This building is the legacy of Scotsman James McWhirter, one of Brisbane’s leading retailers of the late 19th and early 20th century. Upon his arrival in Brisbane (for the second time) in 1884 he was employed by Brisbane’s other retail mogul, the Irish catholic TC Beirne, until breaking out on his own in 1896 and becoming a rival.
Initially he operated from a small premises on Brunswick St opposite TC Beirne’s, before acquiring the first block here of what would become an acre of retail premise fronting Warner, Wickham & Brunswick Sts. Early shoppers tethered the horses to hitching rails out front and in 1918 a garage was built for the firm’s growing motor car fleet.
With a sizable four storey building already constructed on the corner of Warner and Wickham St, McWhirter engaged Hall and Phillips (one half of the architect team responsible for City Hall), to design the magnificent flagship five storey building which has graced Brunswick and Wickham Streets since its opening in 1931. During the early 20th century decades that Fortitude Valley, traversed by trams, was a fashionable retail hub, McWhirters was known as the place the protestants shopped and TC Beirne’s on Brunswick St where the Catholics shopped. In 1955, a couple of years after the premature death of McWhirter’s grandson of a heart attack, Myers bought the building and operated from here until 1988 when the Valley was in a state of decline.
Today the upper floors have been converted to apartments and the ground floor a rabbit warren of cheap ethnic eateries, groceries and retail outlets.
Cnr Brunswick St