Backward Glance: Unlock the architecture and stories at Open House Part 2
  • Wednesday 11 October 2017
In the lead-up to the inaugural Sunshine Coast Open House on October 21, this week Backward Glance celebrates some of Nambour’s unique buildings with architectural and design history, as well as stories that makes the Sunshine Coast and its community of communities such an interesting place to live.

On the must visit Open House list is St Joseph’s Church standing proudly on the hill above the town of Nambour at 177 Currie Street.

It is the oldest Catholic Church in the Sunshine Coast region and has a long and enduring history.

Prior to the current brick church, there was a little wooden church built in 1890 on the site.

The brick church built in the 1950s displays unique features including high ceilings and old wooden pews which provide a restful space for worship and reflection.

Many beautiful religious statues are found within this church.

Outside, a prayer Grotto built in 1958, can be seen in the church grounds with a statue of Mary and St Bernadette.

The Grotto was built after Nambour’s local Parish Priest Father Sylvester Ryan was inspired when visiting Lourdes.

A crowd of 1000 people attended the opening of the Grotto in Nambour with a procession and singing of hymns.

At the front of the church’s facade is an elevated statue of St Joseph, for whom both church and school are named. Stained glass windows adorn the entrance.

Adjacent to St Joseph’s Church is St Joseph’s Catholic Convent building which was established by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan.

Due to transport not being readily available, the school was originally a boarding school as well as a day school and was officially opened by Brisbane’s Archbishop Duhig in 1925.

The boarding school closed down during the 1970s as other new schools opened throughout the Coast and transport improved in the region.

It was American-born Nambour pioneer and early businessman Daniel Currie who donated the splendid site of five acres on which the school, church and presbytery stand today.

This prime position is elevated above the business centre of Nambour looking out over the township.

Forever grateful to Catholic nuns who nursed him through serious illness when he worked on the Mississippi River, Daniel Currie never forgot their help when he needed it and paid it forward to the people of Nambour with the donation of this land.

During World War II, air raid trenches were dug in the grounds near the earlier church.
One story recalls that nuns and children were crouched in the trenches with the Rosary being said as the air raid siren sounded.

Three planes flew close and one of the boys recognised them as being Australian RAAF planes and a great cheer went up from the kids and the nuns alike.

In 2000, the church was refurbished allowing seating to be reorganised for the modern days of the current Catholic faith where community celebrations such as guest speakers, bands and choirs celebrate and at times rock to tunes and songs with a religious overtone.

Parishioners still gather at mass times for traditional prayer and other important dates in the church calendar to reflect and pray, as well give thanks for the strong bond of community friendships, hospitality and care.

It is a very different world to the days when a little wooden church built by the community in the early 1890s first appeared to accommodate the simple needs of a parish community on the Currie Street hill so long ago.

The making of a town produces many memories and Nambour’s landmark Club Hotel was originally the site of the Residential Hotel built in 1911 as a timber saloon which provided accommodation only.

The hotel was re-named the Club Hotel in 1912 when a liquor license was granted.

The hotel was remodeled in the 1920s and destroyed by fire on January 7, 1938 during a main street fire that decimated half of the town.

The present Club Hotel building was erected on the same site by December 1938. T

The building was architecturally designed with cement walls.

It was extensively improved in the 1960s and renovated again in 2008 with its distinctive art deco style still reflected in the building to this day.

For Currie Street and the wider Nambour community, this building has stood as an important part of Near North Coast history in the heritage sugar town.

It has been the gatekeeper to memories of the iconic cane train crossing, the main street close by where the tracks still remain today.

Fortunately previous tenants always had a mutual respect for the Club Hotel space, operating their businesses in a way that honoured the rich history and iconic features and left much of the original construction and style in place.

Club Hotel now houses the Boarding Office suites, refurbished rooms revitalised into office space, while still retaining character.

Gone is the liquor license and the sound of drinkers raising their glasses in the public bar.

Today, this lovely old pub building houses an exceptional surfboard collection with an impressive array of rare and iconic boards lining the walls.

This collection includes the large timber planks of the early 1900s to the more modern fibreglass boards of the 1960s up until current times.

In this collection there is a replica of the surfboard used by Duke Kahanamoku, a true Hawaiian hero and one of the world's greatest surfing watermen, when he first visited Australia and gave a surfing exhibition at Sydney`s Freshwater Beach on December 23, 1914. This is widely regarded as the most significant day in the development of surfing in Australia.

The building and surfboard collection opened with a completed renovation of the floor that had previously been vacant for more than 10 years.

The renovation pays homage to the building’s unique style and beauty and its past use.

Another building open during the Sunshine Coast Open House is the Eddie De Vere building in Currie Street.

During the 1970s, the then Shire Chairman of Maroochy Shire, Cr Eddie De Vere commissioned the construction of a new local government precinct in Nambour for Maroochy Shire.

The centre of Local Government the Maroochy Shire Chambers was relocated to the corner of Bury and Currie Street from Station Square on October 12, 1978 when the new building was officially opened by the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser.

The new local government precinct was planned to include a 12-storey local government shire chambers and office building, public library and town square.

Council engaged James Birrell, who was a well-known architect and town planner specialising in public architecture

James’s body of work prior to this commission included projects for the Brisbane City Council with buildings such as the Toowong Library, Centenary Pool Centre and Wickham Terrace Car Park.

Although the council chambers was designed to accommodate a total of 12 floors, five floors were built with the vision for future expansion over time.

The design of the council chambers facade has utilised a form and layout derived from the “Golden Mean”, an ancient Greek architecture ratio that references natural order.

This building is named after the popular industrious Local Government Chairman Edward (Eddie) Owen De Vere who was born in New South Wales on August 7, 1914.

In around 1920 his family moved to Nambour, where Eddie’s father leased the Commercial Hotel.

This proved unsuccessful and within two years, the family purchased a dairy farm at Dulong.

In 1934, Eddie De Vere moved to Kenilworth to run a dairy property Camden Vale in the Brooloo Kenilworth Gap.

He purchased the property towards the end of WWII and on June 15, 1946 he married Phoebe Horsfall.

In 1951, Mr De Vere was elected to the Maroochy Shire Council and served as a Councillor for Division l from 1951 until he resigned in 1967.
He relocated from Kenilworth to Bli Bli to take up cane farming and in 1967, he was elected Chairman of Maroochy Shire, a position he held until 1982.

Eddie De Vere was awarded an OBE on December 31, 1980 for his services to the community.

These are just some of the buildings that will feature in the upcoming inaugural Sunshine Coast Open House.

Join us on October 21 at this free public event which celebrates the region’s architecture and offers behind-the-scenes access to some of the Coast’s iconic buildings.

For more information, visit

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

Image captions
Hero image: Club Hotel, corner Mill Street and Currie Street, Nambour, ca 1920.

Carousel images:
Image 1: Maroochy Shire Council Chambers at the corner of Currie and Bury Streets, Nambour, ca 1981.

Image 2: Main bar of the Club Hotel, corner of Currie and Mill Streets, Nambour, 1962.

Image 3: St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, Currie Street, Nambour, 1992.

Image 4: Official unveiling of the foundation stone for the Maroochy Shire Council Chambers, Nambour, June 5, 1977.