BRISBANE’S first purpose-built, self-contained block of flats for women will go to auction on Saturday after being held by investors for 42 years.
The Bulolo Flats at 9 McLachlan St, Fortitude Valley, is across from the Sun apartments on a tiny 301sq m block.
Brisbane was in the grip of a chronic housing shortage when the flats were built in 1934. The construction industry was in crisis between the two world wars and the building of residential flats led the recovery. At the time, prominent businessman TC Beirne was transforming 19th century drapery shops into major 20th century department stores, and a largely female workforce was part of that vision.
Beirne was a staunch Catholic who identified an under-supply of safe accommodation for single women in Brisbane and that led to the construction of the unique block of eight flats.
“Beirne was regarded as a good employer and in erecting Bulolo Flats he appears to have had the welfare of his female employees at heart, the flats being intended for the use of girls who came from the country to work at his Fortitude Valley department store,” Queensland heritage assessment documents reveal.
Unlike other flats of the era which were built with shared bathrooms and toilets, the Bulolo Flats was Brisbane’s first purpose-built, self-contained block for women, with a private bathroom, toilet and kitchenette.
“The construction of Bulolo Flats was an indication of changing social attitudes toward the role of women in the workplace and of community expectations about the behaviour of women in society,” the heritage documents say.
“Designed as private homes for young women earning their own income, they were symbolic of contemporary community recognition that many young, unmarried women of this era could support themselves financially and were no longer content to live in the family home or in supervised accommodation such as hotels.”
The ground-floor kitchenettes had a double door connection from the outside so the baker and milkman on their daily runs could leave fresh produce in the space between the cavity brickwork, which was accessible from the kitchen by a similar door.
By 1979, the property had been converted into offices and was in a state of disrepair when private investor Frederick Peluso bought the building with his brother for $63,100 and began a 12 month restoration on the property.
“Forty-two years ago, Fortitude Valley wasn’t the centre for anything,” Frederick Peluso’s brother (who did not wish to be identified) said.
“It wasn’t a very nice place to be but we knew the Valley wouldn’t be like that forever, every area goes through its transition.”
The brickwork was in great shape, but ceilings were taken out and replaced, the building was replumbed and rewired to bring it into the 21st century and extra plugs were allocated.
The Hennessy, Hennessy & Co designed building is now a rare example of the interwar art deco style.
The rooftop has been reclaimed as communal entertainment space with views across to the city lights, while the apartments have been updated during more recent renovations.
And while there is no onsite parking, residents can apply to Brisbane City Council for a parking permit on nearby Ivory St.
Frederick Peluso passed away last year, prompting the decision to sell the property.
Tom Lyne of Ray White New Farm will take the Bulolo Flats at 9 McLachlan St, Fortitude Valley, to auction on June 18 at an in-room auction at the Calile Hotel in Fortitude Valley from 9am. The property is 10th in the order of sale.
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