A group of six local community enthusiasts have mapped out the area’s rich Aboriginal, Greek and activist history in their second free Street Walker’s Guide to West End.
The meticulously renovated timber terrace house at 32 Sussex Street has a militant past. Today it is for sale as a beautifully appointed four-bedroom and four-bathroom home with city views, but in 1988 the house was the site of a three-month sit-in protest against landlord evictions which was prompted by the Expo development. As history goes, the protestors were not evicted, the building was saved from demolition and Expo 88 went on to be an international success, leaving the South Bank Parklands as a legacy to the city. The house, a rare example of Queensland terrace architecture, is just one of 21 sites on a guided walk that is inspiring community enthusiasm for West End’s past. Member of the West End Making History Group and former Brisbane City Council Lord Mayor Tim Quinn explains the buildings are concrete reminders that serve as talking points on the 2.6 kilometre walk, stretching from Boundary Street towards Musgrave Park. “Brighton Road is one of the most diverse streets in West End. It has all forms of housing, grand mansions, migrant cottages, boarding houses, six packs from the 1970s and even an Art Deco building,” says Quinn. He was also a former chairman for 12 years of Council’s Urban Planning Committee that in 1995 introduced heritage regulation and demolition controls to retain historical gems.
The volunteer group’s guided walks have proved popular, attracting around 30 people to each event. About 3000 copies of the booklet, printed with the support of local businesses and The Gabba Ward Office, have been produced. Steve Capelin, an experienced local community arts worker, was responsible for writing and compiling the guide. “I like the idea of telling stories and this walk is a great way of keeping people connected to each other and their history,” he says.
The walk explores the background to more current events such as the significance of Musgrave Park to Aboriginal people and the Greek cultural events that take place in the Greek community’s landmark buildings. Behind every building is a tale. The organisation at the Sussex Street Uniting Church was responsible for establishing the Blue Nurses, the forerunner to the community organisation Blue Care, while the historic Franklin Villa was home to Archibald Meston, the Protector of Aborigines in southern Queensland in the 1890s.
Father Dimitri Tsakas welcomes the inclusion of the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint George and its Eastern traditions as part of the historical trek. Father Dimitri commissioned artist Andrew Georgakopoulos to complete the church’s spectacular handpainted domed ceiling, a project which spanned five years. “I said do what you want as long as I can look at it and cry and people two to 300 years from now will be inspired to live a purposeful life,” Father Dimitri says.
The group will a conduct a free guided walk in December. Further details and the guide are available on the group’s site at www.facebook.com/pages/Street-Walkers.
Words by Maria Ceresa | Images by Stayc Connolly