Where did we park? History in Pictures

In the earliest decades of the 20th century car parking was simply a matter of leaving your car where you happened to stop. Rarely in the years before the First World War would you have found more than a few cars parked together.

Vintage cars parked outside Firhall, in Wickham Terrace, ca. 1906, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 199241

Vintage cars parked outside Firhall, in Wickham Terrace, ca. 1906, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 199241

North Gregory Hotel, Winton, ca, 1907, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 50438

Half a dozen cars parked in front of the North Gregory Hotel, Winton, ca, 1907, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 50438

Cars aligned in a street outside the Criminal Investigation Bureau for the General Strike in Brisbane, 1912, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: 10113-0001-0008

Cars aligned in a street outside the Criminal Investigation Bureau for the General Strike in Brisbane, 1912, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: 10113-0001-0008

By the middle of the 1920s car parking had become a serious problem in Brisbane, at least. Lord Mayor, William Jolly, addressed the problem at a dinner of the Motor Traders’ Association reported in the Brisbane Courier in 1925.

“I feel sure that in Brisbane in the very near future we shall have to take some action with a view to finding some better system of parking motor cars,” said Alderman W. A. Jolly (Mayor of Greater Brisbane) at the ninth annual dinner of the Motor Traders’ Association of Queensland held at Finney’s Roof Garden last night. Alderman Jolly … said that the rapid development of the motor trade in Brisbane had handed over to the city of Brisbane the great problem of the parking of motor cars. Every big city in the world was faced with that problem. He felt sure that in Brisbane in the very near future they would have to take some action with a view to finding some better system of parking motor cars. To-day their main streets were reduced to half their width owing to the lack of a parking system. Every large building that went up in the thickly populated parts of the city made matters worse. An important phase of the provision of car parking would be the selection of sites. They would have to be careful to see that such sites were properly situated.

R.A.C.Q. parking lot in Fortitude Valley during the Brisbane Exhibition, ca. 1927, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 65343

R.A.C.Q. parking lot in Fortitude Valley during the Brisbane Exhibition, ca. 1927, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 65343

Even in the smaller towns popular events like the Goomeri Show could attract a large collection of cars requiring parking.

Carpark at the Goomeri Showground, ca. 1927, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 149725

Carpark at the Goomeri Showground, ca. 1927, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 149725

By the 1930s formal parking arrangements were instituted in many towns as cars became more common. The state’s car parks began to take on a different look as hard topped 1930s vehicles replaced the 1920s soft top models. The expansion of the motor industry was highlighted in this report from Ayr in The Northern Miner, July 30, 1932.

The value of the sugar districts to the motor car Industry was abundantly demonstrated here during show week. The Traffic Inspector, Mr. J. O’Connor Informs me that on Saturday night, while the different entertainments in town were in progress he made a count of the cars parked in a limited area around the centre blocks and counted no less than 479.

Queen Street, Ayr 1936, Burdekin Library, Image number: bur00078

Queen Street, Ayr 1936, Burdekin Library, Image number: bur00078

Callide Street, Biloela on a busy day in November, 1936, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 41454

Callide Street, Biloela on a busy day in November, 1936, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 41454

Outlook over the carpark on top of Castle Hill, Townsville, ca. 1936, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 204556

Outlook over the carpark on top of Castle Hill, Townsville, ca. 1936, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 204556

Various methods of parking were tried in Queensland towns in the 30s and 40s, some more successfully than others. This letter published in the Western Star and Roma Advertiser on May 16 1941 compares the parallel parking system in Roma unfavourably with other systems.

Sir,—As a visitor to your town, I have been surprised to note the action taken by the authorities with reference to the street parking of cars. That some control not only over the parking but also of the running of cars is called for goes without saying, but the method of parking which has been instituted is possibly the worst possible form that could have been instituted in a. town the size of Roma. To successfully park a car parallel to the footpath in a confined space, when other cars occupy the spaces immediately at the front and rear, calls for the driving of an expert, and is quite beyond the capacity of the ordinary driver, as also is the matter of getting the car out again without loss of duco either to one’s own car or of that of the other fellow.

Broadway Picture Theatre on Callide Street, Biloela in 1949, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 118718

Centre parking looking somewhat stretched on Callide Street, Biloela in 1949, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 118718

Bourbong Street, Bundaberg, ca. 1951, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: TR1867-0001-0034

Looking more effective on a wider Bourbong Street, Bundaberg, ca. 1951, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: TR1867-0001-0034

Towards the end of the 1950s a new development began in Brisbane which would transform shopping and parking for Queenslanders. The rise of the shopping mall began with the construction of a new shopping centre in Chermside. The new development is described in some detail in The Cumberland Argus (Parramatta, NSW) on 1st May 1957.

This centre, which is now almost completed, is the first of several contemplated by the firm of Allen and Starke, owners of a large department store in the Brisbane City Centre. The firm is negotiating for sites in three other locations on the outskirts of urban development in areas of fairly scattered housing. Development on these other sites has not yet been approved by Brisbane City Council.

Attention is given to the parking arrangements for the new centre.

A parking ratio of 4 sq.ft. to 1 sq. ft. of floor space is considered desirable, and the first stage provides for 750 vehicles with provision for expansion of parking space to accommodate 2,000 vehicles, which with a four-fold daily turnover, will provide total accommodation for 8,000 vehicles. … The whole of the parking area is to be paved and planted with trees, which will also be planted along the boundaries of the site.

Scale model of Allen & Stark's department store, Chermside, Brisbane, Queensland, April 1956, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 191380

Scale model of Allen & Stark’s department store, Chermside, Brisbane, Queensland, April 1956, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 191380

View of the Chermside Shopping Centre, from South West showing a section of the parking area, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 119385

Chermside Shopping Centre, ca. 1957. Some of the cars even look like the ones in the model, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 119385

The 1950s also saw the rise of multi-level car parking. The roof top car park on the R.A.C.Q. building in Fortitude Valley was the first of its kind in Australia.

View of the car park on top of the R.A.C.Q. building in Fortitude Valley, 1953, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 202799

View of the car park on top of the R.A.C.Q. building in Fortitude Valley, 1953, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 202799

Another innovation was this multi-story service station in Spring Hill.

Amoco service station in Water Street, Spring Hill, Brisbane, 1962, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: 29917-0034-0001

Amoco service station in Water Street, Spring Hill, Brisbane, 1962, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: 29917-0034-0001

In the smaller towns the parking arrangements hadn’t changed much by the 1960s although there was more traffic and the cars had been updated.

View of Currie Street, Nambour, 1963, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: lbp00218

View of Currie Street, Nambour, 1963, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: lbp00218

Queen Street, Ayr, 1967, Burdekin Library, Image number: bur00110

We return to Queen Street, Ayr, this time in 1967, Burdekin Library, Image number: bur00110

No survey of car parking in Queensland would be complete without mention of that innovative combination of car parking and entertainment that was the drive-in movie. First introduced to Queensland in the late 1950s, drive-ins proliferated through the 60s and 70s before all but disappearing again by the present day. Sadly the only pictures we have of drive-ins were taken during the day when they were empty of cars. This drive-in at Waterford West was brand new in 1974.

Parking bays at the Waterford West Drive-In Theatre, 1974, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: 27545-0001-0002

Parking bays at the Waterford West Drive-In Theatre, 1974, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: 27545-0001-0002

There were still cars in Queensland in the 1970s, despite the evidence of the deserted drive-in above.

Carpark of the Surfers Paradise Hotel looking south-west along Hanlan Street, Surfers Paradise, Queensland, 1973, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, John Gollings Surfers Paradise Photographs, Image number: 29348-0002-0033

Carpark of the Surfers Paradise Hotel, Surfers Paradise, Queensland, 1973, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, John Gollings Surfers Paradise Photographs, Image number: 29348-0002-0033

Carpark and buildings at Garden City Shopping Centre, Mount Gravatt, August 1972, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: lbp00072

Carpark and buildings at Garden City Shopping Centre, Mount Gravatt, August 1972, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: lbp00072

The 1980s car park reveals a more modern fleet of cars but one not yet dominated by ubiquitous SUVs.

 Beaudesert Fair Shopping Centre, 1987, Scenic Rim Regional Council, Image number: qbsc00046

Beaudesert Fair Shopping Centre, 1987, Scenic Rim Regional Council, Image number: qbsc00046

In 1990 Brisbane street parking still featured individual parking meters. The photograph is by former State Library staff photographer Reiner Irmer.

Elizabeth Street looking from the Creek Street area, Brisbane, 1990, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 169864

Elizabeth Street looking from the Creek Street area, Brisbane, 1990, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 169864

Taking us almost to the present day is this car park at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre from the John Gollings Surfers Paradise Photographs, 1973, 2013.

Gold Coast Aquatic Centre carpark at Southport, Queensland, 2010-2013, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: 29348-0001-0056

Gold Coast Aquatic Centre carpark at Southport, Queensland, 2010-2013, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: 29348-0001-0056

Finally here is a mystery for the eagle-eyed car experts among you. This photograph is listed in our catalogue as dating from 1959 but even those only moderately versed in the history of motor cars will realise that this must be a later photograph. Who can give us a correct date for this well stocked car park at Eagle Farm?

 View of the stands at Eagle Farm racecourse on the day of the Brisbane Cup, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 152014

View of the stands at Eagle Farm racecourse, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 152014

Simon Miller – Library Technician, State Library of Queensland