Cloudland was built in Brisbane in 1939-40 and was the venue for every concert and dance programme in that city from 1940 until 1982. Developers moved in at 3 am in November 1982 and illegally demolished this amazing building, full of chandeliers, tiered seating around the dance floor, domed sky lights and rich decorative details. The citizens of Brisbane were devastated, especially the ex-servicemen and their sweethearts who had once enjoyed R & R from the worst fighting in WW2”.
dance floor, domed sky lights, tiered seating and stage, post war
More recently Your Brisbane Past and Present blog wrote movingly of the writer’s personal history with Cloudland Ballroom. Other people wrote of how they had met their future spouse at dances and concerts held during and after World War Two. Sheba Also noted that many a baby was made from a night of competitive ballroom dancing at this particular nightspot. Everyone mentions the very special view!
Being a Melbournian, I had no idea of the history of Cloudland. Apparently the architect TH Eslick thought he was creating a fun park in Brisbane, based on Luna park in Melbourne which Eslick had himself built in 1912. Another bit of exotica was the funicular railway which ran up the side of the hill, carrying passengers to the rear of the Ballroom. Eslick mysteriously disappeared soon after Cloudland was opened, so the building was left abandoned until 1942. At that stage, in the middle of WW2, the grand space began to be used by the American Military.
The builders believed that “With its private alcoves, upholstered seating, dressing rooms and perfect ventilation, Cloudland Dance Hall will be the finest of its kind in Australia”. It was no exaggeration, and Cloudland was without doubt one of the best dance and concert venues in the country: hard timber floors, décorative columns, sweeping curtains, domed skylights and chandeliers. The upper circle of tiered seating overlooked the floor and stage.
As noted this architectural delight sadly was destroyed by very nasty developers in late 1982 when it was illegally demolished in the early hours of the morning. The event sparked a massive outcry from the local Brisbane community against Queensland’s so-called development-at-any-cost Premier, Joh Bjelke Petersen. Developers had claimed that the old ballroom was beyond repairing.
Ballroom Dancing Competition 1952
Today a new Cloudland has arisen from the ashes. Nic Brunner’s honouring of the grandeur of the destroyed ballroom can be seen in his new design, well photographed in the Architecture Revived blog. But I am not sure that the name Cloudland, chosen in recognition of the lost architectural landmark, really continues the tradition of the original Cloudland. Once an architectural gem has been destroyed, it can never be replaced.