Saturday 13 August 2011 – Bowen Park and Telopea Park – Naming names

Radiating in all directions (continued)

After reading that Walter Burley Griffin planned parks and names at the end of the state capital avenues that surround present-day Parliament House, I sought out his 1918 plan. I was able to zoom in far enough to read the names, but far better was finding the following quote from Griffin himself:

The primary purpose of street and place names is to provide an indication of location, relationships, directions, and distances. For instance, the eight avenues radiating from the governmental apex of the basic city triangle (Acacia Park) are named after the eight capitals of Australasia, in whose general direction they lead. It was desired that the termini of these avenues should in some way represent their respective States, with some distinctive and native characteristic. The only official beautiful symbol already existing is the recognized flower of each State. Hence, reading clockwise in the circle, the respective termini are designated Grevillea Place (for the silky oak), Telopea Park (for the waratah), Manuka (for the tea tree of New Zealand), Blandfordia Park (for the Christmas bell), Epacris Heights (for the wild heath of Victoria), Clianthus Circle (for Sturt’s desert pea), Boronia Hill (for the perfumed emblem of W.A.), Lotus Bay (for the flower of the Northern Territory), terminating Darwin Avenue, the eighth of the capital avenues.

– The writings of Walter Burley Griffin edited by Dustin H. Griffin, Cambridge University Press 2008, p105 seen on Google Books

The more I read from/about the Griffins, the more I like them. “The only official beautiful symbol already existing” – well, of course we must have names from beautiful symbols! (And, if I were a religious person, I’d be following the Griffins into anthroposophy any day now!) Except that:

Griffin’s successors excised most of his botanically-derived names in the 1920s, believing them ‘not in keeping with Australian sentiment’.

– From Beyond Architecture: Marion Mahony and Walter Burley Griffin in America, Australia and India, Powerhouse Publishing, Sydney 1998 seen on Google Books

Whose Australian sentiment, I wonder?

Much as I like our themed suburbs, I lament the loss of Griffin’s floral names – although think of the consternation in what would have been Acacia Park if the recent Acacia Debate had been decided differently! Some idea of the plodding nature of the successors can be derived from this excerpt from their files:

That the nomenclature to be adopted be derived from the names of Australian men of fame, explorers identified or presumably identified with the first discovery of Australia, Australian explorers, and men of fame in art, science, letters and statesmanship in the British Empire, from the date of Captain Cook’s first landing.

– National Archives, Federal Capital. Naming of City streets. NAA: A192, FCL1923/285

That, from C S Daley, Secretary to the Federal Capital Advisory Committee, is merely bureaucratic whereas the following is, I think, splendidly obsessive-compulsive:

In order to get over the difficulty of there not being sufficient streets in the centre to embrace the names of those whose initial letter is low down in the Alphabet there is no objection to beginning the centre with any letter, but the general principle is that a street the name of which begins with “m” should be closer to the centre than one beginning with “s”.

– Same place, letter of 6 December 1922 from the Commonwealth Surveyor General

Mind you, one has to think of details, and Griffin did. The direction of each capital-named spoke going out from Parliament House roughly corresponds to the direction of the city! He also worked out a hierarchy of circuits:

  • Acacia Circle at the top
  • Island Circuit and Continent Circuit
  • National Circuit
  • State Circuit
  • Australia Circuit
  • Southland Circuit
  • Australasia Circuit, Antarctic Circuit and Pacific Circuit

This has been followed to some extent:

The streets which surround the hill in concentric circles are named after increasing spheres of influence with the inner-most circle called Parliament [D]rive and then spanning out to Capital Circle, State Circle, National Circuit, Dominion Circuit and Empire Circuit.

– Capital Hill, Australian Capital Territory, Wikipedia

What actually happened to the names

To conclude this digression, here’s a table about what became of the eight avenues named after state capitals. The total becomes ten (as mentioned in the TAMS article that set me off) when you add Commonwealth Avenue and Federation (now King’s) Avenue.

Street Planned name Actual name After Notes
Brisbane Avenue Grevillea Place Bowen Park Sir George Bowen was the first Governor of the new Colony of Queensland There is now a Grevillea Park which is located on the northern shore of East Basin
Sydney Avenue Telopea Park Telopea Park Waratah: NSW floral symbol
Wellington Avenue Manuka Manuka NZ tea tree Wellington Avenue was renamed Canberra Avenue when New Zealand didn’t join a Confederation of Australasia
Hobart Avenue Blandfordia Park Collins Park Colonel David Collins, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Tasmania
Melbourne Avenue Epacris Heights Latrobe Park Charles Joseph La Trobe, Lieutenant Governor of Victoria 1839-1854 Epacris Heights was meant to be an open space area on the lower slopes of Red Hill
Adelaide Avenue Clianthus Circle There are 1953 photos of Clianthus Circle in the ACT Heritage Library but it doesn’t appear on current maps
Perth Avenue Boronia Hill Stirling Park Captain (later Sir) James Stirling RN, first Governor of Western Australia, 1829-1839
Darwin Avenue Lotus Bay Stirling Park Actually ends in Stirling Park, but we still have Lotus Bay
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