Early Canberra


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Howie's Hostel Camp 1923-1927

Posted on April 16, 2012 at 8:40 PM Comments comments (2025)

In early 2012 a photograph found in the Canberra & District Historical Society collection showed in the background two trees that I recognised.  This led to the knowledge of the site of not only the cubicles, but the Mess and other buildings on the site.  The area is in Block 3 Section 128 Stirling Park, Yarralumla Canberra.  The sites of the 25 two and three bedroom cottages in the settlement have survived. They are on the hill above the Hostel Camp along either side of a 19th century track that still crosses the hill.  The men of this camp built the Hotel Canberra - originally known as Hostel No 1 - built to house federal politicians and other VIPs.  Contractor John Howie & Sons was a Sydney firm who continued to build other buildings in Canberra.


Posted on October 12, 2010 at 5:57 PM Comments comments (0)

I have included in the CAMPS section a draft for the revised edition  Builders of Canberra 1909-1929 the chapter on Permanent Hotels and Houses (known as HOUSES).  My intention was to put in a copy of the 1927 Sanitation Report which lists the major settlements, camps, hotels, houses, dairies etc - but managed to move the wrong article (had three on screen) - however, the draft should be of interest to people researching the early hotels, houses etc of Canberra.


The hotels were from the beginning in trouble to make ends meet.  The Hotel Canberra and Kurrajong were used during the period parliament sat, but became virtually empty during the other times of the year.  A major contributing factor, I believe, is that until late 1928 they were all dry. The sale of alcohol in the FCT was forbitten - could be brought in but not sold.  When the sale was permitted the only in lounges in the hotels and in three special cafes where the patrons had to sit at tables.  No barmaids were permitted.  The Hotels Canberra and Acton were permitted to sell alcohol and at times, the Kurrajong.  Although there was an extreme housing shortage for married couples and only the single men's camps (tent, cubicles and some barracks) for construction workers that even if those of this class could afford accommodation at the hotels or houses they could not obtain the better class accommodation.


The Hostels - Gorman House (known as Hotel Ainslie until the new Hotel was ready in 1927), Beauchamp House (now Ian Potter House), Brassey House (now Hotel Brassey), Printers' Quarters, Lady Hopetoun Club and Bachelors Quarters - had no problems with finding residents. The majority of residents in Gorman, Beauchamp and Lady Hopetoun Club were female.  Brassey had both men and women and the Bachelors Quarters  men only.  The Printers Quarters residents were in the main single men, but a few double quarters for married couples were available.


The Manuka Arcade did a number of single and double rooms available for rent and many people let out a room to people in search of accommodation.


The articles in this section provides some information about the times and how people amused themselves with numerous dances etc.  Further information about the Houses and Hostels are found in the web hidden canberra - you can click on to this web from the Home section of this web.


Posted on October 8, 2010 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)

In the GENERAL section is a new article on the ceremony to unveil the Speaker's Chair in the then unfinished Provisional Parliament House in Canberra.  The politician's who arrived by special train the day before he ceremonies were feted with tours around the city as built at that time.  They stayed at Hotel Canberra after arriving on a train that travelled through the night to reach Canberra.  I am not sure if the railway station built by Mason of Queanbeyan was ready at that time.


There are many stories about the putting together of the Speaker's Chair which includes that of Robert Law of Westlake who kept the glue liquid by putting it at the back of his fuel stove at Westlake.


The House of Representatives where the chair sits must have been sufficienty completed for the chair ceremony in October 1926.  The house of course, like the Hotel Canberra, had central heating - marked contrast in quality of living to the men who lived under canvas or hessian or in the unlined timber dwellings at Molonglo, Acton, Westlake, Causeway, Russell Hill, Riverbourne ect. 


Posted on October 6, 2010 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

In the GENERAL SECTION City Progress articles January, March & May 1927 had been copied. The reader should be aware that a number of the suburbs and roads changed names later in 1927.

South Ainslie - Ainslie

Ainslie - Braddon

South Ainslie - Reid

Telopea - Barton

Blandfordia - Forrest

Sub divisions of Blandfordia - Griffith

Eastlake - Kingston

I have put the new names in brackets in sections of the artilcles but the reader should keep the above in mind when reading.


The January article refers to December 1926.

MANUKA 1926-1930S

Posted on October 4, 2010 at 3:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Series of articles in the CANBERRA 1930s onwards section.  In the articles are references to the people who lived in the upstairs section of the Manuka Arcade.  Rooms - double and single were let unfurnished - but they had power points and lino on the floor with access to bathrooms with chip heaters and conveniences.  Some of the articles list the shopkeepers and on well recalled one is Cusacks.


Posted on October 3, 2010 at 3:14 AM Comments comments (0)

In the CANBERRA 1920s section an article from the Canberra Times 1926 is typed.  The names of people who bought the leases and costs are included with an overall description of the shopping centre and residences.  This shopping centre had an Arcade which is still in use.   The residences are no longer in use for that purpose.


I came to Canberra in 1941 and went to Telopea Park Infants and Primary School. Opposite the Manuka Shops was the old Capitol Theatre where I went to the Saturday arvo pictures with friends.  The Tarzan films along with cowboy ones were the favourites - and of course the old swashbuckling pirate films.  The old theatre had a small shop where we bought out lollies that included fantails in a box that was shaped to allow the motif of an open fan to show.


In the shopping centre there are two shops that come to mind readily - one was Gumley's which was a milk bar and the other was Wilkies whose pies were of great fame to the local populace.  Wilkie supplied the lunch pies to the children and staff of Telopea Park and probably to St Christopher's RC Church School run by the Good Samaritan nuns.  I never met Sister Stanislaus (my girl friend attended St Christophers),but even to this day I would not cross her - yet she was probably a most gentle person.


The Manuka shops were never as popular as the Kingston shops but more favoured than the Civic Shops - but then I am even today a southsider rather than a northsider of Canberra - so I am still biased.


The article mentions Cusacks where my parents bought the furniture for our cottage - 27 Westlake.  By the time I came to Canberra St Christopher's Cathedral at Manuka was built. On the end where the altar stands there was an apse which was painted blue with stars if I recall properly - this church was where Father Haydon preached.  He was great friends with Archdeacon Robertson - anglican - rector of St John the Baptist Church at Reid.  Father Haydon died far too young and is buried in Woden Cemetery.



Posted on September 30, 2010 at 12:59 AM Comments comments (0)

A number of articles published in the Canberra Times between 1926-1929 are reproduced in the CANBERRA 1920s section of this web.  The Government Printers Department was transferred to Canberra in 1927.  In preparation for this move the Printers' Quarters were built at Eastlake (now Kingston) near the new shopping centre in late 1926.  The quarters consisted of a number of semi-detached white stucco cottages built by Mason of Queanbeyan arranged around a central free standing dining & recreation room building.  The single men and some married men from the department were moved into the Printers Quarters in 1927.  Single young ladies transferred with the Department were moved into one of the three cottages at Blandfordia known as Lady Hopetoun Club where they were under the watchful eye of Miss Hawkins.


One of the articles describes the move from Melbourne and the Government Printers which was established in the Power House grounds - in the industrial area.  It also describes the process of Hansard reporting from the time it was noted by the shorthand recorders through to the typists and across to the Government Printers via tubes - printing checking etc to the final product produced on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The machinery used for printing etc is also descibed in detail. 


The Government Printers was meant to move into their permanent home in 1930 in the Administrative Building which only got to the first stage of having foundations dug and some cement poured.   I recall my father pointing out the building to me in the early 1940s which was near the present NCA headquarters in Parkes. At that time it was a big hole in the ground with bits and pieces of concrete showing above the ground level.


I also remember visiting people at the Printers Quarters and what the cottages looked like because when we first moved to Canberra we lived with the Dunn family in Kennedy St Kingston - opposite the Printers Quarters.  Sometime in the post WW2 period they were renamed Kingston Guest House and later pulled down.  Frazer Court was built on the site and today they have gone too.

July 1928 Inquiry into costs of hostel including construction workers

Posted on September 29, 2010 at 12:17 AM Comments comments (0)

A new article added in CANBERRA 1913 - section of an inquiry into the over run of costs of hostels in Canberra. Sir John Harrison, commissioner in charge of building was one of the men giving evidence to a parliamentary committee.  Included in this article is reference to the costs of construction that includes for example reference to wages that included payment for zone allowances.  One mentioned was for men working on Yarralumla House - because it was well out of the city area the men working on renovating the old building were paid a zone allowance that was around 1/- a day.

FCC - questions asked in parliament re Social Service Association

Posted on September 28, 2010 at 9:11 PM Comments comments (0)

In the CANBERRA 1920s section an new article from the Canberra Times in relation to costs of the Social Service Association and questions about number of blocks bought by men working for the Commission.  The Social Service Association was established in Canberra in 1925 under the auspices of the Federal Capital Commission.  It replaced the numerous Progress Associations and was responsible for the construction of the Causeway Hall under the 50 - 50 system. The men supplied the labour and expertise free and the FCC the materials.  This article lists the other major achievements of the SSA but neglects to mention that it failed to provide the civic rights that people demanded.  The FCC did not have the power to provide this request/demand of the locals.  The SSA ceased in 1929 a short time before the departure of Sir John Butters, chairman of FCC and First Commissioner.  In March 1930 the FCC was replaced by and Advisory Committee that advised the Minister for the Interior on matters relevent to the running of the FCT.

Sale of Liquor returns to Canberra

Posted on September 27, 2010 at 2:02 AM Comments comments (0)

In the ODDS & ENDS SECTION a new article - return of sale of alchol to the FCT.

In 1910 the sale of liquor in what was to become the Federal Capital Territory was banned.  For the next 18 years the hotels at Queanbeyan benefited from this decision.  With the arrival of the public servants and others transferred to Canberra to enable the Federal Parliament to sit in the nation's capital, the move was made to reverse this ban.  The result was a vote given to the people of the FCT in late 1928 with a resounding YES vote for the return.


Hotels Acton, Canberra and Wellington were granted licenses to sell liquor and three cafes were established in the shopping centres at Kingston, Civic Centre and Manuka.  No bars were allowed, instead customers sat at tables where they were served with alcohol.  A nip of Australian whisky cost 6d in a cafe and 9d at the Hotel Canberra. 


No barmaids were permitted either, which today is unthinkable - but not then.  The ban was lifted on 23 December 1928.  The cafes made a profit, but the Hotels did not.  The government did not do well in their business of running the hotels and it was only the cafes that did well. Or rather the Kingston and Civic Cafes - Manuka didn't and was closed.  By 1935 when the decision was made to allow two new hotels - the Kingston and Civic to be built and run by private enterprise the cafes had to go.


The hotels were more than just pubs and places where people could stay - they were used as a venue for many of the local balls.


Hours of sale of alcohol were between 9am  and 6pm and perhaps this was the beginning locally of the six o'clock swill which lasted until the 1960s when the hours of opening went to 10pm. - Sundays, and special days such as Christmas, Good Friday, and the morning of Anzac Day remained officially dry - although if one had a car and travelled 25 miles as a bona fide traveller could obtain a drink.