Friday, November 11, 2011

Teneriffe House

James Gibbon, a property speculator in Brisbane's early days, was responsible for the name of the suburb where I live - Teneriffe. Gibbon was a parliamentarian referred to as "Streetcorner Jimmy" because in his non-political life he had a penchant for buying up prime real estate around the traps. In 1854, he bought a fairly large parcel of land between New Farm and Newstead and on it built his own residence that he named Teneriffe, apparently after Tenerife in the Canary Islands. The house was designed by WH Ellerker and built in 1865 for the sum of £1715. It is perched on a hill overlooking the Bulimba reach of the Brisbane River, and when he lived there (between 1865 and 1882), Streetcorner Jimmy would have been master of all he surveyed.

The house gave its name to the hill upon which it was constructed and then to the suburb that grew around it once Gibbon's land was subdivided. The suburb has metamorphosed through farming, commercial and residential phases since then. It even lost its identity for a while, as the powers that be in place-name head office decided that it would cease being a suburb. The name Teneriffe stuck around as a locality (a locality is what they call it when the residents refuse to stop using the name of a defunct suburb!) for a while until, as a result of community pressure, it was reinstated to its former exalted status. This allows those of us who live here to have a party every year to commemorate the Ascension of Teneriffe.

Gibbon's house was sold to businessman Robert Wilson in 1882, and sub-division of the extensive surrounding land occurred around this time. Wilson also undertook some renovations, including the addition of another wing and a billiard room. 
 (Photo: © DSEWPaC; 1996)

Further alterations took place later, including the resumption of a tract of the property's former orchard by the Brisbane City Council, who then turned it into leafy Teneriffe Park. The park still borders the house, and it's a lovely cool walk through there down to the river. The house was converted into flats in the late 60s, and still is in that form today.
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

Streetcorner Jimmy lives on in local street names too. There should be a memorial to him on the corner of James St and Gibbon St - but there isn't.

Click here for a Google Map.



  1. Great blog!! I discovered you blog by chance when Googling info on the pedestrian arch from the Old Victoria bridge for my latest blog post.
    Your blog is very interesting so I am your newest follower and fellow Brisbanite!

  2. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Liz!

  3. What a shame it's flats ... but at least it's still here.

  4. This is a really amazing home. The Billiard Room is partially buried into the hillside and the roof (which was originally lit by a skylight) forms a terrace. A very wide verandah is sprung for use as a dance floor! Although it has been turned into flats, the interiors are really very intact. It's a beautiful gem.

  5. Hi, just meandering around blogland and noticed your site as my husband and I were raised in Brisbane. In fact we had our wedding reception in Teneriffe House in 1970. It was broken into flats at that time and we lived in what we understood was the servants quarters in the wing on the right. It was occupied by 4 architects and the elderly lady who was the owner.

    The reception was held in our friends flat as the pocket doors opened up a large room with two fireplaces. The wooden floor was sprung for dancing. The verandah easily accommodated the 100 plus seating for guests.

    It was a magic place and although time worn in 1970 it had so much charm.

    Thank you for the trip down memory lane.

    We now live in BC Canada.
    Regards Janine Thiedeke nee Wordsworth

    Our reception was in the main rooms that opened onto the wide sprung verandah


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