Home Art Day 128: Take a Bight

Day 128: Take a Bight

Day 128: Take a Bight
One of the knots with the wall and Queen St in the background

The name is not particularly auspicious and it’s very easy to walk past without really realising it’s there but, aimlessly wandering on a clear autumn afternoon, I finally got around to entering Admiralty Towers II Park at the eastern end of Queen St.

Admiralty Towers II Park
Admiralty Towers II Park

Actually, I had no idea what it was called until today, but the name is announced on a plaque at both ends of this little pocket precinct which I had thought belonged to the adjacent residential tower block.

It was probably part of the Admiralty Towers II development approval but, really, just Admiralty Park would have sounded so much more inviting.

Nevertheless, it did lead to another decent discovery – the Petrie Bight Wall – and a tale of murder.

The park is terraced down to the river over three levels, has gardens, seating and pleasant views of the river and Story Bridge – and three sculptures.

Stairs from Queen St level drop down through the terraces and eventually lead to the Riverwalk and Eagle St to the right or Story Bridge to the left.

The art installations sit on two levels and are a series of knots – Stevedore’s Knot, Sailor’s Knot and Bowline – in Helidon stone (a popular sandstone brought in from west of Brisbane) by Melbourne sculptor Simon Perry.

Admiralty Towers II Park
Simon Perry artworks at Admiralty Towers II Park

It is a neat echo of the early life of the river when Petrie Bight, a sharp curve in the river from Customs House to Story Bridge, was a busy wharf and a port for ships from around the world.

It was named for Andrew Petrie whose builder’s workshop was nearby at the corner of Wharf and Queen streets and was first known as Petrie Gardens as it, along with what is now Gardens Point, grew the food for the colony.

Veer back towards Queen St from the second level of the park and bingo, there’s the Petrie Bight retaining wall, a heritage-listed 150m long embankment built in the same Brisbane Tuff stone from Kangaroo Point that characterises early Brisbane, with detailed cast iron balustrading along the top.

Two original lamp posts are incorporated in the railing. Although little can be appreciated from Queen St, there is a decent view from the river side.

The wall dates to 1881 and was built for the Brisbane council by one Henry Patten, to both extend the wharf to Macrossan St and mark the new, wider alignment of Queen St.

Alas, five years after it was completed, the City Engineer reported that it was out by nine inches (23cm) in 100 yards (91m).  Eight buttresses were added to stabilise it.

Admiralty Towers II Park
19th century Petrie Bight Wall

While it is a fine glimpse of 19th century Brisbane, it is no longer fully intact as about 20m was dismantled in 1988 and the parapet breached in three places to give access to the river.

And now to the murder. Follow the laneway beside this magnificent wall from Admiralty Towers II Park and it stops at a sandstone endpost near Customs House, an area where there was once a public lavatory.

On January 11, 1945, an American serviceman Lieutenant Alan Middleton, was leaving the loo when he was shot dead by Frederick William Everest, a 34-year-old mentally ill returned soldier who became known as The Man in the Grey Suit.

Not quite two weeks later, on January 24, Everest shot another American, Chief Petty Officer John McCollum, for the same reason – those Yanks were out to get him.

He told the court that when he went to the lavatory “I saw the Yank in there. He looked at me and I thought to myself, ‘this is it’ and I let him have it before he could get in first’.”

Everest died at the Goodna Mental Hospital in 1977.

Petrie Bight Wall
The lane towards Customs House bounded by Petrie Bight Wall

Turn and head down to the riverfront and the view is overwhelmingly residential skyscrapers which, from the shade of the beautiful old Customs House fig, makes one wonder how any town planner worth his salt could ever allow yet another to come between Customs House, the beautiful old stone wall and the park with an unfortunate name.

Admiralty Towers II Park