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Rediscovering a heritage home’s socialite past in New Farm


Rediscovering a site’s forgotten social history can be just as compelling as celebrating its built form or heritage context, as the AHS team found when researching Gwandoben in New Farm, Brisbane.

The house’s original owners, the Dodwell family, enjoyed a lifestyle of parties, luxury and publicity during the 1930s that evokes the flamboyant spirit of F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby.

AHS was tasked by our client Tom Dooley Developments with creating a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for the site at 42 Maxwell Street in New Farm which includes Gwandoben.

The house is on Brisbane City Council’s Local Heritage Register and has a Development Application which includes demolishing its later extensions and relocating the original core structure to another part of the site.

The CMP was predominantly focused on the original building’s form and layout with only limited details of the extensions, except where necessary to provide our client with contextual information.

Designed by James Collin

The house at 42 Maxwell Street, New Farm was built in 1933 for Mervyn Dodwell and his wife Elizabeth on land that had been owned by his parents Alexander and Elsie Dodwell.

Gwandoben was designed by James Collin, a prominent Brisbane architect who began his career in the late interwar period and would later partner with Charles Fulton to establish the Fulton & Collin architectural firm which still exists today as Fulton Trotter Architects.

Originally constructed of brick and cream stucco with brown timbering, high gables and red Wunderlich roof tiles, Gwandoben is representative of the old-English or Tudor-style homes built in New Farm and across Brisbane during the interwar period.

The elevated riverside location contributes to the terraced effect of housing in this area, as owners competed for river views. The building’s design and high masonry footing show that Collin sought to maximise this view for the Dodwells.

The 1960 conversion of the building into units reflects a trend that occurred in New Farm in the inter-war and post-war years, demonstrating its population boom and the move to higher density living.

This 1934 photograph shows the original phase of Gwandoben (Sunday Mail)


A prominent Brisbane family

Gwandoben has strong connections to the Dodwell family who were prominent figures on Brisbane’s social scene in the early twentieth century.

Alexander Dodwell was an automotive industry pioneer who opened one of Queensland’s first motor dealerships in 1907. He is believed to have sold the first Ford in Queensland and imported the first Studebaker to Australia.

Mervyn and Elizabeth Dodwell were well known for hosting extravagant parties for friends and family members at Gwandoben, which were frequently mentioned in local newspapers.

Construction of the home was itself the subject of media attention in the Daily Standard in 1933 and in the Sunday Mail which published a detailed account of the layout and internal fittings in 1934. This article provides a charming insight into the Dodwell’s lifestyle:

‘The sleeping quarters and bathroom are situated upstairs and in addition to this, and which is a most unusual innovation, we find the breakfast room. To people who entertain and how in consequence are not very early risers this room must prove very convenient indeed.’

Mervyn and Elizabeth Dodwell at their wedding in August 1933 with a car cake made of ice cream (Brisbane Courier)


A conjectural original building layout

Gwandoben has experienced significant alteration and modification over the years as it passed through various owners and residents.

Some spaces, particularly on the first floor, retain a high degree of original fabric and integrity, however a large portion of the building has been heavily altered by extensions and changes to room layouts.

Following detailed historic analysis and site inspections by the AHS team, we were able to provide our client with a conjectural original building layout which will play an important role in the relocation.

We also recommended suitable processes for conserving the brickwork and roof tiles during the move to a new part of the site which will enable construction of the new Argyle apartments.

To discover how we may be able to assist on your next project, contact us today here or phone (07) 3221 0000. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn.

Artist’s impression of the Argyle development (Tom Dooley Developments)

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The Challenge

The house at 42 Maxwell Street, New Farm was built in 1933 for Mervyn Dodwell and his wife Elizabeth on land that had been owned by his parents Alexander and Elsie Dodwell.

Gwandoben was designed by James Collin, a prominent Brisbane architect who began his career in the late interwar period and would later partner with Charles Fulton to establish the Fulton & Collin architectural firm which still exists today as Fulton Trotter Architects.

Originally constructed of brick and cream stucco with brown timbering, high gables and red Wunderlich roof tiles, Gwandoben is representative of the old-English or Tudor-style homes built in New Farm and across Brisbane during the interwar period.

The elevated riverside location contributes to the terraced effect of housing in this area, as owners competed for river views. The building’s design and high masonry footing show that Collin sought to maximise this view for the Dodwells.

The 1960 conversion of the building into units reflects a trend that occurred in New Farm in the inter-war and post-war years, demonstrating its population boom and the move to higher density living.



How we helped

Gwandoben has strong connections to the Dodwell family who were prominent figures on Brisbane’s social scene in the early twentieth century.

Alexander Dodwell was an automotive industry pioneer who opened one of Queensland’s first motor dealerships in 1907. He is believed to have sold the first Ford in Queensland and imported the first Studebaker to Australia.

Mervyn and Elizabeth Dodwell were well known for hosting extravagant parties for friends and family members at Gwandoben, which were frequently mentioned in local newspapers.

Construction of the home was itself the subject of media attention in the Daily Standard in 1933 and in the Sunday Mail which published a detailed account of the layout and internal fittings in 1934. This article provides a charming insight into the Dodwell’s lifestyle:

‘The sleeping quarters and bathroom are situated upstairs and in addition to this, and which is a most unusual innovation, we find the breakfast room. To people who entertain and how in consequence are not very early risers this room must prove very convenient indeed.’

Results

Gwandoben has experienced significant alteration and modification over the years as it passed through various owners and residents.

Some spaces, particularly on the first floor, retain a high degree of original fabric and integrity, however a large portion of the building has been heavily altered by extensions and changes to room layouts.

Following detailed historic analysis and site inspections by the AHS team, we were able to provide our client with a conjectural original building layout which will play an important role in the relocation.

We also recommended suitable processes for conserving the brickwork and roof tiles during the move to a new part of the site which will enable construction of the new Argyle apartments.

To discover how we may be able to assist on your next project, contact us today here or phone (07) 3221 0000. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn.

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Extensive war history unearthed at Milman Hill Complex on Thursday Island

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AHS ensures cultural preservation of the Mt Coot-tha Kiosk and Lookout, unearthing a rich history at one of Brisbane’s premiere vantage points

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AHS helps to record and conserve Bega’s network of historic granite kerbs and gutters for our client Bega Valley Shire Council

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