The Valley’s historic buildings you’ve never known about (until now)
Did you know Fortitude Valley was once home to five department stores? Or that the Southern Hemisphere’s largest Catholic Cathedral was supposed to be built on Ann Street?
Fortitude Valley has a rich history and we’ve wrapped up a few of the Valley’s heritage sites and the intriguing history behind them. For the full list of 20 historic locations, check out the Vibrant Valley Heritage Trail.
This heritage-listed laneway was named for Bragg’s Bakery, which opened in 1865 and traded for more than 40 years at 694 Ann Street. When Joseph Bragg (son of the original owner, Charles Bragg) died in 1883, his widow, Kate took over and became a master baker – a rare achievement for women at that time. By 1888, Kate and her employees were baking up to 700 loaves of bread a day!
Also on Bakery Lane, the Apothecaries Hall building at 690 Ann Street looks much the same as it did when constructed in 1882. This is where you could obtain imported medicines, surgical instruments and dental operations performed with instruments of the “most modern invention”. For a long time, Brisbane locals will have known this as Downes Shoes and more recently it has been home to several restaurants now residing within Wickham Street.
Forester’s Hall is a magnificent Victorian Italianate structure, built in 1880, was originally envisioned as a meeting hall for the Fortitude
Valley branch of the Ancient Order of Foresters, which then became a cherished hub to host balls, concerts and other social events.
Currently, this historic place is occupied by La Costa, a culinary tribute to coastal Italy providing the finest Italian delicacies to Brisbane locals.
Get yourself an Italian treat and a heritage retreat under one roof!
And if you're ready to see what your favourite party spots looked like back in the day... read below!
The Empire Hotel was twice the size it is today with equal frontage on Ann and Brunswick streets. It was originally built in 1888 by renowned colonial architect Richard Gailey, who also designed the Valley Presbyterian Church and School on Warner Street, which was constructed in 1885. The entry foyer still retains the art deco features – tiled walls, ornate plaster ceilings, wooden doors with etched glass panels, patterned floors and a 1930’s lift - of this inter war period. The top one-time accommodation floor still has bedrooms and bathrooms laid out around a central corridor although the apartment wing which once lay along Ann St has been demolished.
Finding a pub in Brisbane with a more vibrant history than The Prince Consort Hotel is quite the challenge! This 132-year-old structure is one of the historic gems of our city and stands majestically in the heart of the Valley. Opening in 1888, the hotel boasted one of the largest bars in Brisbane, three parlours, a large dining room, billiard room, kitchen, cellar, six bathrooms and 28 bedrooms as well as four large shops on the ground floor. Running the entire length of the first-floor facade was a reception area, known as the Club Room. Today, The Prince Consort pays a homepage to the most iconic parties that have witnessed artists across the seas – making it one of the places to be in Brisbane!
The good ol’ Wickham Hotel is a three-storeyed masonry hotel, constructed in 1885 and another one of the Valley’s heritage spots that’s worth a visit or two. The hotel has proudly supported the LGBTQIA+ community since the 1970s and is proud to be the home of Big Gay Day, Brisbane’s largest LGBTQIA+ festival. This heritage listed venue prides itself on honouring its fabulous history, whilst creating a modern and safe space for all patrons, regardless of gender identity, race or sexuality.
Who would’ve thought that The Fortitude Valley Post Office and Telegraph Office would turn into the best nightclubs in Brisbane?! Established in 1887 for the Queensland Post, Fortitude Valley Post Office had a ground floor providing postal and telegraph services while the upper floor offered accommodation for the postmaster. It now serves as the popular 'The GPO' nightclub and following a $9million makeover is ready to make its comeback to the Valley’s nightlife in June 2023.
Here’s a little Valley trivia for you!
Tranberg House on Brunswick Street was designed to run commercial businesses including a fuel depot in back in the day. Constructed at during the Valley’s peak period in the 1800’s, provides an attractive façade to the precinct.
Could you think that this today is the home to your newest ‘no- nonsense’ chain of bars? We bet not!
Brewdog specializes in serving the best craft brews and lip-smacking food in the Valley, all in true Scottish demeanor!
Make sure to check them out.
And for all the vintage fashionistas - here’s where the late-1800’s cool kids shopped.
You’ll find this rustic boutique nestled in the Old English, Scottish & Australia Bank Building on Valley’s Wickham Street. Monty's will take you way back to when it began serving the local community in the early 1900’s. Step inside to be amazed by their huge and exquisite range of vintage, pre-loved, and antique jewelry to luxurious handbags, watches, clothing, and paintings.
Brace yourselves to lose into the treasures at Monty’s - we’re sure it will take your thrift game to a whole new level!
The Valley has been home to many department stores over the years, including Myer and David Jones, but the OG was McWhirter’s Department Store. The striking Art Deco building was established in 1898 and now houses both McWhirters Retail and heritage apartments. Other historic department stores include Overell’s, which had two stores – one at 250 Wickham Street that sold menswear and the Brunswick Street store that was devoted to womenswear and accessories – and TC Beirne Department Store, built in 1902. Fun fact: Irishman TC Beirne was also Australia’s first self-made millionaire.
– June 2023