Fortitude Valley is a place of shifting fortunes, with a reputation that is at once notorious and glamorous. And by striking out on the Vibrant Fortitude Valley Heritage Trail, you can enjoy the suburb's melange of old and new, see subtle shifts of atmosphere in the space of a few streets, and wonder at the personalities who built this fascinating pocket of the city.
McWhirters shopping guide. Image courtesy State Library of Queensland.
The little township of Fortitude Valley emerged in the 1860s and 1870s from a cobbling-together of hotels, shops, churches and a school. Chinese merchants established a strong presence, which is still in evidence today. The prosperity of the 1880s led to the construction of grand commercial buildings, churches and many of the hotels which still stand. For example, the Fortitude Valley Post Office was built in 1887, with a ground floor providing postal and telegraph services and the upper floor offering accommodation for the postmaster. It now serves as the popular 'The GPO' nightclub.
The money continued to roll into the Valley in the 1920s, allowing many of the large department stores such as McWhirter's, TC Beirne's and Overell's to expand. But by the 1960s, the popularity of this burgeoning retail precinct had become tarnished by the Valley's emerging red light reputation. A further renaissance occurred during clean-up efforts in the wake of the Fitzgerald Inquiry, and the Valley continues to grow and change to this day.
There are 19 points of interest along the Vibrant Fortitude Valley Heritage Trail as it weaves its way through the suburb's heart. These include the site of the 'Whiskey Au Go Go' nightclub bombing which killed 15 people on the night of 8 March 1973. The striking Art Deco designed McWhirter's Store, first established in 1898, also features. You can download an illustrated guide here. Bright Learning's next walking tour of historical Teneriffe takes place on 8 November 2014.