Friday, March 30, 2012

Grandchester Sawmill

What's that you say? A steam-powered sawmill that still operates? Not only that, but it is totally powered by its own sawdust?

Yes Virginia, this is actually true - unlike the story I told you about Santa Claus. I have a photograph that proves it. Here it is. Click it to see a larger version.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

The mill is situated in Grandchester, the little town that was on the end of Queensland's first rail line. The steam-powered sawmill even has its own web site and if that statement doesn't leap from the nineteenth century straight into the twenty-first, I don't know my own name.

The sawmill was first opened by Roley Gillam during WWII - then it supplied timber to the nearby Rosewood coal mine and firewood to Queensland Railways. After WWII there was strong demand for cut timber to supply the housing boom. Pictured below in 1945 is the 8 horsepower Robey portable steam engine that first powered the mill. 
(Photo: Image courtesy of Picture Ipswich, Ipswich City Council)

In 1962 a Marshall engine was purchased and installed, and it still powers the mill today. It already had more than a few hours use before it arrived at Grandchester. The mill's history page indicates that the engine had been in service at NestlĂ© at Toogoolawah, the Lowood Butter Factory, and also at a sawmill in Gatton before being purchased by the Grandchester Sawmill. Here is a photograph of it at the mill in 1972. 
(Photo: Image courtesy of Picture Ipswich, Ipswich City Council)

The steam that drives the engine comes from the boiler of a retired railway engine that was built by Walkers of Maryborough in 1966. It can be seen on the LHS of the colour photograph at the top of this post. Its QR number 922 is painted on the headlight. There is also a plate with the name "Old Reliable" attached. 

So far that has proven to be true!

Click here for a Google Map.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Parliament House (3)

Well - this wasn't the post I had originally planned for today, but over the weekend we saw a significant shift in Queensland politics. The Australian Labor Party, which has been in power here for the best part of two decades, was unceremoniously dumped by the electorate on Saturday. In fact it looks as though they may struggle to achieve the ten seats they need to be officially recognised as a party.

Now I do not have the intention, let alone the expertise, to diagnose the reasons for this seismic shift in Queensland's political landscape. But at least we live in a democracy where the people can have their say via the ballot box without fear, whereas in many parts of the world countries are ruled by despots with the military and financial resources to override the constituency. We should be thankful that a transformation of this magnitude can be achieved without bloodshed or ballot box fixing, and that a new government will take over Parliament House this week without any major disruptions to people's jobs or lives.

It will also mean a significant change here. This is the Members' Dining Room of Queensland's Parliament House as photographed in 1906.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #41108)

The room is now called Strangers' Dining Room -  a stranger being someone who is not a member of parliament. So, as all of those new LNP MPs settle into life as a parliamentarian, this is where they will bring their guests for a meal.

The Parliament House web site tells us: 
"This room is furnished with early Australian cedar yoke back chairs which were probably used in the early refreshment room. It is possible that some of these chairs were used in the original legislative building in the old convict barracks in Queen Street."
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

My current photograph of Strangers' Dining Room is shown above. It is situated on the first floor at the river end of the Alice St wing of Parliament House, and during the daytime has lovely natural light from the large windows. It would be an excellent place to have a meal with your local member.

Click here for a Google Map.


Friday, March 23, 2012

United Service Club, Spring Hill

Up on Wickham Terrace there are a couple of adjoining buildings that are quite interesting to look at, and they are also quite different functionally to most other Terrace buildings. Together they form the United Service Club, and here they are.

(Photos: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

The top photo above shows a stone and brick building called Montpelier - it was built in 1910 and replaced an earlier building of the same name. The original Montpelier was designed by Benjamin Backhouse around 1864 as a residence, but then became a boarding house. The replacement building was designed by Claude Chambers, built in 1910, and was likely also a boarding house.

The bottom photo shows the next-door building known as the Green House. It sits between Montpelier and the Richard Gailey designed Baptist Tabernacle. The Green House was also designed by Claude Chambers and was built from timber and brick around 1907 for Dr TH Morgan, but then it too became a boarding house in this desirable part of Brisbane.

The United Service Club was established in 1892 for officers of the Queensland Defence Force and had operated club rooms in various parts of Brisbane including this one (below) in George St, pictured in 1934. After WWII, Brisbane's United Service Club needed to expand and bought both Wickham Terrace buildings in 1946.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #151065)

Both buildings were extensively refurbished after purchase and prior to the official opening of the new facilities of the club. The next photograph shows the official opening ceremony being performed by the club's president on 18 November 1946.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #68327)

The picture below shows the Montpelier building dressed up with some bling and lit up for the 1954 royal visit.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #54026 )

These days the club has widened the eligibility for membership and boasts almost 2500 male and female members. The buildings are heritage listed and are a valuable part of the Spring Hill street-scape.

Click here for a Google Map.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Beth-Eden, Graceville

A few weeks ago I asked for permission to photograph this beautiful old building near the Brisbane River at Graceville. It is currently an aged care facility, so I was conscious of the need for the security of the residents. The facility's manager gave me permission to take some photographs on the premises for which I am extremely grateful.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

This heritage listed building is known as Beth-Eden, and it has several links to Brisbane history. It was built in the late 1880s to a design by famous Brisbane architect Richard Gailey. Known then as Verney, the house was the residence of Charles Buzzacott, politician and proprietor of the Brisbane newspaper the Courier. Originally from England, Buzzacott trained as a compositor in Sydney before becoming a newspaper journalist and founder of the Maryborough Chronicle. After selling that newspaper, he became an MLA in the Queensland parliament, representing Rockhampton where he had newspaper interests with his brother. He resigned from parliament in 1877 to become a journalist for the Courier, buying an interest in that paper in 1880. In 1883 he became a partner and managing director of Brisbane Newspapers Pty Ltd, a position he held until his retirement from the newspaper business in 1894. Buzzacott returned to politics, this time as a member of the Legislative Council, although he was destined to have another dip into journalism when he formed the Daily Mail in 1903.

In 1895, Verney was sold to John Ferguson MLA as a residence for his daughter and her husband, Mr & Mrs AH Chambers. They changed the name of the home to Rakeevan after Mr Chambers' home in Ireland. Rakeevan was used as a military hospital during and after WWI. Here is a photograph of it from 1931.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #198880)

The house was sold to the Glad Tidings Tabernacle in 1957, and was opened as a retirement home in 1958 under the name Beth-Eden. Here is a photograph of it from 2009.
(Photo: © DERM)
As well as the house, a stables building has been preserved on the site. This is a picture of the stables from 1931.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #198882)

The stables are now used as a garage and storage facility, but the original gabled roofline can still be seen.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Beth-Eden is now run by Bethany Christian Care and comprises independent living units as well as aged care facilities.

Click here for a Google Map.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Grandchester Railway Station

On 31 July 1865, Queensland's first railway line (the first narrow gauge main line in the world) was completed with the opening of this little station at Grandchester, west of Ipswich. The building was also the residence of the station master.
(Photo: © DSEWPaC; rt51683)

This was the initial stage of the rail line between Ipswich and the Darling Downs that was constructed to allow livestock and produce from the rich Downs region to get to a port for export to other parts of Australia and overseas. The ceremony of turning the first sod for the construction of the railway had been performed by Lady Bowen, the wife of the governor, on 25 February 1864. That means that the construction of the 35 km of rail took just under 18 months. Teams of men such as those pictured below did this back-breaking work without the assistance of today's heavy earth-moving machinery.

The photograph below, from around 1879, shows a steam locomotive at the Grandchester station. The station house is just visible at the rear of the picture, and the square structure behind the engine is the water tank - a single tier tank made from cast iron.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #14378)

The site of the railway station was originally known as Bigge's Camp, so named after pioneer pastoralist Frederick Bigge (the older brother of Francis "Little" Bigge, a Cleveland pioneer) who had camped in the area on his way to his land holdings at Brisbane Station some years earlier. The local story that explains the name change says that Governor Bowen thought that "Bigge's Camp" sounded too much like "Big Scamp", and therefore suggested that the Latin equivalents grandis for "big" and chester for "camp" be combined to form Grandchester. Is it true? I'll let you decide for yourself.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

These important pieces of Queensland's railway history are protected by the state's heritage register. My recent photograph (above) shows (from l to r - click to see a larger image):
  • station signage showing the names Grandchester and Bigge's Camp, as well as the opening date
  • station house
  • water tank
  • a current QR National loco pulling about a kilometre of coal wagons, presumably on its way to Ipswich.

Click here for a Google Map


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Kingsholme Uniting Church (former)

The book "Reflections on New Farm", written by Gerard Benjamin and Gloria Grant and published by the New Farm & Districts Historical Society Inc, mentions the beginnings of this local church. Originally a Wesleyan Methodist Church, it began in 1888 in a different location, but moved here when the land, on the corner of James and Annie Streets, was purchased. A new church building was erected in 1926 and dedicated in July 1927. Here is a photograph of that church, and if the vintage of the Renault sedan motoring past the building is a guide, it was probably taken in the late sixties or early seventies.
(Photo: © Reflections on New Farm, G Benjamin & G Grant; Fred Matthews)

In 1977, the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational Churches in Australia came together to form the Uniting Church. As a result many parishes combined and some church buildings became redundant. As we saw with the former Methodist Church in Brunswick St, some were converted to other uses.

Parishioners from this church moved to new Uniting Church premises in Merthyr Rd in 1979, and this building was sold in 1981. It then became... another church! The new owner was the Macedonian Orthodox Church, and the church building was reincarnated as St Mary's. Here is a photograph from 1989.
(Photo: Brisbane City Council; BCC-T120-1263.12)

From a selfish viewpoint, I am delighted to see the church remain in an area that has lost many of its older buildings to units and other dwellings. Although other church structures have been converted to shops, restaurants and residences, this one has remained a spiritual place. Here is today's photo of it.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Graceville Memorial Park

When Harold Holt died - Sunday 17 December 1967 - I was at this venue. In one of those "where were you when... ?" moments, I was watching cricket with a couple of friends when someone told us that the Australian prime minister had drowned at Portsea in Victoria.
(Photo:; S Liddle)

I spent a fair bit of time here in my youth. I played inter-school cricket at this ground and many games of rugby union on the other fields of this huge reserve in the middle of suburban Graceville.  Here's a photo from 1973 of a team-mate attempting a kick for goal - that is Oxley Rd in the background.
(Photo: © 1973; the foto fanatic)

We played football here a couple of days after a team member was killed by a train in a senseless accident. I also remember one football injury at this ground where a player's knee was dislocated, leaving him lying on the ground with his lower leg at an unbelievable angle to his thigh - just like what happened to Brandon (Matthew McConaughey's character) in the start of the movie "Two for the Money". In those pre-mobile phone days we had to make a dash by car to the ambulance station to get help for him.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Above is a photograph of how the grandstand looks today. A white picket fence, common on many cricket grounds, was built here in the 1930s, but for some reason it was removed in the sixties. The ground's incumbent cricket club, Wests, celebrated its centenary recently, and a new fence was erected in time for that. It looks inside-out to me - the fence supports and horizontal rails are normally on the outside of the fence (spectator side) rather than on the inside where the players are. As a former bowler, the last thing I would want would be to have the batsman smack a shot to the fence where it could strike one of those sharp corners and take a piece out of the ball. No doubt there is a reason for it having been built this way.

To me there is something satisfyingly nostalgic at looking at this old grandstand and the white picket fence that surrounds the cricket oval. In some ways it represents a simpler time. Lazy afternoons watching the bowler trundle in, hearing the crack of bat striking ball (and then an echoing crack if a well-struck shot hits a picket fence) would still be possible here, but at the major grounds the international matches have been corrupted by Mexican waves, beach balls, constant noise and fancy dress. I still love cricket, but somehow or other it too has sped up - just like the rest of life, I suppose...

The area is known as the Graceville Memorial Park, so named because of the WWI memorial in the grounds, but in fact the recreational use of the park originated years before the outbreak of the war. Lacrosse was played here in the 1890s, and in the early twentieth century the area was gazetted as a recreation reserve.

The memorial to Graceville's fallen was unveiled on 29th November 1920. An honour roll listed 51 soldiers and one nursing sister who did not return, out of the more than 250 men and seven nurses from the area that volunteered. The memorial was designed by Mr I Bennet and built by the Petrie Monumental Works for £225.
(Photo: Courtesy Brisbane City Council; BCC-B54-31062)

Later the monument was surrounded by a low sandstone wall and three flagpoles were erected next to it. This is the way it looks now.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Classic Cinema, East Brisbane

There is a sort of revival in open air cinema in Brisbane. People see it as a novelty - taking a blanket and a picnic basket, sitting out under the stars, and watching a movie. These events are normally run during spring, when the weather is balmy and there is less likelihood of a Brisbane thunderstorm to drench the patrons.

But years ago, open air cinema was rather more common. Many suburban theatres were roofless, and even the live theatre venue, the Cremorne Theatre, started off that way. Here is a photograph from 1914 of an open air picture theatre at East Brisbane, rather pretentiously named the Mowbray Park Picture Palace. It was probably on the corner of Shafston Ave and Wellington Rd, but it no longer exists. According to the Preserving Mowbraytown people: 
"the cars in the foreground were advertising the Movie to be shown called the "Kissing Cup's Race"(1931)."
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #6944-0001-0043)

There was a lot of competition in the movie business in those early days. There were five cinemas within a radius of a couple of kilometers of the Mowbray Park Picture Palace during the 1920s, including the one we are looking at today. Unfortunately I have not been able to find an old picture of it to show you, but it is known as the Classic Cinema in East Brisbane. This is what it looks like now.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

 Also originally an open air cinema, movies started here in 1921 when a Frederick Olsen started showing silent movies on the site he had recently obtained. Frederick Olsen died in 1926 and a year later his son Vigo raised money to build a new fully enclosed cinema. The building was probably designed and constructed by Arthur Robson who built many theatres throughout the state. 

The cinema opened as the Triumph, and that name can still be read in the central pediment above the main entrance. Silent movies would have been the fare at the cinema opening - it is believed that the owners borrowed money in 1931 to allow the screening of "talkies".  Shortly thereafter the theatre was acquired by a Mr Stoddart, who was well-known in theatre and musical circles, and Mrs Jones, a widow whose seventeen year old son became the theatre manager. Mr Stoddart died in 1933 from complications following an appendectomy. Unfortunately, the Joneses also suffered the fate of small businesses of all types:

From The Courier-Mail, 21 October 1935
Police are investigating the disappearance of £30 in coin and notes from the office of the Triumph Theatre In Withington Street. East Brisbane, on Saturday night. Mrs. I. E. Olsen. of Didsbury Street, East Brisbane, who is employed as a ticket-seller, placed the money and tickets in a small bag, ready to be taken to the home of Mrs. G. V Jones, wife of the manager, at Mt Gravatt. Mr. Jones said the loss was discovered about 11 o'clock, shortly before the session ended. The office was unoccupied for a time, and when Mr. Jones's mother, who owns the theatre, picked up the bag she noticed it was rather light. She examined the contents, and found that the money was missing.

The Triumph experienced fluctuating fortunes since those heady days of near-capacity patronage. The post-war advent of television knocked numbers around considerably, and many suburban cinemas struggled after that. 

The Triumph was renamed the Capri in 1970, and existed by showing R-rated movies to satisfy the T&A crowd. Alvin Purple and European equivalents like Dagmar's Hot Pants and Bedroom Mazurka evidently paid the bills. Movies that were raunchy then, but seem hideously cringe-making now.

Even that clientele must have dropped off, because the cinema closed in the early 80s before reopening in 1988 as the Classic, showing cult and art house movies. The cinema closed for good in the year 2000, and since then the building has been recycled into a martial arts dojo. Kung fu devotees no longer have to imagine themselves in a Bruce Lee movie - they can participate in the real thing! The building is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register.

Click here for a Google Map.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Norfolk Island Pine Trees, Cleveland

Legend has it that Cleveland might have been capital of Queensland. Many thought that the sandbank-clogged entrance to the Brisbane River, together with the long journey upstream to reach the port of Brisbane, was too difficult for vessels to undertake. Cleveland, situated on a point in Moreton Bay, had a far easier approach and so it operated as a port with its own customs house for a time. The legend claims that the reason that Cleveland was not declared the capital was because as Governor Sir George Gipps disembarked from his boat when he came to inspect the place he sank up to his waist in mud, which caused him to suggest that Ipswich would be better.

One of the earliest settlers in the area was Francis Bigge. As the younger of two pioneering and enterprising brothers he was known as "Little Bigge". Older brother Frederick established Bigge's Camp west of Ipswich, which later was joined to Ipswich by Queensland's first railway line. Francis "Little" Bigge was a staunch supporter of the Cleveland area and a proponent of its claims to be Queensland's main port. He built a hotel and workers' accommodations in a bid to establish the area. When he built a house on what is now Shore St around 1863, he planted a couple of Norfolk Island pine trees that still stand today.
 (Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #20154)

 In the background of the image above (taken in 1871), one of the tall pines can be seen. And below, in 1906, is a view of Shore St, and the pines are towering over buildings and other tree species.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #48207)

I am very pleased to report that subsequent generations have not felt the need to do away with the trees. Despite the area now being developed, the trees have been accommodated and continue to stand tall in Cleveland.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

My recent photograph shows the Norfolk Island pines in the background. I took the picture from outside the old courthouse, and the rock in the foreground of the image bears a plaque that says "Site of Cleveland Jetty 1948-1991".

Click here for a Google Map.

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