Friday, July 27, 2012

St Ignatius Catholic Church, Toowong

A recent story in a local paper piqued my interest. "Historical photos of Toowong church discovered in Ireland basement..." trumpeted the headline. A photograph of the Catholic church of St Ignatius at Toowong shortly after its opening in 1930, together with a link to more photographs, followed in the story below the headline. Extremely fortuitous for me, for I had been planning a blog on the very same building, but I was struggling to find any older photographs of the spectacular church.  This is a current picture of it.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

 I fired off a quick email to the Irish Jesuit Archives in Dublin, begging permission to use the images in my story, and received a very prompt reply acceding to my request. My correspondent indicated that the photos had been found in a Jesuit residence in Dublin, and I thank the Jesuits for allowing me to reproduce them here. Here is a link to larger images on the Jesuits' Flickr site. The photos themselves were taken by Sidney Riley Studios, a Brisbane photographic firm, and they give a wonderful impression of the church and of Toowong in the 1930s. How did the photos come to be in Dublin? I don't know, but I assume that a Jesuit father who served in the parish may have taken them back to Ireland with him. Here they are.

(Photos: Copyright of the Irish Jesuit Archives) 

Don't you love the view across the Toowong rooftops towards the church - all of those lovely Queenslanders on display? And what about the picture of the school children and the lone Jesuit father lined up on the stairs to the church? 

The photograph of the interior of the church shows the ornate scagliola sanctuary and pulpit. Scagliola is a product made by combining gypsum plaster with glues and dyes, and can be made to look like a stone finish. In this case the result is a type of faux marble. This may well be the only scagliola work in Queensland.

The story of the church itself is one we have seen before. Archbishop Duhig recognised that the existing church and school, run by the Jesuits since 1916, were inadequate for the growing population of Toowong, and in 1928 or thereabouts he engaged his then favourite architect Jack Hennessy to draw some plans for a new church. It was decided to save money by including a separate floor beneath the church to be used as a school.

The foundation stone was laid on 16 June 1929. At the ceremony, Archbishop Duhig remarked that "the day of wooden churches are past", an indicator of his intention to build substantial churches in prime positions around Queensland. This church was built by Concrete Constructions Pty Ltd for £16,000, and was dedicated by Duhig on 18 May 1930.

The Church of St Ignatius is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register. Who was St Ignatius? You can find out here.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Yeronga Memorial Park, Yeronga

Today's post is about one of Brisbane's oldest parks, Yeronga Memorial Park on Ipswich Rd,  Yeronga. In fact, its importance probably goes back centuries, as it was used by various tribes of the Jagera indigenous people well before white men set foot on Australian soil.

Yeronga is an eclectic suburb that contains some of Brisbane's most prestigious addresses as well as more humble abodes. Crown land was first sold at Yeronga in 1854, and the area then was principally used for farming purposes. As the important grazing areas of the Darling Downs were opened up, the Brisbane to Ipswich road was established. Yeronga Park today is bound by Ipswich Rd on one side. Yeronga Park was proclaimed a recreational reserve in 1882, and after the railway line to Ipswich commenced in 1884, land in the area was subdivided for housing. Yeronga Park's recreational use was augmented in 1909 with a tennis club and 1912 with a bowls club.

WWI had a severe impact on this district, along with many others. In March 1917 there was a ceremonial planting of trees along Honour Avenue, which runs through the park, commemorating those from the area who had paid the supreme sacrifice. At least 15% of the men from this area who enlisted for WWI perished overseas and their bodies were never brought back to Australia. A tree was to be planted in memory of each digger who did not return. This is the first planting, in September 1917, with Lt-Col Ferguson speaking to a group of relatives.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #69468)

A second planting took place in July 1918 with the governor in attendance.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #69466)

A third and final planting occurred in August 1919, and then in 1921 a further memorial was erected in the park in the shape of a cenotaph containing marble tablets with the name of each of the soldiers who had been killed inscribed in alphabetical order. There was later controversy over the memorial tablets though - the relatives of an original Anzac who returned to Australia incapacitated and subsequently died of his war-related disability sought to have his name added to the memorial.This was denied by the local authority, the Stephens Shire Council, as he did not die overseas during the war. There was significant community reaction to this, especially when it was pointed out that the names of shire council office-bearers, as well as the builder and the architect of the cenotaph (none of whom had died overseas!) were included on the honour roll. In the end a terse comment from the governor, who opined that the councillors' services were not comparable to those who fought, prompted the removal of those names and the inclusion of the dead serviceman on the honour roll. This is the cenotaph today.  
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Also in 1921, memorial gated were constructed at each end of Honour Avenue. Here is a photograph of the gates at the Ipswich Rd end.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

During WWII, the park was home to a number of US forces. the photo below shows Camp Yeronga at that time.
Since the end of WWII, the park has again returned to its recreational importance. Facilities for croquet, blind cricketers and the in-ground draughts board, all created decades earlier, were put back into use. Later the Yeronga Park Memorial Swimming Complex was developed in the south-west corner, and in 1970 Souths Rugby Club leased an area that is still their home ground today.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Hughesville, Eight Mile Plains

This building is what we Queenlanders (people) think is the archetypal Queenslander (house). It is situated on one of Brisbane's busiest corners and is passed by thousands of cars and buses each day.The house is known as Hughesville after its original owners, the Hughes family. Hughesville stands at Eight Mile Plains on Logan Rd, which, prior to the advent of the M1 Motorway, used to be Highway 1 between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. So the house has been a well-known landmark for many years - I remember it well, because any trip to the southern beaches took you right past it, and its delightful symmetry and grassy surrounds attracted the eye each time. In truth it is probably not representative of most Queenslanders in size - it is quite a substantial structure - but it has all the attributes. It is raised above the ground on stumps for ventilation, it is surrounded by verandahs to keep the hot sun off the walls and it has a steeply pitched metal roof to slough off the rain from those afternoon tropical thunderstorms we get here. 
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Fred Hughes was a Brisbane livery-stables owner whose business premises were in Charlotte St. He also owned property at Mt Gravatt where he bred and kept horses including Arab stock. After his son Richard was married, Fred Hughes arranged for this large house to be built on Richard's land at Eight Mile Plains in 1892-3.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #9988-0001-0001)

The designer was George T Campbell-Wilson, a Queen St architect whose father, George W Campbell-Wilson, was also an architect. Eight Mile Plains was originally a heavily timbered area that later became rich farmland. Hughesville would have been the finest house in the district.

The house remained in the Hughes family for over a hundred years. After that the house hit hard times and deteriorated markedly. I'm sure that everyone who passed it must have felt as I did - surely "they" (whoever "they" might be!) are not going to let this piece of history fall down in ruins. There were rumours of the structure being removed to enable the land to be developed, but there was wide community support for this wonderful example of our past not to perish.   
(Photo: © 1982 National Trust of Queensland; R Sumner, F Bolt)

Eventually Hughesville's luck took a turn for the better. The Queensland Heritage Council approved a development that provided for a subdivision of part of the still-extensive property for a townhouse development, if combined with the restoration of the house. Here is a before/after comparison from their newsletter.
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(Photo: QHC Time and Place Vol 11; - 1995; Right - 2005

There was further good fortune too. The Queensland brewer of XXXX beer shot a television ad there, featuring the house as a make-believe restoration project for some couples who relaxed with XXXX drinks on the refurbished verandahs after their pretend heavy painting activity. This ad obviously had a commercial purpose, but it also allowed Queenslanders to see that the old girl was being "done up".

Hughesville is now owned by a firm of solicitors and it is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Russian Orthodox Cathedral, Woolloongabba & Russian Orthodox Church, Rocklea

The Russians are coming! 

In fact they have been coming here since the very early 19th century, and though they came in peace it would appear that, for a time at least, many Australians were concerned that a more sinister motive may have existed. Around 1880, Australian towns built fortifications to protect themselves against possible military invasion. Nothing of the sort ever eventuated from the Russians, but Fort Lytton in Brisbane, Bare Island Fort in Sydney and the fortifications at Portsea near Melbourne are testament to the seriousness of the perceived threats from Russia, France and Germany, all of which had appeared at various times in the Pacific.

In fact many Russians have made Australia home since then. We have welcomed Russian Jews and White Russians, Russian sportspeople, Russian tradesmen and Russian intellectuals. I had Russian schoolmates - I envied them their two Easters each year - and played football with a Russian who made his own football boots out of an old pair of his dad's work boots.

It is fair to say, though, that it hasn't all been plain sailing. What has been described as "a major riot" took place at South Brisbane in 1919 - it became notorious as the Red Flag Riot. I think Australia is xenophobic now. What else could you call denying residence to a few thousand starving and persecuted refugees (including children) who are trying to reach Australia on leaky boats, because they might somehow reduce our standard of living. I wasn't around in 1919 to make comparisons, but I'll bet that it was worse then. Some pro-Bolshevik migrants had been espousing their beliefs to the public-at-large, leading to local discontent about Russians in general. When someone unfurled the red flag at the Russian Community Hall in South Brisbane a crowd descended on the place. Police were called in to protect the building and those within it, but the hall was virtually destroyed in the mayhem. The aftermath saw Russians arrested and imprisoned, not those who took part in the attacks on the building. So much for free speech!

And in the fifties we had the Petrov Affair, lurid tales of deception and defection, rich with political overtones for the media to feed on. It's too convoluted a story to repeat here, but it spawned a Royal Commission and the political fallout was immense, particularly for HV "Doc" Evatt, the leader of the Labor Party at the time. 

In 1923, a Brisbane house on Vulture St in suburban Woollongabba was converted to become the Russian Orthodox Church of St Nicholas. In 1935 that building was moved to the rear of the block to allow the construction of Australia's first purpose-built Russian Orthodox church. This is it, photographed in 1936, and below that a current image of what is now the Cathedral of St Nicholas.  
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #125727)
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(Photo: Kon Semovskih via google+)

In the 1950s a Russian immigrant named Evphimiy Shishkoff, who had purchased some land at Rocklea in Brisbane's south-west, set about building a Russian Orthodox church there. He was fulfilling a promise he had made to God when he and his family were facing persecution and possible death in Persia (now Iran) during WWII. The promise was that, if they survived, he would build a church honouring the icon to which he prayed - the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God. Evphimiy and his son built this church themselves in their spare time with materials they bought at their own expense, and when it was finished, they donated it to the church. The Church of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God was consecrated on 26 August 1956. Tragically, only six months later, Evphimiy passed away. He became the first person to be buried from the church that he built. That structure still stands.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

A new Church of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God has been constructed on the same area of land that was purchased by Evphimiy Shishkoff all those years ago. The original structure has been in use as a church hall in recent years, and is listed on the BCC heritage register. Unfortunately the massive 2011 floods in Brisbane caused significant damage to the newer church and it is still being refurbished. 
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Harris Terrace, George St

Harris Terrace, situated on George St near the government precinct, dates from 1866 and was originally constructed as an investment for local politician George Harris. Harris arrived in Brisbane in 1848 to join the mercantile firm owned by his brother John. The brothers had a volatile relationship, and in 1852 George left to try gold mining in Victoria. 

John later persuaded him to return to the business as a partner, and George's acceptance allowed John to move to England to establish the business there. George, left to run the Brisbane part of the venture, widened the business to include a fellmongery, a tannery, a leather goods manufacturer and then, during the American civil war, some cotton interests. He married in 1860 and in the same year became a member of Queensland's Legislative Council. Here is a photograph of Harris Terrace from around 1869.
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APE-072-0001-0014)

Harris Terrace was designed by local architects J&G Cowlishaw, and after construction the six attached residences were let out to doctors, parliamentarians and boarding house proprietors.  The Harris business must have been running smoothly then, as George was able to lease and then buy Newstead House, and was reported as being a very lavish host whilst residing there.

George Harris lost heavily during the 1870s by investing in mining ventures. Brother John returned from England several times to try to rectify the problems, but to no avail. George became bitter at the interference and brought legal action to dissolve the partnership, and that eventuated in 1878. During these difficult times George was forced to surrender Harris Terrace to mortgagor James Taylor. Newstead House was also lost at this time.

The building passed through many hands after that, including, as joint owners, politicians BD Morehead and W Pattison who were also part-owners of nearby premises The Mansions. In 1889, while Morehead and Pattison were the owners of Harris Terrace, workmen who had been engaged to repair some broken slate tiles on the roof of the property allegedly replaced the lead ridge cappings with cheaper iron cappings, selling the lead to a nearby plumber for about £25. This was probably not such a smart move as Morehead was the state premier and Pattison the treasurer!

(Photos: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Harris Terrace continued to be privately owned until purchased by the state government in 1958. It was heavily altered into office space in 1961 but restored to its original external appearance in 1985. This is the way it looks now.

Click here for a Google Map.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Austral Motors Factory, New Farm

in the late 1970s I was in a sales manager's position with one of Australia's largest insurance companies. This job gave me my first company car, and it was a Chrysler Sigma, an Australian-made clone of the Japanese Galant. It looked like this.
The Sigma was a four-cylinder job, I can't remember what size, but I do remember that I had to turn the aircon off before attempting the climb up the street to my house at The Gap, one of Brisbane's hillier suburbs. 

And this is where I used to take it for service - Austral Motors, the multi-brand motor dealer, who had their Chrysler workshop in New Farm.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Around 1928, Austral Motors erected this building as a factory in which to assemble vehicles from imported parts. It is a huge complex that stretches between Welsby and Sydney Streets. Austral Motors was the business created by Sir Edwin Tooth - it later became a huge motor dealership and the brands that it carried included Dodge, Plymouth, DeSoto, Standard and Chrysler. Tooth became very wealthy and was a noted philanthropist. He bought the mansion he called Farsley at Hamilton that, after his death, was purchased by the Anglican Church as the archbishop's residence.

The Austral Motors factory was taken over by the RAAF during WWII, and was handed back to them after hostilities ceased. As with almost every other large building in New Farm/Teneriffe, it is now an apartment block.

I wonder how they got rid of eighty or so years' accumulation of grease?

Click here for a Google Map.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Brunswick Hotel, New Farm

Considering that this hotel was built in 1889 and that it replaced an earlier hotel on this site it's a wonder that I could only find one older photograph of it. Here it is, relatively late in the piece and flying the "backpackers" flag, in 1989.
 (Photo: © Brisbane City Council; BCC-T120-1263.6)

This structure was designed by George W Campbell-Wilson who designed a couple of other suburban pubs also. It is similar to other Brisbane hotels of the period, with wide verandahs and ornate cast iron features.

I haven't been inside, although I pass by it quite frequently. I understand that it has retained its suburban pub roots inside - the last major refurb was towards the end of the fifties. People seem to be divided on whether or not that is a good thing. Apparently the public bar evokes the men-only atmosphere of that period with regular barflies in their customary corners. But it seems that work has been done on the menu - people report pub food of quite good standard at reasonable prices.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

The Brunswick stands diagonally opposite the Rivoli Theatre that we looked at recently. It is at the start of the New Farm suburb, quite close to the city.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Rivoli Theatre, New Farm

Movie theatres, once the main entertainment venues in Brisbane, have been decimated by videos and internet movies. It is not a new phenomenon - cinema has waxed and waned over decades. Take the picture theatre in this photo for example. It is the former Rivoli Theatre building, now a real estate office and mini-shopping centre.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

This venue was originally New Farm's first open air cinema, known as Earl's Court Theatre, and it opened in August 1911. According to Brisbane City Council's heritage register, the theatre boasted "'the attractions of Glorious Fresh Air wafted from the River reaches of New Farm’, with a program of ‘New Pictures, Illustrated Songs, Refined Vaudeville and a Full Brass Band'".

During the depression years patronage dropped off. To survive the business needed to reinvent itself, becoming a skating rink in 1928 (below, top) and then a cabaret and dance hall in 1932 (below, bottom).
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(Photo: Courtesy Brisbane City Council; BCC-CD20-5238803)

(Photo:; Brisbane Courier 18 April 1932)  

It later reverted to a cinema, then a dry cleaner and in recent years a tyre retailer and now a shopping centre.

The building exterior still stands on Brunswick St, protected by BCC heritage legislation.

Click here for a Google Map.

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