One of Brisbane's oldest shires, Windsor has unfortunately suffered the ravages of progress more than most, with quarrying, major road and tunnel works slicing through its hills and fragmenting it into little islands of preserved heritage. Yet a walk around its still charming hilly streets reveals a fascinating history of gorgeous villas, stunning vistas, tragedies, medical firsts and quirks.
1. Start at Windsor Station (circa 1899) on the Prospect Rd side and park anywhere here. Between Cox Rd and Oakwal Tce is the cul de sac Bush St, where Windsor's oldest house Oakwal still stands in dress circle position at no 54, preserved in its original state. The road, on what was once part of the estate has been quaintly designed to encircle it. Designed by James Cowlishaw and built by John Petrie in 1864 for Justice James Cockle, it was occupied by the judge and his wife during the years he spent walking to the city chambers (a dapper figure in his signature white suit) and consolidating Queensland's statutes. Sir Arthur Palmer, one time Premier of Queensland was its next tenant followed by the architect himself.
2. From oldest house to smallest - head back to Prospect Tce and turn right taking it to the junction of Rosemount Tce. On the corner at no 54 Rosemount Tce is Windsor's smallest house, which was originally a single room width with verandahs front and back and which sits on a73.3 m block of land, thought to be the smallest block in Brisbane. No 30 Rosemount Tce. 'Valhalla', was the home of Danish surveyor Thor Jensen, who distinguished himself by buying the first land on The Gold Coast, including the estate of Surfers Paradise and owning one of the first five cars in Brisbane, a T-Model Ford.
3. Turn back onto Prospect Tce, cross the railway bridge and take a right turn, following Eildon Rd to Hooker St and up the hill until Constitution Rd. Turn right and at Lutwyche Rd turn left and head up the hill past Officeworks, which stands on land once owned by Windsor State School and site of a munitions factory in World War II. Until Lutwyche Rd was named after Judge Lutwyche, a prominent mid 19th century figure who opened the 1st Bowen Bridge in 1860, it was known as the Great Northern Rd and was the direct track to the seaside resort of Sandgate and the goldfields of Gympie.
At Harris St cross at the lights to what is left of Windsor Memorial Park, a green island which has splendid city vistas which was built by returned servicemen after World War I. Its heritage listed cenotaph, opened in 1925, sits on the site of the original Bowen Bridge National School, which opened in the 1860s and closed down in 1914 when the adjacent Windsor State School was built. From here is the best view of the grand turreted main building of Windsor State School, dating from 1916.
4. Cross back and continue up the hill along Lutwyche Rd. Nestled below the rocky cliffs on a patch of green is the little Scottish Baronial cottage that was once the Old Windsor Shire/Town Hall Chambers, with its worn sign on top that has the word 'town' superimposed over the word 'shire'.
Open Sundays and Mondays from 1-4pm is now home to the Windsor Historical Society. Across the road the Colwill Place Shops was an avant garde shopping spot in its hey day. Built in 1928/29 by the flamboyant Arthur William Colwill with bricks stripped by local lads of their mortar and recycled from the demolished Centenary Hotel in Fortitude Valley. Not only was it the first shopping strip to have angle parking but it featured a mini golf course on the first floor and on the rooftop was a party pavilion and floodlit tennis courts with city views.
5. Continue along the cliff-hemmed park, which contains 2 substations (the smaller one designed by the prolific council architect Roy Ogg in 1927 to power the Grange tram). The rocky cliff was a quarry dating from the 1860s and today is aesthetically lit up by night, while back in its years of activity residents in the area were party to an alarm bell which used to ring prior to the frequent gelignite explosions.
6. Carry on to the intersection with Maygar Street, which is significant for 2 reasons. One, that the house on the corner was once the home and medical practice of Dr Reginald Quinn, who pioneered the use of radium to treat cancer and secondly, the bus stop here was the last place Grange girl Betty Shanks was seen alive before her vicious murder in September 1952 - a killing that shocked the city and to many signified Brisbane's loss of innocence. Her viciously battered body was found in the yard of a house on the corner of Thomas and Carberry Sts Grange and the murder was never solved. Across the road Windsor's old School of Arts, which was opened by the Governor of Queensland in 1911, has been unceremoniously moved here to accommodate tunnel works.
7. Head back a little way past the bus stop then take Flaherty St which runs to the right by the substation. To the left behind the substation are some white timber railed stairs – take these and turn left onto Goodacre St. This road runs behind the old quarry and back down to an intersection with Flower St, where the majestic pair of fig trees (c1897) and old gate posts, both heritage listed, were once the entry to the grand house Kirkston perched atop the hill and whose estate this once belonged to. The stunning GHM Addison designed home, which was built for solicitor John Flower of the Flower & Hart law firm (and whose partner Hart owned Greylands in Indooroopilly, one time home of artist Vida Lahey's father), sits at the peak of tiny offshoot Rupert St, a little way up to the left.
8. Meantime on Flower St there are a number of significant residences including no 3 and 5 ('Wrekin' and 'Wellington') both of which were once part of the grand old Windsor villa 'Arwin Te', owned by Captain Whish who was killed in the tragic shipwreck of the Quetta in Torres Strait in 1890. The third part of the house, which was divided up by William Bradley, now stands as a residence on no 36 Constitution Rd. Hidden behind some impressive gates No 21 was built by prominent hotelier Patrick Scanlan (Prince Alfred, Stock Exchange and Royal Hotel) in 1936 on land he bought from Mayor William Jolly after Mr Jolly's wife decided she didn't want to build there for fear of one of their six sons falling to his death from the adjacent quarry face. A block of flats named 'Arwin Te' stands where the grand villa of their namesake once stood.
9. Follow Flower St to Maygar St and turn left then take a right onto Mackenzie St and first left onto Bess St, which is unremarkable except for the two original brickmaker's cottages huddled together at no 25 & 27. Heritage listed and dating from the 1870's they are the only reminder of the brickworks that once operated from behind them. At the end turn left onto Brook St and then right onto Maygar again. In the shadow of a podiatry shoe store one block along on the other side is Rose & Edward Espresso, the area's gem of a funky kiosk and courtyard café, which is great for a coffee or all day breakfast or lunch.
10. Continue along Maygar to the roundabout then turn left into Constitution Rd. A couple of blocks along on the right are the stately white gates which are the road entrance to Eildon Reservoir. Continue on the treed footpath of Constitution Rd, an avenue of grand houses in an interesting variety of architectural styles from the late 19th century through to the mid 20th century.
11. Around no 115 there's a small partly concealed staircase across the road in the bushes and this is the short cut to the Eildon Reservoir Rd – take it, turn left and it's only a short hike to the summit and roof of the reservoir where the most stunning panorama of the city and sweeping views of the suburbs can be had. Plans for a refreshment kiosk never eventuated but the tiny Federation style sheds are asking for an enterprising soul to carry out the original intentions.
12. Return and take the steps back down again and continue to the right downhill on Constitution Rd then turn right into Jessop St and continue downhill until the T-intersection with Fifth Avenue. Turn left and follow to Tenth Avenue, turn right and continue downhill and left onto Sixth Avenue. Seventh Avenue veers off to the left from here – take it and on the right hand side no 43, Boothville, is up a long driveway. This stunning Victorian villa, thought to be designed by colonial architect FDG Stanley and christened Monte Video by its first unfortunate banker owner, went on to be a home for wayward girls and renamed Boothville under the jurisdiction of William Booth, son of the founder of the Salvation Army. After that it became a progressive much loved maternity hospital, the first to allow men to attend caesarean births, until its closure in the 1990's.
13. Back onto Seventh Avenue adjacent to number 40 across the road is a tiny laneway – take it down to Eildon Rd and turn left – it's only about a 100 m from here to the station.