Early Canberra

Canberra -  alphabetical list of camps 1909-1930s

Above: Bachelors' Quarters, Acton 1912 



EARLY CAMPS (1909 to early 1920s)

In 1909 the first surveyors' camp was established on Capital Hill.  This camp was used until 1912 (not continuously). In 1911 when Acton property was resumed this area was the first to have accommodation and offices built.  Duntroon RMC was commenced prior to the move of surveyors and others to Acton and a married and single men's camps at Duntroon.

The building of the city of Canberra commenced in 1913 and was interrupted by the First World War.  By 1916 most construction work had ceased and the brickworks closed.  Work did not resume until 1920/1921.  Camps closed and the numbers in others decreased during the period of the war.  Where camps have continued through into the 1920s and early 1930s such as those at Acton, the Brickyards, Capitol Hill & Power House sites these camps are included in this section.  Married and single quarters were kept separate and in the period post World War One camps were allocated to different 'classes' of workers.   The lowest on the scale was Labourers followed by Pug (horse & dray), Tradesmen, Engineers and Surveyors and other such officials.  Most single camps had a Mess and Mess Caterer.

There were also many small camps set up near worksites.  These are not recorded in this document.

The sites of some camps were found in documents and maps researched Australian Archives, National Library and from memories of those who lived in early Canberra.  Camps were not considered to be of any importance and only a few official photographs were taken.  Some are in the Mildenhall collection in Australian Archives and include in particular the construction of the Westlake cottages and nearby camps.  The journal of the Social Service Association (1925-1927) The Canberra Community News and Canberra's first newspaper The Federal Capital Pioneer are invaluable sources of information of the 1920s in Canberra.

[Details of camps and maps etc are in The Builders of Canberra 1909-1929 Gugler]


Acton was the first area settled by Europeans on the Limestone Plains. JJ Moore, the first European owner, named this property on Ngunawal land Canberry. This Ngunawal word which has a variety of spellings means 'woman breasts A number ooff 19th century births, deaths & marriages on the Limestone Plains have "Canberry" recorded on their certificates. The second owner of the property renamed it Acton. It is probable that the name of Canberra came from "Canberry" and the suburb of Acton from the property's second name. A small bronze plaque marks the original site of Acton House but there is no marker stating that this property and its Aboriginal name gave its name to the modern city.

Following the resumption by the Commonwealth of Acton property in 1911 and nearby Springbank in 1913 both properties and Klensendorlffe's land on the other side of the Molonglo River came under the heading of "Acton". In the early 1920s the area of Klensendorlffe's land close to the river was named Westlake, in the suburb of Acton. In the early 1960s at which time Westlake ceased to exist this part of Klensendorlffe's property became part of the suburb of Yarralumla.  Today this small parcel of land is Stirling Park and the old quarry marked on 1913 maps is Attunga Point.

The camps and the administrative offices etc in Acton were all on the original property of Canberry/Acton.

From around 1910 Acton until the mid to late 1950s Acton was the administrative centre of Canberra. Here was Canberra's first bank - the Commonwealth - offices, hospital etc. Officials who held positions such as Chief Architect, Head of Parks & Gardens and so on moved into the few timber cottages erected on the hill near to the two storey brick house built for the Administrator (Residency - Canberra House).  Single men such as those working as surveyors and clerks moved into the timber barracks of the Bachelors Quarters. During the 1920s when the Bachelors Quarters was full a number of tents were erected near to the main facilities in the Quarters.

Below on the flat was Acton House, also used by men of importance, and the tents and humpies of the working class men. The first nursery was established at Acton in 1913. The following year a larger nursery was set up in Sheedy's paddock at Yarralumla (now Western Park and the grounds of the Royal Canberra Golf Club).  The first man in charge was Thomas Weston and AE Bruce followed him in 1927.  The latter man was responsible for the design of the rose garden near the Provisional Parliament House.

In 1924 on the flat land now under the waters of Lake Burley Griffin fifteen small timber Rolland cottages were built for workmen. As soon as these cottages were ready a number of families living in the nearby condemned humpies (married quarters camp) moved into the cottages.

Acton was the only "suburb" to have a mixture of classes and this later was a cause for disquiet when the work of the Social Service Association (see Social Service file) was left to the working class men.

[The ANU Campus by David Dexter Australian National University is a good read that includes the development of the Australian National University on the site.]

ACTON HOUSE - the old farm cottage on the property was used for visiting administrators from 1916. Those who were VIPs were accommodated in Yarralumla House - now Government House - on the other side of the river until 1924 when they could be accommodated at the newly opened Hotel Canberra.  In 1911 until his retirement in 1915 CR Scrivener lived in the house and the last resident was Sheaffe.  During the 1920s and later the house was used  as meeting place.

THE RESIDENCY - later called Canberra House. It was built in concrete in 1913 for the Administrator. Col. Miller who was the first Administrator. Prior to the Residency being completed he lived in a tent and then a small timber cottage.  In 1924 the Residency was renovated for the First Commissioner, Mr John Butters - later Sir John.  Colonel Miller moved into Canberra House in January 1914. [It is probable that work on Canberra House began in 1912 and was completed in 1913.  A newspaper article in Lyall Gillespie’s cards states  - The Governor General held an investiture at Government House Melbourne on Tuesday last when Col D Miller, Administrator of the Federal Territory received the insignia of CMG and Mr CR Scrivener Director of Comm Lands and Surveys, the insignia of ISO. Col Miller has moved into the Administrator’s residence at Canberra. The appointments of the new home are everything that could be desired and modern architecture has completed a substantial residence in fitting with the  high position of administrator… Queanbeyan Age 9.1.1914

The BACHELORS' QUARTERS - timber barracks with single rooms for single officials. In use from December 1912 until the 1990s. It was enlarged in 1923.  It had several name changes. In the post World War 2 era it became the Acton Guest House and later when taken over by the Australian National University, Lennox House.  From 1925 and the opening of Hotel Ainslie (Gorman House from 1927) where the young single ladies were accommodated a clear track was made connecting the two establishments.  A number of marriages followed.

TIMBER COTTAGES ERECTED FOR A FEW MARRIED OFFICIALS. Started with three - added to gradually etc. These cottages today form part of the Australian National University and are in Liversidge Street and Balmain Crescent. One - the oldest - has been restored.

CAMPS FOR SINGLE MEN - LABOURERS & SURVEYORS/OFFICIALS - the first camps were tents/humpies. Each group had their own camps. These were in use into the 1920s.

MARRIED QUARTERS: Humpies built by married workmen - surveyors and nurserymen. The majority were removed after 1924 when portable timber workmen's cottages designed by HM Rolland became available for fifteen families.

EX-FARM COTTAGES - Some of these buildings such as the one Foreman Ryan used, were condemned. After his small son died from snakebite from a snake in the child's bed (in 1919 Christmas Eve), this cottage was finally made redundant. Ned and his wife then moved into a replacement cottage brought over from Molonglo Internment Camp. The death of the child drew attention to the poor living conditions and the Commonwealth paid the medical bills. Sadly Ned Ryan's wife lost the child she was carrying at the time of her son's death and there were no more children.

A 1917 list (Australian Archives A361/1 DSG17/1008) notes the following buildings on site in 1917 at Acton:  (Acton the suburb also included the southside of the Molonglo - Westlake - Around 1963 this area became part of Yarralumla - Kaye's referred to below is the property behind the Hotel Canberra)

Acton House - one room let to AL Richmond at 5/- per week

Bachelors Quarters - Single officers 5/- per room per week

7 Cottages (timber) - married officials 10% of salary

1 Cottage - medical officer in charge Quarters allowed

1 Cottage - Bank Manager @ 82 pounds five shillings pa

Temporary Workman's Cottage ex-employee 2/- per week

Old Cottage - Lands & Survey employee 6/- per week

Old Cottage - C Kaye (included in lease of block)

Old Cottage - Works Employee (included in lease of block).

The latter two cottages were probably the slab cottage built by C Kaye next to Klensendorlffe's old stone villa - then used as a barn - and Briar Farm Cottage - one of the tenant farms on Klensendorlffe's land. Both were on the south side of the Molonglo River and part of Acton until the early 1960s when this section of land became part of Yarralumla.

Under Springbank the next door property to Acton four old cottages were listed in the 1917 report. They were rented out at 9/- per week for the main house and 6/- per week for one and 4/- per week each for the other two.

In 1924 ten Rolland timber workmen's cottages were constructed on the flat land below Canberra House. Another five were added to bring the number up to 15. From the late 1950s these cottages were sold as tenants moved. One of these cottages is now in River Street, Oaks Estate


There were four sites selected as possible sites for the Arsenal Factory and township. They were Ainslie, near the Weetangera Road, Molonglo (?) and Tuggeranong. The last site was chosen for the Arsenal. The camp was established in July 1918 and removed by January 1922. Tuggeranong Homestead, however, was taken over by the Defence Department and it was here that Bean wrote his official war history.


The men who built the Brickyards in 1913 lived in the Railway Camp (site unknown). The men who came to work in the Brickyards lived in Single Men’s and Married Quarters erected in 1913. The first bricks produced were ready in mid 1913. The Brickyards closed towards the end of 1916 (World War 1 started in August 1914 and by 1916 most building work stopped in the FCT). The brickyards were in production again in 1920/21. The 1913/14 camps gradually emptied during the period of the war but did not close.

Nearby to the Brickyards in 1914 in Sheedy's paddock the big nursery was set up. In 1927 the Forestry School opened. In 1921/22 No 2 Sewer Camp was set up. The single men's tents went along the area of Banks Street on the lake end and the Mess was erected near the corner of Brown and Banks Streets. (See Sewer Camps)

Yarralumla House is near the Brickyards. This property was owned by a number of men including Terrence Aubrey Murray, Gibbs family and from the 1890s Frederick Campbell. He was responsible for the house now referred to as "Government House" - home of the Governor General. In the grounds were a number of cottages used by workmen. Between 1913 and 1924 the house was used by VIP's visiting Canberra including Walter Burley Griffin. After the opening of Hotel Canberra in December 1924 the VIPs moved to the Hotel and Yarralumla House was renovated in readiness for the Duke of York and his wife in 1927.

In the 1890s Fred Campbell had a new stone house built for the dairyman. This was taken over in the 1920s by the Corkhill family who were moved from their tenant farm near the site of the National Library. The Corkhill's renamed the dairy as Riverview. The Corkhill family remained on their property until the rising waters of Lake Burley Griffin forced their move in the early 1960s.

In the early years of the RMC a number of cadet camps were held on Yarralumla Property.


CAMPS at Westridge, Brickyards, Nursery (Yarralumla)

1913-1914 Married quarters - humpies constructed using timber uprights and beams, hessian walls and galvanised iron roofs and fireplaces. Single men's quarters - tents. Some built their own humpies. Both camps were in the vicinity of modern Banks Street Yarralumla and were removed in the early 1920s.

1913-1914 Single Men's Camp - would have been close to the married quarters but separate.

1914 - galvanized iron cottage for Nursery Foreman. This was the first of a number built for Nursery foremen. Another was built in June 1927. There were also cottages erected in the brickyards for managers of the brickworks.

1921 - ex-Molonglo Internment Camp buildings moved to an area near modern day Banks Street - around ten cottages for married men and one or more barracks for single men. These were moved sometime before new camps were erected in 1927. Mrs Townsend was Mess Caterer for the Brickyards Single Men's Camp.

1921 - seven small Lithgow style brick cottages erected in section 64 for men at the brickyards. The number was later increased to bring the total up to ten plus.

1926 - 1927 Weatherboard cottages erected for married men.

1927 - Single men and married men's camps erected near the brickworks. In 1944 the married quarters were modernised and were used for a number of years.

1927 - in the area of modern Solander Place in Yarralumla 27 lined cubicles were moved to the site to accommodate Forestry School Students. The first three cottages in Solander Place were shells of buildings used as Mess, Recreation and Ablution blocks for the students. Later a nissan type of hut was added to the complex. It was nick-named The Waldorf. Mrs Dora Riddle (nee Horan) was the Mess Caterer for many years.


Camp hill is part of Capital Hill. On the old maps Capital Hill is named Kurrajong Hill after the one kurrajong tree on it. The second hostel built in Canberra is nearby. It is the Hotel Kurrajong. 

Surveyors’ Camps - 2nd March 1909

Erected near the creek on Camp Hill. On the other side of the creek another camp was erected for visitors. Surveying work was carried out for three weeks before the camp was pulled down. The following year another camp was set up in the same area. Site of this camp is off modern day State Circle. It is marked by Scrivener's concrete plan room that is the oldest building erected from territory times.


Reservoir Camp

On the 15th April 1912 a camp was set up on Camp Hill for men constructing a service reservoir.

Capitol Hill Camp

This camp was built on the opposite side of Capital Hill to the Surveyors’ Camp. It was built in 1925 by Contractor John Howie who also built the Hotel Canberra. In the early post World War 2 years another camp was built near the old camp. In late 1928 the camp Mess was taken over by Mrs Stanley. Unfortunately the effects of the Great Depression affected her business and she walked out in the early 1930s. During the next decades the camp was used by a few old pensioners and in 1947 work started to renovate the camp in readiness for a new population from overseas and out of town. A new camp was built in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Below are photographs taken circa late1928 or early 1929 at Capitol Hill Camp. Photographs taken by Mess Caterer’s daughter, Cecily Hinchliffe.   Her mother, Mrs Marion Stanley was mess caterer at the camp between late 1928 and 1930.

Capitol Hill Camp was situated just above the area Capital Hill Camp and No 1 Labourers Camp was probably in the area of Hillside Hostel. This camp that changed spelling in the 1940s to Capital Hill  was updated in 1947 to take numbers of New Australians and other single tradesmen who came to work on the building of the city.  It was removed in the 1950s.

 [Further documents and information about this camp and the others on Capital Hill and Westlake are published in GUGLER, A A STORY OF CAPITAL HILL 2009 – available from the author]



1913 - The single men's camp was on the hillside near the dam wall and the married quarters near the area of the modern camping area close to the junction of the Murrumbidgee and Cotter Rivers. A tent school was erected for the children.

In 1921-1922 another camp was erected on the hillside on the other side of the road to the Cotter Pumping Station. The Mess Caterer was Mrs Stanley. It was used by the men building the bridge across the river and the road to Uriarra.

Camps were also established in the forest areas for road builders and those who planted the pines. Rabbits were also a major problem in the early years.

In the 1926/27 the first of a small number of cottages were built near the pumping station for the engineer. Other cottages were built near the kiosk in the Cotter Reserve. These were for men such as Stan Margules who looked after the reserve.   



In June 1910 a decision to build the Royal Military College at Duntroon was made. The College opened on 27th June 1911.  The original camps - married and single - were erected for men constructing the Royal Military College at Duntroon. These camps were known as the Duntroon Home & Territories Camps. By the 1920s the married camp was referred to as Toorak. A number of the cottages stood on the area now covered by the car park of the Defence Force Academy. The last residents left in the mid to late 1950s. Duntroon Reservoir Camp was situated in the gully between Mt Pleasant and Russell Hill.



The original choice of site for the Power House by Walter Burley Griffin was out of sight somewhere near Russell Hill on the north side of the Molonglo River. Instead it was built on the almost treeless plain not far from the railway in Eastlake (now Kingston). This building was reinforced concrete and completed in 1914.  The Power House used coal.  The old rail line came up behind the Power House and nearby to the building were others that housed the Fitters & Turners, Blacksmiths etc.  The area between the Power House and Causeway was used to store materials required for building etc and here on the Causeway end was the Joiners Shop.  The Government Printing Building and Bus Depot were also on this land.  This was Canberra's first industrial area and problems with chemical pollution did occur.

Two camps were erected in 1913/1914 near the Power House - one for single men and the other for married men. In 1917 the married quarters - also referred to as The Swagger Camp consisted of 21 cottages constructed from hessian and galvanised iron. By 1920 ten remained and the following year only 9. The men of this camp were threatened with a move to Molonglo - away from their work area near the Power House. Fortunately they were moved into 9 ex-Molonglo Buildings moved to a site near the sandwash near the Power House. These cottages were known as the Eastlake Tenements. Another six brought the numbers up to fifteen.


pposite the Power House was the Engineers’ Mess with timber barracks. It was erected sometime around 1916 and in 1923 updated to take increased numbers. In 1926 one of the buildings was moved to a site near the railway station and converted into the Friendly Society Hall. In the early 1960s it was moved to a new site near Hovea Street in O'Connor where it serves as a scout hall.  Mrs Stanley was the Mess Caterer in 1919 to around 1921.  Her daughter Cecily had the job of creeping over to the plantation to replant pines that their pet cockatoo pulled out.   Mrs Stanley went from this job to the Cotter Bridge & Road Making Camp.  Nearby to the Engineers Mess was the old galvanised iron Cof E Church of St Pauls (rebuilt near Manuka).

At the rear of the Power House were four galvanised iron cottages erected around 1916. By the early 1920s one had been removed. The other three remained into the 1930s and perhaps later. One family who lived in one of the cottages was the Williams family from Russell Hill.  Hazel Hartley (nee Williams) recalled that her mother used to polish the lead floor of the bathroom with kerosene.

In 1921 10 small brick cottages were built on land opposite the Power House. The following year another ten brought the number up to twenty and by 1925 there were 35 cottages in the area. None of these cottages remain today. The sites are covered with redeveloped flat


Site of this camp is not known. The rail line between Canberra and Queanbeyan was completed in 1914. Men working on the construction of the brickworks at Westridge were housed in this camp.


Pipe Layers Camp 1913. The access to the camp at the foot of Red Hill was from the old Uriarra Road. It had between 400 and 500 men. The men also constructed the reservoir on Red Hill.

1923- One camp mentioned in a petition signed by the men of this camp re the poor quality of the canvas supplied. By 1925 there were around 200 people living in this camp.

1926/1927 Monolyte Company private contractor's camp on Red Hill. Site unknown.

1927 - Two Commonwealth single men's camps on Red Hill. One was Labourers No 1 that moved from Westlake in 1927 with their Mess Caterer Bill Mitchell. The other one was referred to as "Westlake Horse Camp". The site of one was near the corner of Melbourne Avenue and Empire Circuit. This may be the same site as the one mentioned in oral histories - now Latrobe Park (near Girls Grammar School). In 1927 the Horse Camp was moved to the extreme South West of Red Hill.  



Work on the Outfall Sewer began in 1915. The next year it stopped as men and money went to war. In the early 1920s work recommenced. Many of the sewer miners came from old mining areas such as Majors Creek, Araluen and the Captain's Flat area. The foreman of the works was Jeremiah Dillon who lived from 1922 until his death in 1929 in a brick cottage on Bl 12, Section 64 Westridge. He was also the "Father of Football” in Canberra. His team was the Sewer team. The first section of the sewer was in use in 1927. Prior to the availability of the sewer the majority of larger settlements were connected to septic tanks. One remains in Stirling Park, Yarralumla. It is one of three put in to serve 61 cottages in The Gap at Westlake.

The first sewer camps were established in 1915 and at least one was in the vicinity of Yarralumla Woodshed area. There were four main sewer camps in the 1920s (1921-1927). Each of these camps had about 100 single men. From evidence found in The Gap at Westlake there were also married quarters humpies built by sewer workers.

No 1 Sewer Camp - also known as Outfall Camp was situated near the turnoff to the RSPCA on the Cotter Road. One of the three remaining heritage listed 1925 sewer vents is on the hillside near the point where the Tuggeranong Pathway meets with the Cotter Road. In 1924 there were around 100 men in this camp. The single men lived under canvas and an old photograph taken of the camp shows that a number of men used hessian for the walls and tin for fireplaces.

No 2 Sewer Camp. This was situated near the point where modern Brown Street, Yarralumla meets with Banks Street. Mrs Stanley was Mess Caterer and the Mess room was on land near the corner of the two above mentioned streets on the lake side.

No 3 Sewer Camp was in The Gap at Westlake (now Stirling Park Yarralumla). It was there between 1922 and mid 1925. There were about 100 single men in the camp and an unknown number of married men. Recent work on the hillside above the camp (Stirling Ridge) indicates that a number of humpies were built along the slopes of the hillside. The Mess Caterer was Arthur Freeman who left in 1924 to move over to the Hostel Camp, Westlake.

No 4 Sewer Camp was situated in front of old Parliament House near the Molonglo River. In 1927 following the closure of the camp it was renovated and renamed Parkes Barracks. For a short time the men from the Tradesmen's Camp at Westlake moved to this site. It remained opened during the period of the Great Depression for use by single men passing through the territory in search of work. Men were only allowed to stay for two weeks and were supplied with food (tea, bread, flour, meat, sugar) and some soap during their stay.

Eastlake Sewer Camp. Site of this camp is unknown. It had 143 men in 1925. Eastlake today is called Kingston.  It was most likely near the railway station. 

The completion of Canberra following the end of World War One was in doubt.  Money was short and many saw the construction of the city in terms of a folly.   Around 1920 a decision was finally made that the building of the city should continue. However it was also decided to economize. Only sufficient money was made available to construct the basic buildings and other infrastructure necessary to move the parliament from Melbourne to Sydney. The result was a Provisional Parliament House rather than an impressive permanent structure and two administrative buildings, some shops, houses etc. The Duke of York opened the new Provisional Parliament House on 9th May 1927.

The Duke and Duchess stayed at the newly renovated Yarralumla House.  This former home of Frederick Campbell is now known as Government House and is the home of the Governor General. (Up until December 1924 when the newly completed Hotel Canberra opened for business Yarralumla House had been used to accommodate VIPs.  During the next few years Yarralumla House was renovated in readiness for the stay of the Duke & Duchess in 1927).

The visit of the Duke and Duchess was planned in great detail and culminated in the ceremonies on the 9th May 1927 with the official opening of the Federal Parliament in the Provisional Parliament House.  However the expected crowds did not arrive for the grand occasion and somewhere in the vicinity of the Provisional Parliament House the freshly baked left over pies were buried.

The festivities on the 9th May were marred by the death of a young pilot, Flying Officer Francis Charles Ewen who died when his aeroplane nose dived into the hill in front of the house at the opening ceremony. He is buried in St John the Baptist Church Cemetery in the Canberra suburb of Reid. The hill no longer exists. It was levelled to help create the grande vista across to the War Memorial.



One established in the early 1920s near the area of the Bowling Green bounded by Hobart Avenue, National Circuit and Dominion Circuit with a population of between 400 and 500 men was established around 1922. The men, tradesmen, probably constructed the brick cottages built at Blandfordia (modern Forrest) in 1923. Sixteen cottages were constructed for officials. On 20th May 1924 the camp had a population of 93 men. The camp was surrounded by corrugated iron. Old timers remember another similar camp.  It was in the area of the modern Manuka Oval.


The site is not known but probably near the Quarry. The camp was occupied in 1925 and still there with one man in 1928.


The area was named Causeway because it was near the causeway across the Molonglo River used to join the south side to the north with the rail line that continued across to Civic (main station). The big flood of 1922 knocked out the pylons that held the rail line above the water and it was never rebuilt. This rail line is not to be confused with the line from the brickworks at Westridge used to convey bricks to major building sites such as Power House, Hotel Kurrajong, Provisional Parliament House and Civic.

Causeway was a major centre. It is part of Eastlake and was near the Power House, worksheds including the Joiners' Shop, Fitters & Turners, Blacksmith etc and storage areas. No 1 Labourers Camp was established near this area around 1921/1922. Another branch of the Labourers Camp appears to have been on the north side near Mt Pleasant. Herbert Daniel was Mess Caterer for the latter camp and later moved over to the Power House to be near his work there. When the camp was moved to Westlake he then obtained accommodation in a Westlake Cottage where he remained until retirement. His mess was taken over by Bill Mitchell. No 1 Labourers camp is often referred to, as Daniel’s No 1.

(I think the first post war labourers' camp may have been made up of the unemployed ex-servicemen selected by the RSSILA and sent to Canberra to work.  The number chosen was supposed to be around 200 from all states in Australia.  The number was less but the project was somewhat of a failure.  The first of the men to arrive were sent to a camp at Mt Pleasant and three were expected to share a tent in which two was a crowd.  No blankets were supplied and the month was May.  Many of the men were not well and had to be returned home.  The men were also expected to repay the Commonwealth the cost of their rail fare to Canberra.  A chapter on this camp is included in this book.

A single men's camp was established in the early 1920s. It was called Eastlake Camp and was quite close to the later Causeway camp (1925-1950s). The Eastlake Camp was closed in late 1927 or early 1928 following a fire that closed the Mess in May 1928.

Today Causeway is included in the suburb of Kingston (Eastlake).

CAUSEWAY CAMP: This was built in 1925. It was one of three semi-permanent camps erected in 1925 by the Federal Capital Commission. The other two were Capitol Hill and White City. The idea of three major camps was to serve the northside (White City), the centre (Capitol Hill) and on the southside of the Molonglo River (Causeway). Causeway Camp like Capitol Hill remained into the post World War 11 era and was still in operation in the 1960s. White City was pulled down in the early 1930s. Canberra High School opened on the site of White City in 1939. Today this building is the Canberra Art School.  Sitting on the football field is the Music School.

CAUSEWAY COTTAGES: There were 120 cottages erected at the Causeway in 1925 - 1926. They were laid out in a grid pattern. The design was similar to those erected in Westlake a year earlier and like the Westlake ones, were painted green. The cottage design was created by the government architect & Works Director HM Rolland and was based on the cottages erected by Contractor John Howie at Westlake in 1922. These cottages were a basic square 24ft x 24ft divided into four rooms - two bedrooms, living room and kitchen. The buildings were raised on concrete piers. At the back, resting on the ground was a combined laundry and bathroom. At Westlake and Acton these cottages had an indoor WC that took up portion of this combined laundry/bathroom. The little house was entered from a separate door on the outside of the house. At Causeway the WC was installed in a more traditional setting in a little house away from cottages. The first twenty cottages were built by Contractor John Howie. Another contract was let to Mason of Queanbeyan.

The 120 cottages included a number of cubicle cottages. Three cubicles were arranged in a "U" shape and the mid section roofed over.

The first twenty of the cottages erected by John Howie and Sons were up in time to for the flood waters of the July 1925 to come up to the eaves.

The cottages were sold and removed in the mid 1970s and replaced with small brick cottages. The sites of the first twenty were not reused. Today the only relict of the old settlement is the Causeway Hall erected in one day by the men of the Social Service Association and until 1928 when the Albert Hall opened it was the largest hall in the territory. From here the first local radio broadcast was made - the Canberra Philharmonic Society sang!



This camp was somewhere behind the American Eagle. Nearby was a major dump.  The hole created by the removal of sand for building purposes was filled with rubbish. Dates of this camp are not certain and may be the Labourers Camp referred to earlier (ex-servicemen transferred to Canberra).   The American Eagle is below Mt Russell on the north side of Canberra.  One of the major dumps on the north side was near Anzac Parade near the corner of Constitution Avenue and Anzac Parade.

CAPITOL HILL CAMPS (see also earlier section)

Tenders for this camp were called for in the Queanbeyan Age 15th April 1925. John Howie & Sons who had their settlement on the hillside at Westlake (now the section of Stirling Park, Yarralumla opposite Lotus Bay) won the tender. This camp was erected on Capital Hill on the side nearest to the suburb of Forrest. In 1927 the camp had 8 huts each with eight rooms. In 1927 another 20 cubicles were added. From late 1928 Mrs Stanley was Mess Caterer. The camp did not close during the Great Depression but had only a few men - pensioners -staying there. In the early post World War 2 era it reopened fully again and for a time the Berry family were mess caterers. Around 1947 the camp was extended and in 1952 another hostel was constructed nearby. Capital Hill (note change of spelling) was closed in 1966. On the other side of the hill another hostel was opened - named Hillside. It was for single men and opened in 1952. It closed in 1968.


The site is not certain, but probably used by the men who constructed the 20 brick cottages nearby. In 1921 there were 21 men in the camp and by 20th May 1924 there were 12. These tenement buildings were ex-Molonglo Internment Camp buildings.


Each contractor made available camp sites for his men. Some, such as Contractor John Howie had excellent accommodation put up for his workmen and their families. Others were not as good (see Red Hill Monolyte Co) and others allowed their men to build humpies and or erect tents. Sites of many are not known - nor the period of occupation other than the first was Contractor John Howie's erected at Westlake in 1922. The others were established during the 1920s when men were employed to build cottages in the permanent suburbs.

Bruce Eden & Griffiths - this camp was established prior to 7th December 1926. On 20th December 1928 the workshop, office and camp were demolished.

Contractor Howie's Settlement (see Westlake)

Colonel Walker's Camp - It was situated between the Power House and Scott's Crossing on the southern bank of the Molonglo River.

Hutchison’s Camp In July 1927 it consisted of 6 blocks or huts each divided into 4 cubicles about 10ft x 10ft. No windows provided. It was due to be demolished in two and half month’s time. (See 1927 Sanitation Report).

Oakley & Parkes - no information about site/s.

Mason's Camp - There was no area provided in the territory and Mason's men.  He was a Queanbeyan man and in 1925 he asked permission from the Queanbeyan Council to erect a camp on his land at the corner of Crawford Street and Uriarra Road Queanbeyan. He was duly given permission to go ahead.

Red Hill Monolyte Company (see Red Hill Camps).


Eastlake was later named Kingston. The Causeway and Power House were originally part of Eastlake.

Eastlake Tenements: These ex-Molonglo cottages were originally known as Power House Tenements. Single men used the barracks until 1921 when they were converted into cottages for nine families. Later added to bring the numbers up to 15. They were situated near Bowen Place close to the old sandwash.

Engineers Mess The mess was built sometime around 1916 if not sooner. From 1923 it was also referred to as Eastlake Quarters. At this time a number of buildings were added to the complex. In 1919 Mrs Stanley was the Mess Caterer. The site of the buildings was opposite the Power House on land close to that now occupied by the Greek Orthodox Church. In 1926 one building was moved to a site near the Railway Station and used as The Friendly Society Hall. In the early 1960s it made another moved to Hovea Street in O'Connor where it still serves as the 13th Troop Scout Hall.

Eastlake Sewer Camp (see Sewer Camps)

Eastlake Camp - also referred to as Eastlake Mess.  This camp was situated near the Causeway Camp in the area between modern Mildura Street and Wentworth Avenue. It closed on 30th May 1928. At the end of 1927 the Mess was burnt down and for awhile the men of this camp ate at the Causeway Camp Mess.

Four cottages (galvanised iron) built behind the Power House (see Power House) circa 1916. By 1921 there were only three cottages.


The club was founded in 1926 on 26th June. It was for young ladies of the domestic servant class, shop assistants and typists. They were housed in two houses in Blandfordia - later three. Miss Hawkins was the Matron and the club was disbanded on 17th December 1928. The YWCA then moved into Canberra.

MOLONGLO 1918-1950s

In 1918 an internment camp was built at Molonglo - now an industrial area of Canberra known as Fyshwick. JS Murdoch designed the complex and an early description is as follows:

About 250 acres of vacant land between Queanbeyan and Canberra were converted into a township with provision for 560 families and a large number of single people. The group of houses and other buildings and property were well equipped, furnished and served with water sewerage and electricity. Incidental buildings and works included large stores for baggage of the internees, bakers and butchers shops, fire station, public school teacher's residence, hospital and assembly hall as well as many structures for the housing and general purpose of the military, such as look out tower, guard house, barracks, stables, Commandant's residence and special railway loop, with station and goods shed.

This article was written only a few years after the Molonglo Internment Camp was converted into a workmen's settlement (120 3-6 roomed cottages & single accommodation for 150 tradesmen) and contains quite a number of errors. Water and sewerage (connected to a septic tank) services were provided but not electricity. It was added a few years later. The first school teacher was Mr Ivey who moved into a converted building in the early 1920s. The settlement, however, did have the first gaol in the territory and by the time the internment camp used for civilian aliens was converted half the buildings had already been sold and moved to new sites.

The buildings were built by four contractors, Ellis Bros, Saxon & Binns, George Hudson Pty Ltd and the State Timber Yards. The extensive engineering works and military accessory buildings were directed by the Department and included a number of structures removed from the AIF Officers Training School at Duntroon (established 1915). Following the closure of the camp the hospital was removed and returned to Duntroon on 25th January 1919. The Dispensary in 1920 was moved to Acton where it was modified to make it suitable for Ned Ryan and his wife to live in.

The water supply for the camp was kept in a reservoir on the hill which later became the site of Canberra's first radio station - 2CA. The water came from wells 18 foot deep that were dug at the river bank and later from the Cotter following the pumping of water from that source. A septic system was installed.

A number of articles in Australian Archives refer to the secrecy and speed of the building of the Molonglo Internment Camp. Since 1200 men were used and the supplies came from nearby Queanbeyan it is extremely doubtful that there was any secrecy at all.

In 1920 or early 1921 a decision was made to use the buildings not sold as accommodation for workmen. A number of buildings were also moved to other sites for accommodation and included, Arsenal, Brickworks, Civic Centre, Blandfordia, Mugga Quarry, Eastlake.

In 1922 the population at Molonglo was around 200 and by May 1925 it had grown to 760 people. It was the largest concentration of people in the FCT. Westlake was a close second in 1925 with a population of 700.  A description of buildings is found in the 1927 Sanitation report. In 1927 the barracks used for cottage accommodation were modified to create single buildings. Official descriptions speak highly of the accommodation - requests from the Progress Association and oral histories reveal the opposite. They buildings were not lined and the timber once dried left gaping holes in the walls through which the wind whistled. The buildings were also infested with bed bugs and were very hot in summer and freezing in winter. The settlement, however did have a primary and infants school.

Left: Convine child – in the background is Molonglo Tenements.


Scotts Crossing: It was situated on the southern bank of the Molonglo River. In 1925 there were 60 men in it.

Camp near the Billabong, Commonwealth Bridge Area: It was on the southern side of the river and there is mention of another camp nearby.

Lennox Crossing - this may be one of the camps referred to above. This crossing is now under the waters of Lake Burley Griffin - it used to join the south side to Acton Peninsula. This was a Pug Camp (Horse & Dray).  Below small son of Mess Caterer Bill Convine c1922 at Molonglo.



There were a number of camps on Mount Ainslie. One was in situ in 1923 and in 1927 it was moved to another site near the corner of Ebden and Chisholm Streets Ainslie. The camp was officially closed in 1929 but in fact remained open for use by married men moving through the territory in search of work. It was not in good condition at that time.


This may be the camp established for ex-servicemen brought to Canberra in 1922 to work on the roads and other labouring work. It may also refer to the Duntroon Reservoir Camp that was on Russell Hill.


It opened in the 1922/23 financial year. In the 1926/27 financial year it was refurbished and it was probably at this time cubicles came into use. Mrs Turner was the Mess Caterer and the site of the camp was on the high side of the hill off Mugga Lane near the site of Murray's Coach Depot.  A number of buildings used in the camp were ex-Molonglo ones and in the later years post 1926 a number of cubicles were supplied to accommodate workmen.


These camps were near the site of the trees planted as windbreaks in Haig Park on the north side of the Civic Centre. One, referred to as Northbourne No 2 was near the modern Henty Street opposite Londsdale Street. It was established by March 1926 and dismantled on 12th January 1928. The men were then moved to the new camp on Mt Ainslie. HLB Lasseter lived in this camp between March 1926 and December of that year. The camp consisted of 6 rows of canvas & hessian structures - each 10ft x 8ft and used by two men.

Northbourne No 1 was sited in the vicinity of the corner of Girrahween and Londsdale Streets.


This was the old No 4 Sewer Camp - closed and reopened in 1928. It was situated in front of the Provisional Parliament House on the southern bank of the Molonglo River. The men from the Tradesmen’s Camp at Westlake used the refurbished camp after it closed towards the end of 1927. Parkes Barracks was closed on 30th June 1929 but like the Mt Ainslie camp remained open for men coming to the FCT in search of work. This camp was used for single men only and they were only allowed a two week stay during which time they were given the basic foods of bread, potatoes, jam, sugar, tea and meat.


Twelve semi-detached brick cottages (24 houses) each with five bedrooms were built at Eastlake in 1926. Modern Fraser Court opposite the Kingston Shops now covers the site of the Printers Quarters. In the centre of the block was the Mess Room and facilities. The cottages were built by Mason of Queanbeyan and were rendered and painted white. As the name suggests it was built for single Printers transferred to Canberra from 1926.



The site of Riverbourne was three miles from the Queanbeyan Post Office on the southern bank of the Molonglo River - roughly on a site opposite Harman Naval Station. Sites were set aside in 1925 for married men to erect their own cottages. From 1926 these families were moved to new sites including the newly opened Russell Hill.


One hundred and twenty sites were set aside in 1926 for married men to construct their own cottages. HLB Lasseter was joined by his wife and children in December 1926 and built a cottage in this settlement. Water was connected but no electricity or sewerage. In September 1926 the old Masonic Hall at Acton was transferred to Russell Hill where it was converted into a school. The school closed in 1929 following the departure of many residents many of whom left the territory in search of work. The settlement site is close to Campbell Shops.



Walter Burley Griffin named a section of land on the southern bank of the Molonglo River between the area of Westridge (Yarralumla) and Capital Hill - WESTLAKE.  Today the land of former Westlake that holds the evidence of Ngunawal use and the camps and Settlements is Stirling Park.  This area is gradually being reduced at development as permission is given by the National Capital Authority takes place. Westlake was chosen to accommodate workmen employed on the construction of the sewer, parliament house, administrative buildings and surrounds. The hills of Gura Bung Dhaura (Westlake) were ideal for temporary camps and settlements because it was hidden from permanent Canberra and close to construction sites.  In the 1920s the following camps & settlements were situated at Westlake:

    1. Howies Settlement consisting of 25 timber cottages, 18 huts, two recreational halls, Lavatories etc. They were on site in 1922 and placed either side of an old road that came from Briar Farm (now covered by Canberra Southern Cross Yacht Club). Sometime just before the July 1927 Sanitation Report the Hostel Camp (single men) had been removed and 12 of the cottages. The last 13 of Howie's cottages remained until 1931. HM Rolland viewed the cottages before designing the workmen's cottages erected in The Gap at Westlake.
    2. No 3 Sewer Camp in the Gap at Westlake. 1922-mid 1925. There were around fifty tents for around 100 men (2 to each tent). There were also a number of humpies erected by married men - on the hillside now known as Stirling Ridge, Yarralumla.
    3. Old Tradesmen's Camp moved to Westlake in mid 1923 and moved towards the end of 1927 to Parkes Barracks (old No 4 Sewer Camp).
    4. May 1924 No 1 Labourers Camp established at Westlake. In late 1927 it was moved to another site on Red Hill. A note in Australian Archives CP464/3/1 Bundle 1/B968 states that the occupants of No 1 Workmen's Mess (H Daniel Caterer) "are" notified that all rooms and tents to be vacated by 13th May, 1924. Tents were to be ready at Westlake for the men. This camp was due to be pulled down circa August 1927 and the men moved into cubicles at Red Hill.
    5. Westlake Horse Camp – site now to be known  - in the area now know as Latrobe Park, Red Hill.  It was one of two camps in this area – one in use by 1925.  The Monolyte Company Camp was near this camp and it is probable that this camp which officially closed in 1927 was the one extended with 50 additional cubicles made ready for the men of No 1 Labourers Camp when they moved towards the end of 1927 from Capitol Hill.
    6. Westlake Cottages in The Gap. The first twenty were occupied from March 1924. Another 32 were constructed and in use in 1924. Following the departure of No3 Sewer Camp another ten cottages were built on the site of the tents of No 3. These differed to the earlier cottages in that they were built by a contractor (Stacey & Co), were lined, and placed the bath/room lavatory block on the other side of the rear of the cottages to the earlier cottages.




Briar Farm Cottage:

This was one of two tenant farms on the southern bank of the Molonglo River between the area of Commonwealth Avenue, hills to the south and Westridge. One, tenanted by the Kaye family from 1854 used Klensendorlffe's stone villa as first a farm house and from the early 1890s when a new slab hut was built, as a barn. The site of the farm house was in the vicinity of Lennox Park at the rear of the Hotel Canberra (Hyatt). Briar Farm cottage was near the Creek that ran through The Gap at Westlake. Today the Canberra Southern Cross Yacht Club buildings cover the site. Briar Farm, the brick cottage, was built in 1870 and pulled down in 1950. From 1870 until 1913 members of the Kinlyside family lived there. From 1913 until 1950 the Commonwealth to its employees leased the farm cottage. The last was Charles Foster Day who took up residence in 1927. 



The farm named Kinlyside just below the Quarry to the right is Briar Farm.  The road that crosses the bottom section of the map is the Uriarra Road.  The Gap Survey mark is on Stirling Ridge.


This camp was built in 1925. It was originally a tent camp but from 1926 tents were gradually replaced with cubicles later painted green. There was also a White City Horse Camp nearby. The site of the camp was near the old Canberra High School that opened its doors in 1939. The High School is now the Canberra School of Art. White City Camp's first Mess Caterer was William Convine and his wife, Alice.  The last Mess Caterer was Bill Mitchell. He too suffered the effects of non payment by his customers during the Great Depression. He went out of business in 1931 and the camp closed.



The woolshed was built around 1912 and workmen used it from time to time. In 1922 it was used illegally and the men were asked to leave. There were also Cadet camps from the RMC Duntroon in the vicinity of Yarralumla House (now the Governor General's place) - used around 1910-1914 periods.


Selwyn Walk, a Queanbeyan born man showed me the sites of a number of these camps. His father, Henry, was in charge of work on many of the roads including Jerrabomberra Avenue, Limestone Avenue, Fitz' Hill Road and Mt Franklin Road. His nick-name was Cork. He acquired it following his habit of bobbing up after being thrown off the suspension bridge across the Queanbeyan River. Men who returned home only at weekends inhabited many of the camps out of town. They brought their own food and cooked it. Some of the single men stayed in the camp until the work was completed. These camps had no water supplied hence they were often placed near a creek or the river.

Eastlake: Established circa 1921 and occupied mainly by horse drivers. It was situated between Kennedy & Leichhardt Streets Eastlake (Kingston).

Jerrabomberra: This road making camp in the modern suburb of Narrabundah consisted mainly of horse & dray men and was established in 1918. The site of the camp may be viewed from the cut-off section of Jerrabomberra Avenue (no longer joins Cooma Road) and was in the paddock over to the right.

Corner of Jerrabomberra Avenue & Goyder Street, Narrabundah. Pick and shovel men working with horses and drays lived in this camp. They were in situ during the July flood of 1925.

Across the road from Harman Naval Base There was a large married quarters camp on this site and may be Riverbourne.

200 yards beyond Narrabundah Lane. Selwyn pointed the site of this camp. His father called it Flat Rock Camp. It is in the vicinity of the corner of Hindmarsh Drive and Dalrymple Street Red Hill. Selwyn also mentioned the boggy area near the Canberra Boys Grammar School. A spring which starts on Red Hill continued down into this area and thence to Telopea Park. The area in Monaro Crescent was planted with willow trees in an attempt to soak up some of water. Golden Grove Road was a stream bed and the cottages nearby were built on fill.

Opposite the 8 mile peg near the Prime Minister's Lodge. This camp was on the hill opposite the Lodge and was established in the early 1920s when Adelaide Avenue was built. The mile pegs were measured from the Queanbeyan Post Office.

Mt Franklin Road Camp. The road took six years to build. It was commenced in April 1933 and when this road became too icy to work on the men moved to Two Stick Road. The Mount Franklin road was surveyed by Colonel Goodwin and cost 1,000 pounds per mile to built. The men had a small yellow tractor to help but most of the work was carried out by the men digging and pushing the dirt over the side.

Mt Pleasant Camp. -

Opposite the Ten Mile near Limestone Avenue

Tharwa Road Building Camp - it was in use in 1928

Fire Station Camps - Fire Reports in Australian Archives for the years 1928-1929 referred to Weetangera Fire Station at McDonald's Camp. Others were at Mt Stromlo, The Rivers (Maxwell Property) and Tuggeranong Property.

Uriarra - One road making camp was established in December 1922. Three camps were established on Uriarra Property. On the 19th June 1923 the camp was closed and the men paid off.


Replanting of the Limestone Plains and surrounding hillsides began in the teen years of the last century. The plantations of pines from Mt Stromlo across to Black Mountain were planted in 1926 to form a picturesque background to the city. A number of windbreak plantations such as the one near Northbourne Avenue and the Power House were planted in the early 1920s. In the 1930s more planting of hillsides etc was carried out because this was a labour intensive occupation and men were paid one penny per hole. At this time the Unemployment Relief Committee employed married men for around one week in four and single men for a few days in six weeks. The camps were not used all the time. Some of the camps recorded are:

Condor Creek also known as Perret's Camp. This camp was subject of reports on 21st May 1927 and 28th March 1929. On the 14th March 1932 it was used by 35 men working on planting. On the 1st June 1932 the camp was moved to the right side of the Brindabella Road.

Green Hills - in 1927 three men are recorded as living in this camp

Uriarra- On 3rd June 1923 the Uriarra Forestry Camp was situated approximately 40 yards off Conder Stream and 11 men were engaged in clearing and digging up rabbit burrows. By 11th March 1931 provision was made to add a further 12 tents. Later this camp was moved to a site closer to Uriarra Homestead.

Pierce's Creek - 22nd May 1929 there was a cubicle in situ for use by a married man in charge of planting (Mr Harold Tuson). A report suggested that three or four cubicles should be added to make the area more comfortable. Mr Tusan in 1926 was a Kowen Forest where he was in charge of the road to Queanbeyan/Canberra and the planting.

Mt Stromlo Camps - one camp was established by 25th July 1917. Others were erected in the 1920s for the men working on various buildings on Mt Stromlo (Observatory & pine forests).

Stromlo Pipe Layers Camp 1913

Saw Mill Camp- in 1936 it was reported as being the property of Cavanaugh

Blundell's Camp It was on Condor Creek 28th August 1936

Mt Franklin Workmen's Camp  - At 28th August 1936 this camp was situated two miles from the Mt Franklin Terminus

Forestry Camp - In 1933 it was situated approximately 7 miles from the Brindabella Terminus on Mt Franklin and had 4 cubicles and a cooking building.

Bull Paddock Camp: On 3rd June 1929 this camp was situated approximately one and half miles from Cotter River. It was near the Brindabella Road approximately one mile from the Uriarra Homestead and two point one miles from Conder River and edge of fall to Cotter River. The foreman was Bradley and the camp consisted of 18 tents, 3 cubicles, and 2 earth closets. On 13th April 1932 there were 22 men in the camp.

Tidbinbilla Camps There was one permanent camp near the entrance to the Car Park near Kangaroo enclosure. Another behind Elsie & Eric Blewitt's cottage (now Birrigai), in Alf Marsh's Top Paddock, under the trees at Flint's place, Rayner's Mill, Eucalyptus cutters at Nildesperandum, another near Tidbinbilla Creek etc on properties in the area.



This suburb of Canberra was part of Queanbeyan until the rail line was used to mark the border between NSW and FCT.   Oaks Estate is on the FCT side of the line. Because of its proximity to Queanbeyan shops and other facilities and in the ACT and the requirement that workmen in the FCT lived in the territory during the construction era it became a popular place for construction workers to find accommodation. The Commonwealth tried to give it back to NSW but did not have the powers to do so. As a result this old settlement area was ignored by the authorities with the result that today it has a range of buildings that mirror the various periods of early housing in the FCT including one Acton workmen's cottage (designed by HM Rolland) transferred to its site in River Street in the 1950s.

Not mentioned in this document are the permanent boarding houses for those transferred to the city.  Hotel Ainslie was ready in 1925 for the young ladies of the typiste class.  In 1927 it was renamed Gorman House after one of the Commissioners who died after an appendix operation.  Beauchamp House (a concrete structure now called Ian Potter House) was ready in 1927 as was Brassey House (now Hotel Brassey).  The first half of Hotel Canberra (the politician's hotel) was opened in December 1924.  It was followed by the Hotel Kurrajong in 1925 or 1926 and then the Hotels Acton, Ainslie, Wellington in 1927 and a shortly afterwards the Hotel Kingston and Hotel Civic.  All Hotels were dry until the end of 1928 until after the first vote in the territory, which restored the right to buy and sell alcohol in the territory.  The Houses and Hotels were also affected by class distinctions.  A working class or lowly paid official for example could not stay at Hotel Canberra and Beauchamp and Gorman Houses were mainly occupied by unmarried females.  






In 1912 the Bachelors Quarters – timber barracks – were erected at Acton for men above the class of construction workers and tradesmen who came without their families to work on the city.  The lull in building activities in the years of World War One saw little changes to the barracks, but once work recommenced in 1920/21 the accommodation at the barracks had to be increased.  At one stage canvas tents supplemented the accommodation needs before the extensions to the barracks were completed.  In the post World War 2 era the old barracks continued to be used because of the acute shortage of accommodation. They were renamed Acton Guest House. Following the formation of the Australian National University the old quarters were used for student accommodation and were renamed, Lennox House.  This hostel was the first permanent single accommodation complex built for the men who came to build the city. 

The Bachelors quarters were a marked contrast to the dwellings in which the construction workers lived.  The majority of single construction men were housed in tents constructed from canvas and bag. Married men who came in the early years built humpies for themselves and families the majority of which were constructed from hessian bag with iron roof. These dwellings were erected in segregated sites near the major work places. 

Because of the effects of World War One work on the city came to an almost standstill between 1916-1920.  In 1921 when work again commenced around 70 odd brick cottages for construction workers with small families. They were erected at major sites – Civic Centre, Power House and Brickyards and were followed in 1923 with another 16 at Blandfordia.  The few permanent brick cottages provided.  Other solutions were sought that included the conversion of Molonglo Internment Camp and construction of Rolland designed small timber portable cottages.  The majority of single construction workers continued to live under canvas and bag until 1926 when small timber cubicles replaced a number of the tent camps.

In 1921 the move was made to build the permanent accommodation for single officials transferred to the city site.  The first, Hostel No 1 was the Hotel Canberra.  It was followed by Hostel No 2 Hotel Ainslie – renamed in 1927 Gorman House; Hostel No 3 – Hotel Kurrajong and Hostel No 4 – Hotel Wellington.  In 1927 the Hotel Acton and Hotel Ainslie opened for business. All with the exception of the Hotel Wellington still remain.  In 1936 two more hotels were constructed – Hotels Civic and Kingston.  These hotels replaced two licensed liquor cafes owned and run by the Government.

In 1927 a number of permanent hostels – known as HOUSES were constructed for the people transferred to the city – Beauchamp House opposite the Hotel Ainslie near the Civic Centre – and on the south side of the Molonglo River in the area of modern Barton -  Brassey House.

The Hotels were relatively fully utilized in 1927 at the time of the opening of Parliament and two of them – the Hotels Canberra and Kurrajong during the sitting times of the Federal Parliament, but continued to struggle to be even break even in ongoing costs.  Many of the newspaper articles from 1927 into the 1930s  report the huge losses of the Hotels. 

In 1910 the area of the area of the FCT was banned from the sale of alcohol which did give a boost to the Queanbeyan Hotels which were wet.  In late 1928 prohibition ended following the vote by the people of the territory.  The result was that the Federal Capital Commission under the chairmanship of then Sir John Butters, First Commissioner allowed the sale of alcohol in three cafes in shopping centres which were leased by the FCC  at The Fair Kingston, Manuka Arcade and in a ground floor shop in the Sydney Building at the corner of Alinga Street and Northbourne Avenue. [i]  The Manuka Café closed in mid 1929 because it was not making a profit. [ii]

Liquor was sold at three of the FCC Hotels – Canberra, Wellington and Acton.  Kurrajong was also allowed at times to sell alcohol.

The FCC made the decision that bars[iii] would not be built and that barmaids were not to be permitted.  Instead a continental style of setting was chosen – people sat at tables and were served.  The hours of sale were between 9am and 6pm in the evening. Sundays and special days such as Christmas, Good Friday and the morning of Anzac Day the pubs were closed.  However, hotels could serve alcohol with meals up until 9pm of an evening. The meal had to consist of two courses, one of which consisted of meat or fish and two vegs.  A bona fide traveller who had to travel 25 miles or more, could also buy alcohol on days when alcohol not sold to the locals.

As one reads the local papers from around 1927 into the mid to late 1930s it is clear that the hotels did not live up to the expectations of those who designed them for a tourist and local trade that never eventuated. During the period when Parliament sat the Hotels Canberra and Kurrajong were full, but the others were not.  They all ran at a loss. 

One of the reasons for the failure of the hotels to make a profit perhaps can be linked with their failure to have the traditional male bar where the men – most of whom had served in the trenches in World War One – could gather with mates who had shared similar experiences. 

Following are a number of articles that give an overview of the times.

The Argus, Melbourne Vic 27 August 1925


After inquiring into the proposed erection of a fourth hotel at Canberra, the Federal Public Works Committee in a report tabled in the House of Representatives yesterday, recommended that the construction of such a building to accommodate 120 guest be put in hand as early as possible in order to meet the plans for the early transport of the seat of government to Canberra.

The committee stated that in pursuance of the plan adopted of providing for a large proportion of the residential accommodation required at Canberra in the early stages by means of hotels, the Hotel Canberra capable of accommodating 180 guests and the Hotel Ainslie [later renamed Gorman House] (80 guests) has been erected; and a third hotel, the Hotel Brisbane [Hotel Kurrajong], was in course of erection.  The representations for an additional hotel has been made to provide further necessary accommodation for members of Parliament, civil servants  and the general public.  The design of the building was in conformity with the ideal garden city and provided for the dining and other public rooms in a main central structure with its sleeping accommodation in separate pavilions grouped around the main building. The estimated cost as submitted to the committee was £55,000 and the plan provided for completion about 12 months from the date of commencement. The furnishings would probably cost an additional £10,000.

Efforts had been made by the committee, the report state, to ascertain what would be the probably tariff of this hotel.  It was stated in evidence that the charges would probably be midway between those of the Hotel Canberra and the Hotel Ainslie and might be expected to be about £3 per week. [The average wage of a labourer was between £3 and £5 pounds per week.] It was realized, however that in the initial stages of Canberra it might not be possible to make such charges as would be necessary on a commercial basis to cover interest, sinking fund, &c on the capital cost of the establishment and that consequently some concessions might have to be made. The chairman of the Federal Capital Commission (Mr JH Butters) had expressed the opinion that while endeavouring to make the hotel self-supporting, the tariff during the secretarial stage of the city would have to be adjusted to meet the salary of the public servants who were compelled to obtain accommodation there through lack of facilities elsewhere.

The Canberra Times 6 January 1927


The plans of the Federal Capital Commission for eight hostels and boarding houses in the city are speeding on towards completion.  The original plans embraced four hostels and four boarding houses, and of these, Hotel Canberra, Kurrajong, and Ainslie are in use, while Hotel Acton is receiving its finishing touches and the boarding houses are in an advanced stage.

In addition to these structures, Printers’ Quarters and Bachelors’ Quarters afford accommodation of a large number of the staff of the Commission and Commonwealth Departments, while the present Hotel Ainslie is being converted into an accommodation house for the female members of the staffs.

Four boarding houses now under construction are from the designs of two Melbourne and two Sydney architects.  Tow of these boarding houses are situated on the Southern side and two on the Northern side of the Molonglo River.

One of the most picturesque structures is the Blandfordia Hostel which is placed at the junction of Wellington Avenue and National Circuit [Hotel Wellington] and is the work of Messrs Stephenson and Meldrum of Melbourne.  It is a two storey building consisting of a central dining and kitchen block, with staff rooms above, flanked on either side by wings containing bedroom accommodation on both floors. Balconies are provided at the ends of these blocks and flat roofs will afford cool sitting out space on the bedroom floor levels.  It is being finished in light colored cement with tile roof.  The building provides for an accommodation of 40 persons exclusive of staff. The builder is Mr JG Taylor.

The second building, known as the Telopea Park Hostel on the South side of the city [Brassey House] is designed by Messrs Budden and Hood, architects of Sydney and is situated on State Circuit. The building which is being erected by Col Walker affords an interesting variation in solving the problem of planning. The billiard room lounge, dining and kitchen block facing State Circuit, is of one storey only for its greater part, while a two storied wing on either side extends at an angle of  40 [?] degrees from the back of the building. This building will introduce a marked variation from the usual color of Canberra’s larger buildings by being finished in blue brick with a slate roof. The accommodation is for 40 persons apart from staff.

On the Northern side of the city, a reinforced concrete accommodation house is being erected in University Avenue close to the present Hotel Acton. [Beauchamp House now Ian Potter House.] The design is by Messrs Anketell and K Henderson, architects of Melbourne. It is another example of a rectangular solution to the plan problem. The dining room and smoking room are in the centre block, the kitchen being in the left wing and not, as in the other designs – on the centre line of the building. The remaining portions of the left wing and the whole of the right wing provide the bedroom accommodation downstairs, the whole of the first floor being devoted to bedrooms, accommodating 40 persons. The building is constructed in reinforced concrete throughout, and will have the external walls finished in roughcast and the roof covered with red tiles.

The fourth building is situated on the intersection of Canberra and Ainslie Avenues and is designed by Messrs Burcham Clamp and Finch of Sydney.[Hotel Ainslie] This building affords yet another example of variation of plan and external design.  The comparatively high pitched roof gives this building a distinction of its own. In plan, the rectangular outline is again departed from and the bedroom wings spring obliquely from the central dining and kitchen block. This building will be finished externally in roughcast, with brick trimmings and dark tile roof. The building also provides for an accommodation of 40 persons exclusive of requirements for staff.

The Mercury Hobart Tasmania 8 March 1928



Charges of having purposely endeavoured to avoid investigation of proposed works are leveled at the Federal Capital Commission by the Federal Parliamentary Public Works Committee in a general report which was presented to the House of Representatives to-day. Discussing the general question of estimates the report states that the attention of the committee has been directed in many cases in which the cost of the works has greatly exceeded the estimate.

Under the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act it is mandatory for any public work, the cost of which will exceed £25,000 to be referred to the committee for investigation before the undertaking is commenced.

‘The committee is strongly of the opinion,’ the report states. ‘ that where after a project has been reported upon, it is found that circumstances have arisen which will make the completed cost substantially higher than the sum estimated for the work, the matter should be submitted for further review by the committee.  In cases in which approval has been given to proceed with works at an estimated cost of slightly less than £25,000 and the completed cost exceeds £25,000 the committee considers that compliance with the Act demands that the project should be submitted for the investigation immediately it is discovered that the total completed cost will exceed the statutory amount prescribed by the Act.’

It is pointed out that although the committee informed the Parliament in 1921 that the cost of two automatic telephone exchanges in Brisbane would be £89.779, the ultimate cost was £129,375. Similarly mail handling appliances for the General Post Office, Sydney which were estimated to cost £41,400 were later subject of a revised estimate of £71,000.

‘Certain works carried out at Canberra,’ the report proceeds, ‘ have been estimated at so small an amount under the £25,000 as to warrant the impression that the Federal Capital Commission is purposely endeavouring to avoid investigation of its projects by the committee.’


In a reply to the chairman of the committee (Mr McKay) the former Minister for Home and Territories (Mr Marr) had stated in the House of Representatives that the cost of the Hotel Ainslie at Canberra was £24,847, the Hotel Wellington £23,166, Beauchamp House £24,000 and the Assembly Hall [Albert Hall] £24,106.  Those figures had been admitted to be exclusive of overhead charges and interest on capital during construction, which would probably have brought the amounts over the statutory sum of £25,000.  The annual report of the Commission it was stated that the cost of the Hotel Ainslie had been £27,996 and the Hotel Wellington £25,849.  The committee was of the opinion that the total cost at which the project stood in the books of the Commission was the completed cost within the meaning of the Act.

Attention is directed also to the fact that the remodeling of Yarralumla House for use as Federal Government House at a cost of £53,825, exclusive of £15,424 for furnishing without reference to the committee, was also a contravention of the Act. The fact that the building erected as an official residence for Prime Ministers cost £28,070, the report states, and had since been stated to be unsuitable for its purpose was an indication that the work should have been investigated before he project was undertaken.


Resentment is expressed in the report at the fact that reports by the committee to Parliament have been disregarded, and no subsequent action taken to obtain the approval of the House for the course proposed by the committee.  The estimated total cost of projects inquired into in the year ended December 31 is given as £974,300 of which wharfage facilities at Darwin accounted for £223,934, Commonwealth offices at Brisbane for £170,464, Commonwealth offices at Sydney for £108,817 and mail handling appliances at Sydney for £71,000. In the case of Darwin, wharfage however, the committee decided against the work.


In a report presented to-day on the proposed construction of a north-western intercepting sewer in the city of Canberra at an estimated cost of £57,000 to serve an area capable of occupation by 24,000 people, the committee expressed approval of the undertaking.  The Federal Capital Commission did not propose at present to erect any cottage on the area, and the main semi-public building to be served would probably not be erected for several years, the commencement of the sewerage work should be deferred until nine months before the completion of

The Canberra Times 15 January 1930


No decision has yet been reached regarding the provision of a building for the Patents Office which is likely to be transferred from Melbourne in the near future.

About 40 rooms are required for the purpose and Hotel Acton, which is not a paying proposition could meet this need being just about the required size.  Another reason for the Hotel being used in this way is that the Hotel Kurrajong which is also a losing proposition, would have more boarders, who would be there all year round, and not merely while Parliament is sitting.

the first section of the building programme for the area affected.

The Canberra Times 5 February 1930

Referring to the matter of segregation of sexes at the Commission Meeting on Monday by the Third Commissioner (Dr Alcorn), the Chief Commissioner (Mr Christie) stated yesterday that the question had been occupying the attention of the Commissioner for sometime.  Both he and the Second Commissioner (Mr Murdoch) are in agreement with the Third Commissioner that the sexes should not be confined to separate boarding establishments, Mr Christie said, however, that he could not see how the position could be remedied at present. Gorman and Beauchamp Houses were nearly always full and to place a certain number of girls would have to be placed elsewhere.  It would not be possible to house them at the Bachelors Quarters owing to the inherent freeness of action that had become part of the existence of its residents…

Reader’s Views…I would like also to draw attention to the lot of the man and woman who is not a Government Servant.  Unable to pay the high tariffs charged at the hotels, that unfortunate, who is very necessary to the progress of the capital, is at the mercy – mercy is often the only word to describe it – of the private householders.  Perhaps she may strike a good home, but in nine out of ten that is not the case.  To the girl the outlook is bad for, where a woman will not impose upon a man, she will do so on the girl…Recently a girl was shown a sparsely, very sparsely furnished room; there being no blinds, or even a makeshift wardrobe but she was assured that they would arrive within a few days. The girl moved in but the blinds did not. The landlady was a timid crying creature with a baby; her husband would not give her any money and she poured out her woes on the unfortunate boarder’s head. The girl after striving for another boarding place, has returned in disgust to the city where she has been accustomed to some comfort…

The West Australian Perth WA 8 May 1930


CANBERRA. May 7 – For some time the Federal Government has been endeavouring to let by tender the Hotel Ainslie, the Hotel Wellington and Canberra House, formerly the residence of Sir John Butters, as Chairman of the Federal Capital Commission. Several conditional tenders for the lease of the three buildings were received by the Federal Capital Commission in response to recent advertisements and yesterday the Federal Cabinet decided to accept the tender of Mr FM Parer of Caufield (Vic) for the leas of the Hotel Ainslie, and of the Federal Capital branch of the Returned Soldiers’ League for the lease of Canberra House.  It was decided not to lease the Hotel Wellington, which is being conducted by the Commission.  The other two buildings have been closed for some time.

Mr Parer’s lease of the Hotel Ainslie is for ten years at £1,352 a year, which represents a return of 3¾ per cent on the capital outlay of the hotel (£38,000). The losses on the hotel amount to £11,058. A license for the sale of liquor will be granted. The Ainslie will be the first hotel in Canberra conducted by private enterprise.

Canberra House is to be let at £364 a year for three years, which will represent a return of 3 2-3 per cent on the capital valuation. A club licence for the sale of liquor was one of the conditions of the tender.

The West Australian Perth WA 25 October 1931


CANBERRA, Oct 24 – A definite proposal for the handing over to private enterprise of all hotels in Canberra will probably be made to the Minister during the week when Mr Stacey (UAP, SA) will move to this effect in the House of Representatives.  Mr Stacey has made a close investigation of the losses on the five hotels in Canberra, and he said to-day that he was convinced that under private enterprise they could be made to pay. Only two of the hotels at present are being run by the government – the Hotel Canberra and the Hotel Kurrajong. The Hotel Ainslie will shortly be reopened by a private lessee. The Hotel Acton and Hotel Wellington are closed.

Any proposal to hand over the hotels to private management would have to take into consideration the very heavy capital cost, the consequent interest charges and the accumulated losses since they were opened.  The capital value of the Hotel Canberra is £160,980, that of the Hotel Kurrajong is £91,718, that of the Hotel Acton £84,281, that of the Hotel Wellington £35,353 and that of the Hotel Ainslie £37,151. The accumulated losses on the hotels are as follows:- Hotel Canberra £13,017; Hotel Kurrajong, £3,785; Hotel Acton £3,773; Hotel Wellington, 1,253; and Hotel Ainslie £1,224.

Although no figures are available it is understood that in recent months, when tourist traffic has been heavy and the Hotels Canberra and Kurrajong have been full the losses have been reduced considerably.

The Mercury Hobart Tasmania 9 October 1931


Canberra, October 8. The Hotel Ainslie which has been unoccupied for three years is to be leased by the Government to the Canberra Returned Soldiers’ Club for two years at a rental of £15 a week.

The Canberra Times 3 November 1932


Losses amounting in aggregate to £385,565 were incurred on the five hotels and other hostels conducted by the Government in Canberra from the time they were first put into operation up to June 30 last. The losses included interest and other charges.

In direct contrast were the profits made on the Kingston Café and the City Café which totaled £14,742.  In the case of the Kingston Café the profit was £8,507, while the City Café showed a return of £6,355.  A loss of £60 was shown by the café at Manuka. [These cafes sold liquor following the allowance of the sale of liquor after the 1928 vote].

In supplying these figures in the House of Representatives yesterday in reply to a question Mr Baker, the Minister for the Interior (Mr Perkins) submitted a statement showing that the aggregate losses on all Government controlled establishments in Canberra to June 30 last were as follows:-

Hotel Acton £31,953, Hotel Ainslie £18,888, Hotel Canberra £127,852, Hotel Kurrajong £49,216, Hotel Wellington £17,772, Beauchamp House [now Ian Potter House] £19,073, Brassey house £10,213, Gorman House £10,213, Bachelors Quarters £36,635, and Printers Quarters £35,926.

After the profit made on the two cafes had been deducted the aggregate loss was reduced to £371,183.

It was pointed out by Mr Perkins that of this amount £77,008 represented a working loss, the balance of £294,175 being depreciation and interest on capital and maintenance reserve charges. The working loss, he said, as occasioned mainly during the early years of the hotels, the figures for 1930-31 and 1931-32 during which time the establishments were under departmental control, being £3,948 and £2,918 respectively.

Queanbeyan Canberra Advocate 4 March 1926


Mr Bruce made his first official entry as Prime Minister into the Federal Capital during the week-end and visited all its principal buildings and administrative offices. He had a conference with the Federal Capital Commissioners, whom he urged to expedite building and other operations.

The Prime Minister expressed satisfaction with the work that was being done, and stated that it was his desire as Prime Minister to have the Federal Government permanently transferred to Canberra in March 1927, at the latest.

The Commissioners assured him that their year’s programme of works involving the expenditure of approximately £2,000,000 was being framed with that object in view.

The decision of the Federal Government to transfer the administrative offices permanently to Canberra early next year necessitated a variation of the building construction programme. The Commissioners had, according to the earlier decision of the Federal Government, to have only a nucleus administrative staff in Canberra for a few years at least, built an administrative block to hold the skeleton staffs, and that is at present almost ready for occupation.

The Commissioners are providing for the additional administrative staffs by converting the Hotel Kurrajong, now nearing completion into Federal offices. The Federal parliamentary buildings and suites of offices all will be completed by the end of the year. Concurrently, arrangements are being made for the erection of the permanent administrative block of buildings to the winning competition design of Mr G Sydney Jones, architect of Sydney. It is expected that this block will be completed by about 1930, and, in the meantime, temporary accommodation is being provided to meet all requirements, including the national library.

The Hotel Kurrajong was built to accommodate 180 visitors and to provide additional facilities for members of Parliament, journalists, and other visitors to Canberra, during the sitting of Parliament.  The hotel will not now be available until 1930 to the Hotel Acton is being erected, at which the residence charges will be about three guineas weekly.  The present charges at Hotel Canberra, the leading hotel in the area, is £5/5/- weekly and £1/1/- daily.  There is also the Hotel Ainslie [renamed Gorman House 1927], occupied mainly by civil servants, who receive special concessions. Four large boarding hostels are being erected.  On the present basis now ruling in Canberra, the cost of living is from 20 to 25 per cent more in the Federal Capital than in either Sydney or Melbourne.  It is believed that this percentage rate will be reduced somewhat when the population of Canberra becomes nearer to 10,000.  I is now about 3,000.

The Commissioners are endeavouring to meet the housing problem in a practical manner. Contractors are engaged in the erection of a number of five, six, and seven roomed houses.  Within a month tenders will be invited for the erection of 500 moderate-sized houses, the whole of which are to be completed within 12 months from the date of contract. A new kiln is being erected to make bricks and tiles for the contractors. Another plant will manufacture concrete blocks.  The houses of six and seven rooms will cost the prospective purchasers from £1,800 to £2,000 and the capital charges for the land will vary from £150 to £250 for the 99 years’ lease. Under the new contract it is believed that the building charges will be reduced by from 15 to 20 per cent on present prices. The Commissioners will arrange that up to 90 per cent of the cost of the building and land can be secured at an interest rate of six per cent, the repayments to be spread over a period of 35 years.

‘There is at present a most helpful community spirit existing in Canberra,’ said Mr Butters, chairman of the Commission, ‘and the commissioners are encouraging that in a practical way by the provision of suitable grounds for all kinds of sports. The commissioners have no difficulty in getting all the labour that is wanted at Canberra; in fact, for every vacancy there are a score or more applicants.’

Transport within the Federal Capital will also have to be considered by the Government and the Commissioners. Canberra is being laid out as a garden city, which necessitates considerable distances between residences and the main administrative blocks, the Parliament buildings, and the shopping centre. The roads at present are ‘bush roads,’ badly cut up owing to the haulage of heavy wagons.

A small motor car will be almost a necessity for those who will reside in Canberra and this is recognized by the Commissioners, as in all the moderate sized homes a garage is being constructed. It is also contended that this will materially add to the cost of living in Canberra. The problem of transit is causing considerable anxiety to those who will have to make their future homes there, judging by the representations that have been made to the Commissioners on this head.

Mr Butters stage that the Commissioners had a roads policy for a five year period, but that until the excavations had been completed and the heavy haulage done it would be useless for them to make good roads in the Federal Capital.

‘it is the policy of the Commission,’ said Mr Buttes, ‘ to have first-class roads through all parts of the Federal Capital. The main roads that will have to carry heavy traffic will be of cement concrete [the two cement concrete roads were Commonwealth and Wentworth Avenues] whilst the main roads that will not have to carry heavy traffic will be of asphaltum concrete. Roads through other areas where there will only be light traffic will be made on the principle of penetrative bitumen and gravel, top-dressed to prevent dust, the latter being for roads in the residential areas, where the traffic will not be considerable.





Sewered. Dining room for 140 persons - ventilation, lighting, cleanliness of crockery etc., - satisfactory. Kitchen - structure satisfactory; - cleaning up floor at time of visit; garbage bins uncovered, chopping block requires repair; few roaches in vegetable room and dry store. Kitchen utensils were not clean at time of visit, viz., 10 am. - kitchen otherwise clean. No hot water fittings installed.


1. .Provide adequate means for exterminating roaches.

2. Repair or fill in chopping block where open.

3. Keep garbage bins effectively covered, also provide coverings for dried fruits etc., in store; rejoint lunch cutting block.


Location Telopea. - Sewered. Modern buildings - accommodation 16 double and 24 single rooms. - Kitchen - structures satisfactory, bins covered; vegetable locker and store room - cleanliness and construction satisfactory - few traces of mice in store - cat kept.


1.Maintain effective means of exterminating mice.



Modern building containing 56 double and 62 single rooms and 16 suites. General conditions satisfactory - garbage bins covered.


1.Rejoint cutting and fish scaling bench.

Below: Hotel Canberra 1927.


Sewered. Modern building containing 60 double and 25 single rooms. General conditions satisfactory with exception of information received of 3 pet dogs being kept in kennels in bedroom occupied by Mrs Barton, a permanent resident who was out at time of visit, but information confirmed by Manageress - apparently no verandah space available for kennels except at sitting rooms at end of wing corridors; animals habits stated to be clean and no noise complained to.


The practice of keeping any animals in living rooms is discouraged and regulations prohibiting same might be considered.


Sewered - Building construction satisfactory - accommodation for 80 persons, in 20 double and 40 single rooms. - Lockers, cupboards etc clean. Kitchen garbage bins - one perforated wooden lid - no metal lids. Walls not clean. - Bulk store door - glass panel broken and wire gauze in outer door defective; no external ventilation.


1. Provide lids for garbage bins and keep bins covered.

  1. Paint or cleanse walls of kitchen and vegetable store where necessary.
  2. Bulk store door panel - remove broken glass and replace with gauze panel; renew gauze to outer door.
  3. Refrigerating Chamber. - provide ice to preserve meat etc., or remove contents to screened locker to provide ventilation. (Door to chamber kept open to preserve contents, but provides access for flies).



Sewered. - Modern weatherboard buildings with 140 single rooms. General sanitary conditions clean; small  quantity of chipped crockery; kitchen walls require cleaning or painting. Internal surfaces of accommodation - paint off in parts. Slight collection of rubbish in yard and adjoining ground.


  1. Discard chipped crockery and replenish if necessary.
  2. Paint and kalsomine interior walls of accommodation where necessary.
  3. Kitchen - rejoint table, cleanse or paint walls.
  4. Dry store - provide covers for dried fruits etc., and provide effectual means for exterminating mice.
  5. Heap of Contractor's refuse near hedge to be removed, also collect and remove small accumulation of rubbish outside boundary near accommodation.





HOTEL ACTON – completed 12 July 1927 and occupied 5 May 1927.  There were 60 double and 25 single rooms.

HOTEL AINSLIE – completed 1 July 1927 and occupied 12 September 1927.



HOTEL CANBERRA – First half opened 24 December 1924 and second half 15 December 1925 – 56 double rooms & 62 single rooms & 16 suites. The foundations were dug by day labourer and the hotel constructed by Contractor John Howie.  Tennis courts, bowling green and croquet green were included in the grounds and at the rear of the hotel Canberra’s third golf course was constructed.


The Argus 22 November 1924

CANBERRA HOSTEL [Hotel Canberra]

Manageress Appointed

Having decided that, in view of the sale of leases at Canberra on December 12, the No 1 Hostel [Hotel Canberra] must be open for the reception of visitors by December 12, the No 1 hostel must be open for the reception of visitors by December 10, Senator Crawford (Assistant Minister) said yesterday that the Home and Territories department had appointed Miss Southwell as temporary manageress. Senator Crawford added that the future control of the hostel would be a matter for the consideration of the Canberra Commission, which would have to decided whether the hostel should be carried on under the aegis of the Ministry, or whether another effort should be made to induce an experienced hotelkeeper or caterer to take a lease of the premises for a number of years. Miss Southwell has for sometime past the manageress of Yarralumla, the historic homestead at the Federal Capital, which has been used for the accommodation of members of Parliament and other visitors to the Territory. It is expected that everything will be in readiness for the reception of visitors in two or three weeks.

[Miss Southwell later became the manageress of the Hotel Kurrajong where she remained for many years.]


Queanbeyan Canberra Advocate 26 February 1925


On Saturday, February 14th a wedding that created great interest was celebrated at St Gregory’s Church Queanbeyan when Miss Monica Read, eldest daughter of Mrs J Read of ‘The Pines’ Ainslie, was married to Mr W Jackson O’Sullivan (late pilot Royal Air Force), son of Mr P O’Sullivan of Paisley Scotland. The ceremony was performed by the Rev Father Haydon.

The bride who was given away by her brother, Mr Tom Read, wore a dainty gown of shell pink brocaded morocan; the court train of pink satin was lined with georgette and trimmed with hand-made flowers of silver tissue.  The white tulle veil and wreath or orange blossoms, lent by Mrs O Throsby-Young of Wagga was arranged mob-cap fashion. The bridal flowers were a beautiful shower bouquet of white sweet peas, daisies, cactus dahlias, pale pink lilies and ferns with tulle and satin streamers.

As the bride entered the church Miss M Cullen at the organ played the Bridal March, and the Wedding March as the happy couple left.

Miss Eileen Read, sister of the bride acted as bridesmaid and was prettily attired in a frock of mauve georgette with shaded ostrich feathers and black hat. She carried a bouquet of pink carnations, pale heliotrope asters, asparagus fern, with pink and heliotrope streamers, and wore a pearl ring the gift of the bridegroom.

Mr J Newman was best man.

Mrs Read, gowned in black morocain with touches of oriental and black hat, carrying  a sheaf of dark red cactus dahlias, gypeopgbain [?] and ferns, with dark red satin streamers, received over a hundred guests at the Hotel Canberra where the reception was held.  The function was unique in the history of the Federal Capital insomuch as it is the first time a reception and wedding breakfast was held in what may be termed Australia’s most up-to-date hotel, and in honour of such an occasion the management provided a wonderful repast. A feature at the breakfast was the wedding cake, which was made and presented by Miss A Sheebey [? Word not clear] of Yass.

Sydney and the Blue Mountains were chosen for the honeymoon, the bride travelling in a mode [?] morocain costume, hat en suite.

The future home of Mr and Mrs O’Sullivan will be at Canberra.

Queanbeyan Age 18 August 1925


The spacious ballroom at the Hotel Canberra was a brilliant scene on Friday evening last, with tastefully arranged orchestral stand, in the centre, and multi-coloured streamers from which gay balloons were swinging as they hung from the ceiling, and the artistic effect of the variety of costumes worn by the company as they gracefully circled in the ballroom, to the music of the ‘Stromberra’ Orchestra was a scene equal to any similar function organized in the State Capitals. As over 250 were sold by the committee and many paid as they entered, the result financially will reach the object aimed at, viz:- a new organ for Canberra’s Historic Church at Ainslie. [St John the Baptist Church Reid –originally part of Ainslie, then South Ainslie before the final name change to Reid].  The committee are to be congratulated on the success achieved, there was not a hitch to mar the pleasure of patrons from start to finish, although, at times the floor was fairly crowded with dancers.

The vestibule leading into the ballroom as well as the verandahs on each side, were tastefully decorated with bunting and wattle. The carpets and lounge chairs were a boon to many between the dances.  The streamers and balloons, which decorated the ballroom were the gift of Mrs Gorman and they were artistically arranged by Mesdames Gorman, Duffield, Davies and Miss Hawkins, the hon secretary assisted by the Rev FG Ward.

The ‘Stromberra’ Orchestra comprised Dr and Mrs Duffield of Hotel Canberra, and Messrs Glassy and Daley of Canberra; the wore attractive fancy costumes and headgear at the ‘Harlequins’, and their music, piano, violin, flute and bass viol for quality and time was much appreciated and frequently applauded.

The company included visitors from Sydney, Goulburn, Yass and Queanbeyan. The ingenuity of many was taxed to introduce a new idea in fancy dress. One group deserves special mention on account of the attractiveness of their display; Mrs Crace of Gungahleen, brought a party of eight who took the part in every detail, with wands, garlanded with flowers, and ribbons of various hues as ‘Pompadours.’

The following is a description of some of the dresses worn:-

·         Mrs John Goodwin, Canberra, ‘Bridge’

·         Mrs JH Butters, Canberra House, ‘Night’

·         Mrs Gorman, ‘Chinese lady’

·         Mrs Rowse, Hotel Canberra, ‘Persian lady’

·         Miss C Land, Acton ‘Rainbow’

·         Mrs Les Edwards, Acton, ‘Apple Blossom’

·         Mrs JC Brackenreg, Acton, ‘Chance’

·         Miss Davies, ‘Red Indian’

·         Mrs Duffield, ‘Harlequin’

·         Mrs J Hollingsworth, Gungahleen, ‘Knitting Bag’

·         Miss G Kedwell, Sydney, ‘French Artist’

·         Miss MF Hayman, Canberra, pink and blue Mid Victorian’

·         Miss Mignon Jowett, Blandfordia, ‘Madame Pompadour’

·         Mrs Hunt, Blandfordia, ‘Gipsy’

·         Miss Rosy Hunt, Blandfordia. ‘Victorian Age’

·         Mrs Jowitt, Blandfordia, ‘Felix the Black Cat’

·         Mrs Loughrey, Canberra, ‘Night’

·         Miss Wolf, Canberra, ‘Black and Gold Butterfly’

·         Mrs Lawrence Rudd, Canberra, ‘Early Victorian Silhouette’

·         Mrs Butler, Blandfordia, ‘Lady Target’

·         Mrs F Cox, Blandfordia, ‘Pink Rose’

·         Mrs McKenzie, Duntroon, ‘Night’

·         Miss Beryl Butler, Blandfordia, ‘Gipsy’

·         Miss Southwell, Hotel Canberra, ‘Queen of Diamonds’

·         Miss Dorothy M Hawkins, Hotel Canberra, ‘Red Indian’

·         Mrs Cyril Davies, Hotel Canberra, ‘Chinese Girl’

·         Mrs GA Crease, Blandfordia, ‘Sunflower’

·         Mrs Worrall, Blandfordia, ‘Lady Tennis Player’

·         Mrs John Deans, Hotel Canberra, ‘Hawiaan Costurme’

·         Miss J Marriott, Blandfordia, ‘Tennis Player’

·         Mrs T H Tyson, ‘The Hill’ Queanbeyan, ‘Carnival’

·         Mrs Alan Scott, Canberra, ‘Jazz Pierette’

·         Mrs WG Woodger, Eastlake, ‘Persian Princess’

·         Miss Finlay, Eastlake, ‘Gipsy’

·         Mrs JH Calthorpe, Queanbeyan, ‘Persian Princess’

·         Miss Hetherington, Canberra, ‘Powder and Patches’

·         Miss McGowan, Acton, ‘Nurse’

·         Miss FM Allen, Queanbeyan, black beaded and georgette and silver.

·         Mrs Cyril Murden, Eastlake, gold lame and blue georgette.

·         Miss Mayo, Queanbeyan, black georgette, gold trimmings

·         Mrs Pat McManus RMC Duntroon, cherry and silver evening gown

·         Mrs J Mildenhall, Canberra, pink moiré

·         Mrs O’Sullivan, Canberra, Alice blue velvet

·         Mrs Walter Merriman, Yass, black chiffon velvet, trimmed gold tissue

·         Mrs PL Sheaffe, ‘Acton House’ Canberra, grey georgette, steel beads and black satin coat

·         Miss M Land, Acton, rose moracain, feather trimming

·         Miss M Cox, Queanbeyan, flame taffeta and gold hand made flowers.

·         Miss Constance Forsyth, Blandfordia, pale blue chasmere-de soie

·         Mrs JF Brigden, Yass, black velvet

·         Mrs Mill, Barber Yass, white beaded black georgette

·         Mrs RS Shannon, Eastlake, cream chamuese and georgette with bead trimmings

·         Miss Mawson, Duntroon, black chiffon velvet

·         Mrs AT Cameron, Eastlake, black crepe-de-chene

·         Miss Laura Wilkinson, Queanbeyan, shell satin and silver

·         Miss K Dalton, Canberra, mauve chenille

·         Miss V Thwaite, Canberra, blue georgette, trimmed fringe

·         Mrs L Marriott, Blandfordia, black velvet

·         Mrs PF Douglas, Eastlake, wine crepe-de-chene with shaded fringe

·         Miss F Weston, Canberra, green brocaded moracain trimmed green ostrich feathers

·         Miss L Hibberson, Queanbeyan burnt orange figured moracain

·         Mrs Edmonds, Queanbeyan, satin meteor brocade

·         Miss E Hawes, Queanbeyan, apricot crepe-de-chene, gold lace trimmings

·         Miss Doris Priddle, Ainslie, flame charmonte, ostrich trimmed

·         Miss Edna Gamble, Blandfordia, jade green brocaded moracain, with feather trimmings.

·         Miss Eileen Read, Ainslie, blue moracain trimmed squirrel

·         Mrs Waterman, Canberra, brown velvet

·         Mrs A Butcher, Canberra, gold moracaine satin beaded in silver

·         Mrs FB Heritage, Duntroon, Cycamen minon [?]

·         Miss Dot McInnes, Queanbeyan, Sunset in touca satin and gold

·         Miss K McNeely, Queanbeyan, silver lame and blue georgette

·         Mrs Richardson, Queanbeyan, yellow and silver silk velvet

·         Miss Phelan, Canberra, jade green velvet, Oriental trimmings

·         Mrs Miligan, Sydney, black hand beaded moracain.

·         Mrs WT Farrow, Hotel Canberra, evening frock

·         Miss B Harriott, Yarralumla, white voile with gold en…

·         Miss McKellar, Lindfield, Sydney, daffodil crepe romaine trimmed nasturtians, rainlbow tulle scarf to tone, and red brocaded plush evening coat.

The majority of the gentlemen appeared in evening dress. Those in fancy dress were particularly thorough in details of the various characters they assumed.

·         Dr McKenzie, Duntroon, ‘Uncle Tom’

·         Mr A Nish, ‘A student in cap and gown’

·         Mr P Taylor, Hotel Ainslie [later Gorman House] ‘A Collingwood Lady.’

·         Mr D Hunt, Blandfordia, ‘An Indian Officer’

·         Mr Rowse. Hotel Canberra, ‘An Arabian Prince’

·         Mr Williams, Gungahleen. ‘ A Padre’

·         Mr JD McColl, Ainslie, ‘A Chaffeur’

·         Mr RC Farr, Sydney, ‘A French Artist’

·         Mr WG Woodger, Eastlake, ‘A Shiek’

·         Mr Henry Smith, Blandfordia, Monsieur Beaucaire’

·         Mr W Potts, Canberra, ‘A Hollander’

·         Mr C Marriott, Blandfordia, ‘A Girl’

·         Mr Cyril Davies, Hotel Canberra, ‘Simple Simon’

·         Mr WB Rimmer, Hotel Canberra, ‘A Barrister’

·         Mr JH Calthorpe, Queanbeyan, ‘A Shiek’

·         Mr SJ Ryan, Queanbeyan, ‘An Italian Dancer’

·         Dr Duffield, Hotel Canberra, ‘Harlequin’

·         Mr CS Daley, Canberra, ‘Harlequin’

·         Mr Glassy, Acton, ‘Harlequin’

·         Mr F Henley-Smith, Blandfordia, ‘Monsieur Beaucaire’

The fancy costumes were shown with good effect when at 10pm the company were formed up ‘in fours’ and a grand march was made around the ballroom, which elicited applause.  Form two deep was the next command and then single file. Mrs Crace’s party of ‘Pompadours’ were in the lead of the march.

As there were a such a number to be catered for the Marshall led the way to the dining hall and the first contingent, according to numbers issued when the ball tickets were handed in, sat down to an excellent and well served supper.  The tables looked attractive, the decorations were japonica and autumn leaves; this work was done by Mrs John Goodwin and was much admired.  The dancing was kept going during supper, for which ample provision was made by the committee.  A work must be added to compliment the management and staff on the manner in which, in spite of the large attendance the visitors were server, every detail was anticipated with the result that was no delay or confusion which cannot be said of most functions in other places.

Dancing was kept going till about 1am.  The orchestra were most unselfish in their desire to help satisfy the demands of the company and the success of the evening undoubtedly was due in a large measure to their voluntary work and excellent music. Other friends of the movement gave them a rest on a few occasions with piano accompliment.

The Mercury Hobart Tasmania 28 January 1928

THE MAINLAND DAY BY DAY From Our Special Correspondent

CANBERRA Friday – City With One Garage

An amazing number of Sydney people concurred that the appropriate celebration of Anniversary Day was to see the national capital.  The crowds of tourists who motored through yesterday and to-day were as numerous as at the peak of the Yuletide vacation, and it is apparent that many are making a week-end trip of it.  Each accretion of visitors emphasizes and interesting feature of Canberra – that is it a city of only one garage. [sic there were three at this time – one at Ainslie, another at the end of Wentworth Avenue – Brodie’s – and Hunt’s garage at the Hotel Canberra.] When the hostels and villas had been finished the Commission found they had no bricks left for garages in Canberra, and wood being an anathema in this city of marble halls the only garage in Canberra is the one that had been built at the rear of the Hotel Canberra, the leading hotel of the Capital. This garage incidentally, is a corrugated iron structure. It is a common sight to find lines of cars parked overnight under canvas outside the other hotels. Tourists show signs of annoyance when they discover that only guests of the Hotel Canberra have the privilege of garage accommodation, but the residents are accustomed to it by now.  They reflect philosophically that a bus which stands up to the roads in the Federal Territory will come to no harm in an open-air parking overnight.


Two page spread in a paper part of the collection of Phoebe Bishop

The Canberra times 10 November 1939


Does your car cause domestic upheavals? When you wife has to be continually washing your clothes getting grease stains out of your shirts after you have been crawling under your car – is it any wonder she gets annoyed?  All this is unnecessary work and can be avoided by taking advantage of the specialized lubrication services offered by Mr WJ Hunt of the Hotel Canberra Garage situated immediately behind the Hotel Canberra.

You will please your wife and be more that satisfied yourself by placing your car in the hands of this automotive expert. Besides the multitudinous duties of service station, and garage proprietor, Mr WJ Hunt carries a complete stock of accessories, batteries, tyres, tubes, cables etc and is completely equipped for vulcanizing and battery charging. Just ring Canberra 751 and this firm’s resources are at your service.

Another feature of WJ Hunt’s garage is the provision that has been made for giving cars complete personal service on a monthly plan. This service includes battery, tyres, oil changes, greasing, washing etc and is carried out at a nominal charge – arrangements may also be made with the proprietor for part-servicing at special rates.  Mr Hunt, who incidentally, has been established for over ten years, carries out the preparations for inspections to motor vehicles now required before re-registration.

Mr Hunt is prominent in musical circles. He is a singer of note, a member of the Musical Society and is actively associated with the Eisteddfod. He came from Birmingham in 1921 and opened his garage here in 1928, consequently he is one of the oldest-established garage men here.

Either coming to or going from Canberra, the careful motorist will call at WJ Hunt’s Hotel Canberra Garage. Expert advice, water, air and service are free and a reasonable charge is made for accessories.

The Canberra Times Thursday 7 April 1927


Perfect autumn weather attended the visit of nineteen petty-officers of HMS Renown to Canberra on Monday and the visitors saw Australia’s capital city under ideal conditions.  The general interest was evinced by the party throughout the various inspections of the city and its environs, and enthusiastic comments upon the ideals represented by Canberra and upon the appearance and progress of the city itself were frequent.

The party arrived at the Hotel Canberra late on Sunday night. The journey from Sydney as made in a speedy and comfortable motor coach [Mrs Barton’s] provided by Intercity Coaches Limited.  From Sydney to Goulburn heavy rain fell continually effectively blotting out the rural landscape. Thus little could be seen of the farming country of which the party had heard so much.

Out of Goulburn the big coach swung into the gathering dusk, hastened by sullen skies.  The rain eased gradually and was soon left behind. Between the lines of gum trees flanking the long bush roads, through dark hamlets and past lonely homesteads the coach hummed and roared with headlights flaming like some evil monster. Through Tarago, Bungendore an Queanbeyan it plunged through the outskirts of the Federal Capital, it at last drew up at the brilliantly lighted entrance to the Hotel Canberra.

The contingent saw nothing of the city that night. Monday broke with the promise of a perfect day, and the visitors were agreeably surprised at the scene presented from the windows of their rooms. The sun-splashed colorful gardens surrounding the hotel Canberra, in their setting of sweeping lawns and neatly-clipped hedges, are indeed a pleasing greeting.

The morning was occupied by a visit to the Royal Military College at Duntroon, a general inspection of the city and a visit to Parliament House, under the guidance of Mr Mildenhall of the Federal Capital Commission.





Above: John Foster Rose Gardens Provisional Parliament House

The first Parks & Gardens Superintendent in the Territory was Thomas CG Weston.  On his retirement he was replaced by Alexander Bruce who remained in the job until 1937 when he resigned.  He moved to Sydney to take on a similar position there.

Documents about the work of both these men are plentiful as are newspaper articles.  Information about the men who worked for Parks & Gardens is sparse and it is from family members that one learns about their history. 

One man who worked on the Rose Gardens at the Provisional [Old] Parliament House and the nearby Hotel Canberra was John Foster.  His daughter, Claire Brinkmann provided the following information: 

Her father - Jack was born at Forbes NSW in 1916 and came to Canberra aged 15 at the time of the Great Depression where he found some work in planting trees on Mt Franklin.  He married in 1937 and settled in Canberra where he worked on the Rose Garden and gardens at the Hotel Canberra  until retirement. 

Claire’s family, like so many who came to build the city have an interesting history. The family were lace makers of Calais where four of the children were born before the family moved to Nottinghamshire, England. In 1848 they sailed on the Agincourt to Australia and settled in the Forbes area where her grandfather, Charles Frederick Foster was born in 1864.  He worked at a Cook at White City Camp and in 1928 was a camp caretaker at Parkes Barracks.  This camp was the former No 4 Sewer Camp on the south side of the Molonglo River opposite the Provisional Parliament House. In late 1927 or early 1928 the men of the Old Tradesmen Camp moved to Parkes Barracks where tents had been replaced with cubicles.  Charles Foster enlisted in the army in the Boer War conflict and in the 1st Light Horse in World War One. At the time of his enlistment he was recorded as a widower and his address was 290 Riley Street Surrey Hills.  As his next of kin he gave the name of his mother, Mrs Mary Ann Foster who lived at 4 Trivetts-lane off Mort Street, Balmain.  He tried to enlist in the AIF in the Second World War, but was turned down because of his age.  Jack, however, did enlist and served in World War Two.  His date of birth was 10 December 1916 at Rockdale.  His next of kin was his wife, Elsie.

My neighbour, Eric Menzies, an Italian by birth who arrived in the territory in the teen years of the last century, worked at Parks & Gardens as did his son, Neville. Another father and son who worked for Parks & Gardens were Colin Smith and his father, Tom Smith.  This was at a time when the front hedges of houses were kept trimmed by the men of Parks and Gardens.


When I heard in the local news a few years back about the renewal of the Rose Garden in the grounds of the Provisional Parliament House – now known as the OLD Parliament House there was no mention of Alexander Bruce who was one of the men responsible for its being. 

My attention was first drawn to AE Bruce’s connection with and work in relation to the Rose Garden came about when I met his daughter, Mrs Jessie Gibbs who lives in Canberra.  She is the only surviving child of a family of three children.  I met her before her second marriage to Arthur who turns out to be a distant relation of both myself and another Westlake person, Yvonnie Arnell (nee Gibbs).  Our common ancestors were second fleet convict Edward Merrick and third fleet convict, Mary Russell – a small world.

Jessie as well as telling me about her father and his work, showed me many wonderful old photographs of eg men working in Acton offices, the construction of the CSIRO and numerous newspaper cuttings. [some reproduced in Hidden Canberra Web in the section on 1930s newspaper articles http://hiddencanberra.webs.com/1930s%20Canberra%20Times.pdf.

Now many more are available on-line in the Nla newspapers.  One such example Horticultural Show : http://newspapers.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/2386000?searchTerm=AE+Bruce+Canberra

Jessie wrote a story for our True Tales From Canberra’s Vanished Suburbs of Westlake Westridge & Acton  [Gugler 1998]. An excerpt follows:


Alexander Dickson Essen Bruce was born on 8th February 1884 at Arbuthnott, Kincardinshire Scotland, fifth son of William and Martha Bruce, farmers of Kincardinshire, Scotland.


Alexander Bruce became the second Superintendent of Parks and Gardens in Canberra and was responsible for much of the early street plantings in the city as well as the rose gardens in front of Provisional Parliament House...


The family arrived in Canberra in May 1927 in time to attend and view the official opening of Parliament House on the 9th. ..The family spent the first two nights in the Hotel Canberra before moving to a cottage in Torrens Street Braddon.  This house was far too small and shortly afterwards they moved into an Acton cottage usually kept for a bank manager.  When Mr Weston retired and moved from Acton the Bruce family moved across the road into Weston’s former House.  At this time Alexander Bruce was appointed Superintendent of parks and Gardens.  In July he was admitted to the Public Service and in 1935 was awarded the MBE for his work which was the responsibility for preparing of planting schemes, selection of trees and shrubs and the planting of the city area...


Mr Bruce is well remembered by a neighbour, Mr Charles Daley, who wrote a series of articles in the Canberra Times.  These stories have been collected and edited by Shirley Purchase and reprinted in a book called ‘AS I Recall, Reminiscences of Early Canberra.’ In the Chapter, ‘Garden Tradition’ Mr Daley speaks highly of Mr Bruce and records that ‘Bruce gave strong support to the Canberra Horticultural Society, of which he was a president and his help to the new residents in establishing their gardens was readily accorded and widely appreciated.  It was very unfortunate that an unreasonable official attitude lost us his services, in the mid thirties, when the City of Sydney eagily appointed him as the Superintendent of its Parks and Gardens...



The Canberra Times 16 July 1932 has an article on Canberra Roses – Feature of City Gardens that notes Alexander Bruce’s love of Roses and his promotion of their plantings in Canberra’s private and public street and park gardens.  It in part reads:  An interesting pamphlet, ‘ Roses in the Federal Capital,’ written by the Superintendent of Parks and Gardens (Mr AE Bruce FRHS) has been issued.  The pamphlet is compiled from an article which was contributed by Mr Bruce to the ‘Australian Rose Annual’ in its July issue.


‘The article,’ says Mr Bruce, ‘ has as its prime purpose a brief exposition of the reason why the rose has been selected as the backbone (so to speak) of the floral decorative scheme for the Federal Capital and why it has so rapidly achieved the place of honour in private gardens throughout the Territory. There is presented also a brief appreciation of the roses that have been found most suitable to the soil and climate.


In the districts of Goulburn and Yass are to be found many ...growers of repute, and there were fine gardens within the area now occupied by the Federal Capital Territory before its purchase by the nation. The Campbells, of Duntroon (later the Royal Military College) and Yarralumla (the present Government House) were notable gardeners, and knew their roses.’


Reviewing the history of the rose planting in Canberra, Mr Bruce said: ‘In the year 1925 Mr Weston, who at that time held the position of Superintendent of Parks and Gardens, laid the grounds of the Hotel Canberra, and in addition to his piece de resistance – tulips – planted a number of roses, among which (it is recorded) were Carline Testout, Paul Neyron, FK Druschki, Dr Grill, Clara Watson, Papa Gontier, Marion Manifold, Beety, H Dickson, Madame Lambard La France and Sunny South, together with American Pillar, Crimson Rambler, Hiawatha and Dorothy Perkins.


In January 1926 the writer was appointed to the position and was charged with the responsibility of laying out the public parks and gardens of the Federal Capital.  It was quite obvious from the growth and development of the plants established by Mr Weston – many on their own roots – that the rose would be a success in Canberra and it took no great time to make up one’s mind that, from the point of view of floral decoration, here was a clue to be beautification of the Federal Capital...


Canberra Times  11 March 1933 in part reads: National Rose Garden – Progress of Canberra Scheme...The Minister for the Interior (Mr Perkins) stated to-day that the beds were now ready for planting. One section had already been started and all roses received to date were growing well. The superintendent of parks and gardens, Mr Bruce, was particularly anxious to secure roses from all parts of Australia so that the garden would be filled as early as possible and be representative of all parts of Australia and truly what its name portrayed: ‘The national rose garden of Australia’/

Apart from the areas on the east and west sides of Parliament House, which it was proposed to fill with roses as early as possible, he said, an area of approximately five acres had already been laid out in the form of a rose. A committee consisting of the Council of the Horticultural Society of Canberra and including the Superintendent of parks and gardens was now actively engaged upon the preparation of a colour scheme of planting which would ensure that every rose planted would be in its correct position as part of the whole colour design for the completed garden.  Taking as a guide, the spectacle of 20,000 roses in Commonwealth-avenue when in full bloom, it could be imagined what a magnificent sight would be presented from the avenue in front of Parliament House when the planting of this garden was completed and the roses were in full bloom.

Gifts of roses would be received by the superintendent of parks and gardens Canberra, from individuals, municipal and shire councils, public bodies, commercial rose growers and others.

The Canberra Times 15 March 1935

...A definite plan of securing donations of roses for the project is being prepared by the sub-committee of the society which is co-operating with the Superintendent of Parks and Gardens Mr AE Bruce) in promotion of the scheme...

The Canberra Times 17 December 1935

MR WESTON’S ASHES – Distributed on Canberra Parklands

In accordance with the wish of the late Mr TCG Weston, formerly officer in charge of Afforestation and Superintendent of Parks and Gardens in Canberra, his ashes were quietly distributed in the large park which forms the permanent administrative area of Canberra.


Mr Weston’s family was presented by his son-in-law (Mr Willis) and the distribution was carried out by the Superintendent of Parks and Gardens (Mr AE Bruce) and Chief Inspector of the Lands Department (Mr AE Bruce) and Chief Inspector of the Lands Department (Mr JC Brackenreg) and the Controller of Stores (Mr CE Francis).


The Minister for the Interior (Mr T Paterson) said it was fitting that Mr Weston’s ashes should find their resting place among the trees and shrubs of the principal park area of Canberra as he would always be remembered for the distinguished part which he played in the foundation and development of Canberra’s parks and plantations.


The Canberra Times 27 August 1937

RESIGNATION – Parks and Gardens Superintendent.  After an association of nearly twelve years with the development of Canberra, Mr AE Bruce, the Superintendent of Parks and Gardens, resigned on Wednesday...In tendering his resignation, Mr Bruce stated that his reason for doing so was the absolute impossibility of carrying on under existing circumstances...In 1926 Mr Bruce  was appointed as Assistant Superintendent of Parka and Gardens for the Federal Capital Commission. He was later appointed Acting Superintendent and on the retirement of Mr TGC Weston in 1928 was appointed Superintendent. 

Mr Bruce who has a comprehensive technical training was during his association with Canberra, wholly responsible for the control and management of the horticultural section of the city’s construction including nurseries, recreational areas, street planting and gardens.

In 1935 in recognition of his work in Canberra, Mr Bruce was awarded an MBE by the late King George C.  Mr Bruce and Mr Weston who received an MBE in 1927 are the only two horticulturalists in Australia to receive decorations.

When the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens (Sir Arthur Hill) visited Canberra he referred to the work here as the most successful and extensive ever attempted and on his return to London elected Mr Bruce to a fellowship of the Royal Horticultural Society.

Alexander Bruce has almost been forgotten in Canberra’s history as have the many men and women who came to build the city of Canberra. Most books and other informative material about early Canberra rarely mention the temporary camps and settlements and many refer to a Canberra that ‘began’ in 1927 with the arrival of the federal parliament and the men and women who came to run the business of the federal government.



HOTEL KURRAJONG – completed 1 April 1926 and occupied7 May 1927.  Isabelle Southwell who was the manageress at Yarralumla House during the teen years of the last century moved to Hotel Canberra and then to Kurrajong where she remained in charge for many years.  She was born 28 May 1866 near Sutton, daughter of George Southwell and Ann nee McIntosh of Majura.  James Lynch was caretaker.

HOTEL WELLINGTON – an earlier proposed name was Hotel Narrabundah.  It was situated at the corner of Wellington Avenue (now Canberra Avenue) and National Circuit.  The hotel was completed 7 May 1927.  It had 16 double and 24 single rooms.



Title : Aerial view of Braddon looking south, Gorman House on left (Ainslie Avenue ) and Braddon cottages
Date : 1921
Primary subject : Not Assigned
Secondary subject : Not Assigned
Image no. : A3560, 1151
Barcode : 3117662
Location : Canberra
Find other items in this series :
Series accession number : A3560

Title : Dining room at Gorman House, Ainslie Avenue, Reid
Date : 1926
Primary subject : Not Assigned
Secondary subject : Not Assigned
Image no. : A3560, 1618
Barcode : 3122996
Location : Canberra
Find other items in this series :
Series accession number : A3560

Title : Gorman House , Ainslie Avenue , Reid , under construction - Viewed from Batman Street
Date : 1921
Primary subject : Not Assigned
Secondary subject : Not Assigned
Image no. : A3560, 259
Barcode : 3106947
Location : Canberra
Find other items in this series :
Series accession number : A3560





These buildings were boarding houses constructed to house the single and a few married couples transferred to Canberra to carry out the business of the Federal Government.  Gorman House (former Hotel Ainslie) and Beauchamp House were on the north side of the river and housed single girls. [Gorman House also accommodated a number of married couples].  On the south side Brassey House [now Hotel Brassey] accommodated both sexes and the main residence for single teachers most of whom taught at Telopea Park.

Also on the south side at Eastlake [Kingston] the Printers Quarters provided accommodation for single men and in Blandfordia, three cottages were converted into accommodation for single girls – domestics, typistes [the ‘e’ is the feminine form  - typist is male] class – known at the Lady Hopetoun Club – run by Miss Hawkins.

The Bachelors Quarters at Acton that opened in 1912 continued to house single men officers.

The Mercury Hobart Tasmania 28 January 1928

THE MAINLAND DAY BY DAY From Our Special Correspondent

CANBERRA Friday – City With One Garage

An amazing number of Sydney people concurred that the appropriate celebration of Anniversary Day was to see the national capital.  The crowds of tourists who motored through yesterday and to-day were as numerous as at the peak of the Yuletide vacation, and it is apparent that many are making a week-end trip of it.  Each accretion of visitors emphasizes and interesting feature of Canberra – that is it a city of only one garage. [sic there were three at this time – one at Ainslie, another at the end of Wentworth Avenue – Brodie’s – and Hunt’s garage at the Hotel Canberra.] When the hostels and villas had been finished the Commission found they had no bricks left for garages in Canberra, and wood being an anathema in this city of marble halls the only garage in Canberra is the one that had been built at the rear of the Hotel Canberra, the leading hotel of the Capital. This garage incidentally, is a corrugated iron structure. It is a common sight to find lines of cars parked overnight under canvas outside the other hotels. Tourists show signs of annoyance when they discover that only guests of the Hotel Canberra have the privilege of garage accommodation, but the residents are accustomed to it by now.  They reflect philosophically that a bus which stands up to the roads in the Federal Territory will come to no harm in an open-air parking overnight.

Report 1927-28

General activities and development: During the year the department’s activities have been extended by the opening of Beauchamp House, Brassey House and Hotel Ainslie.  These establishments were temporarily opened before completion, to accommodated guests during the Royal visit in May 1927.

Beauchamp House opened on August 9th 1927 and has been used as a residence for female officers of the Commission staff. At holiday periods when accommodation at the Hotels was heavily taxed, visitors were accommodated at Beauchamp House. About 1 dozen beds only are available fro additional Public Service officers shortly to be transferred.

Brassey House opened on August 31st 1927 and has since been the residence of Public Service Officers, Commission Staff and a limited number of the general public. Business fairly well maintained throughout the year.

Hotel Ainslie opened for business on the 15th September 1927. [crossed out – This hotel by reason of its situation on the outskirts of Canberra, and its distance from the centre of activities has never been fully extended since the opening] Public Service officers and Commission staff are accommodated here; in most cases officers awaiting cottage accommodation. The Hotel was used in busy seasons for the overflow from other hotels.

Hotel Kurrajong re-opened after alterations on September 15th 1927 and was in use for Members while Parliament was in Session. Kurrajong was opened for the General Public during  the Christmas and New Year Holidays.  The Hotel was closed in the first week in January and reopened for Members on the 4th February and is now closed until Parliament reassembles in September.

Gorman House – originally known at Hotel Ainslie was built by Messrs George and Elphistone with a contract price of £26,000 pounds. 

A List of Public Servants living in Hotel & Hostel Accommodation [excluding Gorman and Beauchamp Houses] listed the following numbers:

HOUSE               Md Couples        Single Ladies       Single Men         Children

Brassey              4                       18                     14                     3

Hotel Ainslie       3                       1                       15                     4

Hotel Wellington  1                       2                       12

Hotel Acton        3                       1                       14                     1

Total                 11                     22                     55                     8 [3]



This was a concrete building and today is known as IAN POTTER HOUSE.  It is on the opposite side of Edinburgh Avenue in Acton to the Hotel Acton.


The Canberra Times 24 September 1926: …First reinforced Concrete Building [sic Canberra House built in 1913 is the first residence. Scrivener’s Plan Room on Capital Hill is also constructed from concrete – 1911]. As part of the Federal Capital Commission for solving the accommodation problems of Canberra four boarding houses are being erected in different parts of the city to supplement the accommodation which will be provided by the four large hostels…The Acton house facing University Avenue presents the most interesting features from a building standpoint because of its probable importance for future building policy in the city area. Hitherto concrete structure has not been utilized to any marked extent in the city, although very fine raw material in the shape of river shingles lends itself admirably to this purpose.  The new boarding house at Acton is close to Acton Hotel which is now reaching its finishing touches presents a strongly different appearance in its final stages to the other houses which are being erected in brick.  The walls proper are hidden behind wooden walls within which concrete and steel are combining to present strength superior to brick walls. The floors of the building are of hollow block construction overlaid with steel…


The Girls of Beauchamp House formed their own progress association and were keen sports people.  The swimming pool at Acton was one of their favoured swimming holes and a number of the ladies wrote a letter in April 1928 to the Commissioner requesting repairs to the Dressing Sheds at the Acton Pool.  The girls who signed the request were : MF Hall; P Newman; G O’Connor; RE Bignell; K Gates; R Glassey; B Browne; D Stringer; S Drew; KG Butcher; JE Lindley; KA Smith; W Dofts; E Miller, Veronica Statton; T Keely; N Murray; E  Law; G Martin; DC Adamson; Guil Martin; V Thwaite; E Marshall; E Mahony; D Macafee; D Robinson; E McIlveen; H Moriarty; F Chauncey; A Isles; J Lattimore; A Macleod and C Kaye. [10]


The Canberra Times 9 August 1927


The best yet! Such a title can be truthfully given to the dance organized by Miss Vera Shearing and carried to a very successful issue at Gorman House last Saturday evening, on the occasion of the transfer of the lady employees of the Federal Capital Commission from Gorman House to Beauchamp House.


A good gathering attended and jovialities went without a hitch from the first dance, the alluring music for which was supplied by Miss Arbuckle’s orchestra.  Under artistic decorations erected by Mr L Lotte assisted by a willing band of helpers from Gorman House and upon a splendid dancing floor, the ‘trippers of the light fantastic’ made light and merry, in fact, one and all entered into a spirit of carnival to make the dance the happiest that yet been held in Canberra.  Fancy costumes of every description, spot dances, and Musical Arms all helped to brighten the atmosphere, which by the time for the judging of the costumes came round was not in any way lessened by the originality and humour of the dancers.  The judges, Mr and Mrs Burgess, and Mr and Mrs Bertwistle, however, made the following awards:-


·         Best Fancy Costume, Miss N Dunn (Harem Girl) and Mr J Snowdon (Toreador)

·         Most Original Costume, Miss G Hays (Bond’s Hosiery) and Mr A Nish (A Modern Flapper).

·         Best Couple, prize for which was donated by the judges, Miss V Shearing and Mr DV Gordon as Red Pierrots.

·         A spot dance was won by Miss Lamb and Mr Nunn, while the Musical Arms was won by Mr Lotte and Mr B Sweetanam.

·         Among those who appeared in fancy costumes were:-

·         Miss V Shearing and Mr DV Gordon, Red Pierots; Mr and Mrs Lotte Black and White Pierotts; Miss E Rittinger, Blue Pierrot; Miss Bignell Last Rose of Summer; Miss G Smith Dutch Girl; Miss A Reilly Purple Pierrot; Miss Betty Marshall Early Victorian Lady; Miss Mary Reid Turkish Lady; Miss V McClemens Night; Miss E Colman Walter; Miss Butt Dolly Carden; Mrs Glassey Gollywog; Miss E Baker Bat; Miss G Hays, Bond’s Hosiery; Miss E Mahony Ballet Girl; Miss N Dunn Harem Girl, Miss J Marriott School Girl; Miss E Scott Rainbow; Miss M Murphy Carnival; Miss N Glassey Spring Salad; Miss Butcher Cowboy; Mrs Borrowman Ice Skating; Miss K McIlveen Dutch Girl;  Miss Gates  Gypsy; Miss Lindley Harem Girl; Miss M Butler Pom Poms; Miss H Lamb Maid; Miss A Sharkey Swiss Girl; Miss V Hays Milk Maid; Miss M Weston, Mrs G Newman and Miss M Hall, School Girls.

·         Messrs J Snowdon Toreador; F Fuller Ghost; J Richardson Ghost, F Himing Futuristic Freddie; K Lloyd Naval Commander; B Lucas Ghost; CWA Petty Prince Charming; JV McCloskey Schoolboy;  E Tubb Pirate; Mr McNight Sheik; J Cowle clown; L Waterford Lady (?); A Nish Modern Flapper; J Copland Parson; J Miller Baby in Pram; T Stevens Baby’s Nurse; R Sweetnam Schoolboy; W Hunt Red and Gold Pierrot; Lindlay Arab; D Fraser Parson; Winter Toreador, K Sharkey Clown; Nunn Pigott, Hudson Russian officers; V Griffiths Lady; A Sandar’s Pear’s Soap; G Thornthwaite Pirate.

·         Others present were: Mr and Mrs Burgess, Mr and Mrs Bertwisle, Miss Hall, Miss Turnbull, Mrs Cole, Mr and Mrs Ricklar, Mrs Ives, Mr and Mrs Bishop, and Messrs ET Dickens, Freeman, Shannon, McCarthy, C Avery, Davis, J Fenston, JB Martin, Dalco, Morrow.


The Canberra Times 16 November 1928


What proved to be a most successful dance, which had as its object the augmenting of the Poppy Day Appeal Fund took place at Beauchamp House last night. The residents headed by the house committee were the organizers. Though at first the evening was rather warm for dancing a cool breeze sprung up and dancing was thoroughly enjoyed in the lounge and dining rooms which were brightened with bowls of lovely pink roses and sweet peas.

The organizers of the dance were Miss Edith Coleman, president of the House Committee, Miss K Lucas secretary of the dance, Miss Macaffee treasurer, Miss V Slatton, Miss T Drew and Mr ET Dickens.  Lady Butters accompanied by her sister, Miss Keale, arrived a little after nine o’clock. Among the guests were Mr and Mrs C Daley, Mr Rowe (president of the Canberra Branch Retuned Soldiers’ League), Mr Leslie Saunders, Mrs Warren McDonald, Miss Nora McDonald, Miss Snow, Mr and Mrs Ashdown, Miss Beryl Jones, Mr and Mrs Burton Smith, Miss Findley, Miss Pat Romans, Mrs Chartres, M Fletcher, Mr Copland, Mr Blackmap, Mr M Clayfield, Mr W Dale and many others.


The Canberra Times 16 December 1929


Beauchamp House was in a gala mood on Friday night when the residents entertained over 200 guests to the annual Christmas festivities. Departing from precedent the dance was appropriately called the ‘Carnival of the Black Cats.’


The building was a monument of coloured lights. The exterior was brilliantly illuminated with numerous twinkling multi-coloured bulbs and gay streamers added to the bright scenic effect.  The inevitable Christmas tree, carefully nurtured and grown overnight in the hall was festooned with coloured lights and gay clusters of balloons. Arches of streamers hung above the dancers and strings of colourful electric bulbs tastefully intertwined in the shrubbery in the corners enhanced the gaiety of the scene.


The guests were welcomed in the patio by three overgrown but exceedingly well behaved Nubian cats, who presented replicas of themselves to all and sundry. In the dance rooms were pictures of cats of all descriptions with but one common feline characteristic- they were all intensely black.  There were fat contented Cheshire cats, emancipated and  malevolent.  Many cats buxom and benevolent Kilkenny cats, haughty and proud Persian cats and many cats of no known species or pedigree that had arrived especially for the occasion


 A very loquacious Father Christmas arrived promptly at midnight according to schedule and distributed cigars to all the non smokers.  He was more considerate towards the ladies, however and produced a variety of pleasing gifts.


A dainty supper was served in the recreation room.


Among those present were the Chief Commissioner, Mr AJ Christie, Mr and Mrs CS Daley, Mr and Mrs HR Waterman, Mr and Mrs CFM Burr, Mr and Mrs C Davies, Mr and Mrs R Bertwistle, Mr and Mrs JH Honeysett, Mr and Mrs Eldridge, Mr and Mrs JG Thomas, Mr and Mrs L martin, Mr and Mrs Yoxon, Mr and Mrs Pipkorn, Dr and Mrs Vicars, Dr and Mrs Mollison, Mrs Sullivan, Mrs Cole, Misses Clements, Daddo (Melbourne), L Kirby (Ardletham), K Lester, H Darcy, B Bevan, V Lynch, N Thornywork, E Porieus, R Hunt, D James, M Marshall, M Marriot, Oldfield (two), E Reid, E Rittinger, M Robinson, D Yandell, D Freedman, E Thomas, D Wyle, Messrs Len Jordan,  Bernard Jenkins, Robert Bell, Leopold Kempson, MG Tennison Woods, THJ Collins, Douglas Martin and T Southwell-Keely (Actonian KK’s), Drs, Finlay, Holt and Asplin, Merrs R Tanner, G Dawkins, W Everall, H Raisbeck, J Fletcher, J Fenston, Z Ziggell, A Percival, R Halligan, L Lindlye, M Lucas, F Murray, D Olsen, Preston (Melbourne), L Swinger, T Sullivan, A Tregear, A Turner, F Vibert, Yandell and many others.



 In the 1940s Brassey House was known at WUTHERING HEIGHTS.  The House was finished on 8 August 1927 and occupied from the 29 August 1927.  The Canberra Times 27 August 1927 noted: Brassey House, the new boarding house will officially open for the reception of guests tomorrow.  A number of civil servants who had been residing at Hotel Wellington will be the first occupants together with a number of private business people.


[i] Canberra Times 13.12.1928

[ii] Sydney Morning Herald 5.7.1929

[iii] Sydney Morning Herald 5.7.1929

Canberra's construction camps & early housing, selected documents

Canberra’s Construction Camps, Early Houses

& Selected Documents

Description of proposed improvements

Canberra Times Friday 1 July 1927



The provision of increased and improved accommodation for workmen in Canberra is proceeding steadily, and many of the existing canvas-and-bag camps in the city area will soon be replaced by groups of timber cubicles.


These new workmen’s settlements will be known as ‘barracks,’ explains Mr McDowell, Industrial officer to the Federal Capital Commission.  The old term, ‘camp,’ will no longer be used.


White City and Eastlake were the first settlements converted into barracks, and long rows of green cubicles with red roofs have replaced the old canvas and hessian huts.  The change was affected in April.


A new mess is being built adjacent to the Causeway settlement. Its construction has been rendered necessary by the approaching commencement of operations at the Government Printing Office. The quarters erected for the accommodation of the printing office staff are at present occupied by employees of the Federal Capital Commission, but the advent of the printers will necessitate the evacuation of the quarters by the present occupants.  The new Causeway mess is being constructed to accommodate the erstwhile residents of Printers Quarters, and will consist of 16 cottages, each cottage block will comprise dining room, kitchens and recreation rooms. It is proposed to construct a tennis court at a later date.  The new barracks will accommodate 60 men.


Sites have been pegged out for 130 cubicles to replace the canvas huts at Red Hill Camp. Accommodation will be provided for 260 men.


Red Hill camp is to be transferred to another site, which has not yet been determined. Fifty cubicles, accommodating 50 men will be erected upon the site when selected, and corrals will be built in the immediate vicinity.


A site has been selected at North Ainslie for laborers’ barracks to replace the old Northbourne camp. Plans  providing for the erection of 125 cubicles have been prepared, and construction work will commence almost at once. Accommodation will be provided for 250 men.


A new Mess-room and barracks was recently erected at Westridge and accommodate 100 men.  Union executive officers from Sydney who recently visited Canberra commented very favourably upon the comfortable conditions under which the men are now living.


During the financial year just ended the old German concentration camp at Molonglo was taken over by the Commission and 105 timber cottages were built upon the site. [actually it was conversion of the barracks into cottages] Each cottage is self contained, is fitted with electric light and sewerage, and was made available at a comparatively low rental.  Garden areas were fenced off and a supply of plants and shrubs made available to residents.  During the financial year which commences today it is intended to proceed with a tree planting scheme.  This remodelling of Molonglo has resulted in the transformation of an old settlement into a comfortable workmen’s suburb. [Somewhat inaccurate when one reads the documents from those living in the cottages which were not lined and were full of bugs.]


On June 30, 713 workmen were accommodated in cubicles with recreation and mess-rooms. Accommodation for 180 men was still available in cubicles barracks. A total of 804 were housed in tents on that date, but this number is being reduced daily consequent upon the replacement of tents by cubicles. Married workmen accommodated in the various workmen’s cottages totalled 325 and no cottages were available.  A large number of applicants are awaiting cottages, but owing to the intended retrenchment of the Commission’s staff this number will be considerably reduced by the end of December, and it is anticipated that by that time the large majority of the Commission’s married workmen will be accommodated in cottages.


[This description of the cubicles suggests that they were ideal – they were better than tents, but the timber was green – wind whistled through the unlined walls etc – and the mess and recreation rooms were standard in all camps. – Camp baths and showers with the exception of  a few – used cold water.  Water for baths (tin) could be heated in coppers and carried to bath with buckets.]


1927 Red Hill bad liquor

The Canberra Times 27 may 1927



At Red Hill Camp




The police clean-up of undesirable characters in the Territory has thrown light upon conditions existing in some of the workmen’s camps within the city area, and has been instrumental in ridding Canberra of a number of vagrants of the worst type.


It is a known fact that liquor is consumed in all camps to either a greater or lesser extent, but the round up of undesirables has revealed that in one camp at least a quantity of bad liquor has been available to those who rured(?) to drink it.  The liquor had the effect of sending men almost insane.


The circumstances came to light with the prosecution at Queanbeyan Police Court of George Wright, a young man of 21 on a charge of having insufficient lawful means of support.


Constable Bottrell of the Canberra Police in evidence stated that he had seen defendant loitering about Red Hill camp on several occasions during the previous three weeks. He had been warned by the police to go to work or leave the Territory.  There had been complaints about him bringing drink into the camps and the drink he had brought into Red Hill Camp had been sending some of the men almost insane.  The hut occupied by the defendant was in a filthy condition, and the smell of beer and wine was very strong.  When the hut was inspected there were seven men laying in it in a state of paralytic drunkenness.  Defendant did not himself drink.


Constable Ward of No 2(?) Station Sydney, gave evidence to the effect that when arrested defendant had in his possession a demi=john full of ….(?).  It was neither beer nor … but appeared to …mixed with something else.


In evidence defendant declared that the police statement concerning liquor were ‘all lies’. Nevertheless he was convicted and sentenced to one months hard labourer in Goulburn Gaol.  Two days later 14 additional arrests for drunkenness were effected at Red Hill and No 1 camps.  During the holidays covering the period of the Royal visit 27 men were arrested for drunkenness in Queanbeyan.


1927 new barracks to replace tents

The Canberra Times 1 July 1927



Accommodating Workmen



The provision of increased and improved accommodation for workmen in Canberra is proceeding steadily and many of the existing canvas and bag camps in the city area will soon be replaced by groups of timber cubicles.


The new workmen’s settlements will be known as ‘barracks, ‘ explains Mr McDowell, Industrial Officer to the Federal Capital Commission.  The old term ‘camp’ will not longer be used.


White City and Eastlake were the first settlements to be converted into barracks and low rows of green cubicles with red roofs have replaced the old canvas and hessian huts. The change was affected in April.


A new mess is being built adjacent to the Causeway settlement. Its construction has been rendered necessary by the approaching commencement of operations at the Government Printing Office.  The quarters erected for the accommodation of the printing office staff are at present occupied by employees of the Federal Capital Commission, but the advent of the printers will necessitate the vacation of the quarters by the present occupants.  The new Causeway Mess is being constructed to accommodate the erstwhile residents of the Printers Quarters and will consist of 16 cottages, each cottage block will comprise dining room, kitchens and recreation room. It is proposed to construct a tennis court at a later date.  The new barracks will accommodate 60 men.


Sites have been pegged out for 130 cubicles to replace the canvas huts at Red Hill camp.  Accommodation will be provided for 260 men.


Red Hill Camp is to be transferred to another site, which has not yet been determined. Fifty cubicles accommodating 50 men will be erected upon the site when selected and corrals will be built in the immediate vicinity.


A site has been selected at North Ainslie for labourers’ barracks to replace the old Northbourne camp. Plans providing for the erection of 125 cubicles have been prepared, and construction work will commence almost at once.  Accommodation will be provided for 250 men.


A new mess room and barracks was recently erected at Westridge, and accommodate 100 men.  Union executive officers from Sydney who recently visited Canberra commented very favourably upon the comfortable conditions under which the men are now living.


During the financial year just ended the old German concentration camp at Molonglo was taken over by the Commission and 105 timber cottages were erected on the site. Each cottage is self contained, is fitted with electric light and sewerage and was made available at a comparatively low rental. Garden areas were fenced off and a supply of plants and shrubs made available to residents.  During the financial year which commences today it is intended to proceed with a tree-planting scheme.  The remodeling of Molonglo has resulted in the transformation of the old settlement into a comfortable workmen’s suburb. [Sounds good – not true.]


On June 30 753 workmen were accommodated in cubicles with recreation and mess-rooms. Accommodation for 180 men was still available in cubicle barracks. A total of 894 were housed in tents on that date, but this number is being reduced daily consequent upon the replacement of tents by cubicles.  Married workmen’s accommodation in the various workmen’s cottages totaled 823 but no cottages were available.  A large number of applicants are awaiting cottages but owing to the intended retrenchment of the Commission’s staff this number will be considerably reduced by the end of December and it is anticipated that by that time the large majority of the Commission’s married workmen will be accommodated in cottages.


1927 housing complaints

The Canberra Times 21 October 1927



Housing Complaints




The complains of telephone mechanics who are accommodated in cubicles at the Causeway were the subject of a further question in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.


Mr Theordore (Dalley) asked whether better accommodation could not be provided for telephone mechanics employed in the Territory.  He further asked the Minister for Home and Territories whether he would have investigations made into the complaints that these officers were housed in cubicles that were too small and were not provided with proper conveniences.


In reply, the Minister said the accommodation in the Commission’s boarding establishments was fully taxed, but it was hoped that the position would be improved soon, by two means.

  1. The renting of cottages by public servants at present living in boarding establishments.
  2. By the erection of hotels and boarding establishments by private enterprise on the three leases that had been sold.


Continuing the Minister said the complaints had been investigated by postal and Commission officials and it was considered that there was no serious cause for complaints.  The whole position was being made the subject of  special investigation.


Screening of Camps with Trees

The Canberra Times 22 July 1927



Extensive Plans




‘With the extent of the tree-planting season(?) the work of beautifying Canberra is being advanced a stage further, and an extensive tree planting programme is being embarked upon.  Good progress has already been made and details of the proposed  schedule indicate that many miles of avenues and streets together with the grounds of many public buildings will have been planted with shrubs and trees by the end of the season.


The completion of the proposed work is, however, dependent upon circumstances, and the programme is subject to alteration or curtailment.



Plans for the southern side of  the city include the planting of the sides of Presentation Avenue the eastern side of Commonwealth Avenue,  and the whole of Federal and Brisbane Avenues.  Work has already commenced on the last three avenues and is well in hand.  Other principle roads included the programme for the southern side, but on which work has not yet begun, are, the Cotter Road, Hobart Avenue, Uriarra Road, Eastview Avenue, Southbourne Avenue, Jerrabomberra Valley Avenue, National Circuit from Adelaide Avenue to Federal Avenue and Melbourne Avenue.


Work preliminary to the planting of the whole of the Oakley and Parkes subdivision at Blandfordia is completed and planting is expected to commence at an early date.  Other southern sub divisions for attention include Telopea Park and Telopea Park section 14, division 19. Eastlake (Sects 19. 21..23. 2.(?) and 25) the Causeway and Mugga Way.

Planting at the Canberra railway station is almost complete, whilst Secretariat No 1 and the Causeway Hall have been completed.  Preliminary work is being done at the Prime Minister’s residence, planting is about to commence at the Hotel Wellington and the grounds of the Hotel Kurrajong have been prepared.  The completion of planting in the Parliament House area will be put in hand almost immediately. Planting has not yet commenced at Brassey House, the Forestry School at Westridge, Secretariat No 2, the Government Printing Office and the new garage.


Included in the programme is an extensive scheme of screen planting which on the southern side, will be undertaken at Capitol Hill, Causeway and Red Hill camps, Molonglo settlement, Capitol Hill Quarry, the contractors and railway yards at Eastlake and the German gun trophy.  Screen planting has been completed at the Western Creek sewerage outfall works and the transport depot at Eastlake.

Plans for sundry planting on the southern side include the entrance drive and the extension of the pine and elm planting at Government House, willow planting in the vicinity of the river above the 1500 ft level, feature and park planting at Capitol Hill and Review Ground, the Cotter River recreation area and coppice planting in various parts of the city.



Plans for road and avenue planting on the northern side of the river included completion of Ainslie Avenue and the planting of Canberra Avenue, and roads 6,8,10 and 13 from Northbourne Avenue.


Subdivision noted for attention include section  14, division 11 of Ainslie, Ainslie (sections 21-25, 23, 38-41, 46 and 47), Canberra Avenue, Acton, South Ainslie and Civic Centre.


The planting of the grounds of Hotel Ainslie is nearing completion.  Beauchamp House, Hotel Acton and the new school are included in the programme.


Screen planting on the northern side will be undertaken at White city camp and Black Mountain Quarry.  Willows will also be planted in the vicinity of the river above 1800 ft level.


Native trees are being planted as far as possible, whilst cedars of several varieties and conifers suitable to the climate also play an important part is the programme of city beautification.  Many deciduous trees, such as oaks, elms, ashes and planes are also planted.



1928  Camp Complaint

The Canberra Times 31.5.1928




The Editor ‘The Canberra Times


Sir.- The ways of officialdom are wonderful especially when dealing with the ‘lower strata of society’ who have the dubious distinction of residing in the Commission cubicles at Kingston Camp.


In January last the mess house at this camp was burned to the ground and the men who boarded  there had to find accommodation elsewhere, most of them going to the Engineers Mess about 200 yards distance, at the Causeway.


Since the fire, the mess which was the old No 1 Camp, has been pulled down and rebuilt here, and the men of this camp expected at any moment to find it opened for their convenience.


Now, however, instructions have come from the Commission that the cubicles are to be vacated and all employees transferred to other camps on the area.


This wouldn’t  be so bad if it was at any other time of the  year, but many of the men anticipating a severe winter have gone to the trouble and no little expense in making their little wooden huts more comfortable.


When men were living under calico and bags in the early days of the capital it was a common thing to shift camps, and there was a lot of juggling about of men from one camp to another.  When, however, the cubicles were constructed it was hoped that this annoyance would be eliminated. It appears that the Commission cannot make up its mind where its camps are to be and so we still have the same old juggling about that used to take place in the early days. –




1928 deranged man

The Canberra Times  7  April 1928



Man’s Strange Conduct




Thomas Arnold of Red Hill Camp, Canberra, appeared in the Queanbeyan Police Court yesterday, charged with wandering at large in the Federal Territory on Sunday …(?) deemed to be insane under …(?) proper care and control.  Defendant pleaded guilty to the charge.


Constable Ivan Charles Perryman of the …(?) Federal Police stated in response to an urgent telephone message he saw accused at Manuka acting in a strange manner. On being interviewed defendant state that ‘37 devils were after him’,  and he was seeking(?) to escape them. His idea to escape was to back at the door of a local lady (?) medical practitioner, who resented his behaviour.


Defendant had been wandering about Canberra for some days and could not give a coherent account of himself.  Then inquiries …(?) accused said …(?) have been drinking heavily at Eastlake  time, said had since been roaming round the Federal Territory.  The police desired to put him under medical observation for his de… and condition.


In reply to questions from the Bench, witness said that …. Appeared to be suffering from the after effects of delirium tremours.  He had been prior to his arrest  taken to the local …to his camp, but would not remain there.


Defendant who was unable to make any coherent …was remanded for seven days for medical observation.


1928 Sly Grog Causeway

[From 1913 when the sale of alcohol was banned in the Federal Capital Territory by King O’Malley until the end of 1928 when a vote given to the people – Liquor Ordinance – alcohol was officially banned in the Territory.  In reality there was probably more drunkenness than if the sale was allowed. Once liquor was allowed into the territory several outlets were allowed, including three special cafes.]


The Canberra Times 1 September 1928







Ernest Mott, of Causeway, Canberra, before Mr JWT Forrest, PK, was charged at the Queanbeyan Police Court yesterday, that not being the agent of servant or holder of a license under the Liquor Act he did sell without authority on August 30 a bottle of whisky.


Defendant pleaded guilty to the offence and Mr HWJ Deane appeared for defendant.


Federal police evidence showed that on the date in question, the premises occupied by the defendant was entered and several men were found with bottles of beer in front of them. On searching the premises 72 bottles of beer and two bottles of whisky were found there.  The bottle of whisky had been purchased by a constable.  Numerous complaints had been received. The defendant supplied drink at various functions at Canberra and had been carrying on an extensive trade for some time, otherwise he was a man of good character.


Defendant was fined 31 pounds, in default three months hard labour.  He was allowed one month to pay on finding surety as security.


Mr Deane asked that the liquor found in the house occupied by the defendant be returned as it was the property of a Canberra Lodge.


The Bench stated that as the liquor was in defendant’s possession it must be confiscated.


1927 Temporary Camps Service Men

Sydney Morning Herald 3 May 1927

CANBERRA – SCENES OF ACTIVITY – 30,000 Visitors Expected

Canberra, Monday

Despite reports to the contrary it is confidentially expected that 30,000 people will visit Canberra for the opening of Parliament.

For the accommodation of nearly 3,000 men drawn from all the States and representing the three arms of Australian defence forces – the navy, militia and air force – white acres of tents have sprung up mushroom-like in three sections of the Federal Territory.  On sloping ground close to the area set aside for the review on the afternoon of May 9 is the military camp, and within a few hundred yards opposite the future residence of the Prime Minister the first parties of navy representatives are quartered. Further afield on the Yass-Queanbeyan road are airmen, who are busy preparing for their spectacular display on Monday next.

All the camps are scenes of intense activity. A business like atmosphere is created by the marching is of companies from all the States, and the rush of engineers are garrison artillerymen to complete preparations for the accommodation of hundreds of troops, who are to arrive as a rearguard to-morrow.

According to the programme all the men numbering three thousand will be under canvas to-morrow night. On the following day the serious business of preparing for the actual ceremony and review will be commenced.

Considerable public attention has been paid to the air force camp, which is located at the new aerodrome near Duntroon Military College. The blue uniformed men have done a large amount of work for apart from the ordinary preparations for encampment two hangers have been erected. Over half the total number of aviators assigned fro Canberra are already under canvas, and the remainder are due to-morrow. 

The personnel of the camp was strengthened considerably by the arrival of 168 representatives of the Citizen Air Force and permanent force. This contingent made the journey by road from Sydney under Squadron Leader FW Lucas, bringing supplied and camp impediments.

Twenty-one planes will be in camp to-morrow.  A composite squadron of 69 men under Squadron Leader H Cobby is also due to-morrow, and a further detachment of the Third Squadron at Richmond is expected.  By nightfall there will be about 420 officers and men under canvas.  Aerial drill will be undertaken on Wednesday and formation flying will take place during the full dress rehearsal for the ceremony.

Squadron Leader Hepburn stated that civilian pilots had intimated their intention of visiting Canberra for the opening ceremony.  It was hoped that pilots would not land in such a way as to interfere with formations which would be taking off to take part in the ceremony.

The review ground situated slightly on the Queanbeyan side of Parliament House has been prepared for Monday afternoon’s ceremony at which the Duke of York will take the salute during the march past on 3000 men. On Wednesday all troops, sailors and aviators will enter the field to commence training for the spectacular function. A full dress rehearsal will be held on Saturday afternoon, when the guard of honour and aviators will perform their movements.

Between 400 and 500 applications for camping spaces have been received by the Royal visit section of the Federal Capital, but while this cannot mean more than a few thousand  people it cannot be taken as a basis of the estimate of the attendance. The removal of some of the traffic restrictions has resulted in a changed attitude of many residents of surrounding towns, and it is almost certain that a large number of applications for camping space will be lodged during the next few days. Over 5000 guests of the Commonwealth and States will be present and the railway authorities anticipate heavy traffic of tourists, which will make a one-day trip. About 10,000 people may be expected from the Monaro District bringing the total well over 20,000. In addition 700 camping spaces have been reserved in Queanbeyan Park and hotel accommodation in that municipality will be fully taxed.

While this should mean a crowd of about 27,000 or 28,000 no estimate can be formed of the number of people who will be accommodated by residents of the Federal Capital. At the Causeway one of the temporary settlements, lessees of cottages have completed arrangements with tourists to let rooms for £3 per night.  High rents are being asked for in other districts, but householders state that there is no dearth of applicants for rooms. Following the clearing of the hotels preparations for the arrival of the Commonwealth guests are now being made.

The Hotel Canberra is empty with the exception of Sir Littleton and Lady Groom, but the Prime Minister (Mr Bruce) and the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr Marr) are expected here on Thursday.  Other Ministers will arrive towards the end of the week, and the Governor-General, with members of the Duke’s staff will arrive at Yarralumla House ahead of the royal visitors. Mr Bruce will take up residence at his Canberra home at the end of the week.  Throughout the city there is an atmosphere of pent-up excitement, accompanied by a last minute rush to complete arrangements for the historic ceremony.


The opening festivities will be accompanied by Church festivals in which Anglicans and Roman Catholics will take part. A recent announcement by the Church of England authorities that  an open-air service, during which the Cathedral site on Rottenbury Hill would be dedicated would be held on Sunday next has been followed by an intimation from the Roman Catholic authorities that on the same date the Apostolic Delegate for Australia (Dr Cattaneo) will visit the Federal Capital. Arrangements are now in hand for a Roman Catholic rally and the celebration of High Mass at Manuka, where two marquees with accommodation for 2000 people have been erected. On Monday next Dr Cattaneo will bless the city from the Catholic Cathedral site. Officers of both Churches consider that the rallies will attract thousands of tourists to Canberra.


Scouts from all the States are due at the Federal capital during the week. The lads who will represent the Australian Boy Scout movement will be allotted specific duties on their arrival. On the opening day, and while the visitors are here, they will act as runners from alt posts. Special Scouts have been selected from Canberra and Queanbeyan troops. Some of these will be stationed at hotels to act as guides to official visitors.


The Canberra Times  24 May 1927


The Editor, ‘The Canberra Times’

Sir.- Three weeks ago whilst supervising the transport of stores from Canberra Station to the military camp at Red Hill I accidentally came off the lorry on which I was travelling and was damaged in the process.

While lying on the road, I was looked after by, I think, the driver of the lorry and someone else. Another person went for the ambulance. On its arrival I was very carefully placed in it, and tow of these three conveyed me to Canberra Hospital.

I have no idea who these Samaritans were, and so cannot thank them personally. Could you help me to convey my gratitude for their kindness and help.

I am,  WN Tinblay