Sunday, 22 June 2014

New life for old buildings

Two Flinders Street buildings have recently undergone a re-birth in the new City Lane precinct.  The building now occupied by the Paleo Café in Flinders Street, was once home to long-running Townsville business Inglis Smith & Co.  Known as “The People’s Drapers”, it was a one-stop shop for men’s and women’s clothing, hats, fashion accessories and all manner of fabrics.
Inglis Smith & Co building, 1913. Photo: CityLibraries.

The business was started by John Inglis Smith in 1903 with a startup capital of £350, and became so successful it continued to operate until 1971. During its life, Inglis Smith & Co. retained a family connection that spanned three generations, and at its height, provided employment for 35 people.

In the 1970s the building’s original façade was covered over with a curved metal awning, all but destroying its aesthetic street appeal.
The curved awning that covered the façades of the old Inglis Smith building & the old Shaws Arcade.
Photo:  Andrew Carter.

Utile Design’s Andrew Carter, designer on the City Lane project, said that at the time of purchase, the awning covering the buildings facing Flinders Street was pinned to the buildings using angle brackets.

“Where this met the cornice, frieze and architrave detailing, little care had been taken and consequently the entire ornate façade was quite badly damaged,” Mr Carter said.
Damage to the façade where angle brackets had been attached to hold an awning (see above).
Photo:  Andrew Carter.

“The vision with the laneway was always to keep as much of the old buildings as we could to give authenticity to the project so it was decided to carefully reinstate this detailing to what it was in a bygone era,” he said.

“At the same time we also had to be careful to maintain the structural integrity of the façades.”
Restored façade of the old Inglis Smith & Co. building, 2014.  Photo: Trisha Fielding.

The old Shaws Arcade, itself once home to Alfred Shaw & Co., hardware merchants and ironmongers, also has a new lease of life. A new bar and restaurant called Shaw & Co. gives a nod to the site’s early history.

Alfred Shaw & Co. Pty. Ltd. was established in Melbourne in 1853.  By 1875 the company had a branch in Brisbane and opened a Townsville branch in Flinders Street East in 1887.  In 1893 a new company, Alfred Shaw Ltd., was formed in Townsville to take over the north Queensland business.

In those early days, almost all the hardware handled by Alfred Shaws had to be imported, and goods from Europe had to be ordered twelve months in advance, as it took up to eight weeks for a letter to reach London from Townsville.

Alfred Shaws built a strong reputation throughout the north as a stockist of quality tools, crockery, glassware, builders’ hardware, windmills, pumping equipment and farm machinery and by 1925 the company had moved into premises in Flinders Street.

Where the new City Lane is now located was once one half of a building, which presented structural challenges for the designers.

“We knew that at the very least the roof needed to be replaced and half the façade would be demolished to open up to Flinders Street,” Mr Carter said.  

“A structural steel “spine” was designed and located to create a glazed facing to the laneway as well as a support structure for the partial façade that’s now left,” he said.

“In order to ensure the integrity of the aged brickwork, the roof to the laneway itself sits above the original brick walls and is wholly supported by itself.”

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Magnetic Island Honeymoon Hut

Here's my article from yesterday's Townsville Eye in the Townsville Bulletin (14 June, 2014):

The relocation of a 1920s Arcadia Guest House honeymoon hut from its original Arcadia site to Picnic Bay at the end of May, has uncovered an intriguing mystery.
An Arcadia Guest House honeymoon hut, similar to the one that has just been relocated to Picnic Bay. 1946.
Photo:  Magnetic Island History and Craft Centre.

During preparations for the move, the hut offered up part of its history when one of the external weatherboards fell an inch or two, revealing what appeared to be a piece of jewellery.  

Magnetic Island History and Craft Centre President Zanita Davies caught sight of the item and was quite surprised by what she found.

“I was fortunate enough to notice a small piece of chain caught behind the dropped board and under the floorboards,” Ms Davies said.

“I removed what I thought was a piece of costume jewellery, only to discover an Australian soldier’s dog tag,” she said.
The hut in situ at Arcadia, before the relocation, 2014.
Photo:  Magnetic Island History and Craft Centre.
The honeymoon hut in its new location at Picnic Bay, 2104.
Photo:  Magnetic Island History and Craft Centre.

Ms Davies believes the hut would have been used by servicemen while the guesthouse was in use as an R & R location during World War II, which goes some of the way to explaining how the dog tag got there.  Museum staff are now researching the soldier’s history and have been in contact with a member of his extended family in an attempt to find out more.

The hut was part of Hayles’ Arcadia Guest House, a popular holiday destination for honeymooners and travellers alike for many decades.  The tiny, one-roomed huts provided sleeping accommodation for guests, and were arranged a good distance apart, to ensure privacy and rest.  Verandahs at both the front and back kept the huts cool.

Arcadia Guest House was only one part of the Hayles family’s successful north Queensland tourism venture.  In 1900 Robert Hayles had begun operating a ferry service from Townsville to Picnic Bay, with the small steamer Bee.  The previous year Hayles had built the Magnetic Hotel in Picnic Bay.  He later acquired land at Arcadia and during the 1920s, Hayles Magnetic Island Pty Ltd acquired the vessels Mandalay, Malanda, Maree, Ferry Alma, Merinda, Maroubra and Malita in order to service the demand for ferry travel.
Part of Arcadia Guest House, Magnetic Island.
Photo:  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.

“Hayles’ cottage is a living artefact of the Hayles era on Magnetic Island and a very tangible reminder of this settler family,” Ms Davies said.

“The building was given to us by Gary McGill, owner of Arcadia Hotel, and we were fortunate to get some financial support from Hayles Trust Fund for its removal,” she said.

Despite taking three years to get all the relevant council permits in place, Ms Davies said the relocation went very smoothly and without incident.

The historic building’s new home is near the State heritage listed Picnic Bay school and historic Butler Hut museum as part of the Magnetic Island History and Craft Centre.

Ms Davies said the museum’s intention was to return the building to its original layout of one room with verandahs.
“The cottage will require substantial refurbishment and will be used for display and museum storage and conservation activities,” she said.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Rooftops, Parapets and Facades - No. 2

Here are two interesting parapets from around Townsville.

Former Greenfields building
At times I have worked in an office right across the street from this building and I often wondered what the symbol on the parapet stood for.  Research revealed the symbol represents the letters - A, P and G, for Albert Percival Greenfield. 
The parapet on the former Greenfields building, Flinders Street, 2013. Photo: Trisha Fielding.
Greenfield was a self-trained optician who had opened his first practice in Brisbane in 1897. His son, Percival W. Greenfield, trained formally in London and on returning to Queensland, was one of Australia’s highest qualified optometrists. The practice opened in Flinders Street around 1915. I suspect the building may have originally been the London Bank, but I'm happy to be corrected on this if I'm wrong.  It's now home to long-term jewellers Pat Molloy.
Former Greenfields Building, 2013. Photo:  Trisha Fielding.
Advertisement for A.P. Greenfield & Co. Photo: State Library of Queensland.
The former Samuel Allen & Sons building, which is now home to Hog's Breath Café, in Flinders Street East, has a stunning parapet.

Former Samuel Allen & Sons building, Flinders Street East. Photo:  Trisha Fielding.
This information on the building is from the city council's Local Heritage Database:

This building was erected in 1881 as a store/warehouse, with additions in 1911.

The building was constructed for Samuel Allen and Sons, which was established in 1872 as merchants and agents. The firm was closely associated with the development of Townsville as the principle commercial centre in north Queensland. Samuel Allen and Co acquired an allotment in Flinders Street East at the centre of the town's commercial and mercantile activities and erected a single storey building in 1881. In 1887 Samuel Allen and Sons advertised their business as "contract carriers, forwarding, shipping, insurance, Customs House, and Commission Agents, Produce and General Brokers". By this time, the firm had established four branches in north Queensland.

Due to expansion in the business, a second storey was added in 1911 to the Flinders Street building. The façade treatment of the 1911 addition contrasted with the more traditional classical themes of the neighbouring buildings in Flinders Street. Face brick was predominant with rendered bands. The parapet was distinguished by four flat caps supported by a series for small brackets.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Malanda Milk - a household name

For many decades the name Malanda Milk was a household name in north Queensland, as it supplied milk to thirsty Townsville residents who at one time consumed almost half of the company’s total output.

Milk being bottled at the Malanda Milk Depot in Garbutt, Townsville, c.1957.
Photo by Fred Carew, held by CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.
Curiously, it was the influx of tens of thousands of American soldiers during World War II in Townsville that was the catalyst for its success.  Up until then, milk in Townsville was sourced from local dairies, but when Townsville’s population swelled from 30,000 to nearly 100,000 in 1942 as the city became a staging point for the allied war effort in the Pacific; local resources just would not stretch far enough.

As well as the enormous increase in demand, American soldiers demanded that they be supplied with pasteurised milk, when Townsville dairies were still only supplying raw milk to locals.

Farmers with dairy herds on the Atherton Tablelands were able to capitalise on this demand quite quickly, even though butter had previously been the only product produced in bulk by the Tableland dairies.  Pasteurised milk from 350 dairy herds began to be delivered to Townsville on a regular basis, satisfying both the locals, and the city’s military visitors.

The Atherton Tableland Cooperative Dairy Association Ltd - which came to be known throughout north Queensland as Malanda Milk - became so successful that in 1953 Malanda Milk was reputed to have the longest milk run in the world.  Tankers transported milk by road from the Tablelands down the Palmerston Highway to Townsville and from there it went to Cloncurry, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs, Katherine, Darwin and Wyndham.

A special advertising feature in the Townsville Daily Bulletin in October 1984 promoted Malanda Milk’s new $3 million milk-packaging plant as one of Queensland’s largest, and most modern.

The size of the cold storage area had been increased and dispatch facilities were improved to ensure that dairy products reached consumers in “perfect condition.”  The new cold rooms covered 950 square metres of floor space.

The massive demand for fresh, pasteurised milk had a flow-on effect to other industries as well.  Arthur and Eileen Battle built their Norgate Transport business on the back of the success of Malanda Milk.  In 1984 their fleet of nine, insulated milk tankers carried over 20,000 litres of milk to the Townsville factory on a daily basis.

The Bulletin described the Battles’ use of insulated tankers as, “a marvellous advance on the tin cans packed with ice on the rail overnight from Innisfail.”

The milk tankers may have been a “marvellous” improvement to the former system of transporting milk, but the big tankers still encountered many pitfalls.  In the early 1950s, when the Battles began carting milk to Townsville, 40 per cent of the Palmerston Highway was still unsealed and flooding during the wet season often threatened to disrupt supply.

According to the Bulletin, “Often the big trucks got bogged to their axles and there were times that Mr Len Nolan, the production manager of the Townsville factory, would walk across a submerged wooden bridge near Halifax to pilot the tankers across.”

The Bulletin reported that Arthur Battle’s slogan might well have been: “The milk must go through”.