Saturday, 25 April 2015

Old Coles Building Takes Many Memories With It

Once developers have finished their demolition work, the former Coles building in Townsville’s central business district will be little more than a twisted pile of rubble and steel on a vacant city block.
Former Coles Building, Sturt Street Townsville, 1959.
Photo:  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.

The erasure of this building from the cityscape takes 80 years of Townsville’s commercial history with it, but in the hearts of many, the memories of the building’s early life will live on.

Occupying a block of land with frontage to both Flinders and Sturt Streets, the site has been home to a number of commercial tenants over the years, including Burns Philp & Co. Ltd, Penneys Ltd. and Coles Pty Ltd.; but it is the original occupants - the Heatley family - that are remembered with fondness by many north Queenslanders.

The three-storey building was constructed in 1935 for F. Heatley & Sons Pty Ltd in order to cater for the significant growth the firm was experiencing.

The patriarch of the Heatley family was an Irishman named Francis Heatley, who settled in Townsville in 1880 and later that decade started a small business manufacturing and selling household furniture, with a branch of the business devoted to undertaking.
F. Heatley & Sons building, Flinders Street frontage, 1943.
Photo: CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.

The Flinders Street frontage of the Heatley building was a furniture emporium with no less than eleven display windows, which perfectly showcased the firm’s expertly crafted furniture, all of which was built from north Queensland silky oak and maple.

In 1936 the employees of F. Heatley and Sons Pty Ltd held their first staff dance in the recently completed building. Held on a Wednesday night in May, the dance was attended by about 300 staff and guests, who assembled in an upper storey of the new building for the function.
F. Heatley & Sons staff dance, 1936.
Photo: Townsville Daily Bulletin.

According to the Townsville Daily Bulletin, the “spacious ballroom” was a sight to be seen, and had been “gaily decorated” for the occasion in shades of gold and red, the official colours of the Heatley firm. 

Streamers were draped in canopy effect from each end of the ballroom to the centre and “multi-coloured balloons were clustered around each massive pillar, flags draped the end walls, and myriads of tiny coloured lights were suspended around the hall”.

“Vic Foley’s Arcadian Orchestra of five players supplied the dance music, which was enjoyed by all.”

“A dainty supper was arranged at the end of the building, the centre of the tables being decorated with vases containing flowers of gold and red.  Altogether the scheme of decorations and the arrangement of the supper reflected great credit on the committee responsible.”

In a speech on the night, Mr W.J. Heatley, who took over as head of the family business after the death of his father Francis in 1928, said that “what particularly pleased him was the harmony which was displayed between the members of the staff, both shop and factory”.

“All had worked harmoniously in making the dance worthy of their firm, each realising it was their own dance in their own buildings, and priding themselves on this fact,” Mr Heatley said.

After the speeches were over, the dancing continued until 2am, when the evening ended with a rendition of “Auld Lang Syne”.

The building was a popular dance hall in the late 1930s and throughout the Second World War.

No comments:

Post a Comment