Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Samuel Drew's house, Sandgate

As the majority of Australia's residents live along the coastlines, it is no surprise to know that early white inhabitants of steamy Brisbane also sought out waterfront vantage points, either for recreation and leisure or in order to build cooler dwellings with ocean views.

Sandgate, north of Brisbane, was such an early discovery. From the 1850s there were moves to establish a port there, and the sub-division of land commenced shortly thereafter.

In the late 1880s an American carpenter and boat-builder named Samuel Drew and his family arrived in Sandgate and Drew found work at a joinery. From 1889 onwards, Samuel Drew built a large family house on Cabbage Tree Creek, and at the same time constructed a boatshed in order to build boats. The photograph below from around 1907 shows a view from the creek with the boatshed in the foreground and the residence behind it.
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #157289)

This house was built in stages and being owner-built it has excellent structure, although the end result is that its style is somewhat unusual. The viewing tower atop the large central dormer stands out in more ways than one.
The following image is from around 1979 and provides a closer look at the intricate work on the balustrading and roof line. If you look closely, you will notice that the fretwork visible at the top of the tower in the earlier photo is missing here - that was the result of damage from a cyclone in 1952.  
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(Photo: © 1979 National Trust of Queensland; J Hogan; R Stringer)

Next we can see a colour photograph of the house, this from about 1983.
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(Photo: Courtesy Brisbane City Council; BCC-SGT-36)

Samuel's descendents kept the house after his death, and his grandsons converted the residence into two flats in the late fifties in order to draw some income from the property. It was reconverted into a single house in 1966, and sold by the Drew family in 1967.

It is believed that the house is still a private residence, and here is a recent photograph.
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(Photo: © Google.com)

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  1. Isn't it interesting that many people choose contrasting colours to "pick out" architectural features such as the fret work but looking back on the old paint scheme, it was the overall white scheme that really allowed the ornamentation to shine.

  2. Fantastic post! I just love every one you write!

  3. Just one point to make. The land was purchased by great-grandfather in 1890, and as far as I have been able to tell from work diaries, the finishing touches were made to the house in 1903.

    Electricity was not connected to the house until after "Aunt Jen" died in 1957.

    There was no kitchen within the original house. The flats had rudimentary kitchens, but a proper kitchen was build underneath the house after Kleinmeyer raised the clearance from 6' to 8'.

    Unfortunately, the boatshed succumbed to borers and dry rot. It was a wonderful place when I used to play there in the 1950s-1960s.

    Geoff Drew

  4. Hello Geoff

    Thanks for the family insight into this unusual residence.

    I can well imagine the fun you would have had as a boy, playing in such an environment.

    1. Samuel wasn't really American, either. He originated from Cornwall, and lived in America from 1867 to 1885. All of his children apart from my grandfather were born there (one in Maine, two in Wisconsin, and two in Chicago). The house is, however, best described as part American Gothic, part American Victorian. If you do a Google Earth street view cruise up and down North Charles Street, Waukesha, Wisconsin, you will see many elements of the house in the lovely residences along the street. The lookout tower, however, is pure New England (they lived in Maine for a bout a year after arriving),

  5. Drew salvaged the windows and other items when the Victoria Skating Rink in Sandgate was demolished c. 1900


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