Friday, August 31, 2012

Holy Spirit Catholic Church, New Farm

Excerpt from The Brisbane Courier, Monday 2 June 1930:

Standing majestically on a commanding site in Villiers-street, New Farm, the magnificent new Church of the Holy Spirit was officially opened yesterday by his Excellency the Apostolic Delegate, the Most Rev. Dr. B. Cattaneo, in the presence of a huge gathering.
The procession proceeded from Wynberg along Brunswick-street, into Vllliers-street, to the church grounds. Dr. Cattaneo was attended by Dr. Norman Gilroy and Monsignor Molony, and was preceded by Dr. Duhig, Archbishop of Brisbane, who was attended by Fathers D. O'Keefe and T. O'Connor, and Dr. R. H. Thompson, and Dr. E. Doody. A guard of honour was formed by Members of St. Patrick's branch of the Hibernian Society, and the Children of Mary.

Here is a photograph of the church from 1995, featuring its 38 metre tower.
(Photo: Courtesy Brisbane City Council; BCC-L03-9535)

The new church was designed in Renaissance style by architect JP Donoghue and built by Concrete Constructions Pty Ltd using Benedict Stone for a cost of around £18,000. Archbishop Duhig engaged sculptor Daphne Mayo to fashion the tympanum (below, bottom) and the Stations of the Cross. Artist William Bustard's ceiling mural for the interior of the church is also photographed (below, top) in a picture from The Catholic Leader.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

This church was built to abut the rear of Archbishop Duhig's residence Wynberg, allowing an earlier church in the same street to be converted to use as a school. Since 1930 there has been further development in the precinct with the construction of a new school building and a hall. Here is today's photograph of the church.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Peter Norman, Australian Olympian

If you have kept an eye on the news in the last couple of weeks you will have noted that the Federal Parliament stopped the mud-slinging and sledging for long enough to offer an apology to one of our greatest athletes, Peter Norman, a competitor in the 1968 Mexico Olympics. Read on to find out why.

There were two unforgettable moments at these games. American Bob Beamon had the track gods smiling on him when he made a prodigious leap of 8.9 metres to win the long jump. In dong so, he bettered the previous world record by 55 cm (almost 2 feet). Later video analysis uncovered a number of factors that came together in a perfect scenario to enable Beamon's feat. The games were held in the altitude of Mexico City where the air is thinner; Beamon had the maximum allowable wind assistance; and his take-off was centimetre perfect - he was just short of the foul line when he leapt into history. His record stood until 1991 and is still the second-longest jump ever.

The second unforgettable moment came at the medal ceremony for the men's 200 metre sprint event. American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos won the gold and bronze medals respectively. They were separated on the finish line by Aussie Peter Norman, whose time of 20.06 seconds still stands as the best time ever recorded for this event by an Australian. But that wasn't the end of the story. Six months earlier, Martin Luther King had been assassinated in Memphis Tennessee, and the United States was still in a quagmire of civil rights demonstrations. Smith and Carlos, both black athletes, had decided to make a civil rights protest at the medal ceremony. Each wore a single black glove and made the black power salute by raising that arm and clenching the fist. Peter Norman was aware of the plan, and he joined the protest by wearing a human rights badge above the Australian logo on his track suit. Here is the now-historical moment of the protest.  
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(Photo: public domain)

To many Australians at the time, Norman's participation in this protest was unpopular. There were rumours that this was the reason that he wasn't selected for the next Olympics at Munich, or for any other Australian team. Peter Norman was not invited to many of the official events at the Sydney 2000 Olympics until the American team invited him to be part of their delegation. Up until his death in 2006 he was virtually ostracised from Australian athletics. American track athletes named the day of Norman's funeral Peter Norman Day, and Tommie Smith and John Carlos came out from the States to be pallbearers at his funeral.
(Photo: Angela Wylie via

Hence the belated apology from the Federal Parliament, stirred on no doubt by the London Olympics that have just finished. Norman was at last praised by his countrymen for his heroism and humility.

As part of the makeover of Burnett Lane, someone has painted a wall with a representation of Norman, Smith and Carlos at the medal ceremony. It should remind us that we all are humans, and that discrimination and bigotry have no place in a modern society. Here it is.
 (Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

In the ego-driven celebrity culture that surrounds many sportsmen today, one could do worse than think back to Peter Norman who recognised a wrong and was prepared to stand up against it. For anyone who would like to know more about Peter Norman the man, I recommend a movie called "Salute", made by his nephew Matt Norman and available at your video store.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Burnett Lane, Brisbane

My birthday rolled around recently, and as usual the celebration for surviving another year was for mrs tff and me to shout ourselves a restaurant meal. We went to a newish restaurant in the CBD that prompted this post.

The restaurant is situated in Burnett Lane, one of the oldest parts of Brisbane. Burnett Lane is placed between Queen St and Adelaide St and runs from Albert St through to George St. Many people would have walked across it when the Myer retail store was based in this precinct and had entrances in both Queen St and Adelaide St. The two parts of the store were connected by a walkway that crossed Burnett Lane. It contains some of the oldest architecture in the city, but for many years it has been the home of the rubbish bins that belong to the adjacent businesses that front both Queen St and Adelaide St. Recently the Brisbane City Council decided that we could take a leaf out of Melbourne's book and give our city lanes a modern makeover. Burnett Lane has been the first laneway to be so overhauled.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Burnett Lane is named after James Charles Burnett, who surveyed much of South-East Queensland. He was appointed as head of Brisbane's new Survey Office in 1844. Among his early work in this position was the charting of the Mary River that flows into Wide Bay, and a larger river a little further north that was named the Burnett River in his honour. Burnett traced the Great Dividing Range from the Sydney hinterland to the Moreton Bay settlement, and he also cut the first dray track from Brisbane across the McPherson Range. James Burnett only lived to age 39, and many felt that the rigours of his profession contributed to his early death. 
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #104137)

Above is a photograph of Burnett Lane in 1942, when WWII rationing was causing people to queue for some necessary items, in this case beer.

One hundred years earlier, this site was the rear of Brisbane's Queen St convict barracks where convicts were housed, and also the yard where punishment was meted out. That punishment was often floggings, but even hangings have occurred here. Here is a hand-drawn map from 1844 - it shows the convict barracks as the large building in the middle of the map on the right side of Queen St.  Behind it runs Wheat Creek that used to run down to the present day site of Creek St and into the river.
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #111196)

After the convicts were moved to a new jail, Brisbane's first town hall was constructed on Queen St in 1864, and was in use until the current City Hall was opened in 1930. The first town hall building would have had Burnett Lane at the rear. Here is a photograph of the town hall from 1885.   
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #43639)
The laneway now boasts a couple of trendy cafes and eating places. The restaurant we visited is The Survey Co, named after James Burnett's survey office that was an earlier inhabitant of the site. It is slightly below ground level and reminds me somewhat of Melbourne's Coda Restaurant in Flinders Lane, and the ambiance and food is every bit as good.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pier Picture Theatre, Redcliffe

Today's building is the old Pier Picture Theatre at Redcliffe, which stands next to Comino's Arcade from our last post. The following photograph shows both buildings around the year 1950.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #72677)

Given its name because it is situated across the road from the Redcliffe Jetty, the Pier opened in 1917, replacing the earlier Redcliffe Picture Palace, an open-air theatre.

Fire destroyed the theatre and the home of the proprietor in March 1943 after a free movie evening for servicemen, and the place was rebuilt by December of that year. Here is a current photograph of the building. It is now a retail centre. 
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Comino's Arcade, Redcliffe

In our last post we looked at the home of Russian-born architect Grigoriy Mehonoshin, and there is a link to the building featured today. Comino's Arcade at Redcliffe was designed by Mehonoshin under his working name of Gregory Meek. It is a simple three storeyed building self-built by Greek cafe proprietor Arthur Comino during WWII. Here is a photograph of it that was taken in 1970.
(Photo: Moreton Bay Regional Council; 000\000218)

Arthur Comino was a member of the seemingly-vast Comino family, originally from the island of Kythera, many of whom came to Australia and successfully ran small businesses. Arthur and his family had run the Central Cafe in Laidley for twenty-odd years before constructing this arcade in the years 1942-1944. Arthur himself was a stone mason and performed much of the construction with his own hands. He envisaged a seaside R&R facility for the large number of Australian and US forces stationed in South-East Queensland during the war. It was built next door to Redcliffe's picture theatre, The Pier, and on completion had a Greek cafe on the ground floor, accommodation on the first floor and a ballroom on the second floor. Its early name was the Acropolis Building. 

In 1946 the ballroom became the Ace of Clubs, a nightclub, and subsequently was known as the Panorama Dance Palace. The owner, Arthur Comino, was killed in 1949 as the result of a fall while working on the arcade, but members of the Comino family owned the building right through to 2003.

The building was entered on the state's heritage list in April 2009, and there was local controversy about that. These days it houses an art gallery as well as a number of businesses and offices. Here is a recent photograph. 

 (Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fairy House, Bardon

There is a house for sale on MacGregor Terrace at Bardon that I first came across in a car rally many years ago where, because of its unique features, it was one of the navigation points. The for sale sign in the front yard today calls it "iconic", but my word would be "idiosyncratic" - and I mean that in a good way.

Click here to view the real estate advertisement which also includes a gallery of photographs of the house's interior.

We looked at Russian immigrants recently, and the Fairy House was designed by Russian-born Grigoriy Mikonoshin (NB - I have seen his name spelled several different ways, but this seems to be the most likely), who was involved in some major projects in Brisbane such as Cloudland, for which he designed the clever funicular railway. He also designed the Cathedral of St Nicholas at East Brisbane, but probably because of problems regarding his qualifications, the final professional preparation of plans was done by Brisbane architectural firm Cavanagh and Cavanagh. Mikonoshin established an office in Ann St, and much of his work was done under the Anglicised name of Gregory Meek.

He designed this house for himself, his wife and daughter to live in. As well as its design, Mikonoshin also did much of the construction himself, and for that reason as well as the post-WWII shortages of material, the house took quite some time to build. The following image was taken in 1951, and here is the description attached to the picture at the JOL:

"The image shows architect G. Meek's house in Bardon, still under construction. The house, designed to suit the land, stands at 43 feet above ground level at the back and only 15 feet above footpath level at the front. A concrete catwalk leads from the street into the lounge and vestibule, situated in the peak of the high pitched roof. On the floor below are the kitchen, dining room, bathroom and maid's room, while the next floor down contains three bedrooms and a sleep-out. The pitch of the roof was so steep that the tiles had to be fixed by hand from the inside and pinned with special clips. The estimated final cost at the time the photograph was taken was £3, 500."
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(Photo & text: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #115678)
It is an unusual three level A-frame structure on a steeply sloping block. It has been dubbed the Fairy House because of the numerous sculptures on the house and fences. The likenesses include composers Beethoven and Wagner as well as characters from fairy tales, and were designed and fabricated by Mikonoshin himself, no doubt as a result of having studied art in his native Russia.

The house last changed hands in 1997, and the sale price at that time was $187,500. A few years ago there was a "save the Fairy House" campaign when the state government of the day wanted to widen MacGregor Terrace - an act that would have meant the demolition of this residence as well as 27 others and a couple of wonderful mature Moreton Bay figs. Thankfully that never eventuated - we need more whimsy in our lives. The house is now on the Brisbane City Council Heritage Register.

(Photos: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

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