This fine featured building, fronting onto both Chinatown Mall and Brunswick St Mall, was designed by RS Dods in 1902 for Irish retailer Thomas Charles Beirne, who since the 1890’s had been operating out of buildings owned by the Catholic diocese. (Later extensions were done in the early 1930’s by Hennessy and Hennessy).
Upon completion, this building became the hub for Catholic shopping in the Valley, while its Protestant-owned counterpart, McWhirters, faced off diagonally across the street. Ironically James McWhirter had originally worked for TC Beirne before taking his expertise across the road but with the booming popularity of the well-connected-by-train-and-tram Valley as a retail precinct there was more than enough room for both, along with other popular stores Overells and Waltons.
TC Beirne went on to raise his profile further through his concern for the working conditions of his employees which he brought to the table as President of the Retailers Association and by establishing the nearby Bulolo Flats for his female employees. His other achievements included directorships of many companies including the Brisbane Tramways and Brisbane Gas Company, his election for 21 years to the Legislative Council, founding the TC Beirne Law School, being a University Warden and his generous donations to the Mater Hospital, Duchesne College and St Brigid’s at Red Hill.
In 1956, seven years past his death, David Jones bought the building and operated out of it until 1973 whereupon Target used it as a warehouse and store for a period. After that it was left derelict and the warehouse space overlooking Duncan St became a defacto rehearsal space for bands such as a young Powderfinger.
The building was yet again bought in the 1990’s and subdivided with the warehouse overlooking Chinatown named Fortuneland Centre. The rest has been extensively refurbished in a kind of Blade Runner fashion, with a semi-deserted shopping arcade full of reflective surfaces, TV screens and disjointed clusters of chairs.
315 Brunswick St