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Draper James McWhirter acquires Pigott’s Drapery business at 292 Brunswick Street, and establishes the new firm of McWhirter and Son. The store opened in September 1898 with a staff of 30.

Wickham and Brunswick Street acquisition

McWhirter & Son purchases allotments at the northeast corner of the busy intersection of Wickham and Brunswick Streets, although these were not occupied by McWhirters for another three decades.

The firm also acquires land at 48 Warner Street, at the rear of their Brunswick Street shop, and extends the Brunswick Street building the depth of the block between Brunswick and Warner Streets.

The firm secures an adjoining allotment in Warner Street, on which another warehouse is erected, which appears to be an extension of the c. 1902 building. In 1905 the firm was registered as a private company, McWhirter & Son Ltd.

Building a Valley icon
Building a Valley icon

McWhirter commissions Brisbane architects Atkinson and McLay to design a substantial, five-storeyed building for the corner of Warner and Wickham Streets, completed in 1912. The new building becomes an immediate Valley landmark, seen for miles around, and dominates the Valley Corner area.

Float as McWhirters Ltd

In 1920 the firm is floated as a public company, McWhirters Ltd, with James McWhirter senior as managing director.

Items on display in the Haberdashery department of McWhirter's department store; Brisbane John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Further expansion takes place with the acquisition in 1921 of the Brunswick Street allotments between McWhirter’s existing store and the allotments purchased in 1899 at the corner of Wickham and Brunswick Streets. With the exception of a lane off Wickham Street, McWhirter now owns all the allotments between Brunswick and Warner Streets, from Wickham Street east to, and including, the first Brunswick Street store – an area of nearly an acre in the centre of the most popular shopping district in Brisbane. Building commenced in 1922–1923 with the construction of a new four-storeyed store replacing McWhirter’s original store in Brunswick Street. The building impresses with wide spans between columns, excellent lighting and ventilation, and fast elevators.

McWhirters Department Store being constructed in Brisbane, ca. 1930; Brisbane John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland ; 2014

In 1929 the company secured title to the lane off Wickham Street beside their 1912 store, and in 1930–31, just as Australia was being caught up in a severe, worldwide economic depression, McWhirters Ltd constructed a four and five-storeyed brick building on the corner of Brunswick and Wickham Streets, linking the facades of their 1912 and 1923 buildings. The steel framed building with reinforced concrete walls and facework in brick and terracotta, was designed by the Brisbane architectural firm of TR Hall and LB Phillips (who also designed the Brisbane City Hall, Shell House, and the Tattersalls Club Members Dining Room). It featured a principal truncated corner, richly decorated in the Art Deco style, which became a landmark advertisement for the store on the busy Valley Corner. The builder was George Alexander Stronach of Brisbane, who tendered with a price of £112,000; the 800 long tons (810 t) of structural steel was manufactured and erected by local firm Evans, Deakin, & Co. Ltd; and Wunderlich supplied the terracotta tiles used on the truncated corner as well as pressed metal and fibrous cement ceilings. McWhirters department store now had a floor space of 6.5 acres (2.6 ha).

Myer Emporium takes over the McWhirters company and eventually renames the store Myer.

McWhirters Marketplace

The Myer era ends with the closure of the store, followed by conversion to McWhirters Marketplace by the Remm Group.

McWhirters Apartments
McWhirters Apartments

The top three levels of the McWhirters building are converted into 74 apartments with a new building constructed on the neighbouring site formerly occupied by Coles, adding a further 30 apartments. Ten luxury penthouses are added to the rooftop in 2003. The apartment complex is today home to 114 apartments, light and airy with impressively high ceilings and generous living spaces. In many examples, original solid pine floors and colossal columns and beams form central features of the apartments.