Terrace takes place on history's map

WA Museum Albany public programs officer Malcolm Traill takes a look at the history of Stirling Terrace.

From troop marches and car races to Sunday concerts and shopping, Albany’s former main street, Stirling Terrace, is an important part of the city’s history.

WA Museum Albany public programs officer Malcolm Traill has explored some of the stories behind the historic street.

“Stirling Terrace has been on maps since 1834, named after the first governor of WA, captain James Stirling,” he said.

“He was, ironically, responsible for Albany not being the capital … everything would have changed if he had perhaps favoured Albany.

“It was the main street because it was near the port and later on the railway station, it had all the hotels and the banks and the shops.”

The main street featured four banks, shipping agents Glasgow House and Edinburgh House, and department stores Drew Robinson’s, Everett’s and Barnett’s, which also had Albany’s first lift installed in the 1930s.

Stirling Terrace had four hotels, three of which still trade today, the Royal George, White Star, The London and Freemason’s Hotel.

“The White Star started as the White Hart and was renamed the White Star after the shipping line,” Mr Traill said.

In 1914, when Australian and New Zealand soldiers docked in Albany port, before they sailed on to fight in the Great War, they were brought off the ship daily to march around Stirling Terrace and York Street.

“My theory is, when the troops came back from the Boer War in 1902, 12 years earlier, some of them got off the ship and went into the pubs and went on a bit of a rampage, they got into trouble,” he said.

“The thinking was ‘we’re going to keep these guys under control’.”

In 1897, the rotunda was built as a bandstand to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee.

The surrounding area was made into gardens, now called the Queen Victoria Jubilee Gardens.

“It was a real meeting place with the bandstand, Sunday afternoon concerts,” Mr Traill said.

“Also, it was the start and finish for the motor racing, the round-the-houses.

“Albany had the first round-the-houses event in Australia, held in 1936.”

He said main street status started to shift towards York Street in the early 20th century when shops and later banks began to relocate there.

“The Town Hall was built in 1888 so things started to move a little bit, and the pubs like the Premier and the Albany were up York Street and a few shops and the churches,” Mr Traill said.

“A big thing was when the post office moved in 1964.

“That was really the start of the end of Stirling Terrace being the main street.”

These days Stirling Terrace is a construction site while the street is given a facelift to tie in with Albany’s Anzac Centenary commemorations in November.

“This is the evolution of Stirling Terrace, one of the oldest streets in WA, it’s an important part of Albany’s history,” he said.