Thursday, 25 September 2014

Then and Now – A Walk in the Cairns CBD – Part One

Cairns is home to many wonderful heritage buildings in its central business district. A stroll around the CBD provides a glimpse into the city’s rich and diverse history.

Cairns was established in 1876, primarily as a port to service the northern goldfields.  Early industries that supported the development of Cairns included the timber industry and both gold and tin mining. Later, agriculture became an important industry, particularly sugar cane, but bananas and rice were also important early crops.  Tourism was important to the Cairns economy too, even as early as the 1890s.

The Boland Centre
Boland’s, c.1928. State Library of Queensland image

Boland’s, 2014. Image: Trisha Fielding 

This building was built in 1912/13 for Michael Boland, an Irish immigrant who came to Australia in the 1880s and became a successful businessman and prominent citizen in Cairns.  This ornate and striking building occupies the corner of Lake and Spence Streets and is one of the earliest examples in the Cairns region of the use of concrete to construct large buildings.  The three-storey building housed a large department store and continues to be used for commercial purposes today.  It is a rare surviving example of its kind – that is, a large, pre-World War I department store.

Former Adelaide Steamship Co. building
Former Adelaide Steamship Co. Ltd, 1976Image: Cairns Historical Society

Former Adelaide Steamship Co. Ltd, 2014Image:  Trisha Fielding
This building was built in 1910 for the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, which had been established in Adelaide in 1875.  The company had established a branch in Cairns around 1905, but was operating as an agency in Cairns as early as 1895.  The Queensland Heritage Register describes the building style as a tropical adaptation of the “Arts and Crafts”, a style that started in Europe.  A local heritage trail brochure describes it as “Spanish Revival Style”.  It was built by Cairns contractors Wilson & Baillie, at a cost of almost £3,000.
The Adelaide Steamship Company’s SS Manunda, entering Cairns Harbour,
Image:  State Library of Queensland.
Office of the Cairns Post newspaper
Cairns Post building, c. 1930Image: State Library of Queensland

Cairns Post Building, 2014.Image:  Trisha Fielding
The history of newspapers is often a bit tricky to chart, and the Cairns Post appears to have gone through a few different incarnations.  The Cairns Post was started in the early 1880s by Frederick Wimble in a small building in Lake Street.  It was later called the Cairns Morning Post and in 1909 it was renamed the Cairns Post.  The building that exists today in Abbott Street was built in 1908 and designed by architect Harvey Draper.  It was originally only the first three bays on the left and was extended to its present size in 1924. 

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Townsville Flying Squadron Club House

For almost sixty years the Flying Squadron club house on Palmer Street was a landmark on the Ross Creek skyline.  Built over several years in the early 1920s by volunteer labour, it was both a boatshed and a dance hall, all rolled in to one.
Townsville Flying Squadron Club House, Palmer Street, c. 1925.
Photo: John Mathew Collection, CityLibraries.

The sailing club house on Ross Creek was built on land obtained from the Townsville Harbour Board and built by the club members, who volunteered their time on weekends over several years.  The working bees saw 30-40 members pitching in with everything from clearing ground and the sinking and laying of foundations in the muddy creek bed to building the dance floor. 
Flying Squadron club house under construction, 1920s.
Photo: John Mathew Collection, CityLibraries.

Most of the materials for the building were supplied at cost price by club members who were also skilled tradesmen.  Skiffs were stored in the boat shed underneath and the top floor housed a superb dance floor, which meant the club house became a popular venue for dances and annual balls.  Its location on Ross Creek took full advantage of the sea breezes, which cooled the dance hall in the summer.
Fancy Dress Ball held at the Flying Squadron Club House, 1920s.
Photo:  John Mathew Collection, CityLibraries.

The Townsville Daily Bulletin reported in 1930 that the sailing season had opened with “great style” on a very pleasant Saturday afternoon in September.  Mr R Hayles loaned his vessel, the Malita, to the Townsville Flying Squadron for a flagship, which was “decked out in bunting and carried a fine crowd of ladies and gentlemen.”
Those lucky enough to have been invited on board were treated to a performance by a small orchestra aboard the Malita.  The orchestra included the club’s piano, which had been moved from the ballroom and was played by Mr Vic Foley during the trip.  Mr Foley was accompanied by Miss V. Cameron on the violin and Mr Patterson on the banjo.  

According to the Bulletin, “the three players were most unselfish with their services, and were responsible for much of the success achieved.”

“A very fine afternoon tea was served by the ladies’ committee, and this in conjunction with the ideal weather, the sweet music and the racing, made the function one of the most enjoyable that has been held in the City.”
Some of the men who helped to build the Flying Squadron Club House.
Photo: John Mathew Collection, CityLibraries.

American forces commandeered the club house during World War II and used it to store sugar.  According to Mr A Duffield, who was a life member and past treasurer of the Townsville Sailing Club, the sugar stored during the war, “wrecked the dance floor forever”.

The Bulletin interviewed Mr Duffield in late 1979, when the Flying Squadron club house was about to be demolished.  The club house had fallen into disrepair after a number of years of neglect.  The sailing clubs who had once made it their home had long since left, after navigation of their skiffs became difficult and dangerous in the busy Ross Creek shipping traffic.

Mr Duffield spoke fondly of the club house, particularly of the dances that were held there.

“When the modern up tempo dances arrived the whole building would rock and roll”, Mr Duffield said. 

“Sometimes I thought it would roll off its stumps in the middle of one of the razzle dazzle dances”, he said.