The land on which the substations were constructed was set aside by the Queensland government as a reserve for municipal purposes (electricity substation) in June 1930. At the edge of Stimpson Park, the initial 10 perches of substation land was close to an area known locally as the Four Mile Swamp. This wetland was part of Moolabin Creek.
The first supply of electricity for public use in Brisbane was to the General Post Office and some nearby buildings in 1888. The Barton and White Company, which had provided the service was one of a number of private companies which supplied electric power before 1904. In that year the City Electric Light Company Limited, an amalgamation of companies, was formed. By 1916 this company supplied power to the City, Fortitude Valley and South Brisbane areas.
The Electricity Department of the Brisbane City Council undertook responsibility for the provision of electricity after the formation of the Greater Brisbane City Council in 1925. Because of contracts between the previous local authorities and the City Electric Light Company, the actual distribution of power was complex. In 1928 the Brisbane City Council constructed its own powerhouse at New Farm. From there a network of distribution cables were linked to substations where the current was reduced and transferred to feeder mains for distribution to buildings and the street lighting network. To meet the demands of the expanding city, a considerable number of substations were constructed during this period. The first substation on this site, referred to as Number 13 was constructed at this time. Its role was to augment supply, to constitute a node from which power could be delivered.
In June 1930 the Queensland Government Gazette reported that land for municipal purposes (the substation) and for a park, Park Reserve No. 518 at the intersection of Beaudesert and Ipswich Road, had been set aside. Local residents petitioned against part of the reserve being used for this purpose. They were advised that the building, on account of its design, would add to the beauty of the park.
In September 1929, following receipt of twelve tenders, Albert Mason of Torwood, with the lowest quotation of £741. 4.0, was chosen. The design of the first substation on this site is attributed to City Architect Albert Foster. As well as being responsible for the design of the Kurilpa Library (1927) and Victoria Park golf clubhouse (1931), Foster designed a number of the city’s substations including Gregory Terrace (1928), Lang Park (1928, demolished), Hamilton (1929, demolished) and Coorparoo (1930).
Albert Herbert Foster (1873-1932) commenced work as assistant architect and building surveyor with the Brisbane Municipal Council in 1913, becoming city architect in 1925. Prior to this he had been in private practice and worked for the Queensland Department of Public Works. He had also lectured part-time in the history of architecture and building construction at the University of Queensland. Tiled hip roofs and pedimented entries with elaborate cornices, as can be seen in Substation No. 13, were characteristic of Foster’s designs.
The second substation on this site was constructed in 1942 to allow for the additional electricity needs of the Rocklea Munitions Works. Construction of the Rocklea Munitions Works commenced early in 1941 after the Commonwealth government committed £1,500,000 to the development of a complex of workshops, mills, foundries and munitions assembly buildings in Compo (later Evans) Road. Prior to October 1943, the Small Arms Ammunition Factory, the nation’s fifth, produced over 150 million rounds of ammunition, notably .303 calibre, and over 1 million brass cartridge cases for 25-pounder shells. Limited production of munitions commenced in December 1941 and full production was reached by March 1942.
To meet these electricity requirements an additional part of Park Reserve No. 518 was acquired in 1941 and the site’s second substation constructed. Its design is attributed to City Architect Frank Costello (1903-1987). Having trained as an architect in Sydney, Costello worked and travelled through Europe in the late 1920s and early 1930s. In Holland he was influenced by the work of Willem Dudok, whose modern view he translated through the careful manipulation of scale and proportion to create what he referred to as a ‘civic sense’. Returning to Australia in 1936 he worked privately and lectured part-time at the Sydney Technical College until taking up the position Brisbane City Architect in 1941.
Costello’s substation for Moorooka was of a simplified, modern design, one which has been described as of elegant simplicity and both modern and civic in appearance. It was a single mass substation consisting of one volume of space with a small secondary space for facilities at the rear. A distinct external feature was the pattern created by the mix of red/brown and cream bricks at the top of the walls and immediately below the concrete roof.
In 1942, with considerable wartime construction being undertaken in Brisbane, the Brisbane City Council was unable to hire bricklayers and called for tenders. Only two were received. The contract for £2,278.14.0, reduced to £2,250 by the contingency item being removed, was awarded to Ernest Taylor.
This second (1942) substation building was reconstructed in 1988 following a switching gear problem that caused structural damage to the double brick walls and concrete ceiling. Although in design very similar, the rebuilt substation has been reduced in height and some decorative features have been altered.