2011

Dunaverty, Albion

Twenty year-old Archibald McNish Fraser arrived in Brisbane from his native Scotland in 1880, just in time for the boom time in the colony. He had served an apprenticeship in the building trade prior to emigrating, and so set himself up as a builder, then established a real estate business. Here is an advertisement he ran in the Brisbane Courier in June 1886:
GENTLEMEN in search of Desirable SITES for RESIDENCES will find it to their advantage to call on A. MᶜNISH FRASER, 149 Queen-street, next Finney, Isles, & Co.'s, upstairs. Beautiful Site at Sherwood, 10 acres, next the station. Oxley: Grand Site, 18 acres, fronting the river, next Mr. Collins's residence. Also magnificent Property of 5 acres, overlooking tho Racecourse, Eagle Farm, planted with Fruit Trees. Prices tempting. A. MᶜNISH FRASER will at any time drive intending purchasers to the above and others equally as good.
In 1887, he built his house "Dunaverty" in Albion. The house features fine detailing including a thistle motif in the iron fretwork and replicated in interior wood-work.

(Photos: "More Historic Homes of Brisbane", National Trust of Queensland & Ray Summer)
Fraser achieved considerable success in his business ventures, and remained at Dunaverty until the early 1890s. His firstborn, a son, was delivered at the house in March 1891. Fraser bought several allotments of land at the newly surveyed suburb of Yeronga in the same year, but whether he intended to move there is not known. Along with other entrepreneurs, Fraser was caught in the inevitable "bust" that followed the boom of the 1880s, and had to sell not only the Yeronga land but also the family home.
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

Dunaverty still stands at Albion in Brisbane's near northern suburbs. After Fraser and his family left their home it was purchased by investors and remained a tenanted property for many years. Unfortunately, during a period when the house was vacant, a good deal of the interior cedar and iron-work was stolen.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Albion Fire Station

We have previously looked at purpose-built suburban fire stations, the majority of which were constructed from timber, and there are a few of them remaining at Wynnum, Morningside, Coorparoo, Yeronga and Nundah. There is only one older suburban station made of brick still standing in its original form, and it is this one at Albion. (Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

The brick construction and the impressive dimensions of this building indicate that it was designed to be a regional station for the northern suburbs. It replaced an earlier fire station at Windsor and another at Hamilton. The foundation stone of the building was laid on 1 December 1925 and the completed station was opened on 17 January 1927. The foundation stone can be seen under the ground floor window on the left. The first line reads "Ready Aye Ready", the brigade's motto, and the rest of the tablet records the date and the names of the dignitaries attending. The name of the station is still present in the central bay of the building at the top, although the fire station was decommissioned in 1961.

The building was probably quite popular with the officers stationed there. As well as space on the ground floor for two appliances with requisite firefighting equipment, there was also space for a dormitory, a mess room, a kitchen, a room with
private facilities for the district officer, and a billiard room large enough for a full-size table. The upper floor contained two flats for officers and their families.

The following photograph shows the fire station nearing completion, where some wag has placed only part of the name of the station on the facade, spelling "on fire".
(Photo: "Brisbane Ablaze"; K Calthorpe & KD Capell)

Here is the view from the station, looking past the Albion Flour Mill to the city. The building is now leased to commercial tenants.
(Photo source: unknown)

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Albion Flour Mill

In a social studies lesson at primary school, I remember learning that the staple food of Australians was bread. That was the forerunner to learning about growing wheat and grinding it to make flour. I wonder if bread is still considered to be our staple food? To the extent that the bookends that hold in the fillings for the American-style hamburgers and chickenburgers that seem to be our contemporary cuisine are made from bread, I suppose that it is possible.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #10189-0002-0139)

If we accept that bread was at least an important food item in Brisbane, then it stands to reason that we would need mills to produce it. An early mill was built and operated by convicts on Wickham Terrace, and pictured above just after its construction in 1930 is another one, this time in the near northern suburb of Albion. It was built by Stuart Brothers for £8,500. The mill building was originally five storeys, and was later expanded. The photo below shows the current form of the building and you can see the different brickwork resulting from the addition of another floor as well as sort of bolt-on extensions at the front and side.
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

The blog woolly days says that White Wings self-raising flour was produced here from 1957, and the grain silos in the picture below were erected in the sixties. The mill later was bought by and produced Defiance flour.

(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

Well, as you can see from the signs in the recent pictures, the site is to be redeveloped into... you guessed it - apartments. But there is a difference here. This will be a Transit Oriented Development (TOD); one that integrates medium- to high-density living with commerce, as well as a bicycle station and railway station. The Albion railway station is right next door to the old mill, and will be included in the revamped complex.

EDIT: I am saddened to add that a deliberately-lit fire consumed this building in the early hours of 27 November 2013. The damage was so severe that the structure has been demolished for safety reasons.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Albion, the suburb

The construction of the Breakfast Creek Bridge and the installation of the electric tram line to Clayfield were instrumental in opening up some of Brisbane's near-northern suburbs. Albion, just beyond the bridge, was one of those that were sparsely populated before the advent of the electric tram in 1901; prior to that the horse-drawn trams stopped at Breakfast Creek. One of the early buildings in the area was Whytecliffe, built in 1876 and pictured below in 1930.(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #199905)

Whytecliffe was used as a WAAF barracks during WWII and later became a wedding reception venue. It has now been amalgamated into a retirement village. This is the way it looks these days.(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

Here is a picture of Albion from 1909, with a group of people boarding a tram. The building on the left with the rooftop ornaments is the Albion Hotel.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APO-034-0001-0026)

Now that the trams have gone, there are a couple of bus routes that run through here. And the train station is right behind the hotel, but that doesn't prevent four lanes of traffic choking this very busy area.(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

Pictured below are the Albion Hall in 1909 and the Albion Hotel in 1929.(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #47138)

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #1901)
And here are those two buildings today.

(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

We will look a bit further at Albion in the next few posts.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Teneriffe Village, Teneriffe

The unusually shaped building in the following photographs is a former woolstore and is now an apartment and retail complex.

(Photos: DERM)

I live right across the road from this building. The photographs above are not dated, but I would estimate that they were taken ten to fifteen years ago. The foreground of the bottom picture was a garden shop and nursery in that photo, and now contains a new three-storey apartment block, offices and a restaurant.

Originally the Dalgety Woolstore No 3, the building in our photos then became the Queensland Primary Producers Woolstore No 8, whose sign is still on the fascia at the front. The sign was repainted recently, proudly adopting the state's colours.

(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

After its life as a wool store was over, the building was sectioned off into retail space and became known as Paddy's Markets, a popular place for Brisbane shoppers to locate all sorts of bric-a-brac.

If we go further back in time, there was a brewery on this site. It was operated by Queensland Brewery, later taken over by Carlton United, and it produced Bulimba Beer. The brewery functioned here between 1883 and 1906 when the land was sold to Dalgety, who started the woolstore presence in the area. They built a couple of warehouses on the site, which then faced a number of wharves on the river, and a railway line ran along this street to facilitate the transport of bales of wool. Those buildings were demolished in 1955 to allow a street to be extended through the property. It was then (1955-7) that the present structure was erected.

The building now contains residential apartments with retail tenants on the ground floor. Everything from a convenience store to a hairdresser to a recruitment office, a bar, a bottle shop and four (count them, four!) restaurants are present to satisfy the requirements of this medium density residential area.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rothwells Building, Edward St

If they grew up in Brisbane, males of my vintage will recognise the Rothwells name - Rothwells Outfitting Limited was the foremost menswear store in Brisbane for many years. It was formed in 1897 by Thomas Rothwell (below).
(Photo: Courtesy of Redcliffe Museum)

Thomas Rothwell was born in England and emigrated to Australia where he commenced work as a journalist before becoming an accountant. He was involved in the formation of the RACQ, and he also conceived the construction of Anzac Avenue, a long roadway leading towards Redcliffe that is lined by trees planted in memory of the district's WWI fallen soldiers. That road now passes through the suburb of Rothwell, named in his honour. He became a Companion of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his charity work for returned servicemen. Although he passed away in 1928 the business continued for another sixty years before coming to an ignominious end.

His menswear store was housed in its own building in Edward St near the Adelaide St intersection. The building was erected in 1885, before Rothwells came into being, originally leased to a drapery and importing firm who bought the building in 1896 and then leased it to Rothwells. Rothwells bought the building themselves in 1909, and here is a photograph of it from 1934 showing Rothwells' signage.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #69453)

As well as tailoring and selling menswear, the firm also promoted itself as regalia makers - this means that they manufactured and sold the clothing and accoutrements worn by Masons. Below is a newspaper advertisement for a man's suit, made-to-measure at the price of £4/15/0, or $9.50 as a direct conversion to today's decimal currency.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #102943)

When I started work in the mid-sixties, Rothwells was still operating as a menswear retailer. The office where I worked was only about 100 metres from the store, and I spent many a lunch break perusing the stock there. The dinner suit that I wore at my wedding in 1975 was sourced there and I still have it. Here is a recent image of the building, which still stands in Edward St.(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

However, that's not the end of the Rothwells story. During the Gordon Gecko-style excesses of the 1980s, Western Australian corporate raider Laurie Connell acquired the company, closed the menswear stores and converted it to a merchant bank. Connell was a Porsche-driving, racecourse-loving entrepreneur (the type my father would call "a spiv") who succeeded in driving the company to the wall in the 1987 stockmarket crash despite a shonky deal with Brian Burke, the disgraced former Premier of Western Australia, that had attempted to shore it up. The resultant Royal Commission cost a further $19 million or so, and found that a director of the company and an auditor from a national accounting firm had conspired to defraud the public by falsifying the company's financial accounts. Connell died during the trial, one of Australia's longest and costliest.

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Friday, July 8, 2011

University of Queensland Experimental Mine, Indooroopilly

There's gold in them thar hills! Well, perhaps not gold, but certainly silver and lead. The "hills" were at the present-day suburb of Indooroopilly, and at the time of discovery the location was known as Finney's Hill. In 1919 two men, G Olson and PJ Madden found what they suspected was precious metal and applied for a mining lease on the area. By November of that year, they were mining the site, initially underground and then later in open cut format as the following images from 1921 show.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #80152)
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #15297)

The mine operated for about ten years, and it's probably fair to say that the returns to the mine's investors were not as great as they had hoped. Mining operations ceased in 1929, and the plant and equipment were sold. The high costs of mining the product and the low prices being received at market made it uneconomical to continue. There are reports that even a diviner was used in an attempt to discover more commercial deposits, but to no avail.

But here is a photograph I took the other day. There were people in hard hats, there was equipment in use. What is going on there?

(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

After mining ceased in 1929, the land reverted to the Brisbane City Council and was unused until, in 1951, someone had the idea of using the old mining site to train mining engineering students. The University of Queensland applied for a mining lease, and the site was given over to the students, who had to rehabilitate the old mines. Many of the shafts and tunnels were in disrepair after so many years of neglect, and the first process was to re-establish a safe working environment.

These days the site is a registered mine once again, and is of enormous practical use to engineering students in the surveying, ventilation and safety aspects of mining.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Nundah Cemetery

When Moreton Bay's first free settlers arrived, they settled in an area that they called Zion's Hill. The settlement was a mission station, established to bring Christianity to the indigenous population, and those first settlers were German. The settlement became known as German Station and is now Nundah. Zion's Hill was located near where the large Centro Toombul shopping mall now stands. The mission was placed on a gentle hill above a small river that they named Kedron Brook, apparently a reference to a place from the Bible called Kidron or Cedron, a brook near Jerusalem. The graveyard that they initiated near their little settlement was later surveyed and became the Nundah Cemetery. Here is my recent photo, tweaked a little to give somewhat of an old world feel.
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

It is thought that the first burial here occurred in 1845, and it officially became a cemetery reserve in 1862. The oldest remaining headstone is from 1855. The nearby mission petered out by 1850, but the German Station Cemetery remained in use, administered by trustees. The Brisbane City Council took over the running of the cemetery in 1930.
(Photo: Courtesy DSEWPaC and J Houldsworth)

The photo above was taken in 1996, and it shows the somewhat jumbled and crowded nature of the graves. The pavilion in the photograph was built in 1914 and restored in the 1980s. The cemetery was closed in 1963.

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Friday, July 1, 2011

Goanna salve

Excerpt from Brisbane Courier, Monday 23 October, 1922
Mr. J. C. Marconi, the well-known manufacturer of certain ointments, received fatal injuries during a fracas in Elizabeth-street, near the Sovereign Hotel, about 5 o'clock on Saturday afternoon. Mr. Marconi, his eldest son, and a friend were walking along the footpath in Elizabeth-street, and passed some men walking in the opposite direction Evidently recognising one of the men, Mr. Marconi said, "Good day" and "How are you?" One of the men, it is stated, made an opprobrious remark, and Mr Marconi's son turned round to question the speaker. This started an altercation, and Mr. Marconi's friend, seeing that matters were becoming serious, went off to summon the police. Mr. Marconi proceeded to the assistance of his son and is said to have received a blow which felled him to the ground. He was unconscious, so the Ambulance Brigade was summoned, and after giving first aid removed him to the General Hospital, where he was admitted, but died about 6.30 the same evening.
A post-mortem examination was held on the body at the morgue yesterday morning by the Government Medical Officer (Dr. Espie Dods), who found that death had been caused by a fracture of the base of the skull.
The late Mr. Marconi was a public spirited man, a member of the Balmoral Shire Council, and on one occasion stood as an Independent candidate for the electorate of Bulimba. He is survived by his widow, three sons, and three daughters, the youngest being six years of age.
Up to a late hour last night no arrest had been made in connection with the incident.


The unfortunate man who was killed in this incident was Italian immigrant and entrepreneur JC Marconi. He arrived in Australia in 1866 and lived at Bulimba. Whilst travelling in the outback, he observed an aboriginal man treating a snakebite wound with goanna fat. Marconi liked the idea, and after experimenting with some added ingredients, launched his Goanna Salve onto the Australian market in 1910. The manufacturing and sales were carried out from his home in Oxford St, next to the ferry terminal.

What's more, the ointment really worked. It became very popular during WWI, when diggers found that it helped almost every ailment from tinea to piles. Some even used it to oil their guns. Marconi payed a bounty for goannas, and
until they were protected in 1918 kids from all over Queensland would capture them, render off the fat and send it to his factory. Interstate goannas were then hunted for a time, but gradually the ointment was produced without the goanna oil ingredient.

After JC Marconi's untimely death, his family continued to produce and sell their Goanna products until 1982, when the business was sold to another entrepreneur, Euan Murdoch, who had formed Herron Pharmeceuticals in 1980. Herron is a Brisbane based manufacturer of vitamins and pharmaceutical products, now part of the Sigma Pharmaceuticals company. Sigma have since moved the manufacturing part of the business to Victoria.

A couple of footnotes to the story. Marconi was well-known and very popular in Bulimba. After his death, children made up the following little schoolyard chant:

"Old Marconi's dead,
Knocked on the head.
Goannas are glad,
Children are sad.
Old Marconi's dead."

Marconi's assailant, Arthur Eddington, was caught and arrested by police. After a hung jury in the first trial, he was tried a second time for the unlawful killing of Marconi and found guilty, although the jury recommended clemency because the death resulted from a melee. Eddington was sentenced to a year's hard labour.

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