History – Bribie Islands oldest houses

By Lynne Hooper – Bribie Island Historical Society

bribie island history houses homes historical

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Tags: Bribie Island. History. Houses. homes. Oldest. Queensland. Australia. Historical

Bribie Island’s Oldest House Celebrates 100 Years

There are many fascinating old cottages around Bongaree that date back to the earliest land sales on Bribie Island, but the grand home at 36 Banya Street known as Coungeau House, is considered to be the oldest.

Bribie Island’s Oldest House Celebrates 100 Years Lynne Hooper – Bribie Island Historical Society There are several other buildings on Bribie that are actually older, but as was often the case in the past, they had been relocated to Bribie after having served many years as buildings elsewhere. One such example, also in Banya Street, is the small blue painted building now known as the Masonic Hall.

Featured Image(top): Emily & Norm COUNGEAU ran a Cafe/Wine Saloon in Queen St. in 1900’s

The Masonic Hall was originally built as a school in Enoggera then moved to be the State School in Deception Bay in 1892 where it operated until 1905. It was then relocated once again to Narangba in 1910 to be the school there. After 30 years of operation as a school, it was deemed no longer suitable and was sold by the Education Dept. The Hall has then relocated once again and floated over on a barge to Bribie Island in 1924 to become the Methodist Church.

The building remained the Methodist Church until the formation of the Uniting Church and in 1986 it became the property of the newly formed Bribie Island Masonic Lodge. So what is considered to be Bribie Islands oldest house originally built here? On 23rd December 1912 one hundred land lots were released for sale in Bongaree and Norman Coungeau, a wealthy Brisbane merchant, purchased two lots on Banya Street for 5 Pounds each. Norman Coungeau was an Albanian and his wife Emily was English.

They had arrived in Brisbane in 1889 via Melbourne and opened a Café/Wine Saloon near the corner of Queen & Wharf Streets. The Olympia Café was a successful enterprise which they operated for over 30 years. The Coungeau’s commercial success enabled them to become significant patrons of the arts and donors to charitable causes.

Typical of the Coungeau’s generosity was in August 1915 when the Brisbane Courier’s “Aeroplane Fund” needed only ££53 to achieve the £550 required to purchase a plane. Norman, who had previously donated £50 called at the Courier Office and announced his intention of making up the balance to complete the Fund for this worthy appeal. Emily Coungeau was a popular and well-known poet and lyricist. From 1913, when she was over 50, her poems were published in the Brisbane Courier, the Sydney Bulletin, and the Australian Woman’s Mirror.

The poems were collected into four books. Emily went on to write the lyrics for many songs that were set to music and published not only in Australia but also in England where she was elected to life membership of the Society of British Authors, Composers & Arrangers. Emily wrote the libretto for the opera ‘Auster’ which was performed in 1935 at his Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne and billed as ‘the first Australian Opera ever performed by a professional company’.

bribie island history houses homes historical

Emily Coungeau was a famous poet and lyricist

Norman and Emily commissioned renowned Brisbane Architects Hall & Dods and for their retirement house on Bribie Island and it was designed in the ‘Queenslander’ style to suit the climate. The ‘Queenslander’ is typically a timber house on stumps with an extensive, deep, shaded verandas accessed by French doors. The wide verandas provide shelter on long hot summer days that often ends with a torrential downpour.

Being built on stumps allows cooling air to pass under the house. The ‘Queenslander’ lends itself to an informal lifestyle which suited life on Bribie Island. In February 1915 Hall & Dods, placed advertisements inviting tenders for building the Coungeau’s house. Mr. James McDonald from Albion won the job and built the house during 1915, but with some difficulties as many of his young workers left to join the Australian Forces in World War 1. James Mc Donald also purchased land for himself on the Boulevard and later built his home there.

The Coungeau’s home had 3 bedrooms, a sitting room with stained timber floor, dining room, kitchen with stove and pantry, bathroom with an enamel bath, linen press and a septic system. In 1915 it was far and away the grandest home on Bribie Island with lighting provided through Wizard Lighting which used hollow tubing to light petrol vapor. The verandahs were fitted with Thurlow Venetian Blinds and had French Doors, with transom windows above for ventilation, to all rooms.

Two windmills and tanks supplied the property with water. In 1919 Norman & Emily retired to their new home which they called “St.Osyth” after Emily’s childhood home, and their gracious Queenslander became renowned for its fruit and flower garden. In 1936, aged in their late 70s, they decided to sell the house and travel to England. Unfortunately selling a house in the midst of a depression was not easy. After some time when it had not sold Norman decided “sooner than wait he would at least do some good” ” and they gifted their wonderful home to the Church of England as a rest house.

The Church agreed that the property would be called ‘Coungeau House’ in recognition and perpetuity. During WW2 the house, like many others on the Island was occupied by the Military, and by the 1960’s it had become rundown and in need of repair. In the early 1970’s it was sold by the Anglican Church to Toc H and today the house provides accommodation for disadvantaged families and youth groups, as well as function rooms for various Bribie social groups.

bribie island history houses homes historical

St.OSYTH House built for Coungeaus in 1915


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