Monday, February 24, 2014

The Gresham, Adelaide St

While on a brief visit to the city recently I had a moment of deja vu so powerful that I thought I was hallucinating. Strolling northwards along Queen St towards Creek St I caught a flash of a sign saying "The Gresham", and pointing towards the Adelaide and Creek Sts corner where one of my favourite pubs from years gone by had stood, prior to its demolition in 1974. I ignored it, thinking that my mind was playing tricks. But then I decided to backtrack to see what might have triggered the imaginitis attack - and there it was - The Gresham, now a bar rather than a hotel. It seemingly had sprung up overnight, like a mushroom. I later established that it had in fact been there for a few months. Here is a photograph.
(Photo: © 2014 the foto fanatic)

Situated on the ground floor of the NAB heritage building that stood behind the original Gresham, the bar extends outside into Gresham Lane that connects Adelaide, Creek and Queen. It seems to be Brisbane's newest laneway, and similar to those in Melbourne, this one is filled with coffee shops and cafes.

The Gresham Hotel was designed by JH Buckeridge and built by Henry Holmes for £15000 in 1889-1890. The first licensee was Mr IA Phillips who also arranged the internal decoration of the hotel. I liked the classical design that made it look like an important government building, and I always felt that it was a bit more salubrious than the average inner-city pub. Here are a couple of photographs of it in its prime.
(Photo: BCC S35-9311235)

(Photo: JOL 12979)

And the following image was captured during the enormous 1893 floods. Bear in mind that the hotel had been open just over two years when this disaster struck - I hate to think of the damage that the ground floor furniture and fittings must have sustained.
 (Photo: SLQ_1_54472_)

My current photograph shows the modern structure that has been erected in its place. Not a patch on the Gresham in terms of style, I am afraid. At least the trees have softened the utilitarian exterior.
(Photo: © 2014 the foto fanatic)

The Gresham can lay claim to a couple of bits of history. The documents that incorporated Qantas were signed there in 1920, when Hudson Fysh, Paul McGuinness and Fergus McMaster met to inaugurate the airline.

The Gresham was one of the earliest buildings in Brisbane to install electricity - it came from the power station that was erected in 1887 behind the GPO in what is now called Edison Lane  - and the hotel was able to include the necessary electrical fittings during construction.

The hotel was also a player in the infamous 1942 Battle of Brisbane, where Australian and American service personnel locked horns in the intersection right outside the Gresham. Undoubtedly some of the antagonists would have been drinking there, but also the hotel's verandahs were a vantage point for many, including war correspondent John Hinde who was on a balcony overlooking the melee. He stated "The most furious battle I ever saw during the war was that night in Brisbane. It was like a civil war."

Unfortunately another great flood dealt the final blow to the hotel. In 1974 the CBD was inundated again, and this time the Gresham was demolished in the aftermath to allow NAB to build another glass and steel tower in the CBD. That building is now known as 100 Creek St.  This photograph of the front of the Gresham taken in 1973 shows that the facade of the hotel had already been altered and its appeal was lessened as a result.
(Photo: BCC-B54-39484)

And finally, the following photograph from 1909 shows Dame Nellie Melba, one of the Gresham's more famous visitors, leaving the hotel.
(Photo: JOL 69095)

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Rathdonnell House, Auchenflower

One of Queensland's early movers and shakers in the field of education was Randal Macdonnell, a Master of Arts from Dublin University who came to Australia in 1854 in order to fortify his "delicate health". He landed first in Sydney, and having been a teacher in Dublin, he established a private school there.

In 1860 Macdonnell moved to Brisbane where he was appointed General Inspector of Primary Schools and then, in 1870, Secretary to the Board of General Education. In 1875 he became the first General Inspector of the Department of Public Instruction. His poor health eventually told on him, and he died of tuberculosis a year later aged only 47.  He is generally thought to have been one of the founders of Queensland's free education system. Although a staunch Roman Catholic, Macdonnell was an adamant supporter of the separation of religious and secular education, a position that caused conflict with Bishop Quinn and other church leaders. Nonetheless he was accorded a Requiem Mass at St Stephen's Cathedral and was buried at Toowong Cemetery.

Around 1865 Randal Macdonnell built a house on a hill at Auchenflower, a short tram ride from the city. The original residence was designed by Benjamin Backhouse, and the following photograph dates from 1931, just prior to a renovation that was to add a second storey. The house was named Rathdonnell, meaning "Donnell's Hill", and its superb position provided a 360 degree vista for the owners. The road leading up the hill to the house was named Rathdonnell St after the house.
(Photo: SLQ 2 70839)

The original house stood on nearly 16 acres (65,000 square metres) of land that extended up the hill to Birdwood Terrace and down the hill to Milton Rd. The land has now been sub-divided and the house sits among other fine dwellings on about 1800 square metres that is situated up an easement on Rathdonnell St.

In a current slant on Randal Macdonnell's link to education, the former stable of Rathdonnell House is now on a separate title and it is home to the local Montessori Children's House, a modern learning facility.

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Francis Lookout, Corinda

On top of a hill in the leafy suburb of Corinda is a peaceful parkland containing around a dozen graves. It was once the private cemetery of one of the area's founding families, the Francis clan. Burials took place here for over 100 years from 1866. Known as Francis Lookout, the view originally took in a fair expanse of the Brisbane River as can be seen from the top photo taken in 1931, but today's mature trees have blocked that vista.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #59074)

(Photo: © 2013 the foto fanatic)

The cemetery was taken over by the Brisbane City Council in 1934 after a rationalisation of Brisbane's burial grounds. One of the conditions of the move from the previous trustees of the graveyard to the BCC was the erection of a suitable sign in the reserve.
(Photo: © 2013 the foto fanatic)

However, the other structure on the site, known as a lych-gate, was erected by Angela Francis in 1902, according to a small plaque inside the structure. The blue disc above the entrance reads:
"The pioneers Angela and Arthur Morley Francis arrived in Brisbane on the good ship Saldanha on 22 January 1862.
They took up about 70 acres quite untouched by human hand and here they pitched their tents.
The Queensland Women's Historical Association affixed this plaque 100 years after on 22nd october 1962.
This private cemetery, on part of their own good earth near Consort Cliff, was called "God's Acre" by Angela.
The lych-gate, with its carving, was her personal memorial to her beloved husband and their children."

 (Photo: © 2013 the foto fanatic)

Details of the graves here can be found at this informative site.

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Mama Luigi's Restaurant, Spring Hill

Back in the 1960s Brisbane's dining out scene was quite sparse, unlike today where there is a cafe or restaurant in almost every suburb. In those days there were a couple of decent restaurants in the city and beyond that you were looking at a pub counter meal.

One restaurant that I remember fondly from back then was Mama Luigi's on St Pauls Terrace in Spring Hill. For many of us it was our first foray into Italian cuisine - I had certainly never eaten garlic or pasta at home before that time.

That Mama Luigi's no longer exists, although I think the name has been re-used by others. I recently came across a couple of nostalgic images of the original restaurant and its staff.

Here they are. Firstly, the venue itself - it is clearly a converted house. And I think that taxi at the front could be from one of our now-defunct cab companies, Blue & White.
(Photo: BCC-S35-9311262)

Next, some of the restaurant staff looking extremely cheerful. The range hood seems a little on the grimy side though.
(Photo: National Archives of Australia)

There are a few reminiscences about Mama Luigi's on the internet. I like this one that I found on the 1 million Women site:
"I remember many years ago there was an Italian restaurant just like this in Brisbane called Mama Luigi's.  The American soldiers who were stationed in Brisbane and of course Australian families and friends frequented this place regularly. There were long tables and people sat with other people and really enjoyed the experience.of making new friends as everyone liked to talk with each other..." 

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