Guest Blogger: Sarah Beirne – Fieldwork Student
Selling real estate in Queensland has always been big business and stirring interest among potential investors not only requires a hot location but also a fine command of the English language. A veritable plethora of examples can be discovered while perusing the various estate maps and real estate ephemera contained within the John Oxley library collection. Estate maps featuring hand drawn mermaids, musketeers and Her Majesty the Queen have given way to sleek, glossy photographs of kookaburras, green bushland or twilight views of the city skyline. It is interesting to note the differences between the methods used to sell during the 1880s and what is employed now, however it is much more striking to observe the way that things really have not changed when it comes to what appeals to buyers. The language used to recommend properties is still as flowery now as it was when Queenslanders acknowledged Queen Victoria as their head of state.
An estate map advertising the sale in 1910 of the Royal Park Estate and St. John’s Wood Extension Estate in Ashgrove describes the area in the following manner: The air is like champagne … The soil will grow anything from roses to trees of enormous dimensions. The scenery is simply exquisite, huge trees, green foliage, rippling water, singing birds and mountains in the rear, are more beautiful than one can imagine. This may seem a little over the top and just a wee bit kitsch, until one stumbles upon the description of the Ivadale Lakes development brochure which exhorts readers to meander down through the leafy green tree-shaded spaces along the pristine walking track down towards the lake where the morning sun has lifted a lazy curl of mist off the mirror-calm surface of the water.What an idyllic scene!
There is also a notable trend that buyers are supposed to be concerned about their health, with much of the advertising declaring estates to be not only the most beautiful but also the healthiest part in the Southern Hemisphere. Drawing attention to an areas resemblance to other exotic countries or locations of renowned beauty is definitely a tried and true method, as is providing recommendation from celebrities or famous personages. Who does want to live in an exquisite Balinese villa located in Surya, the Garden of the Sun God, in which calm, graceful architecture blends effortlessly with exotic textiles, coconut wood and the rich hues of the surrounding tropics?
The sellers of the St. John’s Wood Extension Estate describe the reactions of King George VI who visited the estate in Ashgrove while he was Duke of York. What did His Majesty the King say about St John’s Wood? “He was delighted with the place and its glorious surroundings, and, moreover, it reminded him of the Manor Plains of Sussex, England”. The luxuriousness of the trees and height of the mountains shade the place from Westerly winds and dust, and keep it warm in Winter and cool in Summer.
People want to be where the important people are, according to the advertising – St John’s Wood, aptly named the Switzerland of Queensland on account of its beauty, has been sold to the best people in the State – people of wealth, repute and undoubted position. This alone will make the name of St John’s Wood a hall mark of distinction and exclusiveness.
There are some peculiar comparisons drawn when it comes to marketing properties, as shown in the blurb relating to The Springs in Spring Hill, where you are at the centre of a city of one million people, and yet you enjoy complete calmness and serenity. The serenity here has been compared to the exhilarating stillness that exists at the eye of a storm. One wonders how this serenity compares to a two-stroke motor at full throttle.
The State Library of Queensland collections of real estate maps and ephemera are a wealth of information when it comes to the different methods employed by agents when selling property, however the most remarkable aspect is definitely the fact that the language used has changed so little over the past 100+ years.