Bulimba, with its sprawling Queenslanders, cute worker's cottages and proximity to the river, parks, cinema, cafes, restaurants and historic school, has in recent decades become one of Brisbane's fashionable and sought after neighbourhoods.
Yet Oxford St, the lifeblood of Bulimba that runs right through the middle is more than a café and boutique strip, with layers of history and interesting stories to tell – revealed on the plaque-marked heritage trail that runs on largely flat ground (except for Bulimba SS) from river to roundabout and back. Walk time is approx. 45 mins without a stop although Oxford St contains plenty of great reasons to take a caffeine or food break.
1. Bulimba Ferry Terminal – The ornate river gateway to Bulimba, this splendid heritage listed ferry terminal was designed by prominent Brisbane architect GHM Addison and built in the 1880s at the behest of the Balmoral Shire Council.
*In goanna oil news, at the first intersection (with Quay St) on the left hand side of Oxford St is 'Astra' which was owned by 'Goanna Salve' king and later local Nationalist Party councillor Joseph Cornelius Marconi, who in the early 20th century manufactured and sold the famous 'miracle' salve from a factory (Marconi's Goannery)under the house and who went on to suffer a violent untimely death in the Brisbane CBD.
2. Crouch's Cottage – Still on the left hand side between Coutts and Boukella Sts, Crouch's Cottage was built in the 1870's and is typical of the kind of working class house that dotted the low lying areas of Bulimba in its infancy. In contrast the wealthier classes built grand villas on the hills to catch breezes and 'Bulimba House', Bulimba's oldest surviving house from one of its first residents is a still-standing example of these.
3. Yellowley's Newsagency – On the intersection of Bulimba St and Oxford St is the quaint corner store (now a Thai restaurant) started life during World War I as a newsagency.
4. Bulimba Hotel – Keep walking to the corner of Wambool St where once the Richard-Gailey designed Bulimba Hotel with its ornate wraparound lace verandahs was a local landmark. Built in 1888, it later became the Balmoral Hotel and today it is virtually unrecognizable as local watering hole Oxford 152.
5. Avro Picture Dome – The Balmoral Cineplex has been the in-site for local movie-goers since 1920, when it opened as the Avro Picture Palace (at the same time as the Hawthorne Cinema opened). Before that it is believed that film buffs had to settle for watching movies in a nearby open air paddock. At the time the Avro opened its neighbours were Henry Thompson's Coach & Motor Works, and a little further away a small aerodrome where cashed up movie-goers could enjoy a pre or post film joy flights in Avro and BE2E aircrafts. In 1954 an opulent foyer and four shops were added to the cinema complex, a move which helped ensure its survival until today.
6. Bulimba Uniting Church - Continue to the roundabout intersection with Riding Rd, and on the left is Bulimba's landmark Uniting Church, which was built on the site in 1866 after a generous land donation from William Thorpe Riding helped enable the congregation to move their place of worship from under a large tree in the vicinity of Birkalla St to here.
7. Site of Bulimba Police Station – Turn left into Lytton Rd to find the plaque where it once stood. As the Brisbane locale deemed most vulnerable to Japanese attack in World War II, the role of Bulimba police extended from not only keeping any local wayward citizens in line but also to be in charge of local's safety and well-being in the event of an attack. This meant co-ordinating with air raid wardens, keeping an eye on petrol stations, air raid shelters, information receiving and dispensing and other war-related activities.
8. Bulimba State School – Continue through the roundabout and up the hill on the continuation of Oxford St – here one of Brisbane's oldest government schools, Bulimba SS opened its doors to 28 pupils for the first time in 1866 and by the following year this had risen to 40. Notable features of the school today include Arbor Day trees whose planting dates back to 1890 and the main building, constructed as an employment project during the Great Depression years. * From here it's a short but steep uphill jaunt to the Reservoir House (see below)
9. St John the Baptist Anglican Church – Turn around and head back down the hill to Oxford St, sticking to the left hand side. A little way along on the left is the picturesque white church built in 1888 with the aid of a land donation by high profile much-loved local resident Elizabeth Coxen, known as the 'Mother of Bulimba'. (the church's recent claim to fame was being patronized by ex-PM Kevin Rudd, who famously attended church here the morning after his election win in 2007).
10. Bulimba Memorial Park – Halfway down Oxford St to the ferry terminal is the green heart of the Bulimba community, which commenced life as a square of open recreational space called Jamieson's Park. Then in 1919, after the loss of so many loved ones from Bulimba families in World War I it became a Memorial Park, to honour those who were killed and never returned. Its grandstand was built in the Depression years as an employment project and in nearby Stuart St, two ANZAC cottages (govt funded housing for returned WWI servicemen) can be seen.
*Reservoir House is exactly as its name suggests, a house that has been built into a giant concrete disused water reservoir atop a hill and well worth the detour and climb to see. From Bulimba State School, follow Oxford St around the corner to where it becomes Wentworth Avenue, then take the first left to McIllwraith Ave. Stay with it as it curves around to the right and forks into Apex St on the right and a continuation of McIllWraith on the left. Swing a right and Reservoir House is on the upper side of Apex St – you can't miss it.