When Woolloongabba was Wattle Scented

Saturday, April 30, 2011

What's Under Brisbane City Hall? - Skate Rinks, Tar Pits and Mysterious Phantom Building!

We published our speculation on a  what's under Brisbane City Hall in a pre-Easter rush, and in our haste omitted the citing of any source material but we have been busy clipping and snipping away. The clipping above is of the most comprehensive article we found in relation to the early construction work of City Hall. It gives a great overview of the construction of the Town Hall foundations, an account of activities of the Corporation Yards and the protracted battle of where the hall was to be built. You can view and read the full article at Trove Australia by following the citations at the end of the post.

"The site was used in recent recent years as a storage yard for the City Council drays, tar supplies and other municipal odds and ends. Incidentally it may be mentioned that the site question was for many years the subject of protracted City Council debates, while the final location of the new Town Hall was still undecided. The aldermen who favoured Albert square had many hard controversial battles to fight with those who in and out of season espoused the rival claims of the Valley, and it was only when the foundation stone of the new building had been laid twice that the way was at length clear for a beginning to be made with the Town Hall."

The Bradley and Holland car dealership on the Adelaide and Albert St. corner of the City Hall site was originally the Columbia Skating rink. The amazing thing about the ice rink is that it was opened in 1888. Yep, of the all the things that the early colonial settlers needed they managed to build  roller skating rink when Brisbane had been an independent colony for all of 30 years or so.

When the mysterious archaeological site  under City Hall was recently unearthed, there was mention of plenty of tar being present on the site. The above clipping reports a fire in  the the tar pit at the Corporation Yards in 1917. The tar pit was situated on the Anne and Roma St side of the site and the report makes note of the loss of one hundred gallons of tar and that shed housing the pit was destroyed by fire.

And finally, a mystery and some amusing local government argy bargy. A report titled , "A  Municipal "Dug Out"" published in 1919  claims that large sums of unauthorised money had been spent on the construction of a building within the grounds of the Corporation Yards. The allegation was that this was not a modest building and that it was used by the Alderman of the city. In a prior Under City Hall post we published a photo of the yard prior to its clearing that shows a number of ramshackle buildings and stone foundations on the site. Could it have been that some mysterious, phantom building existed on the site that was demolished prior to the final removal and clearing of the yards.
"Alderman Buchanan suggested that it was a miniature Town Hall, and another that it was a dug-out, but whether as a place of refuge for Aldermen from infuriated ratepayers was not made clear."

We'll refer to this as the the "What's Under City Hall Mystery...Mystery!"

1921 'NEW TOWN HALL.', The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864-1933), 4 November, p. 6, viewed 1 May, 2011, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20517784
1888 'THE COLUMBIA SKATING RINK.', The Brisbane Courier(Qld. : 1864-1933), 28 June, p. 6, viewed 1 May, 2011, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3478980
1919 'A Municipal " Dug-out.".', The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864-1933), 29 January, p. 6, viewed 1 May, 2011, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20236519
1917 'FIRES.', The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864-1933), 20 October, p. 4, viewed 1 May, 2011, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20193739

Friday, April 22, 2011

Queensland Easter Weather! Are You Prepared? - Newspaper Cartoon, 1950.


THERE YOU ARE M'DEAR—ALL SET FOR THE EASTER WEATHER. (1950, April 6). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933-1954), p. 2. Retrieved April 23, 2011, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49741622

ANZAC Day in Brisbane. Photos 1931 & 1936.

The ANZAC parade as it marches down Queen St. Brisbane in 1936. The band leading the march has just crossed Edward St. and the marchers behind are illumunated by the sun at the cross street. In the top middle of the photo are the neon signs for the Winter Garden Theatre (WGT) and the Regent Theatre.


The remarkable thing are the long shadows cast in this photo indicating a sunny afternoon in Anzac Square. These days the square is often dark and gloomy as it is now straddled by buildings east and west and shadowed to the north by the high rise hotel on Anne St.

1931 'ANZAC DAY IS BRISBANE.', The Queenslander(Brisbane, Qld. : 1866-1939), 30 April, p. 28, viewed 23 April, 2011 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23138469


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What's Under Brisbane City Hall...An Update!

For weeks I looked for a photo of the Corporation Yards without any luck until I scoured the Wikimedia files from the State Library of Queensland. Amongst 20,000 other images and tagged with with an inaccurate description I located the photograph below.

The large structure to the left, running parallel to Adelaide St., is the Bradley and Holland car dealership. On the Corporation Yard site there seems to be foundations of at least two buildings to the left and what looks like some well worn pathways that form a cross in the centre. There are at least seven individual buildings scattered along the back perimeter and the Anne St.side of the site and running along the rear is a large iron roofed building, this building may have been a military recruitment centre built in about 1912.

The photo below shows the foundations for Brisbane City Hall dated February 10, 1923. The buildings on the site, whilst ramshackle,  are not the original buildings from the corporation yards. The foundations on the Adelaide St. side show the deeper L shaped section that formed the building basement, the rest of the site has been filled and raised. These photos are taken from the same vantage point so it is easy to see the difference in height of the area that would lie directly under the Hall's auditorium today.

Is that the mystery of what's under Brisbane City Hall solved? The documentary evidence supported my theory and the photo adds further weight to the case. Are the old Corporation Yards buried under City Hall? There is no word from the heritage architects working on the find, let's wait and see. Happy Easter!

Friday, April 15, 2011

What Have They Found Under Brisbane City Hall?

In recent months the Brisbane City Council has announced the discovery of many relics amongst  the excavations of city hall. While there have been a number of finds, the most recent discovery was of a significant streetscape and the foundations of at least two structures. The recent finds were described in the media as, "A cobblestone street and horse stables from Brisbane's pioneering past have been discovered during excavation work at City Hall." and that "The buildings were made from porphyry [stone] then they added concrete and bitumen throughout the area. It was a shock discovery amongst the excavation of the halls auditorium and a team of archaeologists are busy trying to make sense of the find. Here at the McWhirters Project we couldn't help ourselves and decided to see what we could discover amongst the newspaper resources of Trove Australia.

The final selection of the site for the current Brisbane City Hall was a local government showdown. Two other sites were considered for City Hall, the corner block where the Aurora Tower stands today (Cnr. Creek and Queen  streets) was an early contender but subdivided into 17 individual blocks, the other controversial site was opposite Centenary Place (bordered by Wickham and Anne streets). It was later to be the site of Brisbane's proposed Roman Catholic Basilica, which was a pet project of the influential Archbishop Duhig. There were allegations of impropriety involving the church's selling of the site to the council and the church in turn bought it back a short time later and proposed the cathedral. Foundations were laid in the late 1920's and the site became part of Brisbane folk lore, known as the Crypt, and sat derelict and idle for eighty years until it was redeveloped as an apartment complex, Cathedral Place.

In the early twentieth century King George Square was known as Market Square and the site where City Hall stands today became known as Town Hall Reserve once the site was finally decided. The reserve actually housed what was known as the Corporation Yards, originally livestock yards until an outbreak of ticks in the late 1800's closed down the sales yards and  the site was utilised as a general stores and works yard for the local council. There was a tar pit, gravel pits and all manner of tool, plant and equipment used to build and maintain the city's infrastructure. The yard was also used for the sharpening and maintenance of local labourers tools (in particular stone masons) and stored the paving stones and curbing used in building and maintaining Brisbane's early streets. To make way for the foundations of City Hall, the Corporation Yards were relocated to Constance St., Fortitude Valley which  were still in operation up until only a few years ago.

The cobblestone street discovered may not have been an actual street but rather part of a network of pathways and drive ways that allowed the movement of plant and equipment. The stables may have housed the horses the council used in dray teams and would further support the theory of an internal road network on the yard site. The buildings found  made from the porphyry stone were likely structures from the original sale yards, the reference to the concrete and asphalt makes sense as there would have been plenty spare as there was a tar pit on the site and concrete would have been in plentiful supply.

Whilst researching our City Hall Project we found lot's of interesting material; newspaper articles, sketches, maps and diagrams of City Hall. Some may have not been seen since they were originally published in the newspapers decades ago so we will post these along with the source material supporting some our speculation on what's been found under Brisbane City Hall. A report on the find is due from the archaeological team in a few weeks and excitedly we wait to hear what the experts have to say.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Vintage Toys - All Roads Lead to Toy Town! Newspaper Advertisement, 1953.

Overll's was one of the Fortitude Valley's grand department stores, situated on Brunswick adjacent to the Brunswick St (Fortitude Valley) rail station. The Overall's building still stands today, the original building burnt to the ground and was rebuilt in the late 1920's. This advertisement is titled "All Roads Lead to  Overall's Toy Town". Below are the toy names and descriptions as they appeared in the advertisement, note the gender bias for the millet brooms which are described as being for "for budding young housewives" and plastic spaceman helmets are "Super for Boys".
Cylcops Sixty (Car) Suitable for Kiddies 3 to 7 years, easy to use, ball bearing type, 8" Disc Wheel. Cyclops Tricycle For children 4 to 7 years. 16-inch rubber tyred front wheel. Rubber Tyred Pram With adj. canvas hood and strong metal body. Repeating Pistol 11/9 full Size, with ivory steer handle. Scooter For Children 2 to 4 Years, safe 3 rubber tyred wheels. Spaceman helmet. Super for Boys! New Spaceman Helmets, in bright colours. 24 Piece Combination Chess & Draughtsmen. Metal 'Grenadiers' Six soldiers and sentry box. 3 Interesting Picture Puzzles in Box. Mechanical Racer, Drum Brightly Coloured 7½-inch Drums, complete with 2 sticks. Cyclops Metal Garden Sets with strong wooden handles. Useful Millet Brooms for budding young housewives. Duck Shooting Game. Lots of fun for all and perfectly safe as gun shoots harmless rubber bands.

1953 'Advertising.', The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933-1954), 12 November, p. 4, viewed 10 April, 2011, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51076610

Saturday, April 2, 2011

When Wooloongabba was Wattle-scented

Nut Quads Identity Revealed...and a World Record.

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Mr Charles (Chas) Melton. Melton's passing was announced in The Brisbane Courier, January 17, 1931. The article provides an excellent summary of his life and reads as follows,

A fine career closed yesterday after-noon, when Mr. Charles Melton, who entered the service of The Brisbane  Newspaper Company 72 years ago in September last, and remained in the same employ through-out his working life, passed away at his residence, Kyabra street, Stratton, Valley. Mr. Melton completed his 70thyear of service on May 7, 1928,when the occasion was celebrated at a function in which the directors and employees of The Brisbane Newspaper Company took part, and at which the guest of the day was felicitated on his long and faithful service. Up to that time he had been able to give unceasing attention to his work, but soon after-wards he decided to take a well learned respite. Nominally he retired on pension, but continued to attend the office more or less regularly, until he found the claims of increasing age too strong even for his iron determination, and he was compelled to con- 
fine his visits to an occasional call to chat with his old colleagues. Recently his once robust health failed him, and his condition became such as to cause anxiety to his friends. He gradually sank, and passed away in the home in which he had spent many years of his life. Mr. Melton would have been 87 years of age in September next.

The late Mr. Charles Melton became associated with the Press of Brisbane in 1858, when, a boy of 14, he sought and obtained a humble position in the"Courier" office. He was not native born, having arrived with his parents in Brisbane (at that time in the Moreton Bay settlement of New South Wales) in 1852, being then 8 years of age. When he entered the "Courier"office 72 years ago he could neither read nor write, the exigencies of pioneering in a new land having made it impossible for his parents to give him the education which to-day is not only available to every boy and girl in the country, but is inescapable. For that was long before the days of compulsory and free education. But young Melton soon showed such promise that the foreman of the composing room took it upon himself to make up for the lack of early opportunities of gaining instruction in "the three R's," and taught him to read and write. That was the stepping-stone which enabled the totally uneducated "generally useful" youth to become, in a few years, a full-fledged journeyman compositor,and, later, the head of one of his employers' biggest departments-the composing room. Not only did he do that,but he studied hard, until he became an office authority on English and a descriptive writer, whose fascinating reminiscences have delighted thousands of "Courier" readers ,many of whom have pleasant recollections of his articles on the days "When Woolloongabba was Wattle-scented." Under the pen-name of "Nut Quad"he also contributed many articles on subjects which his long residence and experience in Brisbane, combined with an excellent memory, enabled him to handle with peculiar facility. About 18 years ago Mr. Melton attached himself more closely to the literary branch of journalism by relinquishing the command of the mechanical department,over which he had presided for some years, and joining the sub-editorial staff of "The Queenslander," in which connection the remainder of his office career was spent.

The length of that career is probably a world's record in newspaper work. Eight years ago, at a gathering arranged by the directors of The Brisbane Newspaper Company to celebrate the completion of 64 years of Mr. Melton's service with the company, the late Mr. J. J. Knight, the chairman of directors, in proposing the toast of the guest's health, said: "We are here to tell Mr. Melton that we are proud of him; to tell him, too, that a careful investigation shows that he holds a world's record in Journalism-something to be proud of-in having remained in continuous employment in the one office for 64 years." Mr. Knight quoted from a trade journal of recent date,showing that one gentleman in Melbourne had been 50 years in the printing trade, and three in England had services of 50, 56, and 60 years respectively. "The Brisbane Newspaper Company's record in Mr. Melton," he said, "out distances them all." It was little thought at that time that the object of these congratulatory references would still be in harness 70 years after his entry into the establishment. Spare of figure, but, to use his own expression, "as hard as nails," he was, until the last year or two, brisk enough in his movements and alert enough Inattention to business to make him the envy of much younger men. Regularity and duty were his watchwords, and he disciplined himself as well as those under him to act up to his tenets. A long, useful, and honourable career has now closed to the regret of all who knew him. In accordance with a wish expressed by the late Mr. Melton prior to his death, the funeral, which will leave his late residence at 4 p.m. to-day for the Nundah Cemetery, will be private.

From illiterate migrant to a world record in journalistic service, seems Charles Melton made the most of the opportunities presented him and his writings provide a fascinating account of  life in early Moreton Bay. So keep reading as we unearth and rediscover Brisbane; When Woolloongabba was Wattle-scented.

1931 'MR. CHARLES MELTON.', The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864-1933), 17 January, p. 8, viewed 3 April, 2011, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article21661089