Friday, September 28, 2012

Jewish Synagogue, Greenslopes

One of the things that perplexes me most is Australia's current debate about people variously described as refugees, asylum seekers, boat people and queue jumpers. The thought that people who are risking drowning to escape tyranny, violence, discrimination or hunger have to be locked up for years to make sure that they are not getting to Australia ahead of someone who might be better off in those areas is distressing. The fact that it becomes a political football is disgusting.

Yet it seems that it has almost always been difficult for refugees to enter Australia and live here without hatred and vilification. Going back in my lifetime, I can recall Vietnamese boat people having similar problems, and in primary school I can remember kids from European countries who were described as "reffos". During my high school years I lived in a housing commission suburb where our neighbours were Italians, Dutch, English, Greeks and Yugoslavs, all of whom travelled here to provide a better life for themselves and their families. The word "migrant" came to have such a pejorative meaning that we were implored to use the term "New Australian" instead. It was eventually seen in the same light and became just as contemptuous. Without wanting to cast myself as some sort of white knight, I could never understand how someone who uprooted their family and travelled to the furthest corner of the earth to escape war (or something just as perilous) became a person to be belittled. Many of these people worked at jobs well below their level of education and experience to give their children a better life. And subsequently, so many of those Italians, Greeks, Vietnamese and others have contributed so much to our Australian way of life. 

Recently we looked at the Red Flag Riots that occurred in Brisbane after WWI. In that instance it was Russian immigrants who bore the brunt of racial vilification. In 1918 there were 6000 Russians known to be living in Australia - 4000 of them were in Queensland. Many of them settled in the Woolloongabba area, where both an orthodox church and a synagogue were quickly established. For the Russians were hardly a homogenous group - there were wide political, ethnic and religious differences among them.  To the average Australian of that time, these differences were probably not even understood, or else they were completely dismissed. In March 1919, unrest that was festering amongst returned servicemen who feared the growth of Socialism in Australia boiled over into street demonstrations and violence against Russians. Any Russians.

To gain an understanding of what a dangerous journey some Russians made to come here, I invite you to read this essay "The main thing is to shut them out" online at University of Woollongong. The author, Marett Leiboff, is the descendent of a Russian Jew who settled in Brisbane, and she tells the story of the dangerous journey to Brisbane made by her grandfather. She also discusses the riots and their effect on Russians. (Edit: I originally mistakenly referred to Marett Leiboff as a male. I apologise.)

Here is a transcript of a letter sent during the time of the riots to the editor of The Brisbane Courier - it was written by the "minister" of the Deshon St synagogue that was established at Woolloongabba by Russian Jews.

Sir,- As minister of the Jewish Synagogue in Deshon-street, I beg leave to place a few facts before you about our church. From seven to eight years ago a number of Jews emigrated from Russia to Australia on account of the awful persecutions that they were forced to undergo at the hands of the Russians. We subsequently established a Jewish Church in Deshon-street for religious purposes, and have a large membership. We wish to point out to the Australian public that we have no connection or sympathy whatever with the Bolsheviks - it was people such as these who persecuted us in Russia, and that is why we are in Australia to-day. The Bolshevists have no religion, and believe in no church. We are highly religious to-day, and believe in peace and quietness. In our service we always pray in the Yiddish language (and not in the Russian), for the British King and Queen and Prince of Wales. During the war we have always prayed for the success of the Allies, and we are in every way true, loyal, and devoted subjects to the British Empire, and have never at any time wittingly admitted any one with Bolshevist views into our religious circle.
We hope and trust that we will be permitted to live in peace and quietness in our little community, as we have heretofore done, and that no one will in any way associate us with or molest us as part of the Russian Bolshevists who unfortunately are in Brisbane to-day.
For the members of the Deshon-street Jewish Synagogue,
-I am, sir, &c, 
I. MEERKIN, Minister. March 27 (1919).
(From trove.nla.gov.au)

The synagogue mentioned here was established in 1915 in flood-prone Deshon St Woolloongabba, and here is a photograph of it from 1922.
(Photo: http://www.jewishqld.com/Home/jewish-queensland/history)

A friend of this blog and a man who grew up in Brisbane as a member of this congregation is Dr Mervyn Doobov OAM, who now lives in Israel. He kindly supplied this later image of the exterior of the synagogue from 1965 and a photograph of the interior from 1969.  

(Photos: M Doobov)

This little synagogue perished in 1976 as the result of a fire that has been described as "mysterious". The congregation built another synagogue at nearby Greenslopes, pictured below. It has been erected on a hill to prevent flooding and made of brick to prevent fire. If only there was something that would prevent discrimination too.
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(Photo: http://www.givatzion.com.au)

Click here for a Google Map.

tff

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lister House (Brisbane Clinic), Wickham Terrace

Architect Raymond Clare Nowland is best known for buildings he designed on behalf of the Department of Works in the recessionary 1930s, such as the Petrie Terrace police barracks, the Mayne Medical School and Brisbane Dental Clinic.

Nowland also had a private practice, and one of the buildings he designed in that capacity was a specialist medical centre on Wickham Terrace. It was called Lister House after Sir Joseph Lister, the pioneer of antiseptic surgery. Here is a photograph of it.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

The Courier-Mail of 15 June 1925 noted that the company Lister House Ltd was formed with capital of £25,000 - its intention was to acquire land and buildings and turn them to account:
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(Photo: trove.nla.gov.au)

Drs LJ Jarvis Nye, John Bostock and John Power used the American Mayo Clinic as a template to create an ultra-modern group practice with shared facilities to provide the latest in diagnostics and treatment. They engaged Nowland to prepare the plans for the building, and he subsequently called tenders for its construction in The Courier-Mail of 2 August of that year.
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(Photo: trove.nla.gov.au)

The tender was won by JJ Green and Co for £7,000, building approval was granted on 10 September 1929, and the building was erected in 1930.

Raymond Clare Nowland was also a WWI veteran, as a result of which he was treated for the effects of mustard gas and was also Mentioned in Dispatches. He was later a recipient of the Coronation Medal in 1953, presumably for his contribution to architecture.

Lister House is still a specialist medical centre today - it is more commonly known as Brisbane Clinic.

Click here for a Google Map.

tff

Friday, September 21, 2012

Broadway Chapel, Woolloongabba

Not too long ago, mrs tff and I attended the wedding of some friends that was held in a beautifully restored church at Woolloongabba. Here is an external photograph of the building that comes from Google Earth.
(Photo: © 2012 Google; © 2012 Whereis Sensis Pty Ltd)

I wasn't aware of this place until I arrived at the wedding. The chapel, now privately owned and operating as a non-denominational venue for civil and religious ceremonies, has a history that dates back to 1884.

Originally the Broadway Congregational Church, the Gothic structure was opened in October 1884 and welcomed people of all faiths in those early days of settlement in Brisbane. The building incorporated a school underneath the church. The Congregationalists' last service before being gathered into the fold of the Uniting Church was held in December 1971, and then a few years later, another change occurred with the church becoming the Spanish Speaking Baptist Church. It remained in this identity until the building was closed around 1990.

Then, after the church had remained unused until 2003, an extensive renovation was undertaken. Some of the original fittings such as the baptismal font, the pipe organ and some artworks were replaced at the conclusion of the makeover. The building is now listed on the Brisbane City Council Heritage Register. Here is a photograph of the interior of the chapel, taken just after the conclusion of our friends' wedding.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

I can attest to the fact that it is a great place for a wedding. Here is a link to their web site.

Click here for a Google Map

tff 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Stanley Hall, Clayfield

This outstanding building is part of one of Brisbane's private schools - St Rita's College at Clayfield.  It is now the school's administration centre, but was previously the residence and praying centre for the school's founders, the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

The building was originally constructed around 1885 as the residence of John William Forth, who was tragically killed on the day of his house-warming party. It was a single storey house then, but during an extensive renovation an additional storey was added by the next owner Herbert Hunter. The architect at that time was GHM Addison. Hunter was a wealthy grazier who loved horse racing, and the tower on the second storey addition enabled him to view the races at nearby Eagle Farm. At the time, Stanley Hall was surrounded by more than 12 acres of land, including an orchard. Here is a photograph of Stanley Hall taken during the residence of its next owner, EG Blume.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #120513)

Edward Blume was a pastoralist with many sheep stations throughout Queensland and New South Wales. He was a racing enthusiast too, and won the 1911 Caulfield Cup with his horse Lady Medallist. Lady Medallist was trained by Brisbane's John Noud, the father of well-known race caller Keith Noud. Blume was also a Brisbane socialite and he entertained the Prince of Wales at Stanley Hall during his visit in 1920. Blume sub-divided the property and sold off most of the land during the early 1920s, and in 1926 he sold the house and remaining land to the Presentation Sisters for £22,000. The following image of Stanley Hall appeared in The Queenslander in 1930 as part of its "Brisbane's Historic Homes" series.
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #17922)

Stanley Hall is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register, where it is noted that much of the internal timber and iron fittings have been retained. The final image is from 1994.
(Photo: DERM)

Click here for a Google Map.

tff

Friday, September 14, 2012

Wickham House and Wickham Terrace murders

A multiple murder is still a rare event in Australia (thankfully), but yet I fear that we are becoming numb to them because of events in other nations. Imagine how shocking such an event would have been almost sixty years ago. And for it to occur at a place of healing and to involve several members of the medical profession must have made it doubly shocking to the public of Brisbane, where the following event occurred in 1955.

Before I recount what happened we should look at the buildings involved, for they have their own history.

Wickham House was erected in 1924 on Wickham Terrace, originally a place for the wealthier citizens of Brisbane to build their houses. Gradually the flavour of the area changed into a medical precinct, as doctors first built their houses with consulting rooms and then had purpose-built medical suites constructed. In 1923 Dr ACF Halford asked architect Francis R Hall (step-brother of TR Hall, the Hall who designed City Hall) to devise plans for a building that would contain "professional flats" to a cost of £25,000. Wickham House was built by FJ Corbett and opened in 1924. This is how the opening was recorded in The Brisbane Courier:  
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(Photo: trove.nla.gov.au)

The Architectural and Building Journal of Queensland put it this way:
'Brisbane is be congratulated on the enterprise of Dr ACF Halford in erecting such a modern and up-to-date suite of professional chambers known as Wickham House, just completed... on Wickham terrace... The building consists of five floors and basement, that portion facing Wickham Terrace consisting of two shops, one occupied by Mr DJ Clark (Chemist) and the other by Medical and Surgical Requisites Ltd... the main entrance... vestibule... is panelled and floored in marble with swing doors of bevelled glass...'

On 1 December 1955, a disturbed man with a grudge against the medical profession because of a denied disability claim armed himself with a revolver and twelve home-made bombs and paid a visit to Wickham House. There he shot a doctor at close range (the doctor miraculously survived) and left explosives an the ground floor. That bomb was thrown out into the street by an alert passerby. 

The following photo is from 1998, and below that is a current picture of the building.
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(Photo: DERM)
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Although that was the total involvement of Wickham House, the tragedy was to unfurl further at nearby Ballow Chambers, where the man went next. Here he shot and killed two doctors and menaced a third who managed to escape. Then, in an attempt at suicide, the man detonated the remaining bombs in a doctor's surgery. This blast did not kill him, so he then shot himself. Here is a photograph of the surgery after the violence ended.
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(Photo: http://waywewere.couriermail.com.au)

Click here for a Google Map.

tff

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ashby, Fairfield

Readers of the local newspaper The Courier-Mail would have seen a photograph of this house in a recent edition, under a rather sensationalised headline. I am not going to canvas that story here because I don't know anything about it, but here is a photograph of the house.
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(Photo: Quest Newspapers)

The residence was built around 1890 by George Grimes, a pioneer of the area. It was called Ashby after the town in Leicestershire from where the family originated. He arrived in Brisbane aboard the Reverend Lang's sponsored ship Chasely in 1849 and within a few years he had established an arrowroot farm beyond Dutton Park - the farm was called Fairfield. The Grimes family, staunch Baptists and hard workers, established large farming and dairying interests in the area which came to be known as Fairfield after the original farm. Together with his brother, he built a sugar mill at Oxley and they also established sugar and arrowroot businesses at Hope Island on the Coomera River. George Grimes was one of the founders of the (Royal) National Association, he was a President of the Baptist Association of Queensland and also a councillor in the Stephens Shire.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #9420)

George Grimes died in 1910, but the Grimes family remained at Ashby until 1924. There are unconfirmed stories that Ashby was visited by General Douglas MacArthur during his WWII residence in Brisbane. The large house subsequently became an investment property that was rented to students. Here is an older photo (top), together with a more recent one, of the rear of the house.
(Photo: Quest Newspapers)
(Photo: realestateworld.com.au) 

Click here for a Google Map

tff  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Atcherley Hotel, Queen St (former)

Brisbane is now quite well served when it comes to four- and five-star hotels. This is a photograph of the Marriott on Petrie Bight, one of the newest and finest of them. It emerged in 1998.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

The building that stood on this site for decades prior to the erection of the Marriott was the Atcherley Private Hotel, described below in a couple of ancient advertisements.
(Photo: 1930 Wilsons Rail, Road & Sea Guide at www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/)


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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #146755) 1927

The Atcherley had several lives, it would seem. As can be seen from the adverts, it was originally an up-market hotel with all modern conveniences for its times. It even had a lavatory on each floor! I can remember it in the sixties, and by that time it had lost a little of its lustre. It was more of a boarding-house then, as I recall.

In the 1980s, during the regime of the Bjelke-Petersen government, it was reopened as a casino. Apparently a black-tie event heralded the newest place for illegal gambling in Brisbane, later uncovered and described in detail in the Fitzgerald Inquiry. One can only imagine the degree of graft and corruption that would have allowed such a lavish opening at that time in our history. As pointed out on a recent Criminal History Tour run by the Queensland Law Society as part of Law Week, the pre-Fitzgerald underworld involved gambling, prostitution and out of hours liquor trading. All of those peccadilloes can now be pursued here legally

After the Fitzgerald Inquiry, the Atcherley went to seed. For many years it was an alternative music venue, enabling grunge and punk bands to strut their stuff. Unfortunately the local police felt threatened by young people having a good time, and there were more than a few scuffles at this and other music venues around Brisbane, earning it the scathing nickname of Pig City.

The Atcherley was also a squatters' paradise, and skint musos often played there and stayed there too. This photo is from a blog, and the author comments on staying at the Atcherley - this is him at a window of the place in 1991. Note the condition of the external walls.
(Photo: www.soulsphincter.com)

The venue played its part in enriching Australia's pop music though - Powderfinger's Darren Middleton recalls playing his first gig at the Stardust Room in the basement of the Atcherley, and other acts that appeared there were the Saints and the Go-Betweens.

Click here for a Google Map.

tff

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Osbourne Hotel, Fortitude Valley

Each year the Queensland Law Society runs Law Week and a feature of the last couple has been their Criminal History Tours of Brisbane. These are guided tours of many of the spots of Brisbane that are infamous because of a connection to crime. I took the 2012 Day Tour, and I recommend that anyone with an interest in Brisbane's past should investigate next year's program. 

One of the spots we saw on this year's tour was the Fringe Bar on Ann St in the Valley. Here is a photograph of it from Google Earth.
(Photo: © 2012 Google; © 2012 Whereis Sensis Pty Ltd)

In its recent incarnations it has had some interesting names, such as The Dead Rat (perhaps an oblique reference to the story below) and The Rat and Parrot. But it was originally the Osbourne Hotel, and it was in that form that it was once "home" to members of the Painters and Dockers Union. 

There was plenty of notoriety surrounding the Painters and Dockers in the seventies. A bit like bikie groups today, the Painters and Dockers were allegedly involved in drugs, corruption and stand-over tactics. 

The story recounted by our tour guide centred on the day a man was shot dead in the public bar in 1974. In the resulting coroner's inquest into the slaying, some Painters and Dockers union members who were at the hotel at the time were called to testify. Predictably they had seen and heard nothing unusual. One man testified that he was fishing a fly out of his beer at the time of the shooting, while another claimed that he was returning from the bathroom and was struggling with his zipper.

The Osbourne Hotel was designed for hotelier Charles Osbourne by Brisbane architect James Furnival, built in 1863 and opened in January 1864. Charles Osbourne was previously the licencee at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Edward St. The Osbourne was the second hotel to open in Fortitude Valley, several years after the Royal George Hotel. It was substantially renovated in the late-1920s by GHM Addison. Here is a photo of how it used to look prior to that makeover.
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #1884)

Click here for a Google Map.

tff
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