Construction at the former Wintergarden Theatre in the CBD has revealed some interesting local history about the iconic structure as it begins its transformation into a community hub.
The former Blockbuster building is currently undergoing refurbishment and once complete, will form a revitalised office space for a range of community groups, in addition to low-cost rooms for hire for not-for-profit and community organisations.
The project is one of the first to be delivered as part of Bundaberg Regional Council’s vision for a Civic and Cultural Arts Precinct.
During the construction phase, the walls and external sheeting have been pulled back to expose old steel beams marked with a historic business name.
On the outside roof of the building, the materials have been signed with the words “Drysdale and Ridgway”.
The company was one of the original contractors to build Wintergarden Theatre, which opened on 26 February, 1929.
Research obtained through historic refence website Trove has highlighted the history of the Australian business and its owner’s connection to the Bundaberg area.
According to an obituary published in the Courier Mail on Wednesday, 7 November 1945, Mr David Alexander Drysdale was the founder of the firm Drysdale and Ridgway.
“Mr Drysdale arrived in Queensland from Scotland in as a child,” the obituary reads.
“His father settled in Maryborough, where he was a builder and contractor.
“Mr. Drysdale served his time at Bundaberg and later became assistant foreman to Mr. Morgan, Maryborough, and Toowoomba foundries.
“With Mr. L. Ridgway he founded in 1922 the firm of Drsydale and Ridgway, Pty., Ltd. with which he was associated until his death.”
Mr Ridgway died at age 63 leaving behind his wife, Ms. D Button of Bundaberg.
Further information by the Courier Mail has detailed how Drysdale and Ridgway grew its success by adapting to the building industry’s ever-changing needs.
The 1930 article states while fabrication of steelwork was one of their main undertakings, the company also offered boiler work and steel chimney work.
“They have turned out quite a number of jobs in Brisbane and throughout Queensland, including stanchions and beams as adapted to steel framed building construction, hundreds of steel cantilevers for awnings over footpaths, and numerous angle iron constructed roof truss principles.
“Messrs. Drysdale and Ridgway command a fair share of their trade of calling, and are able to quote for and handle jobs and contracts both small and large, and guarantee to turn out the work up to requirements and with entire satisfaction.”
The Commonwealth of Australia Gazette reported that the company was wound up in April, 1985.
Wintergarden Theatre’s proud history
According to Bundaberg Institutes: The History of Bundaberg Theatres, which was researched and compiled by Enid Cullen, Wintergarden Theatre was a popular venue during its time.
The theatre was built on the corner of Maryborough and Woongarra Streets and opened for business in February 1929.
“It was constructed with ornate internal facilities, based on Sydney’s luxurious Capitol Theatre.
“It has the honour of having staged the first ‘talkie’ movie shown in Bundaberg in 1929 which was Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer.
“The Wintergarden Theatre was very popular with many troupes of entertainers who used to visit Bundaberg around show time.
“These were variety shows and, as the name suggests, featured a wide variety of stage acts.”
The last screening to be shown at the Wintergarden Theatre was on 22 June 1968.