Friday, May 29, 2015

John Oxley Library Award

This blog has just been honoured as a joint winner of the John Oxley Library Award for 2015. The other joint winner is the fabulous North Queensland History blog, and I am humbled to be mentioned in such august company.

Here is some information about the award:
As Australia’s leading library of Queensland's documentary heritage, the John Oxley Library plays a vital role in the development and communication of Queensland memory.

The John Oxley Library Award recognises an individual who had made an outstanding contribution to the appreciation of Queensland history. The Award is granted annually to promote the value of historical knowledge and its role in shaping Queenslanders' understanding of themselves and each other.

The recipient will receive a $5,000 prize.

The achievement being recognised may relate to any aspect of Queensland's social, political, economic and cultural life; and may take any form, occurring in any context, and extending over any period of time.
2015 John Oxley Library Award recipients
Trevor Newman (joint winner)
Trevor Newman coordinates popular blog Your Brisbane: Past and Present (yourbrisbanepastandpresent.com). Trevor's blog compiles valuable information about Brisbane's buildings, those we consider landmarks, as well as many others. It's a well written blog by a person who grew up in Brisbane. Trevor has been consistently nominated by Queensland Memory staff as a nominee for this award for the past few years.
Trisha Fielding (joint winner)
Trisha Fielding coordinates the equally popular blog North Queensland History (northqueenslandhistory.blogspot.com.au). Trisha also writes a weekly history column for the Townsville Bulletin and is a regular contributor to local ABC Radio. In 2010, Trisha published her first book, Flinders Street Townsville: A pictorial history, which was awarded a high commendation by the National Trust of Queensland and she received an award for writing at the Townsville Arts Awards. Trisha is an active member of local studies groups and works as a Librarian for Townsville City Libraries.
In my acceptance speech at the awards ceremony last night I thanked the staff and volunteers at John Oxley Library and State Library of Queensland for making such valuable archive material accessible. Without their painstaking work digitising photographs, documents and ephemera this blog would not exist.

And my thanks also go to all readers of the blog.

Cheers
tff   

Monday, May 25, 2015

New Farm Fire Brigade

The origin of organised fire-fighting in Brisbane was, naturally enough, as the result of a fire. It occurred in a cabinet maker's workshop near the corner of George and Elizabeth Sts in 1860. This blaze was contained only by the efforts of police and citizens who helped voluntarily. A fledgling fire brigade was formed afterwards, but had difficulty maintaining resources and was soon disbanded. Fortunately, future attempts gained better traction.

The near-city suburb of New Farm created its own voluntary fire brigade in 1889. There was a sawmill down by the river at Moray St that was obviously considered to be a fire risk and that business, James Campbell & Sons, provided some nearby land for the erection of a fire station - it was completed by December of that year at a cost of £50. The original equipment consisted only of two hand-drawn hose reels. The following undated photograph shows the men of the brigade with their rudimentary equipment. 
 (Photo: SQL 97498)

The fire station was situated on the corner of Moray and Langshaw Sts, advantageously close to the industrial section of New Farm. The disadvantage though, was that these businesses were close to the river in a low-lying area. The solution to this issue was the building of a tower with a lookout and bell to provide greater coverage of the suburb.
(Photo: SQL 141596)

And here is a photograph of the former site of the tower as it is today.
 (Photo: google.com.au)

The fire station moved to a much higher and more central spot in Heal St around 1903 and in 1912 the brigade updated its equipment - a quadricycle built by Howards Ltd that was rigged up as a pedal-powered fire engine. It had a box that contained fire fighting equipment, could tow a wheeled hose reel and could transport four firefighters.
(Photograph: "Brisbane on Fire"; K Calthorpe & K Capell)

The quadricycle still exists - it is held at the Queensland Museum.
 (Photo: Courtesy Queensland Museum)

The New Farm Fire Brigade was a voluntary organisation through to 1922 when members started  to receive payment for their service. Ironically the New Farm brigade disbanded in the following year.

The fire brigade is now centralised, so the old methodology of separate brigades in different suburbs is long gone. However the volunteering tradition lives on. Queensland has some 35,000 rural volunteers and a further 6,000 State Emergency Service volunteers.

All our firefighters deserve our respect and our thanks.

Click here for a Google Map.

tff

Monday, May 18, 2015

Toowong library building

In a previous post about iconic Brisbane architect Richard Gailey, I thought out loud that if you wanted an occupation by which you could leave your mark on the world then architecture would be it. When I first started to prepare this post I had exactly the same thought.

Richard Gailey and the equally famous Robin Dods were prominent in their time and more prominent thereafter. Today we are looking at the work of James Birrell, also prolific and who in his major projects was just as prominent. We have previously examined a couple of Birrell creations - the Centenary Pool and the Wickham Terrace car park. Like those two public amenities, today's subject is another building Birrell created for his employer. It is the BCC library building at Toowong.

My early impression of this twelve-sided building was formed by glimpses as I passed by in a train or a car. A teenager at the time, I likened it to an alien space ship of the type frequently seen in the sci-fi serials of Saturday matinees at my local cinema. It was also reminiscent of the Hoover vaccuum cleaner in the movie "Our Man in Havana" that was around at the time. I mean no disrespect to Birrell (who probably couldn't care less about the ravings of an impressionable youth anyway) - I genuinely admired the building because of these unusual comparisons. Here is a sketch of the building followed by a photograph of it under construction. The third image is from about the time the library was opened in April 1961.

(Photo: BCC-B54-15117) 1960
(Photo: BCC-B54-16201) 1961

There was controversy about Birrell's design from the outset. In fact he had to defend his work against the City Librarian who claimed that a normal rectangular shape would provide more shelf space than Birrell's circular interior. Birrell agreed that this was correct, but pointedly reminded people that shelf space was not the only criterion for designing a library - natural lighting and ventilation were also critical. In any case the building went ahead in accordance with his design.

James Birrell graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1951 and was was the chief architect for Brisbane City Council from 1955 to 1961 and during that time was responsible for more than 150 projects - unfortunately many of those have now been lost or redeveloped. After leaving BCC Birrell went on to work at the University of Queensland then James Cook University and in 1964 he completed a biography of the famous architect Walter Burley Griffin. He also worked in Papua New Guinea for a time before moving to private practice. In 2005 Birrell was awarded the prestigious RAIA Gold Medal, Australia's greatest architecture prize.

Subsequently the Toowong library building has been altered in usage and in form. The following is an extract from the state's heritage register:
During the 1960s, following Birrell's' departure from the Council, alterations were made to the library including the replacement of the light troughs and suspended lighting features. The library was threatened for closure in 1982 following the opening of a new municipal library at Indooroopilly in 1981. The Toowong Library did in fact close but local residents' action saw it re-opened in 1983. Alterations were made to the building in 1983 when one of the rooms on the lower floor was acquired for use by the local councillor as a ward office. This room which was originally planned as an auditorium was used by the library as a workroom and to accommodate the councillor was partitioned to form a reception, office and storage space. 
Here is a recent image of the building.
 (Photo: Mary-Rose MacColl)

Click here for a Google Map.

tff

Monday, May 11, 2015

Tudor-styled residence at Rode Rd, Nundah: 1927 to 2015

Plans: Atkinson & Conrad, 1927
(Photo: © Fryer Library; UQ)

Photo: 1930
(Photo: SLQ 155903)

Photo: 2015
(Photo: © 2015 the foto fanatic)


tff

Monday, May 4, 2015

Transcontinental Hotel

The previous Queensland Government wanted to extend the current public transport networks by laying a tunnel under the river that would take both buses and trains, the unusually-christened BaT Tunnel. One of the later announcements concerned the Roma St Transit Centre. The last government thought it should be demolished to allow the tunnel to hook up with Roma St Station - the Roma St Transit Centre has a reputation as being Brisbane's ugliest building. The change in government has suspended the BaT Tunnel, so I suppose that the redevelopment of the Transit Centre is also unlikely to proceed.

Right across the road from the Transit Centre is one of Brisbane's oldest hotels, dating from 1884. It is the heritage listed Transcontinental Hotel on the corner of Roma St and George St. Here is what it looked like in its early days.
(Photo: BCC-B120-24593)

Obviously the hotel was in a prime position for travellers to Brisbane by rail as it is situated directly opposite Roma St station. It was the brainchild of prominent Brisbane identity Peter Murphy. He arrived in Brisbane from Ireland in 1871 and progressed through occupations as diverse as labourer, bullock driver, police constable and grocer before obtaining a spirit dealers' licence in 1879. 

In 1883 he became the licensee of the Burgundy Hotel in George St. He had the highly regarded architect FDG Stanley design the Transcontinental Hotel and opened it in 1884. The Brisbane Courier reported that the Transcontinental Hotel contained 27 bedrooms, seven public rooms, a billiard room and a private bar. It became very popular immediately, having the largest bar trade in the city within a short time. Peter Murphy became a director and then chairman of brewer Perkins Pty Ltd, and he was president of the Queensland United Licenced Victuallers' Association for several terms. He really contributed greatly to the northern end of George St as he also was the financial backer of the McDonnell & East department store that was prominent in Brisbane for many years. Peter Murphy was a member of Queensland's upper house, the Legislative Council, from 1904 through to its abolition in 1922.

Another well-known Brisbane publican, Denis O'Connor (pictured below) took over the lease of the Transcontinental in 1906, and he immediately arranged for GHM Addison to give the interior of the hotel a makeover. When the new bar was opened in October of that year it was described as the most ornate and best equipped hotel in Australia.
(Photo: SLQ 23827)

The Murphy family owned the Transcontinental Hotel through to 1935 when it was sold to the large Queensland brewery group Castlemaine Perkins Pty Ltd. It is now owned by modern hoteliers the Austotel company who refurbished the hotel at the beginning of 2014. This is the way it looks now. 
(Photo: transhotel.net.au)

Click here for a Google Map.

tff
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