Early Canberra


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Posted on September 25, 2010 at 7:58 PM Comments comments (0)

An article in the issue March 1926 Canberra Queanbeyan Advocate reprinted in the GENERAL section of this web tells of a visit of Mr Bruce, the Prime Minister to Canberra.  The Hotels and their tariff is mentioned as well as houses and roads - work to hand at that time. The reader should be aware of name changes.  The Hotel Ainslie referred to in this article was renamed Gorman House in 1927.  The hotel then named Hotel Ainslie, today is Olems' Hotel.  The article refers to the use of concrete as a road surface.  Two main roads, Commonwealth and Wentworth Avenues are concrete roads now covered with bitumen.   Wentworth Avenue was at that time known as Interlake Avenue.



Posted on September 25, 2010 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Another article published in the GENERAL section is a description of a FANCY DRESS BALL held at the Hotel Canberra in 1925. The first half of the Hotel Canberra opened for business in December 1924 and was completed in 1925.  Contractor John Howie's men who lived at Westlake in the area now known as Block 3, Section 128 Stirling Park Yarralumla, built the Hotel Canberra and parts of observatory on Mt Stromlo. 


At the time when this ball was arranged in the ball room at the hotel there were no large public halls for such functions in Canberra.  The Causeway Hall which was erected in one day in late 1926 and completed in 1926 and the Assembly Hall - Albert Hall not ready until 1928 would have been good venues if built.


The music at this ball was supplied by the Stomberra's who included Dr Duffield and Mrs Duffield. At the time they were residents of the Hotel Canberra and later moved to a house on Mt Stomlo where Dr Duffield took up his duties at the Observatory.  Following his death a few years later he was buried on Mt Stromlo. 


The article from the Queanbeyan Age published in the General Section lists a number of people who attended and what they wore as well as where they lived.  Ainslie in 1925 consisted of a number of brick cottages constructed in 1921-1922 in the area now known as Braddon. Blandfordia in this article refers to brick cottages erected in Ducane and Franklin Streets Forrest in 1923. 


Miss Southwell became the first person to manage the hotel and an article with that information has also been included in the General section.  Miss Isabelle Southwell later moved to the Hotel Kurrajong where she remained until her retirement.


Posted on September 25, 2010 at 12:06 AM Comments comments (0)

In the GENERAL section are new articles on the Canberra Steam Laundry that opened in 1926 and Hunt's Garage behind the Hotel Canberra. It opened in 1928.  Prior to that time a garage was provided to house the cars of visitors. Hunt's garage provided the usual services that a garage provides today - petrol, servicing of vehicles, spare parts etc.


Posted on September 24, 2010 at 8:27 PM Comments comments (0)

The opening of Canberra's first garage is recorded in a November 1926 issue of the Canberra Times. The name of the garage was CANBERRA GARAGE.  This was the first and a very modern one.  It was followed by Brodie's Garage on the south side - it had a lantern on the roof to light the way to Canberra from the old Uriarra Road that linked Queanbeyan with Canberra - now Canberra Avenue - and Hunt's Garage behind the Hotel Canberra.  This article is found in the GENERAL SECTION.


There are many articles on Hunt's Garage which was to be the first of a number attached to the Hotels.  Many of the complaints by tourists recorded in the local papers state that there was insufficient undercover parking at the hotels for cars.  The thought of leaving them in the open was also too much for the visitors - the cars could deteriorate left in the weather.


Hunt's Garage is well remembered by Westlake people who used the track from their cottages in what is now Section 22  & Block 4 Section 128 Stirling Park Yarralumla across to the Hotel Canberra to catch the bus on Commonwealth Avenue or go to the pub behind the Hotel  Canberra.


The area of Ainslie, now called Braddon where the Canberra Garage was built was the light industrial area of Canberra. Here was a bakery, the Cordial & ice factory and the Canberra Steam Laundry.  Nearby was the old 2CA radio station and the Civic Theatre that opened in the early 1930s.  This theatre stood near the old railway platform. All that remained of the platform in the 1940s was the cutaway area that defined a platform and the area below where the rail line once sat.  The line came across the Causeway from the suburb of Causeway (now part of Kingston) and continued across in front of the War Memorial, behind St John the Baptist Church to Civic Centre which was to be the main railway station of Canberra. The 1922 flood knocked out the pilons holding the line over the river and the rail line built in 1917 was never rebuilt.

January 1927 four new hostels/hotels nearly ready

Posted on September 19, 2010 at 7:27 PM Comments comments (1)

Canberra was dry from 1911 until late 1927.  This presented some problems for the so called hotels who were unable to get a liquor license duing the dry years.

A Canberra Times article dated January 1927 informs the reader of the construction of four of the hostels, hotels at that time. This article is placed in CANBERRA 1920s section.


The Federal Canberra had a number of hostels and hostels constructed to house visitors and permanent single staff transferred to the Federal Territory.  The first to be constructed was the Hotel Canberra that had its first half opened in December 1924 and the remainder in 1925.  It was followed by Hotel Ainslie which was renamed in 1927, Gorman House.  The Kurrajong was built in 1925 and from memory, opened in 1926.  This hotel later became the hotel used by the non drinkers during the sitting of parliament - Hotel Canberra was then favoured by the drinkers.  The Hotel Ainslie now known as Olems - was constructed in 1927 - at the time the first Hotel Ainslie was renamed Gorman House.


Hotel Acton was constructed in 1927 and on the opposide side of the road, Beauchamp House was built - it is a concrete structure.  On the south side, the Hotel Wellington and Brassey House were built.  The Hotel Wellington was pulled down a number of years ago, but the Brassey remains and is now known as Hotel Brassey.


One of the problems of those studying early Canberra history - that is the Federal Canberra - is the name changes.  Interlake Avenue for example today is Wentworth Avenue.  This avenue like that of Commonwealth Avenue was a road finished in concrete.  Commonwealth Avenue now has had many resurfacing that the old road is well covered. Wentworth Avenue however has not been so well covered and the driver will note the regular clunking sounds as the vehicle passes over the old expansion joints.


Molonglo today is Fyshwick and the former Fyshwick is Pialligo and Blandfordia is Forrest and Griffith and so on....

RF Tetley char-a-banc service Canberra-Queanbeya 1923-1925

Posted on September 18, 2010 at 8:05 PM Comments comments (0)

In the ODDS & ENDS section an article on the char-a-banc motorised service between Canberra and Queanbeyan has been published.  In 1923 the owner, Mr Tetley advertised a Saturday shopping service that began at the Power House, via Molonglo Camp to Queanbeyan and return.  His modern char-a-banc comfortably seated 40 people - he didn't mention cost in his advertisements.  By 1925 he advertised a seven day a week - twice daily service that commenced at Westridge (now Yarralumla) via Westlake, Tradesmen's Camp, Hostel (Hotel Canberra), Acton Cross Roads (I believe may be the major cross roads near the Fire Station at Forrest), Power House, Molonglo to Queanbeyan Railway Station.  The earlier service met the mail train from Sydney and later the Cooma Mail train.  This service left at 7.30 in the evening and returned after 4am after the arrival of the train from the south.  The day service had more civilized hours.


The routes given passed throug the major settlements in mid 1925. Causeway was not included at that time because the first twenty cottages were under construction.  The waters of  big flood of July 1925 went up to the eves of the newly constructed cottages.


Competition in the form of Mrs Barton's Safety Coaches began in 1925 and may have been the reason for the demise of Mr Tetley's service?  Mr Tetley's service is one that could have been forgotten except for the advertisements in the local Queanbeyan papers.   Mrs Barton's service continued into the 1930s and articles on her char-a-banc service are found in the web pages of Hidden Canberra.


In the article I have noted the route taken using the nearest roads on contemporary maps.  he population of Westlake in May 1925 was 700 - only 50 less than Molonglo. Each settlement represented roughly between one fourth and one fifth of the population of the FCT.  Westlake in 1925 - now Stirling Park Yarralumla  & Capital Hill - consisted of three single men's tent camps - No 3 Sewer Camp in The Gap (below Stirling Ridge on eastern side Stirling Park, Yarralumla), Old Tradesmen's Camp (Bl 3, Section 128 Stirling Park,  Yarralumla), No 1 Labourers Camp (Capitol Hill site later covered with Hillside Hostel); Contractor John Howie's Settlement of 25 timber cottages & Hostel Camp for single men (Bl 3, Section 128 Stirling Park, Yarralumla); and 52 timber cottages in The Gap first known as The Gap Cottages and later just 'Westlake' (Section 22, Stirling Park and Bl 4, Section  128 Stirling Park Yarralumla).

Canberra Builder Promotes Canberra 1927

Posted on September 17, 2010 at 8:36 PM Comments comments (0)

Another article added to CANBERRA TIMES ARTICLES PT 2 -

1927 Report of a lecture given in Sydney to an audience of around 2,000 promoting Canberra. The lecturer, Mr Dawson was a Canberra builder. He supported the actions of the First Commissioner ,Sir John Butters and also supported the building of blocks of cottages that had a maximum cost allowed - this led to the suburbs of North Ainslie [now Ainslie], Ainslie [now Braddon] and South Ainslie [now Reid] used to accommodate the lower paid officials transferred to Canberra and construction workers.  The latter were houses in the weatherboard section of Corroboree Park Ainslie.  The upper class officials were houses at Blandfordia [Forrest].  The other block of weatherboards was at Westridge - now Yarrralumla. 


Canberra in the early years was a class society and people were accommodate in suburbs and hotels that reflected their incomes and social place in society.


Even if a workman had the money to stay at the Hotel Canberra he could not - this hotel was for politicians and visitors -  Hotel Ainslie - the first, renamed Gorman House in 1927 was for single women transferred to Canberra who worked in postions such as typiste (femine - male typist) and a few married couples -  Beauchamp House [now Ian Potter House] also used to accommodate young ladies - most of the teachers were moved into Brassey House and the Lady Hopetoun Club for single women domestic servants and other single women used three cottages in Blandfordia.


Sir John Butters was against the sale of alcohol in the territory until the arrival of the public servants in 1927 - in one letter he even stated following the arrival of the public servant -  that now there was a better class of people ...


Mr Dawson also lectured in Melbourne promoting Canberra - one wonders who asked him and was he paid.  That there was a Sydney audience of around 2000 suggests a keen interest in the new capital city - perhaps by people who were in danger of being transferred?

Canberra 1923 by Bluett

Posted on September 16, 2010 at 11:23 PM Comments comments (0)

Another article on Early Canberra written by local man, Bluett is published in THE CANBERRA TIMES SECTION 2.  It speaks of the isolation of the people and the segregation according to occupation of people and the dangers of creating division amongst the early Canberrans.

1928 Canberra Housing Report

Posted on September 16, 2010 at 1:29 AM Comments comments (0)

The Canberra Times 1928 has an excellent article on Canberra Housing that includes reference to the Governor General's residence at Yarralumla, which in 1928 was not part of the city area.  Construction workers had to be paid a zone allowance of 3 shillings per day. The article also refers to the original purpose of the renovated Governor General's place - that of a boarding school.  The site chosen for the permanent Governor General's residence was Section 22 Stirling Park Yarralumla - on Stirling Ridge.  This site is one of two possible sites for the new Prime Minister's Lodge- The other is Attunga Point, Yarralumla near the Southern Cross Yacht Club.  The sites were chosen in the 1970s and since that time, the importance of the endangered wild flower, button wrinklewort - which grows well on Stirling Ridge and other parts of Stirling Park Yarralumla has been recognised. It is of international significance.


The report also refers to the Secretariat Plan which was to move public servants and other officers required for the running of the Federal Parliament between Melbourne and Canberra during sitting times.  This was changed after the Federal Capital Commission took over.    The article lists the processes that went through in deciding what to build to house public servants and others transferred to Canberra which included Thousand Houses plan in Adelaide and concrete houses in Melbourne before the FCC house was decided upon.  


A number of the concrete cottages were built in Canberra by the Monolyte Company. Their construction workers lived at Red Hill. The original number was to be 100 but it was reduced to 25 that were built in the suburb of Griffith in Canberra.


This article in the CANBERRA TIMES SECTION gives a good overview of the housing built for the public servants and in 1927 as well as the background to their construction.


Posted on September 14, 2010 at 2:25 AM Comments comments (0)

In the CANBERRA FACTS section an article published in 'The Canberra Times' 1944 refers to the early struggle of the people of the FCT in their attempts to regain their voting rights.  One of the influential men against giving these rights to the people of the territory in 1927 was John Butters, First Commissioner.  This article tells of the struggle that began earlier with people working in the Social Service Association to regain their civil rights and their democratic right to vote for a member of parliament to represent them in the Federal Parliament.  This right was not gained until 1949 when Dr Lewis Wyndamere Nott became our first elected member of the House of Representatives. He was replaced by Jim Fraser who held the position for many years.  The member up until many years later, could only vote on bills to do with the FCT - now ACT.  It was many years later that we got a member for the Senate and it was not until 1989 that we got a local government.