Meet the suburban sleuths investigating the history behind Brisbane’s oldest homes
Ian Gray and Madonna Witham with their daughter, Jessica, at the historic home they are selling in Hawthorne.A HOUSE belonging to one of Queensland’s first female architects, the homes of a bigamist and a pioneer aviator, and a grand residence that served as a hospital during World War Two.If walls could talk, these are some of the stories of scandal, tragedy and triumph that would spill from Brisbane’s oldest homes. Fortunately, there are such people as ‘house detectives’ who dedicate their time to investigating the city’s historically significant homes, as they become increasingly popular among house hunters. MORE: Why housing affordability is actually improving Brisbane’s ‘Bob the builder’ performs 1.3m transformation Revealed: Brisbane’s best suburbs to invest in Architectural historian Marianne Taylor has uncovered some incredible stories while researching Brisbane homes over the past decade — and she says this year has been her busiest yet as more people realise the value of their abode.“The house has become so much more than just a place where you live,” Ms Taylor said.“I think it’s a bit like researching your own family history. People want to feel more connected to their homes.“And maybe in these uncertain times, people want to feel like they’re part of a bigger picture or a continuation of history. 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This modal can be closed by pressing the Escape key or activating the close button.PlayMuteCurrent Time 0:00/Duration 0:00Loaded: 0%Stream Type LIVESeek to live, currently playing liveLIVERemaining Time -0:00 Playback Rate1xFullscreenHow to pick an up and coming suburb02:06 “Some people also want to know the story of the house to try to understand it better if they’re planning on making alterations to it.”Ms Taylor, who is also the president of the Brisbane branch of the National Trust of Queensland, said she had noticed a resurgence in the appreciation of historic homes.“I personally think we are seeing a real increase in people’s appreciation of older houses and I think part of that comes from the fact we’re rapidly losing a lot through development and infill development in Brisbane,” she said.“To me they provide evidence of the history of Brisbane.“They’re little landmarks on the road of Brisbane’s history that remind us of how things have changed and each one has such a great story to tell.“We’re seeing a lot of people now have the wealth to buy these big, old properties and turn them back into private homes, which is fantastic in my opinion.”And Ms Taylor is not alone.Home renovator and former nurse Caylie Jeffery took suburban sleuthing to a new level when she established the thriving Brisbane community project, Under the Lino.Mrs Jeffery bought their home at 86 Heussler Terrace, Milton, in 1996, with her husband David, and found cash and passbooks under the old Queenslander’s kitchen linoleum. Caylie Jeffery found three bank books, money and pence under the lino when renovating her Milton home. Picture: Mark Cranitch.They spent the next few years restoring the house, which had been built in 1912.Another 21 years passed before Mrs Jeffery rediscovered the vintage relics she had found under the lino.The passbooks, dating from 1943 to 1958, recorded bank deposits totalling £2000 — conservatively estimated at $61,500 in today’s currency.Determined to trace the owners of those books and some money she’d found, Mrs Jeffery posted a photo of the collection on the popular Old Brisbane Album Facebook page with the question, “what do I do with this?” Her post drew an almost instantaneous flood of responses. Caylie Jeffery, author of Under the Lino.Within 24 hours, the search was on and the Under the Lino project was born. Locals, former residents of the area, and eventually, hundreds of people from all over Brisbane, became involved in solving the historical mystery.The group, largely an online entity, shared photographs, artefacts and memories, giving context to Mrs Jeffery’s original discovery.A crowd-funding campaign raised enough money for Caylie to publish the book called Under the Lino: The Mystery, The History and the Community, which was released last year.Now, the Jefferys have put the house on the market for a new history buff to call home. BEFORE: The house at 86 Heussler Tce, Milton, not long after it was built in 1912. AFTER: This is what the house at 86 Heussler Tce, Milton, looks like now.Marketing agent Sacha Hennessy of Place – Paddington said the property had received strong interest from buyers wanting to snap up such a famous piece of Brisbane’s history.“You can’t not be interested in these gorgeous houses, especially in this inner Brisbane area,” Ms Hennessy said.“The history is part of the charm.” Ian Gray and Madonna Witham are reluctantly selling their historic home at 15 Leura Ave, Hawthorne, after living there for the past 16 years while putting their four children through school. This historic home at 15 Leura Ave, Hawthorne, is for sale.Mr Gray said they were looking to downsize.“We’ve always lived in heritage style homes,” Mr Gray said.The Queenslander was built in the 1890s and has all the hallmarks of a home of its era, including ornamental fretwork, VJ walls, stained glass windows and timber balustrading.Mr Gray said the original cottage had been raised and built-in underneath to accommodate five bedrooms.CASE FILES OF A BRISBANE HOUSE DETECTIVETARINGA HOUSE: FAMILY TRAGEDIES AND A SOCIAL HOUSING SCHEMEBuilt in 1910, this property was once home to the family of a Japanese Prisoner of War who was captured in 1942 and survived the notorious Changi Prison, only to die while waiting to return home after the war. Tragedy struck the same family again when their father was killed by a tram in Brisbane’s CBD. Newspaper articles about the accident included a graphic photo showing him under the tram and described the accident in gruesome detail. This house in Taringa was once home to a Japanese Prisoner of War and has many tragic stories to tell. Image: CoreLogic.HOLLAND PARK HOUSE: EARLY FEMALE ARCHITECT AND A SOCIAL HOUSING SCHEME This Holland Park home is steeped in history.An unassuming house exterior hid the story of one of Brisbane and Queensland’s first female architects, Eunice Slaughter. The house design includes many features which Eunice discussed in a newspaper article about her idea of the “ideal house”. She worked for the State Advances Corporation, which was the precursor to the Queensland Housing Commission and was responsible for producing affordable homes for the “working class”. That scheme revolutionised home ownership in Queensland, allowing many people who would never previously have been able to afford a home, to achieve the Australian dream. This Holland Park house has an interesting past.GREENSLOPES HOUSE: RUSSIAN REVOLUTION AND EARLY FEMALE CHEMIST The front of the house in Greenslopes. Image: CoreLogic.Researching this house involved uncovering the incredible story of Russian immigrants, who had fled their home country following the Russian Revolution. The couple’s daughter was also remarkable for firstly attending university, but even moreunusual was her choice of degree: chemistry. She went on to work as an industrial chemist and her husband spent four and a half years as a POW during World War Two. This house in Greenslopes was once home to Russian immigrants and one of Brisbane’s first female chemists. Image: CoreLogic.OXLEY HOUSE: BRITTAINS BRICKS AND MARITAL SCANDALThis house was built in 1950 by a member of the Brittain family, who were part of the well-known brick manufacturing company of the same name. The history of the brick business is fascinating, and the mother of the builder of the house was the topic of a shocking scandal when private detectives caught her “half naked” in bed with a man other than her husband. The later use of the house as a convent was also unusual and unexpected. This house in Oxley was once used as a convent. Image: CoreLogic.NEWMARKET HOUSE: LADY BIGAMIST AND THE NEWMARKET CATTLE SALE YARDSResearching this common timber house in Newmarket involved uncovering the history of the nearby tannery businesses and Newmarket cattle sale yards, as well as their connection with the WWII light horse regiments and the important role Newmarket Railway Station played in transporting the horses and troops. The residents of the house were also previously embroiled in a scandal, when the woman was convicted of bigamy after finding herself pregnant and marrying the father — conveniently forgetting she was already married. BANCROFT HOUSE, KELVIN GROVE: A HIDDEN WELL AND STREET AND SUBURB NAME ORIGINS This house in Kelvin Grove was once owned by a prominent Brisbane doctor and was previously part of a property named ‘Kelvin Grove’, which gave its name to the suburb. Image: CoreLogic.A brick well was discovered under this house, which was located on land that was previously part of a property called “Kelvin Grove”, which eventually gave its name to the suburb. Its owner, Joseph Bancroft, was a prominent doctor in Brisbane and his house hadextensive grounds where he trialled growing different plants and opened it to the public.The street and the subject house were both later named after him. The kitchen in the house in Kelvin Grove. Image: CoreLogic.MONTANA, BOWEN HILLS HOUSE: PIONEERING AVIATRIX, LORES BONNEY This house in Bowen Hills was once home to a pioneer female aviator. Image: CoreLogic.This house, built circa 1900, was the residence of a remarkable woman, Lores Bonney. She was a pioneer aviator and the first woman to circumnavigate Australia and fly fromAustralia to England solo in her tiny plane. She lived a remarkable life, especially for a woman in the era of the 1920s and 1930s. Her and her husband didn’t have children, so as a hobby she learnt to fly from her husband’s cousin, Bert Hinkler. She achieved remarkable firsts for both male and female aviators. She learnt how to repair her own engine and one crashed in the ocean on a flight to South Africa and was rescued by a local tribe. In addition to Hinkler, her counterparts were Kingsford Smith and Amelia Earhart, but for some reason she is not very well known. Bonney Avenue at Clayfield is named after her, as well as other streets at Archerfield and Southport airports and the electorate of Bonney. A section of the Brisbane River Walk has also just been named after her. Inside the home, which has been renovated in Bowen Hills. Image: CoreLogic.LYNNE GROVE HOUSE, CORINDA: EARLY SETTLER’S HOME, FEMALE PASTORALIST’S “TOWN HOUSE” AND ORPHANAGELynne Grove House was built by a member of the Hassall family, who were early settlers in the Corinda area. It was then owned by Thomas Murray Hall who became involved in politics and was eventually appointed an MLA. Widowed pastoralist, Laura Duncan, later owned the house and used it as her city residence, before donating it for use as an orphanage. CHELMER HOUSE: GRAND RESIDENCE, RED CROSS WWII HOSPITAL, ARMY BARRACKS, POLICE COLLEGEThis circa 1900 house in Chelmer sold to a private homeowner for $3 million in 2014.The incredible residence has had many uses over the years. It was formerly a Red Cross convalescent hospital during WWII, an army barracks and later became a training centre for the Queensland Police Service.JINDALEE HOUSE: ONE OF THE FIRST MASTER-PLANNED SUBURBS IN QUEENSLAND AND A WOMAN’S DAY “DREAM HOME” DESIGNJindalee was part of one of the earliest masterplanned, self-contained communities in Queensland, the Centenary Estates by LJ Hooker. Part of promoting this new estate involved prize home giveaways and other innovative new marketing techniques. One of these was a “design your dream home” competition by Woman’s Day and this house, designed by Alma Tait, was the winning design. The results of the competition provide a unique insight into what the majority of Australians looked for in a home at the time. The house was completed in 1963 and was one of the first houses built in the estate. It featured many strikingly modern aspects, such as the concrete slab construction, galleykitchen, reversed floor plan and climate-based design. After being open to the public as display home, the Tait family finally moved in 1964. More from newsParks and wildlife the new lust-haves post coronavirus10 hours agoNoosa’s best beachfront penthouse is about to hit the market10 hours agoThey called it home for almost 40 years and Alma’s son, John Tait, still resides there. This house in Jindalee won the Woman’s Day “Dream Home” competition in 1962. Image: CoreLogic.TARRAGINDI HOUSE: MATER PRIZE HOMEThis house is a former Mater Prize Home winner from 1964.Its unusual design would have been cutting-edge and revolutionary in Brisbane at the time.The entire history of Mater Prize Homes is fascintating, especially the social connection with Brisbane reidnets — many of whom would visit the houses on the weekends as a cheap, family social outing.The house is even more remarkable because it is pretty much unchanged, both inside and outside. This Tarragindi house is a former Mater Prize Home winner from 1964. Image: CoreLogic.(Case studies provided by Marianne Taylor)10 OF THE OLDEST HOMES ON THE MARKET IN BRISBANE:1. 118 Kennedy Tce, Paddington – circa 18706 beds, 3 baths, 3 carsFor sale This house at 118 Kennedy Tce, Paddington, is about 150 years old.2. 17-21 Ajinby Close, Thornlands – 18767 beds, 3 baths, 2 carsOffers over $1.3m This house at 17-21 Ajinby Close, Thornlands, was built in 1876.3. 50 Grandview Rd, Pullenvale – 18805 beds, 3 baths, 9 carsAuction: November 23, 2019 This historic home at 50 Grandview Rd, Pullenvale, is scheduled for auction.4. 11 Norfolk Rd, South Brisbane – 18836 beds, 5 baths, 6 carsPrice: $1.995m This historic home at 11 Norfolk Rd, South Brisbane, is for sale.5. 11 Franklin St, Highgate Hill – 18884 beds, 4 baths, 2 carsSale by negotiation This gorgeous house at 11 Franklin St, Highgate Hill, was built in 1888.6. 101 Welsby St, New Farm – 18924 beds, 3 baths, 8 carsExpressions of interest This home at 101 Welsby Street is a stunning four-bedroom house in New Farm.7. 76 Jarrott St, Chelmer – one of Chelmer’s original homesteads, built in 18945 beds, 2 baths, 2 carsAuction: November 27, 2019 This historic home at 76 Jarrott St, Chelmer, is scheduled for auction this month.8. 85 Macdonald St, Norman Park – 18963 beds, 1 bathFor sale This house at 85 Macdonald Street, Norman Park, was built in 1896.9. 119 Nelson St, Kalinga – early 1900s5 beds, 5 baths, 4 carsAuction: November 30, 2019 This house at 119 Nelson St, Kalinga, is for sale.10. 388 Bowen Tce, New Farm – 19063 beds, 3 baths, 2 carsAwaiting price guide This house at 388 Bowen Tce, New Farm, was designed by renowned architect Robin Dods and was the home of former Queensland premier Edward Granville Theodore from 1916 to 1927.