Shorncliffe Ruins

If you've walked along the Shorncliffe headland from Moora Park you would have passed these melancholy remains on the beach, just to the right of the stone pier. They are easy to miss, but a closer look reveals a "ladies lavatory" sign rendered in concrete and miscellaneous Virginia-stamped brick rubble, scattered among the boulders and silty sand of the eroding cliff. I've always assumed that they must have belonged to a public building of some sort, related to the busy seaside trade in this little suburb in the early to mid 1900s.

After some research I can now confirm that we are looking at the remains of the demolished Moora Park Kiosk, which was perched on the top of the cliff between the two piers. The two-level brick and stucco structure was designed by the Brisbane city architect A. H. Foster, in the Hollywood-inspired Spanish Californian or "Mission" style that became so popular for public buildings and middle class residences in the 1920s. It was opened by Mayor William Jolly in October 1928.

The lower floor offered ice cream and refreshments for beach goers and a flight of stairs lead to a dance deck on the beach. The upper level, accessed from Park Parade, was used for private functions and by local organisations such as the Sandgate Yacht Club. This was a cutting edge piece of architecture with modern fittings and equipment and it was heavily used in the inter-war years. No doubt many a moonlit stroll along "lover's walk" began and ended in this building, resulting in weddings on the top floor and later family outings to the sheltered beach between the piers. A local institution, in other words.

Moora Park Kiosk from the Beach. Photo courtesy of John Oxley Library.
But patronage declined in the 40's and by 1974 the neglected and vandalized building was ready for demolition, well before the end of its potential life. So why the sudden downfall?

Back in the 1800's and early 1900's Shorncliffe was one of the few options available for city dwellers seeking seaside recreation. The Brisbane population would migrate en masse to this small strip of sand on hot summer days using the convenient train service. But as automobile ownership spread after the war other locations on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts were preferred by the new generation. Shorncliffe retired to a more dignified and less hectic existence, as we find it today.

Moora Park Kiosk from Park Parade. Photo courtesy of the John Oxley Library.
Next time you pass by, imagine this majestic building on top of the hill, with uninterrupted views across the bay to the islands and beyond. Count Basie and Bing Crosby played by the Sandgate Town Band on balmy summer nights. It must have been a fabulous spot.

- John Oxley Library
- Brisbane City Council, Bramble Bay Foreshores Conservation Study, 2002
- Brisbane Courier, TROVE historical archives

If anyone has a photo of the kiosk showing the "ladies lavatory" sign please let me know - it would be nice to finally confirm the identity of the rubble. I did however correspond with the Sandgate Historical Society and they shared my assessment of the ruins. For more information on the history of this suburb, check the society's home page or visit the museum:

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