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Post WW2 Conclusions

Abstract & Recommendations
by Meredith Walker & Roger Todd

Aims of the Project

From the project application:

The coastal townships experienced enormous growth following WW2. Development from this time (1950s & 1960s) contributes character and identity, to Caloundra in particular, but also areas such as Cottontree and Pt Arkwright.

This period represents a social phenomenon. The hardships and rationing following the war were over, there was full employment, people could afford holidays, they had cars, roads were improving. There was great optimism, (evidenced by the post war baby boom). There was a building boom, the biggest since the gold rushes. One outlet for this energy was the continuing story of Australia’s love affair with the beach. Caloundra, due to its proximity to Brisbane & Toowoomba, was a key destination for holiday makers.

These were formative years, with the beach suburbs overflowing with holiday houses. The style of building was markedly different from the home towns of these people. Often simple beach shacks, but sometimes more elaborate, the common language was informality. All the ideas of prestige and creation of personal territory could be left at home. It was more like the next step up from camping. People could tune into modern architectural ideas, but there was a basic simplicity and charm about these places.

We feel that this contribution to the Coast’s character is poorly understood, documented and celebrated. There is the essence here of what living at the coast really means, but it is disappearing before our eyes. There are ideas here which we need to pass on to future generations. There are lessons about the way we build. There is an opportunity to present visitors with something unique and real about this place.

We hope to complete a pilot investigation, centered on Moffat Beach but hopefully touching on other areas, to record places, reach conclusions about heritage significance, inform the public and suggest strategies for conservation.

Although this historical period occurred over 50 years ago, and was pivotal to the development of some of our coastal towns, it is little understood as part of the Coast's heritage and social history. The Caloundra planning scheme refers to "pockets of traditional seaside housing" which "have a distinctive character that adds significantly to the amenity and identity of Moffat and Dicky beaches in particular" yet there is campaign to educate the public or to conserve individual places or character areas.

The project collaborators will include not only the Friends of the Lighthouses, but also a network of architects and placemakers across the Coast through use of a networking site (SCAN - Sunshine Coast Architecture Network)
Part of the project will involve seeking media involvement and organizing a public meeting to generate community interest and debate. The public will be invited to record memories and submit photos relating to the theme, all of which can be recorded on the proposed website.

Use of a networking site and the proposal to record raw data as well as conclusions on a dedicated website is an innovative approach. The website is designed to enable recording of a wide range of “places” including street addresses, landscape elements such as beaches, mountains & headlands, trees, & views with searchable functionality.

We hope the website, and the ideas generated will continue long after the project is completed. While we are concentrating on a specific time period, many of the ideas behind the beach houses have universal meaning which can carry over to future design relating to living on the Coast.

Section 5 of Council’s Corporate Plan 2009-2014 highlights the need for Social cohesion and the need to generate a “sense of identity and belonging” It makes the point that Strong communities ... celebrate their local identity and culture. Council has resolved to “support community programs that ... contribute to place making and a sense of community”.

We believe that this project will bring residents together around a previously little understood era in the history of the Coast. It is hoped that increased awareness will lead to conservation of not only physical examples of the type, but also provide inspiration to new works in the area.

The plan also sees the need to “encourage neighborhoods to work together to build community awareness and understanding”. We believe that the process of running this project will meet this aim.

The project will encourage membership and participation of the Friends of the Caloundra Lighthouses. In addition to its role in looking after the lighthouses precinct, the Friends are the only Caloundra group active in the conservation of places of heritage significance.  This project will highlight this fact and strengthen a group whose aims are to strengthen local pride and sense of identity.

The Sunshine Coast is doubling in population every twenty years. Section 7 of the Corporate Plan recognizes that managing growth is a key challenge, and protection of our heritage and character is an important part of that.

Heritage places are often taken for granted, and their true value is not understood until it is too late to conserve them. Identification of the significance of the post war period will facilitate promotion and enjoyment of this essential and unique part of the Coast’s character.

We hope to alert Council to the long-term advantages for the Coast in better conservation of post WW2 heritage. Moffat Beach is already a functional neighborhood, with a business area to within walking distance. Support for sustaining Moffat’s heritage, character and natural beauty can strengthen the community.

In recent years, new buildings have introduced new building forms and features: most notably large two story buildings occupying a much greater percentage of the site than previous holiday dwellings.  Other features which are changing Moffat’s character are high fences with large paved forecourts and minimum landscaping.

One obvious consequence of this new building type is the overshadowing of back yards.  The new developments are not in harmony with the existing characteristics of the area. Increased understanding of why the traditional buildings developed as they did will provide inspiration for new development in keeping with the place.

The Study

Research was undertaken into the post WW2 period, with emphasis on the Sunshine Coast, and Moffat Beach in particular.  The work uncovered supported the idea that holiday houses were fundamentally different from more conventional permanent places of residence.  There was also evidence that the “holiday at the beach” had become entrenched into the Australian lifestyle, and that the beach areas of Sunshine Coast were booming as a result with camping areas busy and houses being built.  In parallel, there was a new design aesthetic in the 50’s and 60’s which was expressed in the beach houses.

Moffat Beach Pilot Study

Methodology

A major output of the study was to complete a pilot investigation of the Moffat Beach area in order to better understand how one area developed, what were its defining characteristics, and how much has survived to the present day.  The original study area was the 520 acre land holding of JC Moffat existing in the 1880s.

It was envisaged that each building in that area would be photographed from the street and uploaded to the web site, however the logistics of the study resulted in a the smaller central area being studied in that level of detail.  The detailed mapping produced for the study covers approx 15ha bounded by Buccleugh St in the west, Rinaldi St & Seaview Tce to the east, Kingsford Smith Pde and Bryce St to the north, and both sides of Grigor/Russell St to the South

Contemporary development has been compared with aerial photos or maps from 1940, 1958, 1966 and 1972, with the results plotted and downloadable from the website (Moffat Beach Building Fabric Analysis - under the Moffat Beach page)

The results are intended to produce an overall picture of the development of the area.  It was not always possible to ascertain if buildings were modified or replaced from the aerial photos, so houses in several streets were checked by fieldwork, but not all places could be investigated.

Development History

Records show that Moffat was a popular camping spot with the Tooway Caravan Park established after 1938 (now “Raintrees”) and photos of what is now the beachside park adjoining Bryce St show campers up to the early 1970s

By the 1930s the area had been subdivided, mostly into standard 16 perch allotments 50x200 chains, approx 10x40 metres.

The 1940 aerial photo shows only 13 lots developed (mostly houses, but also Overland’s three holiday cabins in Seaview Tce) in the detailed study area (and another 3 in the immediate vicinity)  At a rough count, another 87 places had been added by 1958, another 76 by 1966, and another 8 by 1972.  (184 total) By that stage only about 30 lots were undeveloped.  By those figures, the area was 85% developed by 1972, with 88% of that occurring between 1940 and 1972.

The post war period was a time of great optimism.  The same sentiment which fueled the post war baby boom also gave rise to a building boom.  These were good economic times, with a stable political climate, low unemployment, and Australia was opening to American consumer ideals.  There was modern architecture and new building materials.  Roads were improving and the average person could afford a car. This was also the time when the Australian love affair with the beach blossomed.

There was a holiday exodus to the beach, and Caloundra, as the first ocean beach on the mainland north from Brisbane, was the most popular Sunshine Coast location.  The above building statistics show the surge of building activity in the 1950s and 1960s

While other areas of Caloundra and towns to the north continued to develop, development at Moffat slowed for a number of reasons.

The headland is popular for board riders, but the beach is not considered safe for swimming as it drops away quickly and is subject to a strong current.  The original lifesaving clubhouse was located at Dicky Beach with a view to Moffat, but after it burned down in the 1970s it was rebuilt further north at its current location.

In the 1960’s an ocean outfall for secondary treated sewage was located at Moffat Headland.  In later years, water quality in Tooway Creek was often poor due to sewage leakage and industrial pollution from the Moffat Industrial Estate.

The majority of Moffat was zoned for single dwellings, perhaps in recognition of the small lot size and the likely difficulty with an orderly process of amalgamation for redevelopment. The area bounded by Kingsford Smith, Roderick, Buccleugh & Seaview was historically zoned local business but again development size was restricted

The removal of the ocean outfall and the cleaning up of Tooway Creek were factors in the real estate industry “discovering” Moffat after 2000.  The “original coastal village feel” was considered a major part of its appeal.1  Despite that, the small block size, single dwelling zoning, and the need for side boundary setbacks have limited redevelopment.

Original Building Fabric

Of the development prior to 1972, it is estimated that 67% either still exists or contains a reasonable proportion of original fabric.
Extract from the study showing analysis in the detail study area

Beach Houses

While external expression changed due to different stylistic influences, the common theme is about the holiday lifestyle at the beach.  While some aspired to modern architectural ideas, most were simple houses - pretension and status seeking attitudes could be "left at home". 

Early examples in Moffat were based on the typical "post war austerity" house, basically a simple form with asbestos cement walls and roof and no decoration.  Use of a raised timber floor on stumps was common with the earlier houses; however low stumps with bricked in underfloors became more common, eventually giving over to slabs on ground.  Towards the end of the 50's the contemporary architectural ideas began to gain more prominence.

Materials such as "Fibro" could be used truthfully. Efficient use of standard sheet sizes led decorative effects such as double cover strips running around the "waist" of the house.

In the early 60's steam curing of Hardie's "Fibrolite" flat sheets ensured ready availability of the material. Various profiled sheets such as corrugated "Super Six", "Shadowline", and for wet areas, "Tilux", with a marble tone pattern, became almost a common denominator of the beach house. Also evident was a readiness to use "modern" materials and equipment such as plastic, vinyl and fluorescent lighting.  Laminated plastic was used for kitchen work tops and plastic door handles were common.

Although budgets were generally low, people were prepared to experiment with stylistic elements which would not have been considered for the "family home". An example can be found in the use of geometric painted decoration.

Typical features included skillion roofs, sometimes symmetrical with opposing angles; geometric decoration, often painted in bright contrasting colours, but sometimes in porthole or stepping windows; large areas of glazing; sloping walls, either to reduce reflections in glazing or increase span; and "V" columns, again efficient as one footing supported two columns.

The practice of naming houses was common. Examples such as "Seasongs". "Blue Horizons" and "Lazy Days" convey an image of an easy life by the sea. It's interesting that home units replacing these houses often retain the original name.

Allotment sizes were generally small, often the "standard" 16 perch, 50 x 200 links, approx 10m x 40m. The houses themselves were generally also small, usually with simple rectangular or "L" shaped plans. Planning reflected holiday usage with kitchen/dinning/living combinations and additional sleeping areas designated for guests.  Quirks, such as access to a bedroom through another room, were acceptable for a holiday lifestyle.

As most houses were beach houses, i.e.a second house visited for weekends and holidays; activities focused on the beach, not the yard.

As with other residential areas, conventions developed and with minimal management the larger native vegetation was retained. .  The concept of territory was also more flexible in a holiday environment.  Often there was little, low or no fencing.  If the kids from the houses behind walked through to go to the beach, it was not a problem.

Character

The area retains a distinctive character derived from its natural characteristics, its subdivision layout and the predominance of development up to the mid 1970s.  Specific aspects that contribute include:

Setting, Location and natural character

Moffat’s location, facing north to the beach and Tooway Creek, is a defining aspect of its character.

The sight and sound of the surf break, the texture of the sand and the headland, with its distinctive tesellated gray sandstone, are all part of the attraction for Moffat..  The Moffateers, a surfing club started by local heroes Ma & Pa Bendall, is celebrated by a park and lookout on the headland.  In the later years of World War 2, Councillor Arthur Bennett planted an avenue of Norfolk Island pines along the foreshore, to match those at nearby beaches.  Most survive, but there are ‘gaps’.

The Queen of the Colonies monument on the headland commemorates the 1863 stranding of a party from the ship’s life-boat who were blown north after burying one of the passengers on Moreton Island

Holiday focus & lifestyle

Moffat has retained its historical role as a destination for holidaymakers, originally camping and in beach houses. The holiday character is evident today with accommodation for holiday makers and day-trippers using the park and beach.  Beach houses remain the predominant form although many are now occupied by permanent residents

“The charm of the endangered Aussie shack ... was its recognition, even for a few weeks a year, that for all our aspirations and inspirations, we're still barefoot bipeds, still subject to the grandeur and wrath of sand, sea and sun. The shack tells us the humble truth. We extinguish it at our peril.”2

The informal holiday atmosphere is present in the streets and parks, especially on weekends. Young and old can be seen walking to and from the beach or shops. Locals as well as visitors use the BBQ’s in the parks.Lot size and built response

The popular ideal of a beach house as being the built response to the simple lifestyle associated with holidays points to a small, cheap and utilitarian structure.  This, and the 16 perch block subdivisions in the detailed study area have limited the size of houses.

In some cases, house occupy a double block, or three blocks have been subdivided into two, but the majority are the original 50 x 200 link, 16 perches lot. (100 links = one chain = 22 yards = 66 feet)  This lot size is indicative of the era of subdivision (late 1910s or 20s), before larger lots became the norm in the mid 1930s. The Bulcock Estate 1917 was also narrow lots around 16 perches, most were amalgamated and – in contrast to Moffat- little remains of the first era of development; and similarly parts of Kings Beach. By the mid 1930s, the Moffat’s Headland Estate boasted “the most desirable building sites in Caloundra ... that would appeal to the most critical and discerning”. Fishing was one of the attractions.

Most of the original houses occupy the front portion of the block, and are built on the 18 foot road frontage setback, with carports in the setback, allowed by Council until recent years.  In some of the two story houses, the car is under the house. Another feature reflecting the era of development are concrete strips, rather than a full driveway.

Streetscape

A common characteristic of Moffat (and other beach suburbs) is the absence of front or side fences, or the use of low open fences. Native plats were retained and allowed to flourish.  This informality and openness creates a distinctive streetscape and might account for some of Moffat’s community spirit!

In recent years, higher fences have appeared, especially after a change in ownership. These changes impact adversely on the open streetscape character and works against the openness (and friendliness) of the streetscape.

Building typology

"The unique architectural style of such houses is representative of a simpler age that is bound up in our collective memories of the beach and is one of the reasons why it is so special.  For many people, the Fibro cottage remains the quintessential Australian beach house and an expression of Australian identity."3

Although the area is changing as more recent building replace existing, and older buildings are modified to become permanent places of residence rather than holiday houses, Moffat still has a distinct character and cultural heritage significance relating to its post war development and history as a holiday destination.

The architecture of Moffat encompasses a number of stylistic periods, from the scattering of original inter war houses (and others relocated to Moffat), post war austerity houses, later houses expressing more obvious architectural features with hints of Bauhaus and Art Deco qualities, and then the transition to brick veneer in the 1970s.  Common features are the small scale, the predominance of timber frame construction, and key approach to a beach holiday lifestyle.  This is not just about a period of style of building, and a building of today can share the same qualities.

Heritage significance

Moffat Beach is one of the early Caloundra settlements, subdivided into narrow small lots, typical of the early 20th century, and developed between mid 1930s and 1970s. It is distinctive among Caloundra’s residential areas for the predominance of post WW2 beach houses, built for holiday use.  Other areas have been redeveloped in recent decades.  Moffat retains its original role as a holiday location with informal atmosphere and an absence of through traffic. It is greatly appreciated by residents, part time residents and visitors for its small-scale character, and the aesthetic qualities of its beachside location.

Recommendations

The authors believe that there are a range of actions which could be taken by Council and the community which could limit negative impact on Moffat’s cultural heritage and character.

Community interest

The character of Moffat is shared by all the residents and this impacts on community spirit, adds to the feeling of neighborhood, and enhances quality of life.  The overall character of the place also adds monetary value to individual properties, so for various reasons it is in the community interest to conserve these qualities.

In suggesting that the suburb’s character should be conserved, it is recognized that every property owner may have a desire to express their individual taste and improve the value of their own properties.  But when this could have a negative effect on the quality of the suburb as a whole, it is reasonable that certain controls could be in place.

Public awareness

There is little promotion, celebration or community understanding of Moffat’s character.  The authors hope that this study will not only record, but promote better understanding of Moffat’s history and character

The heritage of the post war period is only just starting to undergo critical analysis.  In heritage philosophy, a certain time needs to elapse before historical context is understood.  This is sometimes seen as about 25 years, or “a generation”.  For the post war period, that time is now.

These places are the physical evidence of the holiday exodus to the beaches after the WW2.  They are the heritage of the baby boomers.  Hopefully, those childhood memories of holidays at the beach will continue into the future.

Planning Scheme

The current Caloundra City Council Planning scheme recognizes the character of this area:

6.6    Caloundra Eastern Beaches Planning Area Code
6.6.1    Planning Area Context and Setting
In older areas, pockets of traditional seaside housing remain intact. These traditional housing areas have a distinctive character that adds significantly to the amenity and identity of Moffat and Dicky Beaches in particular

It does not, however specifically identify Moffat in an overlay code which would invoke the Specific Outcomes requirement under the Planning Scheme.

It would be an important step to identify Moffat as a character area, and fine tune the specific outcomes.  For example, endemic coastal landscape could be encouraged, and the importance in encouraging low key fencing in front yards.  Developments which conserve original houses by developing in the back yards could be facilitated.

It is recommended that Moffat Beach be recognised for its heritage and character with its own overlay code, retaining the existing zoning, with the early small lot (16 perch ) subdivision zoned for single dwellings.  Further historical research (including dating of houses) is needed to determine the extent and the nature of the code, especially as it might be relevant to other beachside suburbs in the sunshine Coast.

This process should start with the preparation of a new illustrated statement of character, with the key characteristics mapped in detail. The statement would provide the basis for policies related to each characteristic.  An outline of this approach is attached as an appendix.

The Friends of the Caloundra Lighthouses would be willing to assist with research and analysis, the preparation of the character statement and its presentation to the local community.


In conclusion, we would like to thank the Sunshine Coast Council for funding and supporting this project.  We trust that it will promote interest in post war heritage and start a conversation as to how to promote, conserve and carry forward the ideas presented.  The web site is designed to continue to record all types of heritage places on the Coast, and the Friends of the Caloundra Lighthouses would welcome future collaboration.

Appendix A – Draft outline of key characteristics and polices to sustain them
NB Further research and analysis, is needed to provide more specific guidelines which should also include an illustrated statement of Moffat Beach’s heritage and character


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Roger Todd,
Jun 20, 2012, 4:51 PM
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