Recognising housing styles
Brisbane character houses represent a wide variety of styles spanning more than a century and reflect the visual quality of suburban Brisbane. These guidelines provide a historic framework and some examples of common housing styles in local neighbourhoods of Brisbane’s older suburbs. The first house in the Brisbane region was built in 1824 for the commandant of the Redcliffe settlement. This house and many other early timber buildings have long since gone.
- Our Historic Homes of Brisbane
- Queensland House Styles, 1887 – 1920
- Art Nouveau & Californian bungalows
- Queensland Federation Styles of 1920 to 1930
- Workers Cottages & Colonial Cottages
Newstead House, constructed in 1846, claims the title of the oldest existing house in Brisbane. Newstead house is Brisbane’s oldest surviving home, established in 1846. This iconic landmark has evolved from a simple Georgian cottage into a grand residence following significant renovations and extensions in 1867. The house occupies a commanding position within Newstead Park, with sweeping views of the Hamilton and Bulimba reaches of the Brisbane River. Newstead House is an established house museum, decorated and furnished to reflect the late Victorian period and is a significant part of Brisbane history.
Bulimba House (1850) The Deanery in the city – first known as Hobbs House (1855) and Bardon House (1863) are other substantial 19th century houses.
Bardon House was built in 1863 by well-known Brisbane builder and early mayor of Brisbane, Joshua Jeays. Jeays had developed a quarry at Woogaroo (now called Goodna), and this house was built from stone sourced there. Bardon House is a two-storey Victorian Gothic structure with a steeply pitched roof, gables and dormer windows. It is shown from a different angle in this photograph below, taken in 1930. You can see similarities with the building shown in the previous post, Romavilla at North Quay, which has unfortunately now been demolished.
Bulimba House was built in 1849-1850 by early settler Andrew Petrie, this fine hand crafted Tudor style stone manor is one of Brisbane’s earliest surviving homes. Initially it stood alone as part of a 220 acre riverine farm growing experimental cash crops of maize, barley, wheat, oats and yams under the supervision of owner and pastoralist David McConnel. His wife, Mary whose ill-health was one of the reasons for living on the hill with river breezes, never settled or got better so they sold up in 1853 and returned to England temporarily. The house went on to appeal to a number of notables including Arthur Moore, Premier of Qld from 1929-1932, who bought the house in 1935.
Queensland Federation Styles, 1887 – 1920
However, most of the typical 19th century houses around inner Brisbane date from the 1880s. Examples of this period houses can be seen in Paddington, Red Hill, Highgate Hill and East Brisbane. As a child these were the houses my wife would draw with pen and paper and sell on cards. Much care is taken in restoration with colours and keeping the originality of its past.
Houses epitomising the Federation-era include those constructed in masonry as well as larger decorative timber homes in suburbs such as Clayfield, Ascot, Hawthorne, Auchenflower, Bardon, and Graceville.
If you live in a home built between the late 1800s and 1960 then you may well find it, or at least something very close to it, in one of the catalogues embedded in this series of posts. The booklets contain several hundred building plans including external elevations, floor layouts and in some cases details on hardware, materials, finishes and estimated construction costs. They are obviously of great value to house renovators, history researchers and anyone curious about what their home may have looked like when new. The publications are listed in chronological order with some commentary on the evolution of architectural styles.
Catalogue supplied by Queensland Deposit Bank and Building Society, 1887
This catalogue, issued by a leading mortgage provider during the heady days of the late 1880’s land and construction boom, contains ten patterns ranging from two-room cottages to commodious two-floor villas. The typical late Victorian designs are set on stumps with generous verandahs and contemporary features such as one or more brick chimneys, externally cross-braced VJ walls and, for the grander homes, elaborate ornamentation incorporating iron lacework.
Porch-and-Gable, Multi-gable Bungalows
The interwar building boom saw the construction of the porch-and-gable and multi-gable bungalows that characterise much of Brisbane’s timber-and-tin housing, particularly in suburbs such as Ashgrove. Many houses from this era were built through the Queensland Government Workers’ Dwelling Scheme and have since been renovated with extensions.
Art Nouveau & Californian bungalows
To a lesser extent, the 1920s and 1930s also gave rise to more derivative domestic architecture – Californian bungalows as well as Spanish Mission, Old English, Functionalist and Art Deco style houses and flats. These houses were often constructed in masonry and there are examples in suburbs such as New Farm, Bardon, Spring Hill, Coorparoo & Chelmer.
Queensland House Styles of 1920 to 1930
Workers Cottages / Dwellings
Tens of thousands of workers’ homes were funded by the Corporation across the state, for a range of pre-approved designs and in accordance with strict eligibility criteria for for applicants. The catalogue includes high-set bungalow and transverse gabled patterns and also introduces the multi-gable designs that came to predominate later in the decade. In many ways the collection represents the golden age of timber architecture in Queensland with an incredible variety of ornate and often fairly spacious designs, a testament to the prosperous “roaring twenties” and the resources invested by contemporary society in humble workers’ houses. The designs are found throughout our character neighbourhoods and inner suburbs.
Brisbane grew rapidly in the late 1940s and 1950s as a result of the immigration and baby boom. Many of the post-war austerity houses in suburbs like Stafford, Camp Hill and Mitchelton were built of fibro sheeting. Overseas contractors also began to mass-produce houses (the Dutch at Coopers Pains and the French at Zillmere) to cater for the chronic housing shortage after the war.
From the 1960s, brick-veneer project houses, built on concrete slabs, began to fill the outer suburbs – Centenary Park, Carindale and Carseldine – to name a few. However, there are some examples of International-style housing in suburbs such as St Lucia and Indooroopilly.
Some houses combine a number of different design elements which do not fit into a specific style. Some architect-designed houses or unusual houses require historical research to be reliably dated.
Most styles stretch for at least a decade before and after their era of popularity, and some are revived later. This is the case with Queensland’s traditional timber-and-tin housing.
Cottages from the late Colonial period such as these can be seen spotted throughout Brisbane Suburbs.
“There was a time in Brisbane’s history when the district that embraces the the delightful suburbs was covered with farms and orchards… Fruits and vegetables and other produce were brought from there to town, and sold to storekeepers as special lines, “grown on the rich flats across the river”. That was a hall-mark of quality in the produce markets of Brisbane for years, until the small town grew into a large one, and then to a city, and the gardens gave way to multiplying homes”
Please email us, should you want to add to this article, we would be more than happy to include your neighbourhood knowledge and photos.
For more news, tips and inspiration. Become our friend on Facebook and explore our Pinterest.
Like this article or found it helpful? Share it!