Lady Bowen Services Hostel

12th Australian Defence Canteen Services Hostel

Civil defence facility
Brisbane City

497-535 Wickham Terrace, Spring Hill 4000

Albert Park, as the largest park closest to the City, became an important rest and recreation spot for wartime Brisbane. In early 1941, the Lady Bowen Club and Cabaret was built in or near the park to provide accommodation and entertainment for Australian troops on leave. As a large tree-lined space, Albert Park was an ideal location for siting City air raid facilities. One twin shelter, a single shelter and a huge open slit trench were positioned in the park.


In late 1940, it was decided to build recreation facilities based around Albert Park for service personnel visiting Brisbane. The Lady Bowen Club and Cabaret was completed and opened by April 1941. It comprised a Club located in an old lady Bowen Hospital building at 497-485 Wickham Terrace and a separate cabaret building on the Wickham Terrace side of Albert Park. Army engineers of 1st Australian Civil and Electrical Works Company did both the hospital building’s renovation and the Cabaret building construction.

The Lady Bowen Club was a hostel for servicemen on leave. Troops slept in 16-bed dormitories containing double-bunk beds. Lounges were provided for reading, writing letters or listening to the wireless. Extensive use of Cane-ite was made in the renovation for soundproofing and tropical heat absorption purposes. The lounges had fireplaces for winter.

The Cabaret or Recreation Centre was built immediately across from the Club on a slope located at the top of Albert Park. Three exterior walls and roof were of corrugated asbestos (fibro). The fourth side was oval-shaped and fully casement-windowed to provide sweeping views of the Park, the City and the Brisbane River. The Cabaret featured a polished Queensland hardwood dance floor to accommodate 150 people, electric ceiling fans plus a snack and milk bar finished in silver ash veneer. The snack and milk bar’s tables could be removed to provide further space for dancers. The Cabaret’s basement was a Games Room containing billiards and ping-pong tables. The Cabaret’s ceilings were of Cane-ite. Building suppliers James Campbell & Sons, Barker & Co. and Brett & Co. provided 40,000 square feet of Cane-ite for the Lady Bowen Club and Cabaret buildings.

The Brisbane City Council’s Works Department placed air raid protection structures in Albert Park due to its heavy public usage. Near the Lady Bowen Club and Cabaret, a twin Cantilever design, concrete air raid shelter was constructed on Wickham Terrace across from Birley Street. This shelter could comfortably fit 140 people. A single Cantilever design, concrete air raid shelter was constructed on Wickham Terrace across from Lilley Street. This shelter could comfortably hold 70 people. The Council dug one of its largest (1,000 feet long) public slit trenches in the Park. Post-war, the trench was filled-in and the air raid shelters converted to bus shelters.


BCC Heritage Unit.