Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rowes Building

Not too long ago we looked at the Rothwells Building in the city. The building we see today stands next to the Rothwells Building and was constructed at the same time by the same builder. Here is a photograph of the two buildings together, and their similar heritage can readily be noticed. The building on the right, the Rowes Building, was destined to become one of the best-known and busiest in the city.
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

The Rowes Building was constructed in 1885 for Thomas MacDonald-Paterson, a solicitor and member of parliament. It is a five-storey masonry building with a basement. MacDonald-Paterson used the ground floor as his offices and leased those above for offices or warehousing.
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

In 1903 William Effy leased the basement, ground floor and first floor balcony of the building and his mother, Minna Rowe, moved her successful Rowes Cafe from its former Queen St address into these new premises. By 1909, the ground floor dining room had capacity to seat 380 customers, and it must have succeeded in attracting large numbers of diners because Effy was able to buy the building in 1914. The cafe hosted morning teas, lunches, dinners and private functions, and for more than sixty years was an icon in Brisbane hospitality. Here is a photograph that shows both the cafe and the dining room, and below that, one of its special dinner plates, custom made in England for the cafe. (Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #120400)

(Photo: http://vernon.qm.qld.gov.au:8080/)

Further expansion occurred in 1925 when well-known architects Hall and Prentice were engaged to refurbish the building to the tune of £162,000. A ballroom was constructed over the basement garage, providing another arm of entertainment for the establishment.

In 1958, the building was converted into a shopping arcade and ownership was transferred to National Mutual. This building and its mate, the Rothwells Building, were given a major facelift in 1984, and both buildings are listed on the State Heritage Register. These days it is called Rowes Arcade - it links Edward St to both Queen St and Adelaide St, and it has a huge food court under Post Office Square that is a haven for city workers.

Click here to see a Google Map.



  1. Although I don't know the Rowes building from personal shopping experience, I do know how a cafe and diningroom could become an icon of hospitality for the well dressed. Your photos remind me of shopping with my mother in the 50s and being rewarded with afternoon tea on white linen tableclothes.

    The outside architecture looks remarkably well preserved.

  2. Approx 1963. ,I was employed by the Hair/Beauty salon, which had been the beautiful Ballroom converted.
    A magnificent chandelier, A dome shape ceiling where the orchestra played on a wide ledge. It was a magnificent salon ,approx 12 staff ,a Mr John Andrews had been flown from UK to manage the business
    For Miedere Salons. They also had another salon in Queen St. I remember the salon at the end of ground floor entrance, had Grecian Pillars on either side of a Red Carpet entrance.


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