Saturday, August 1, 2015

Sepia Saturday 290 - 1 August 2015

Alan Burnett from Sepia Saturday says

What better way to spend the day? Book into a smart hotel, relax with a glass of whatever you fancy, sit back and think about design. Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week comes from the Flickr stream of the Internet Book Archive and features an advert for the Hotel Ostend in Atlantic City, NY. When I look at the illustration I think about hotels, obviously, but I also think about design because, to me, it is a beautifully designed illustration. What you see when you look at the illustration is the starting point for your post for Sepia Saturday 290 - post you posts on or around Saturday 1 August 2015 - and whichever way you interpret the theme will be quite acceptable.

 Oh I do love Sepia Saturday, so I do.  I get to learn so much and go places I've never been and find things I never knew existed.  I hope you do too. So, perhaps rather predictably given my origins, my hotel of choice today is.....drumroll

The Canberra Brisbane's Palatial Private Hotel
John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Copied and digitised from an image appearing in The Queenslander annual, 1 November 1937, p. 3 Image number: 702692-19371101-s003b

Oops!  This is meant to be sepia isn't it?  Okay then, how about this?

Sketch of the Canberra Hotel Brisbane 1935
John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Sketch of The Canberra hotel located on the corner of Edward and Ann Street in Brisbane. Purported to be, ' Australia's largest, most modern, best equipped and most successful hotel.' in 1935.Negative number: 196954

Isn't it beautiful?  Of course it doesn't exist anymore, like many old hotels in Brisbane.  Myles Sinnamon from State Library of Queensland has written an excellent blog post here about its history and what stands in its place now.

I'm not sure that I can improve on Myles blog post but I will add this little delight that I found when searching Trove for bits and bobs about The Canberra. Myles notes that it was a temperance hotel and that it was a very popular hotel in the city for country people.

To give you an idea of the sort of people who stayed there or even lived there I found the following entry in A biographical record of Queensland women : a representation of every sphere showing, activities and interests, social, philanthropic, historic, scholastic, sport and travel published in 1939 which you can view here.

Jessie Jane Buchanan died in 1944 on 3 May.  She wasn't living in The Canberra at the time but had moved to her daughter's home in Ascot.  She was 94 years old and 5 months according to the death notice in the Courier Mail.

Family Notices. (1944, May 6). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved August 1, 2015, from

Jessie was buried with her husband in Plot 315 of Portion 7 of Toowong Cemetery and I just happen to have the Toowong Cemetery Monumental Inscriptions edited by Joan Ainsworth to hand (as you do).  This is what it says:

1) John Alfred BUCHANAN d. 19 Oct 1886 aged 42; and his wife Jessie Jane BUCHANAN d. 4 May 1944 aged 95 2) Charles Pakenham BUCHANAN d. 22 Sept 1924 aged 49; Captain Joseph David BUCHANAN 2nd Light Horse Field Ambulance d. 21 Dec 1915 aged 35; Elsie Waverley BUCHANAN d. 16 Sept 1941 3) Also his children Lily Elizabeth Barbara b. 14 Oct 1876  d. 18 Oct 1877; John Alfred b. 24 July 1878  d. 4 Feb 1880; John P. BUCHANAN d. 21 Jan 1958.

So you can see how information changes over time.  The death notice says Jessie Jane died on 3 May at the age of 94.  The tombstone says it was the 4 May and she was 95.  

A search of the Deaths index on Qld BDM Index online shows that Jessie Jane Buchanan's parents were Thomas Fraser and Barbara McKenzie.  With this information we can then search the Marriage Index.  We've got no idea when Jessie Jane and John Alfried got married, but given John Alfred died in 1886 and Lily his daughter was born in 1876, I made the date range 1870 - 1886.  I discovered a Jessie Jane Mary Fraser marrying a John Alfred Buchanan in 1873.  

And so now we can check births for the Fraser family and the Buchanan family.

We discover if we put in a date range of 1840-1870 that Jessie Jane was one of at least 8 children.  Four of them would seem to be born in 1854 but I'm going to guess that they were baptised rather than born in 1854.  They were:

Anne and
Jessie Jane 

Other siblings included:

1856 Elizabeth
1858 Thomas
1865 Catherine Mackenzie
1867 John

If we check the birth/baptism index for children born to Jessie Jane and John Alfred Buchanan we find:

  1. 1874 Charles Packenham (who died 1924)
  2. 1877 Lily Elizabeth Barbara (who died in 1877)
  3. 1878 John Alfred (who died 1880)
  4. 1880 Joseph David (who died 1915)
  5. 1883 Jessie Susan (the daughter in whose home Jessie Jane died and wife of Dr T McKenna)
  6. 1885 Kathleen Maud (who is known as Maude according to the bio and married TP Power)
  7. 1887 Ida John Alfreda (known as Yda who married EE Edwards)
Elsie Waverley and John P Buchanan must have been born after 1915.  So at least 9 children

How did John Alfred Buchanan die?  A search of Trove reveals the following:

The Late J. A. Buchanan. (1886, October 30). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939), p. 708. Retrieved August 1, 2015, from

When Trove is searched for Jessie Jane Buchanan we find some really interesting information about the estate left to Jessie Jane when John Alfred died.

LOCAL NEWS. (1887, February 7). Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser (Qld. : 1860 - 1947), p. 2. Retrieved August 1, 2015, from

SUPREME COURT. (1887, October 1). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), p. 7. Retrieved August 1, 2015, from
So Jessie had quite a bit of money to manage.  

I did find an engagement notice as follows:

Family Notices. (1889, May 18). Queensland Figaro and Punch (Brisbane, Qld. : 1885 - 1889), p. 18 Supplement: SUPPLEMENT TO QUEENSLAND FIGARO.. Retrieved August 1, 2015, from

However I cannot find a marriage recorded in the Qld BDM index so I think Jessie may have got cold feet or re-considered.

Jessie dedicated the altar in St Stephens Cathedral to her husband:

The Brisbane Courier. (1887, October 24). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), p. 4. Retrieved August 1, 2015, from

Dig a bit further and using the search term "Mrs JJ Buchanan" rather than "Jessie Jane Buchanan" and we find that Charles her eldest son was in fact, the Mayor of Brisbane.  

Some Queensland Mayors and Mayoresses of 1908. (1908, February 15). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939), p. 26. Retrieved August 1, 2015, from

We also discover a photo of her son Captn. (Dr) J.D. Buchanan

Captain Joseph David Buchanan, 2nd Light Horse Fld Ambulance AAMC, AIF. Born Brisbane, Qld. Single; Medical practitioner, of Brisbane, Queensland. Next of kin: Mother; Jessie Jane Buchanan (nee Fraser). Father; John Alfred Buchanan (deceased), of 'Edenville', Hamilton Road, Brisbane, Queensland. Died of wounds S.I. at No. 1 AGH, Cairo, Egypt, on 21 December 1915, aged 35. Grave: Cairo War Memorial cemetery. (Information taken from: Anzac Officers died at Gallipoli, retrieved 19 December 2012 from Copied and digitised from an image appearing in the Daily Mail, 1 January 1916, p. 9  John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

And here is an earlier photo of Jessie Jane when she was on the The Committee of Management of the Brisbane Hospital 1914.

Page 25 of the Queenslander Pictorial, supplement to The Queenslander, 3 April, 1915.John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland
When I googled Erneton, Wickham Terrace (as mentioned above in the article about Charles, I get some really interesting results; Somerville House for one - a very famous girls school in Brisbane which was located at Erneton for a while before it moved to South Brisbane.  Who knew?  

Then I hit the obituary for Barbara Fraser - Jessie Jane's mother here.  At this point I thought I'd better check the Australian Dictionary of Biography but had no joy looking for either the Buchanans or the Frasers.  Reading of this Wikipedia article about Somerville advises me that Erneton was next to Garth House on Wickham Terrace and looking at this photo, I'm thinking it is across the road somewhere from the Windmill.  

There is a charming article in Trove commemorating the housewarming of Erneton in Wickham Terrace in 1888.

Evening Party at Mrs. Buchanan's. (1888, October 20). Queensland Figaro and Punch (Brisbane, Qld. : 1885 - 1889), p. 3 Supplement: THE LADY SUPPLEMENT TO QUEENSLAND FIGARO. Retrieved August 1, 2015, from

Addendum: I have just figured out with the aid of Ancestry and looking at the 1906 Electoral Roll that Erneton would have been at 269 Wickham Terrace where the Brisbane Private Hospital is now as per this map. It too has gone sadly and replaced with a fairly ordinary (in terms of design) building ..sigh.

Perhaps its best just to finish off with this nice little article celebrating Jessie Jane's 88th birthday:

The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), Monday 13 December 1937, page 21 courtesy of The National Library of Australia
Ouf!  That's enough. I've probably bored you senseless...for other, perhaps more concise, stories go here.

PS I feel I must add that my mother used to carry a reading lamp with her whenever we went to stay in a hotel complaining bitterly that this was a basic item that most hotels overlooked.  She would have liked The Canberra I dare say.  One of my besties takes a magnified mirror with her when staying away from home.  I laughed when walking into the bathroom of the hotel I was staying at in Bali recently to discover the much sought after mirror screwed to the wall.  Deborah would have given 5 stars to that resort for its mirror alone.

What do you like to see in a motel/hotel?


Alan Burnett said...

Oh yes, I love Sepia Saturday too, for the same reasons you describe. That joy of connecting together all sorts of different things to take you places you wouldn't normally go. Just looking at your list of labels sums the whole process up perfectly.

Jo Featherston said...

Goodness, did you do all that research into Jessie Jane simply because she was a resident of the Canberra, but totally unrelated to you? Amazing! Coincidentally I'll be in Brisbane next week for a couple of nights while my husband is at a conference, and we'll be staying at the Sofitel, which looks to be about 2 minutes away from where the Hotel Canberra was located.

Alex Daw said...

Thank you Alan for making it all possible!

Alex Daw said...

Jo I'm embarrassed to say that I did! I got completely carried away with excitement. Not having grown up in Brisbane I hate not knowing its history well and love finding out things about landmarks now. But I must say I grieve the loss of architectural heritage. I do hope you have a wonderful stay in Brisbane. if you are at a loose end I recommend going and checking out the Museum of Brisbane in City Hall and of course the Art Gallery/ies. For a bit of nostalgia, have morning tea at the Shingle Inn on the ground floor of City Hall to the right of the entrance when you walk in.

La Nightingail said...

Yes, you certainly nailed the research on this one! I don't necessarily take reading lamps with me, but I'm often disappointed with the lack of them in convenient places in hotels/motels, & summer rental cabins. The consensus seems to be that everyone reads in bed so there are nice lamps there. But I prefer to read sitting in a chair or on a sofa & there's often a dearth of them there. One summer we were surprised to find there weren't ANY lamps anywhere in a cabin we rented, it was all overhead lighting rather insufficient for trying to read. I called the rental agency about it, but they couldn't reach the owners. I said I knew of a thrift shop in the area that had lamps & was told to buy whatever I thought we needed & I'd be reimbursed. So I bought one for each of the 3 bdrms and 2 for the living room area & sure enough, was paid back for them - actually for all but one which I liked so much, I kept. :)

violet s said...

Oh, I was not in the least bored with any of this. I devoured every bit of your research and would have loved to have known Mrs JJ Buchanan (and I love that she was known by her own name, and not that of her husband).
I particularly like the old newspaper accounts - the descriptions are are so illustrative!

Alex Daw said...

You are too funny. Who would think that when they go on holidays they would be purchasing not 1 reading lamp, not 2 but 5!!! And I like that you didn't hand them all over but kept the one you liked :)

Alex Daw said...

Ooh I'm so pleased. It was so much fun to research. Don't you wish you'd met her? She sounds like such fun. And what a life!

Karen S. said...

Oh my goodness you spent some time researching this marvelous story. I enjoy looking up old newspaper clippings too, and how they wrote, and the ads that you find as well. Unfolding mysteries by articles is a treat. Well done.

Mike Brubaker said...

The Hotel Canberra certainly bears a very good resemblance to the Hotel Ostend. I enjoyed every bit of the Buchanan family stories. The death notice with "it was a dark and stormy night..." was a marvel. Of course I liked the romance with violin, but who knew that Turkey prohibited trademarks that had a crescent? But the best was that extraordinary account of the ladies' party gowns. Few reporters today could be that thorough and descriptive!

Barbara Fisher said...

Hello Alex, I just loved this post it was fascinating to follow along as you made so many discoveries. I don’t think it matters if the people you are researching are related or not, if it’s interesting (and it usually is) go with it! Wonderful.

Jo Featherston said...

If one of Jessie's great grandchildren or great great grandchildren happens to come across your post, it will be a goldmine for them!

Joan said...

Now, that was a real "kick in the Pants" kind of post. a beautiful old hotel, morphing in to a researcher's dream --- please, please, just one more bit of information. I loved it!

Sharn White said...

Such an interesting blog post Alex, for me especially as Brisbane is my home town. You have unearthed a distant memory that I had an uncle who worked at the Canberra Hotel so now I am of course off on a trail of discovery. All thanks to your fabulous blog! Great research.

Crissouli said...

How I loved this, Alex... From beginning to end, and I was wishing it didn't..but then I've loved the comments as well. I have collected so many clippings on my husband's family, I really must put them in order. The newspaper reports of the 1800's were wonderful and so much detail..somehow a 15 second grab on tv doesn't have the same appeal.
One of the best sources, as you probably know, is the Qld Punch and Figaro, just wonderful for all the stories behind the stories..and the most detailed society reporting. Thank you...

little hat said...

Pretty bloody good Alex. I'm about to embark on research into the original O'Reilly Estate (aka "Riverview Estate") at Hill End which includes my house at 34 Doris st (originally named "Riverview"). The estate includes "Toonarbin" on Dornoch Tce owned by O'Reilly and designed by Benjamin Backhouse. I had a private tour recently and it is amazing inside.

Alex Daw said...

Thanks was so much fun to find all this stuff. I'm sure there's more to this story.

Alex Daw said...

Now Mike - don't laugh - but I absolutely did not notice the structural similarity between Hotel Ostend and The Canberra Hotel until you pointed it out. I just chose it because of the name !

Alex Daw said...

I'm so pleased you enjoyed it Barbara!

Alex Daw said...

Dear Joan - music to my ears :)

Alex Daw said...

Oooh Sharn - do let us know how you progress with your research. I am kicking myself that I never darkened the doors of The Canberra while it still existed.

Alex Daw said...

My absolue pleasure. I'm glad you enjoyed it as much as I much fun to put together.

Alex Daw said...

thank you dear Steve. I love the work that you do and wish you all the best with your research. It is such a rich vein.

Barbara Rogers said...

What fun and my hat's off to you for being such a thorough and engaging sleuth...I feel as if we should have someone related to Jessie Jane! Great reading...keep up the work!

Jo Featherston said...

Saw the original painting of the Hotel Canbera on display at the MoB, as it is on loan there from the State Library as part of the exhibition on the artist William Bustard.

Alex Daw said...

You are kidding! That's amazing. Now I'll have to go and check it out too. :)

Alex Daw said...

You are kidding! That's amazing. Now I'll have to go and check it out too. :)

Jen Tranter said...

According to his Baptism Certificate John Alfred Buchanan was baptised 25th August 1839 in St Michael's Church Enniskillen. He and Jessie Jane married 4th December 1873.

Jen Tranter said...

John Alfred Buchanan was, according to his baptism certificate, batised 25th December 1839 in St. Michael's Church, Enniskillen. He and Jessie Jan were married 4th December 1873.

Alex Daw said...

Thank you Jen. That's great information.

Jen Tranter said...

You're very welcome :)

Caroline Buchanan said...

I am Jessie Jane's great great granddaughter. Thank you for your work. There was some information, in particular the photographs, that I had not seen before.