Revisiting The Life of Thomas Mathewson and His Former Home In Auchenflower

Thomas Mathewson’s historic home in Auchenflower has been given a new lease of life after current owners decided to restore the Queenslander rather than tearing it down, as a way of paying respect to the late photographer.

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Who Was Thomas Mathewson?

Thomas Mathewson was a well-known photographer who earned the title “Father of Photography in Queensland,” for starting the business in 1864, less than two decades after photography first arrived in Brisbane.

He was born in Helensburgh, Scotland and arrived in Australia in 1852 when he was only 11 years old. When both of his parents passed away, young Thomas was brought up by the Cribb and Foote families, who were among the wealthy families in Ipswich at the time.

Thomas Mathewson
Photo credit: State Library of Queensland

They were known for owning Cribb & Foote, a department store in Ipswich, which operated in the area for around 128 years. In 1971, Walter Reid & Co bought Crib & Foote and changed the store to Reids.

Thomas Mathewson
Photo credit: State Library of Queensland

Mr Mathewson got his knowledge in photography from amateur photographer Rev Beazley during his teenage years.

As a photographer, he was known for travelling with his photographic equipment. He also set up his studios at various locations, including Ipswich, Toowoomba, Dalby, Rockhampton, and Bowen.

Photo credit: State Library of Queensland

Mathewson’s Former Home

Photo credit: Mii and Co/Facebook

The historic Queenslander, also known as “Monterey” is located at 18 Aldridge St, Auchenflower. Built in 1912, the house has five bedrooms and three bathrooms. It has the characteristics of a typical Queenslander, with high ceilings, timber floors, and a front verandah with stunning views of the city.

Photo credit: Mii and Co/Facebook

The property was recently developed by Mii and Co, owned by Michelle Cao. The property has been subdivided, with the other half of the block to be the location of Ms Cao’s five apartment units, called The Rise.

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Despite the extensive renovations needed for the house, Ms Cao decided to restore “Monterey” to its former glory in honour of its historic roots. 

Published 30-March-2023

Look! Auchenflower Home of Queensland’s ‘Father of Photography’ Undergoes Full Restoration

Photo Credit: Mii & Co/Facebook

For over two decades, the Auchenflower home of Thomas Mathewson, highly regarded as Queensland’s “Father of Photography,” was used as student accommodations. A passion project has since restored the 1912 Queenslander to its former glory.

Developer Michelle Cao of Mii and Co fully restored the 1912 Queenslander, named the “Monterey,” much to the delight of the famous photographer’s relatives.

Ms Cao said that the Auchenflower home on 18 Aldrige Street was a passion project from the start as she was looking to redevelop and flip the property. 

However, upon learning of its historical roots, the developer aimed to pay her respects to Mr Mathewson and carefully restored the three-bedroom two-bathroom house for eight months with the help of Crowley Construction.

Thomas Mathewson Auchenflower home
Photographer Thomas Mathewson sitting on the verandah at his Auchenflower home.
Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland 
Auchenflower Home Thomas Mathewson
Photo Credit: Mii & Co/Facebook

Thomas Mathewson: Queensland’s “Father of Photography”

Originally from Scotland, Mr Mathewson moved to Australia when he was 10 years old in 1852. He lost both parents a few years later and was under the care of different families in Ipswich as an orphan.

It was Rev. Beazley who taught him the basics of photography as a teenager and by the next two decades, he established Mathewson & Co. Studios in Ipswich, Toowoomba, Dalby, Gympie, Rockhampton, Charters Towers, Townsville and Bowen.

In 1875, Mr Mathewson opened another studio on Queen Street in Brisbane, which operated until 1923. 

Auchenflower Thomas Mathewson Studio
Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland 

During this period, photography was known as a specialised art and made use of one of the oldest techniques: the wet plate method. Years before the development of modern photography, photographers didn’t have rolls of film to process in a dark room.

Instead, they captured images using a metal or glass plate covered in a light-sensitive emulsion that has silver halides. Processing images was a bit complicated and they had to have knowledge of mixing the right amount of chemicals. 

Mr Mathewson’s legacy continues with his family as they produced generations of award-winning photographers.

Seal of Approval from Mr Mathewson’s Family

There was much to be done on the property as it was used as student housing in the ’70s and ’80s with its beautiful verandah fully enclosed to make extra rooms. However, the project received a seal of approval from Mr Mathewson’s living relatives who visited the property and had even taken photos after the restorations.

Ms Cao said that their reaction to her passion project gave such satisfaction and relief, knowing that the house also filled their childhood memories.

The home has now been turned over to its new private owners for $1.48 million whilst Ms Cao, who subdivided the 1,012 sqm land, is building a five-unit apartment complex beside it.