It was at this time when many middle class and professional people bought newly subdivided land on the ridgelines and rises of the hills in the area on which to build homes reflecting their social and economic standing in the community. Those with lesser means generally bought lots on the lower parts of the hills, thus establishing a defined pattern of development in the district. By the 1930s, houses in the Coorparoo area were described as, “by reason of their topographical relationship and their grouping in Brisbane’s tramway system, possess a community of interest … many of the gentle slopes … command panoramic views … settlement in these localities is towards the highest expression of civic pride, a quality that should make these suburbs among the most beautiful in Brisbane”.
Alice Trewern and her three sons moved to Brisbane from Bendigo after her husband, William James Trewarn died in 1912. It is unclear why the surname was changed from Trewarn to Trewern, but by the late 1910s the widow was recorded as ‘Trewern’. In 1923 Alice Trewern bought one rood and eight perches of land on the corner of Chatsworth Road and Smeaton Street, Coorparoo. The relatively large portion of land was situated at the rise of the hill below Cavendish Road, which afforded views out to Mt Coot-tha and surrounds. Her architect son, Eric Percival Trewern, designed a new house for the family on the corner lot.
Eric Percival Trewern was born in 1895 and was only seventeen when his father died. In 1916 he secured a position as assistant architect in the Queensland Department of Public Works where he worked until 1920 when he established his own architectural practice in Queen Street.
The height of Trewern’s design success occurred in the Interwar period and he is renowned for his innovative designs incorporating the Spanish Mission and the Old English/Tudor Revival style in residential and commercial architecture. Amongst his finest residential designs is the New Farm house “Santa Barbara” that is considered the best example of the Spanish Mission style in Brisbane. Trewern designed many commercial buildings in central Brisbane many of which no longer exist. One important extant building is the Inchcolm Professional Chambers on Wickham Terrace. Trewern was an active member of many prestigious architectural societies in the pursuit of improving professional architectural standards in Queensland. The practice continued until Trewern’s death in 1959.
In 1925 Alice Trewern and two of her sons, Eric and William Trewern were first recorded as residing at the house on the corner of Smeaton Street and Chatsworth Road. They named the house ‘Mon Abri’. In 1932 Eric Trewern married Doris Ethel Bowser who was first recorded at the house in 1934 along with Alice, Eric and William Trewern.
In May 1924, the Architectural and Building Journal of Queensland included a photograph of the newly completed house and in April 1925, the Daily Mail also included a feature photograph entitled ‘Substantial and Attractive Residence at Greenslopes occupied by Mr. Eric P. Trewern’. Further focus was placed on the house in 1926 when, once again, the Architectural and Building Journal of Queensland, featured a photograph and story, entitled ‘An Architect’s Residence’:
The building is constructed of brick and cement, and contains three bedrooms, lounge, dining-room, sleeping-out and front entrance porches. Internally the walls are finished in rough plaster, kalsomined, the wood work being stained antique, finished with mock beam ceilings, and glazed sliding doors between the lounge and the dining-room. The house contains a modern kitchen and bathroom … and has been erected approximately three years.
The gracefully designed house was certainly less imposing than many of Trewern’s commissions, yet the quality of the design and the blend of the use of the bungalow style and ‘Old English’ elements, ensured Mon Abri was celebrated as one of his finest.
Alice Trewern died in 1935 and the property was transferred to William Leonard Trewern, who was a qualified public accountant and then, a year later to the third brother, Alexander Ira Trewern. Eric Percival Trewern and his wife Doris Trewern continued to reside at the address until 1934, when he and Doris Trewern moved into a newly constructed masonry house, also designed by Trewern, a few properties from the original house in the same street and across the road. The later house, however, does not display the important early 1920s architectural elements distinctive to Mon Abri.
The subject house remained in the Trewern family until the 1970s.