An apartment in General MacArthur’s Brisbane headquarters

by AF

MacArthur Chambers, Brisbane

MacArthur Chambers was originally the Queensland headquarters for the Australian Mutual Provident Society (or AMP Society) that was converted to luxury apartments just over 10 years ago. During WWII, General Douglas MacArthur set up his headquarters in the building.

The original AMP Society Building

The first AMP Building on this site was completed in 1885 and demolished in 1930 to make way for the current building. The original building was considered one of the most imposing and picturesque in the State, and there was some regret when it was demolished in the name of redevelopment.

The first AMP Society Building. Photo from 1889. (State Library of Queensland)

The first AMP Society Building. Photo from 1898. (State Library of Queensland)

Before the first AMP Building, this side of Edward Street was known as ‘Refugee Row’ and was an area of temporary buidlings erected after the fires of 1864. George Finch had a boot maker shop on the site between 1871 and 1877. It was demolished in 1877 to make way for the AMP Building.

George Finch’s Boot Maker store on the site of the future AMP Society Headquarters. Photo from 1872. (State Library of Queensland)

The new AMP Building

The AMP Building in 1938. (Queensland War Memorial Register)

The current building was built at a cost of 250,000 pounds (about $18 million in today’s terms) between 1931 and 1934. The contractor was Mr. G.A Stronarch, whose other jobs included the Masonic Temple in Ann Street, the National Bank of Australia in Queen Street and the additions to McWhirters Ltd. The architects were Francis R. Hall and Harold M. Cook.

The construction site of the new AMP Building is visible in the bottom right of the photo above dating from 1931. The two buildings visible in this photo are now longer standing today. (State Library of Queensland)

The building was built in Italian renaissance style, or, more specifically, late English Renaissance. The facade is made of Lockyer sandstone with red and grey granite on the ground floor.

Of the building’s total labour and materials, 98% were Australian. The majority of the building materials were sourced within Queensland. Originally 10 lifts were installed, making it the largest lift contract of its time.

The building features the AMP’s symbolic statuary group carved in Italian marble above the Queen Street entrance. The group are slightly different to the ones that appeared atop the previous building.

The basement was used to store AMP’s securities and records and was designed to be waterproof. The entrance on Queen Street was for the AMP Society, while the Edward Street entrance was for all other tenants.

When completed, the current building was considered one of the most imposing structures of its kind in Australia. Coincidentally, Sir Samuel Hordern of Babcock House (previously written about here), was chairman of the Australian Mutual Provident Society and attended the opening of the building.

The Courier-Mail published a detailed article about the opening of the building in an archived edition from 1934 (click here to read).

General MacArthur’s Days

General MacArthur’s office in 1942.

General Douglas MacArthur resided in Brisbane from 1942 to 1944. The GHQ set up their offices in the the AMP Building, with the General and his senior staff on the 8th floor. General MacArthur used the AMP Society’s board room in room 806 and his deputy was in room 807. The US Military had also set up a telephone exchange on the 6th floor.

The military always used the Edward Street entrance, which is now the residents entrance to the building.

The General’s offices have been restored to original condition and now form part of the MacArthur Museum which is open to the public.

General MacArthur’s car outside the Edward Street entrance in 1942.

The name change and conversation to apartments

In 1946 there were calls to rename the building MacArthur House, but the manager of AMP said they were more than content with the current name.

By 1980, a menswear store called “MacArthur Premises” opened in the ground floor / basement retail space. The Brisbane City Council bought the building in 1990.

In 2000, Forrester Kurts Properties began converting the building into 80 luxury apartments. It appears as though this is when the MacArthur Chambers name was created. FKP also redeveloped other historic buildings in the CBD including The Residences at Anzac Square and Rothbury on Ann. A boutique hotel also operates in the building and owners can choose to rent their units to the hotel.

The Apple store is rumored to be moving into the retail space in the basement of the building, but renovations have been very slow.

Apartment for Sale

There are currently 6 apartments listed for sale in MacArthur Chambers. For the historically minded, apartment 808, the same floor as the offices of General MacArthur is for sale for $779,000 (Update: it sold in August for $700,000).

The apartment that currently represents the best value for money is #209 which was listed in early August for $665,000+. The 126 sqm 2-Bedroom apartment has 2 bedrooms and a secure carpark. With an average price of $5,278 a sqm, it is 26% less than the average recent sale price in the building. The owner purchased the unit for $779,000 in 2007 and tried listing it in 2010 for $815,000. This apartment is on the Edward Street side of the building. *Update: This apartment sold for $650,000.

With the exception of this apartment, units in the building have seen  total capital appreciation of 33.8% since sales began.

Location

229 Queen Street, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Listing information and apartment images via Realestate.com.au

Sources:
“A.M.P. Society. New Premises” The Brisbane Courier, 7 December 1929.
“Historic Statuary Group”, The Brisbane Courier, 10 March 1931.
http://home.st.net.au/~dunn/ozatwar/amp.htm
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