Coming Home to Nest

Some friends and I went for a drive the other weekend to see what random café we could find to have breakfast at (ok it was more brunch really). While we were happily eating our big breaky my eyes alighted on the community notice board and saw that “Crows Nest Day” was coming up, and so I thought I would dig up some history about the area. The following article is from the Queensland Heritage Register (Crows Nest Post Office).

Image: Unsealed Main Street c.1911 Source: State Library Queensland

Image: Unsealed Main Street c.1911
Source: State Library Queensland

In 1843 Campbell McDonald of Durandan run took out a depasturing licence for the Crows Nest area and in 1849 James Canning Pearce took up the first pastoral license. His head station comprised huts, yards and a large fenced paddock. The run passed through a number of owners before being acquired by WB Tooth in 1858. In 1868, under the Crown Lands Alienation Act, Tooth gained a lease for half of the run, the rest being resumed by the Crown and opened up for closer settlement.

The Crow’s Nest station was unsuccessful and was abandoned; the lease was forfeited for non-payment of rent and the land opened for selection in 1875. Two timber reserves of 960 acres and 5665 acres were declared and in 1876 reserves for a township and cemetery were made. Settlement at Crows Nest was begun in the vicinity of the station homestead, which is thought to have been near the present police station. The town was surveyed in February 1877 and the first land sale was held in April of that year. A hotel was erected soon afterwards and a Court of Petty Sessions was instituted with J T Littleton, a local landholder, as Police Magistrate. A telegraph office was opened on 17 October 1877 and in 1878 a post office was opened in the same modestly scaled premises, which were situated in Albert Street.

Image: Railway Yard c.1911 Source: State Library Queensland

Image: Railway Yard c.1911
Source: State Library Queensland

In 1886 a branch railway line from Toowoomba reached Crows Nest, its purpose being to principally to provide transport for timber from the Crows Nest and Pechey area, but also to encourage the development of farming and dairying along its route. Becoming the railhead for such a line made Crows Nest an important commercial centre but the railway initially caused some problems because the line passed the settlement at a point north of the town centre. As a consequence the business centre shifted closer to the railway station, a large paddock in the vicinity having been purchased and subdivided for sale by the time of the station’s opening. The post office moved to the railway station in December 1886 and for some time the Station Master performed postal duties, a common arrangement in small centres where the railway station was the focus of communications and movement of goods.

Image: Qld. National Bank c.1912 Source: State Library Queensland

Image: Qld. National Bank c.1912
Source: State Library Queensland

The area thrived and the township developed quickly in the early 1900s. In 1905 two banks opened branches in Crows Nest and a newspaper, the ‘Crow’s Nest Record’ was established. A butter and bacon factory was built and there were several sawmills in the area, including a large planning factory built in 1907. In 1906, Percy Gargett, a newsagent, won the contract to conduct postal, telegraph and telephone services at Crows Nest and had a building constructed in Curnow Street next to McDiarmid’s store.

Although in 1901 the Commonwealth Post Master General’s Dept was created, transfer of responsibility from the colonies to new organizations was gradual. The Commonwealth administration upgraded buildings and facilities in towns associated with agricultural and pastoral expansion, such as Crows Nest. New post offices were built in some towns and others had facilities upgraded. In 1911, an official post office, the current building, was constructed at the corner of Curnow and Toowoomba Road, conveniently close to the railway station.

Image: Fire Destroyed Qld. National Bank 1949 Source: State Library Queensland

Image: Fire Destroyed Qld. National Bank 1949
Source: State Library Queensland

The new post office was built to a standard type designed by the Queensland Works Department. A timber building with a single porch and gable and a lantern surmounting the roof, it was a variation of the form that became one of the most readily identifiable post office styles. Post office buildings constructed in Queensland between 1906 and 1921 achieved a high standard of design and construction and architecturally, the porch and gable type is significant for the quality of construction and detail, for the resolution of climatic considerations, and for the visual appeal of its form. While the buildings referred to a standard type, designs for individual post offices were modified to suit each site and local needs. 13 post offices of this type were constructed between 1909 and 1913, mainly to serve small towns in South East Queensland. Not all of these survive and some are no longer post offices.

Crows Nest thrived and by 1921 had a population of over a 1000, close to the present population level. The railway closed in 1961 and the track, buildings and yards were removed, the land being used for other purposes, including a park.

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