With war clouds gathering over Australia after the bombing of Pearl Harbour by the Japanese in December 1941, on Christmas Eve it was decreed that all public and private employers and households were to immediately start building shelters. Initially this meant slit trenches dug into the ground, browning out of buildings and taping of windows while for the BCC it meant the mammoth task of building shelters in public places in the city area. The idea was that the shelters could withstand the force of a 500 pound bomb exploding 50 feet away.
Altogether 235 were built, and 90% were completed by June 1942, four months after the Japanese bombing of Darwin. City streets such as Ann St were studded with shelters down their middle. Of the 235, 21 survive today under the ownership of BCC as bus and park shelters and a public amenities blocks, resulting in features that are unique to Brisbane’s townscape. Architect FG Costello was responsible for the 3 types of ‘pillbox design’ intended to revert to other shelters after the war, which like the air raid shelters could accommodate 70 people. The idea was that the perimeter walls were removable, leaving the concrete slab roof, pillars and slab floor.
Of those intended to be park shelters, 17 survive (one as a toilet block in Nundah Village) but only 3 of the intended bus shelters survive – one at Newmarket outside the State School, one at Teneriffe Ferry Terminal and another variation using stone pillars at the base of King Edward Park.
Built-in workers shelters remain at the rear of the Story Bridge (named the Shelter Bar) and Howard Smith Wharves and at Redcliffe part of the bottle shop of the Ambassador Hotel is a former shelter.