Historic Toowong ABC antenna tower demolished

Historic Toowong ABC antenna tower demolished

That’s it—the ABC has really gone now!

While the ABC’s empty and neglected buildings and its transmission tower still stood on the Toowong site at 600 Coronation Drive after staff left the property in 2006 following a cancer cluster scare, locals still tended to associate the property with the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) and its activities.

So while the ABC may have physically gone, spiritually it was still here.

But on Monday, 2nd February 2015, the fact that the ABC had actually ceased to be a part of the fabric of the local landscape really sank in when the iconic ABC transmission tower was dismantled. The tower, symbol of more than fifty years of broadcasting, was pulled down in just one day!

The ABC’s transmission tower awaiting demolition amid adjacent partly demolished buildings.[Photo courtesy of the Sunland Group]

The ABC’s transmission tower was the visible symbol of the ABC’s presence in Toowong. It was one of a series of landmarks along Coronation Drive that greeted passers-by, whether travelling by foot, train, car, bus or ferry. But after the demolition of the Toowong Swimming Pool directly across the road, the tower was one of the few local well-known landmarks left within a block or two of the High Street rail overpass bridge. It announced that you had indeed arrived in Toowong. (Motorists too relied on the tower and the ABC buildings to warn them that the Toowong High Street traffic lights were just ahead, and to ensure they were in the correct lane before it was too late!) Others took advantage of the presence of the ABC’s buildings and tower as a place marker when giving directions to visitors to the suburb.

The ABC had been located in Toowong for over fifty years. The ABC (formerly known as the Australian Broadcasting Commission until 1983) had purchased both “Middenbury” and the adjacent property, “Sidney House”, in 1957 and established new adjoining Queensland facilities for radio and television production and broadcasting here. When the ABC commenced its television broadcasting activities, its Brisbane channel, ABQ2, was opened on 2 November 1959. Unlike the three commercial television channels, who had both their recording studios and transmission towers on Mt Coot-tha, ABQ2 established its studios in the suburb of Toowong, but located its transmission towers on Mount Coot-tha. The Toowong tower was used to connect to the actual transmitters on Mt Coot-tha.

The Sunland Group, creator of Palazzo Versace and Q1 on the Gold Coast, bought the property in 2013 for $20 million. The demolition of the ABC’s Toowong transmission tower is part of Sunland’s preparations to clear the site in readiness for its proposed $420 million “champagne flute towers” development to be named ‘’Grace on Coronation’’. Preliminary demolition work commenced in November 2014. It was expected that another two to three weeks of work remained to be completed.

It took the efforts of eight construction workers to bring down the tower. The nostalgia of the occasion was not lost upon long-time local residents. The dismantlement of the transmission tower was seen as an historic occasion as it meant it was actually the end of the ABC’s presence in Toowong. To these people, it is indeed the end of an era! Some also commented that they will miss seeing the tower while driving outbound from the City down Coronation Drive.

Equipment being positioned in preparation for demolition of the ABC’s transmission tower.[Photo courtesy of the Sunland Group]

Most will agree that it’s sad seeing the ABC’s buildings and its symbol go. Often, the ABC would need generic visuals as background for a story, and from time to time, filming would take place at locations in Toowong and nearby inner city suburbs. People experienced a sense of pride that the suburb was chosen for this purpose, and delighted in identifying the locales used in such stories. Therefore it is not surprising that residents felt a sense of ownership of the ABC. The locals here also missed the ABC staff, some of whom used to meet colleagues after work at the RE (Royal Exchange Hotel).

‘’Middenbury’’ [Photographed in 2003 by heritage architect Michael Michaux].

The former ABC site also features a single-storeyed brick house called ‘’Middenbury’’, which Sunland has promised to protect. This undertaking is in accordance with the ABC placing a condition of sale on the property requiring the home be nominated for listing on the Queensland Heritage Council. This listing is also in accordance with the BCC 2012 Toowong Auchenflower Neighbourhood Plan. The building was recognised by the National Trust in 1969, and subsequently by Brisbane City Council’s heritage register. In an interview with The Brisbane Times on 22nd July, 2014, Sunland Group Executive Development Manager David Brown said the company always wanted to preserve the home. “It was always our intention to do something that respected the heritage building within its original context,” Mr Brown said. “The listing boundary ensures ‘Middenbury’ will remain in a park setting—this is a great outcome for the city and the development.”

The stately Queensland villa-styled house, thought to be the oldest surviving residence of its type in Toowong, was constructed for Mrs Eliza Rogers, ca. 1865. The residence was designed by architect James Cowlishaw, who, after his arrival in Brisbane in 1860, had established himself as being one of Brisbane’s first private architects. ‘’Middenbury’’ is rectangular in plan and surrounded by verandahs on three sides. Mrs Rogers, the widow of an officer of the Tasmanian Commissariat who had moved to Brisbane with her four children after the death of her husband, purchased the site of just over 6 acres (2.4 hectares) in 1865. She resided in the house until her death in October, 1875 when the property passed to her four children, Eliza, Minnie, Frank and Lewis. It was subsequently let to a number of prominent Brisbane families.

The home and the property was eventually subdivided and bought by Brisbane merchant Timothy O’Shea in 1891. It remained with the O’Shea family for 59 years. The O’Shea family hosted the Price of Wales at ‘’Middenbury’’ in 1920, in an era when the home had become one of the most respected residential properties on Brisbane’s riverside.

After the deaths of the O’Shea family the property was sold. Since then ‘’Middenbury’’ has been used for a time as a meeting place of the Friends of the ABC, and also as offices for the ABC.

The top section of the ABC‘s transmission tower being lowered to the ground after being detached from the tower’s base. [Photo courtesy of the Sunland Group]

The ABC may have been physically gone from Toowong for some time, but now that the symbolic transmission tower has been demolished, with its rubble dumped into skips in readiness for disposal, the fact that an era has indeed come to an end, will begin to sink in. This will be reinforced when the rest of the buildings follow suit, and no familiar features are left on the site.

In pondering this event, one could ask whether in another fifty years locals will continue to identify Toowong with the presence of the ABC, symbolised by its tower, or will time replace it with another ‘’iconic’’ symbol?

References:
Commonwealth Heritage List, Australian Government Department of the Environment, Australian Heritage Database, extracted on 3rd September, 2014 from website at:
http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/ahdb/search.pl?mode=place_detail;place_id=105421
Department of Environment and Heritage Protection; Queensland Heritage Register entry for Middenbury (as published in The Government Gazette, 1 August 2014).
Queensland Heritage Council, Media release, extracted on 11 November 2014 from website at: http://www.qldheritage.org.au/600330-middenbury.html
Michael Michaux, Toowong – Heritage Architecture and Street Art: A self-guided tour of Toowong, 2003, Toowong and District Historical Society Inc., p. 19.
Jorge Branco, Historic Toowong ABC antenna tower demolished published in The Brisbane Times, 3 February, 2015 and extracted on 3 February 2015 from website at:
http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/historic-toowong-abc-antenna-tower-demolished-20150202-1340d1.html
The Courier-Mail, Thursday 7 July 1949, p. 4.
The Queenslander, Thursday 21 January 1932, p. 35.
Written by Leigh Chamberlain. Thanks to Ruth Sapsford for her assistance with proofreading. Thanks also to the Sunland Group for their assistance and for providing photographs, and to Michael Michaux who also provided a photograph.

Trees in Toowong in 2014

The Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth took place on Wednesday May 12th 1937. This was the date set for the Coronation of King Edward VIII, but upon his abdication the date was retained for George VI’s Coronation.

Australia was then part of the British Empire, and the King’s Australian subjects looked forward the forthcoming Coronation, embracing the occasion warmheartedly. Patriotic fervour ran high as people enthusiastically planned projects to commemorate the historic occasion, and the occasion was underpinned with widely-held notions of ‘’God, King, and Country’’. One such project — that of the Queensland Tree and Forrest League — was described in The Courier-Mail:

The Queensland Tree and Forest League decided last night to suggest to the Lord Mayor that a comprehensive scheme of tree planting be undertaken by the council to mark Coronation week, such as an avenue of shade trees along the highway extending from North Quay to St. Lucia. It was also recommended that citizens should apply to the council for trees, and that at least one be planted in front of each home as a Coronation commemoration. (1).

On the day of the Coronation a tree was planted by the Governor, Sir Leslie Wilson, on North Quay, Brisbane on Wednesday, May 12th, 1937 at the commencement of the River Road. The name of the River Road was also changed from then on to Coronation Drive (2).

Prior to the Coronation the Brisbane City Council had agreed to provide trees to be planted in avenues along Brisbane streets or in local reserves by the Girl Guides (3). Approximately 1400 trees were to be planted by the Guides in Brisbane and 4000 throughout Queensland (3). The council also agreed to supply relief staff to dig the holes, to set up stock-proof tree guards and provide assistance, when necessary, to plant the trees (4). The trees to be planted included bauhinia, bottle brush, tulipwood, tamarind, Indian laburnum, Buchinghamia celsissima, hibiscus, Bat’s wing coral tree and jacaranda (4). Tree planting was to be commenced around 2pm on Saturday, May 15th, 1937(4).

In Toowong, 61 red bottlebrush trees (Callistemon Viminalis) were to be provided and planted along Sylvan Road and Church Street (4). Church Street had its name changed to Jephson Street in 1940. A report in The Courier-Mail on 17th April, 1937 mentioned only Sylvan Road for the proposed plantings in Toowong (3).

Trees were also planted in the grounds of St John’s Cathedral, with assistance from the Guides’ State Commissioner, Lady Macartney, and the State Secretary, Miss N Edwards (5).

All avenues of trees were named with a tin plaque, but none of these have been detected on trees in Toowong. Only two plaques has been photographed — attached to hibiscus shrub branches, one of which was found in the Auchenflower Girl Guide Hut and another near to the Guide Hut at the time of the 1974 flood. These plaques were labelled St John’s, and one was reported to have been found in ‘Anzac Park’, Toowong. This may have been misreported as Toowong Memorial Park, and not Anzac Park in Dean Street, Toowong. There were Guide, Brownie and Ranger companies attached to the St John’s City Guide Group. That guide group were scheduled to plant trees to commemorate the Coronation in Gotha and Warren Streets in Fortitude Valley. It is a mystery how the plaque labelled St John’s found its way to Toowong.

Since that time the genus of the Callistemon Viminalis, which were planted in Toowong, has been reclassified as Melaleuca Viminalis. This has been confirmed by the horticultural department of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens.

So what has happened to those trees?

In November 2014 no bottlebrush trees could be detected in Jephson Street, but 28 have been counted along the footpaths in Sylvan Road. These trees are now between 4-6metres in height and many have been trimmed to prevent entanglement with power lines and road traffic. There are some large trees in adjoining gardens which may have been planted at the same time.

Trees have been recorded along the southern side of Sylvan Road between Jephson and Quinn Streets — 11 trees; western side of Sylvan Road between Quinn Street and Milton Road — 2 trees; eastern side of Sylvan Road between Milton Road and Quinn Street — 9 trees and northern side of Sylvan Road between Quinn Street and Jephson Street — 6 trees. An example of this type of tree, not in Sylvan Road, is included. Further photos will be taken of a representative Sylvan Road tree in the next flowering season in September, 2015.

I would like to thank Ms Annabel Lloyd, Archivist, Brisbane City Council for assistance with the research.

 
   
Sources:

Girl Guides of Queensland Annual Report of 1936/37.

Girl Guides of Queensland Archives – Ms Jill Hogrefe

Brisbane City Archives

  1. The Courier-Mail, Thursday, April 8th, 1937; p. 13
  2. The Courier-Mail, Thursday, 13th May, 1937
  3. The Courier-Mail, Saturday, 17th April, 1937
  4. The Courier-Mail, Friday, May 14th, 1937
  5. The Courier-Mail, Monday, 17th May, 1937

Compiled by Ruth Sapsford.

Keeping adoption in the family

Mrs Dorothy Beavis and her husband Kevin Beavis were interviewed by Leigh Chamberlain in November, 2000. Adopted as a child, Dorothy recalls the circumstances which led to her adoption. At that time it was legal for adoption to be privately arranged.

Dorothy_Beavis

Dorothy Beavis

Dorothy Beavis (née Harper) was born in 1931 and is the only child of Mr Ben and Mrs Alice Harper. Mr Harper, who was a returned serviceman from both the Boer War and WWI, worked for the Queensland Railways at Ipswich as a foreman coppersmith.

Dorothy lived with her family at 15 Sandford Street, which at that time was in Toowong. Dorothy recalls:

I have lived in the house for 69 years, and my dear beloved, [indicating Kevin], for 52 years. I was brought here as a baby, adopted by my parents who brought me here. I was only 2½ lbs when born and was ten weeks ‘premmie’ when my mother brought me down from Townsville on the train.

My real mum died when I was only five days old. Her name was Violet Ethel Drewett (née Harper). She was unconscious when she had me and didn’t even know that I had arrived. This is what I was told. My parents had me wrapped up in cotton wool and had newspapers around the bottom of a washing basket — you know, the old cane washing baskets. That’s how I came down from Townsville.

And I believe — it was really funny — there was one old busybody on the train, and she came up to Mum, and she said, ‘I had heard that Ben Harper had had a child but I didn’t believe it.’ No way I could have been Ben Harper’s child — he was the father who adopted me — but there was no way that I could have been his blood because we are altogether different. He was tall and as broad as anything, while I was a skinny little runt. My real father was a tall man too. His name was Edwin George Drewitt. As a matter of fact, I’ve got a brother who was over six feet tall.

Beavis1_6_tif

Poster advertising the Glen Olive Garden Estate

In 1924–25, Mr and Mrs Ben Harper had purchased a double allotment in a new development called ‘The Glen Olive Garden Estate’. They had a house built which they then rented out. After the Harpers returned from Townsville with their new ‘bundle of joy’, they were not able to live in their Sandford Street property because it was still tenanted. Therefore, they rented a house in Aston Street until their tenants were able to vacate. The Aston Street house was the one later purchased by Sir Arthur Fadden. So Dorothy was about six months old when the family finally moved into their Sandford Street house.

Dorothy wasn’t initially told that she was adopted, or that she had brothers and sisters. This important piece of information was disclosed to her much later, and contact with her real father was restored. There was a history of adoption in the family as Dorothy’s biological mother was herself adopted. Violet was adopted by Ben Harper’s parents, Mr and Mrs Ben and Elizabeth Harper, a stone mason who lived in Townsville.

Beavis1_8_house

Residence of Dorothy and Kevin Beavis in Sandford Street, Toowong. The tree at the back of the house is the last remaining olive tree from a grove which was planted in the area. (Photographer not known.)

According to the story handed down through the family, Violet’s mother was a servant girl who worked for the Harper family and when she became pregnant, the father abandoned her and her unborn child. Desperate for assistance, she turned to her employer, Mrs Harper, as she didn’t know what else to do. Although they already had two children of their own, Benjamin John and Louis Arthur Milton, they offered Violet’s mother a lifeline by deciding to adopt the baby. (The ‘Milton’ in Louis’ name was a family surname in the Harper family). When Violet died, her brother, Benjamin John, and his wife, Alice, decided to adopt Dorothy.

By adopting Dorothy when her mother died, the adoption was kept within the family. Alice Harper had a history of stillborn births, so the new-born baby gave Ben and Alice Harper a chance to enjoy parenthood that would have been denied them otherwise and she was their ‘only child’.

Dorothy had lots of extended family, both biological and adopted. Holiday time was a time for the extended family and Dorothy explains that when the family went to Scarborough:

…other children came with the family too. There were four kids, and Mum and Dad. Now, these other children that I’m talking about, who lived with me for years (I was thirteen at the time), were my brothers and sisters. I didn’t realise this at the time, as we were all brought up as cousins. This was only because my mother died while giving birth to me.

Thank you to Dorothy Beavis for the above reminiscences.

You can read more of Dorothy’s reminiscences in the Toowong and District Historical Society’s publication, Toowong: A Tram Ride from the Past, 2008, p.41. To order see details on the Publications page.

Childhood memories of roaming Toowong’s streets

Roden_smlStuart Roden’s family came to settle in Toowong in about 1919 or 1920 when his father Olof Clarence (‘Clarrie’) Roden purchased land at 8 Augustus Street, three doors up from Bennett Street, and had the family residence built on this land.

Starting with memories of his childhood home, Stuart recalls nearby local streets and the people who lived here, and concludes at Toowong Memorial Park, the source of many wonderful childhood memories for Stuart.

According to McNaughts, our topside neighbours, the 1893 flood just reached the bottom side fence. Extensions were later added to the house. It was the place of birth for all three of us — Clarence James, who was known as ‘Jim’, born in 1921 Stuart (me), born in 1925 and my sister Eleanor Vera, born in 1926. Dr Wheeler, of Sherwood Road, delivered all three.Sherwood_Road

Originally, there was an ‘out-house’ dunny in the backyard. Augustus Street was one of the earlier streets in Brisbane to be connected to the main sewer to Pinkenba. The street was bituminised during the Great Depression by ‘Relief’ workers. The milkman, whose name was Mr Shields, delivered milk in big quart metal pots and pint pot. He had a utility truck covered at the back, with two big milk cans with taps on them and he’d fill our containers.

Delungra Street, off the north side of Augustus Street, was an easement which was lined with huge old gum trees on its eastern side and belonged to the Swain family who lived in a large old house down the easement. There was a white picket fence with double gates on Augustus Street. The hearse with the body of the grandfather of my friend, Wally Swain (full name: Walter Edward Swain) came out those gates, probably around 1937.

In Golding Street, that part of the street east of Earle Street was opened up in the mid-1930s with five look-a-like houses built on the north side. The area covered by the five houses and the extension of Golding Street was previously a big paddock which belonged to the Swain Senior family.

My friend Wally lived in a house on the eastern end of the old Golding Street, on the topside, with their northern fence on what was then a paddock. Cowboys and Indians and building cubby houses out of small trees in the paddock were what sometimes occupied my friend Wally and me. My mother took me to school (at the Toowong State School) on my first day and I was expected to find my way home. But Wally’s mother brought me home on the first day of school (along with Wally) from Toowong State School through their yard, the Swain Senior’s yard, the easement and the double gates on Augustus Street. Wally was a life-long friend until the day he died! He was my best friend at school and later I was his Best Man.

Next door, on the top side of Wally’s place, were the Fardons. Then there was a pedestrian lane here between Golding Street and Augustus Street. The lane is now closed. Then there were the Cribbs (he was a dentist); the Steers (and this house was later bought by the McGregor Lowndes) and then Charles Elliott, who was on the corner of Golding and Jephson Street. The latter was a stockbroker. On the right-hand side was the fire station, which I will discuss later. There was an easement from the lower end of the new part of Golding Street to Standring Street, which ran eastward to Bennett Street.

Church_St_Toowong

Church Street, now Jephson Street

Earle Street ran from Golding Street to Sylvan Road. Sylvan Road met Croydon Street at the corner with Church Street (now Jephson) and ran westwards to Milton Road. Just near the corner of Croydon Street on Milton Road was the Elite Picture Theatre where I used to go to the pictures with the family on Saturday nights. My father used to ring up and book our seats and we used to walk down and home again. Your eyes became accustomed to the dark and you didn’t really need a torch. You could see the Milky Way clearly in those days and it was beautiful to see!

Lands’ Wholesale/Retail Butcher Shop and Ice Works was on the corner of Earle Street and Sylvan Road. Augustus Street and Golding Street joined Jephson Street, formerly Church Street, as did Sylvan Road, which continued westward to Milton Road near the Brisbane General Cemetery (or Toowong Cemetery).