The History of Teneriffe, QLD

by | Feb 8, 2021 | Queensland

Nestled in the heart of Brisbane, Teneriffe is a storied inner-city suburb with plenty of history to its name. Bordered by Fortitude Valley, Newstead, and New Farm, the area has morphed from a settler estate, to a wool production haven, to the bright and bustling suburb it is today. Known for its iconic woolstores, Teneriffe has kept the memory of its tradition and roots while moving into the modern century. The suburb has evolved, but its history remains.

Teneriffe emerged in 1854, when James Gibbon — a property speculator — purchased several hectares of land between Newstead and New Farm. He named it “Teneriffe”, possibly in reference to Tenerife in the Canary Islands. In 1865, he built the Teneriffe House, which stands on what is today known as Teneriffe Hill.

Eventually, the swamps around the estate were drained to make more usable land available. The entire area — including the land around the Teneriffe House — was subdivided and put up for sale. In the 1880s, residential development was growing, bringing around the emergence of industries and transport systems.

The dredging of the nearby Brisbane River shifted the local climate from residential to industrial. The new depth of the river allowed larger ships to move further upstream, which brought about an increase in wharfs and ports in the area starting in 1907. The very first wharf was built by Dalgety and Co. in 1907, with the primary business of wool and gold trade. And with the wool trade came the stores selling them.

Woolstores

Winchcombe Carson Woolstore went up in 1910 along Vernon Terrace. Then the Australian Mercantile land and FInance Woolstore was built in 1911. By the 1950s, there were nine Woolstores plying their trade along the Brisbane river, most along Vernon Terrace or facing Macquarie Street. The buildings were all designed by renowned architects. They were a representation of the boom in Teneriffe’s industry and the commercial success of Australian wool producers.

When World War II broke out, however, the wharves and Woolstores were requisitioned and used as a naval base for submarines. The facilities housed both American and British officers; even USA General Douglas MacArthur had headquarters in Brisbane at one point. The area became known as Capricorn Wharf up until when the war ended.

Afterwards, when wharves and ports reopened, cargo shifted north to the Port of Brisbane. The Teneriffe wharves, railway, and Woolstores began closing as trade in the area slowed then ceased. Changes to the wool industry had rendered them redundant.

By the time the railways closed in the 1980s-1990s, the Teneriffe economy had stagnated, with the suburb falling into disrepair.

an image of new and old buildings over the skyline

In the 1990s, efforts began to revive Teneriffe, with an urban renewal task force established to revitalise the land in and around the suburb. At the heart of the project was the transformation of the old Woolstores buildings into trendy, upscale residences. The renovation took place from 1995 to 2000, and was a resounding success. The State fruit cannery alone saw over 200 loft-style units. The local government added a boardwalk in 2000. The historic styles and facades of the buildings have been preserved and restored, but the interiors modernised for a more contemporary atmosphere.

In 2000, the local government also added a boardwalk, the Teneriffe Riverwalk. The popular, scenic walking route begins at a ferry stop, and passes by several heritage structures — like the former MacTaggarts Woolstore, the Goldsborough Mort Building, and Amity House — before ending at the Brisbane Powerhouse. There’s also a section of the Riverwalk known as Submariners Walk Heritage Trail, which pays homage to the time in WWII when the area was a submarine base. Several hundred metres of the trail feature submarine-shaped benches and small displays detailing that time period in Brisbane history.

By 2014, when the city council greenlit the renovation of the old Engine Room — built in 1917 by the Brisbane Stevedoring and Wool Dumping Company — into a cafe and restaurant, the area had transformed into a vibrant and thriving upscale residential area. The Woolstore buildings have become some of the most exclusive and stylish apartments, with many listed as heritage sites. The structures now stand as architectural testaments to the suburb’s rich history amid a highly urban landscape.

Culture

There is more to Teneriffe than the Woolstore buildings, of course. Over the past decade, the suburb has hosted the popular Teneriffe Festival, held every year in July. The suburb celebrates its history and heritage, with many people from all over Australia — and even outside the country — coming to visit. It also proudly hosts performances by local artists, and partners with local shops and brands to provide food and entertainment to everyone who comes to join the fun. Festival-goers can wander the riverside streets and side alleys, discover local restaurants and bars, visit local markets, and enjoy all the festivities on offer. There are even events for kids!

festival performers on the street surrounded with people

The festival also features a Magical Mystery History Tour, a heritage tour by bus that takes visitors around the heritage sites in Teneriffe while talking about the local history.

While you’re in town, stop along the boardwalk to visit the ewe statue “Gloria”. It’s named after the late Gloria Grant, an iconic figure in Teneriffe and author of “Reflections on New Farm”, a local history book. Erected in 2012 and designed by Mark Andrews, Gloria the Ewe represents the suburb’s wooly heritage. Andrews named her after Grant, with local artist David Hinchliffe saying the namesake would have tickled Grant’s “sense of the irreverent”. Find Gloria on the Riverwalk in front of Eves of the River for a photo with the adorably dressed ewe.

Teneriffe is now a thriving urban town, with plenty of trendy bars, restaurants, and cafes to explore. While it has left the wool behind, it has not forgotten where it came from. And it celebrates its new lease on life by commemorating its history while it continues moving forward with the times.

Live in Brisbane and want to explore Teneriffe? Looking for an excuse to go out and around the town? Schedule your house for cleaning with Maid2Match, and leave your house in our hands while you dip into a little pocket of pre-war Queensland. Then come home to a spick-and-span house — and maybe with a new photo to display on the shelf, too!

About Author

Sophie Franklin

Sophie is the subject matter expert within Maid2Match. Most importantly though she is our biggest fan girl and generous in sharing what she knows.

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About Author

Sophie Franklin

Sophie is the subject matter expert within Maid2Match. Most importantly though she is our biggest fan girl and generous in sharing what she knows.

Share

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