Kyle's Model 17/08/2016

We had a great response to the call for help on the Cloudland model – many thanks to everyone who emailed and commented on the Facebook page, all of it will be useful in due course. The search goes on and if anyone knows of any further sources of information or photos, we would be very grateful to hear of it.

 

One of the most valuable submissions so far, effectively the Mother Lode, was provided by Kyle Fysh. Kyle is a professional draftsman and an expert user of CAD, and back in 2000 he decided to do precisely what I’m doing now – to recreate Cloudland the best he could using whatever information he could find. Kyle's work went a step further by modelling both the interior and exterior of the building – I’m focussing only on the interior, at least for now. He ran into the same obstacles that I did with the lack of information and photos in the public domain and decided to track down past owners or their descendants to ask for any surviving documentation. 

 

Without lingering on the history of the building which is well documented elsewhere, Cloudland was designed by Tollemache (Thomas) Heriot Eslick, a serial entertainment venue developer with a string of “Luna Park” projects on his resume – in Santa Monica, Melbourne and elsewhere. In the late 1930s he appeared in Brisbane and began to raise funds for the “best ballroom in the southern hemisphere,” including a surrounding amusement park. But on completion of the ballroom in 1940 the war had put a break on the economy and the venture went bankrupt with much of the park unfinished. Eslick cleared the scene and moved back to Oregon where he died in 1948.

 

Kyle managed to track down Eslick’s step granddaughter through genealogy sites, send her an email and five years later received a response.  The family was able to provide a variety of documentation including the below photo of the La Monica (Santa Monica) ballroom which shared many features with the Cloudland interior.
 

The "La Monica" Ballroom in Santa Monica, California. Developed by T. H. Eslick in the early 1920s, this venue shared many features with the future Cloudland ballroom. The central stage and expansive timber dance floor was surrounded by comfortable lounge areas. The ceiling, supported by classic columns with over-sized ventilators and a huge central chandelier, is very similar to that of Cloudland. The mezzanine level appears to be limited to the flanking walls. This ballroom was eventually converted to a roller skating ring, and was demolished in 1963. Photo supplied by the Eslick family.  

Kyle also located the descendants of Hans Apel who bought the venue in 1954. Among the materials were draft designs for the jazz-inspired stage backdrop that was painted after the purchase and remained for several decades. The original 1940s backdrop depicted a dreamy midnight landscape of clouds under a pair of moons, inspired by the original “Luna Park” theme which later became “Cloudland.” The sketches were apparently produced by T. J. McKone, a draftsman in Sandgate. The final design chosen for the backdrop, which incorporated a keyboard, saxophone, base and curtains, is missing from the collection (we can assume that it was given to the painter) but the remaining cards contain many of these elements and will be useful for any future recreation of the image.

Artist's draft proposal for stage backdrops (left) and a stage photo from the 50s with the chosen design. Material supplied by the Apel family.

Ege Snook became the manager of the facility in 1979 and his collection offered promotional materials and photos from that time. The ballroom era had come to an end, but the venue was used extensively for concerts, weekend markets and other events

Weekend market at Cloudland, 1970s

Further material for Kyle’s collection was provided by the National Trust, the Brisbane City Archives and the Queensland Ballet which recreated some of the features for the Cloudland show. The absence of any surviving plans presented a significant challenge and the building design had to be extrapolated from overall dimensions in aerial surveys and drainage plans, and reckoning of key features from photos. Based on my own estimates I believe that Kyle's overall dimensions are very accurate, as are the details which have benefitted from his expert knowledge of building standards.

 

Kyle's model depicts Cloudland in the 1970s with parts of the ceiling painted blue and the column capitals white. Kyle's objective was to get the dimensions right, and he wisely avoided the maddening task of applying textures and digitally lighting and rendering the models for a photo-realistic final product. I think Kyle will be quite happy to watch from a distance as I take on that task. A few screenshots of his model are shown below.

The main entrance doors under the famous, pink dome.

Looking across the dance floor, from the entrance toward the stage.

The half-dome stage, by this time extended with a square section protruding into the dancefloor.

View toward the bar with the Panorama Rooms behind, on the right flank from the entrance door.

Dance floor under the magnificent chandelier. Kyle and I have diverging views on whether the chandelier was round or slightly oval - photos give conflicting impressions on this point. Any opinions on would be welcome.

View from the mezzanine across the dance floor.

Thanks again Kyle for your pioneering work and your very generous contribution to this project. The photos and other materials are invaluable, and your CAD model and knowledge will provide excellent checkpoints as the work progresses. 

A Call for Assistance, 24/08/2016

The next project here at House Histories HQ is a detailed recreation of the interior of the magnificent Cloudland Ballroom, as it was back in the Roaring 40s. We all know the story of this lost Art Deco treasure, once known as largest and most opulent dance hall in Australia. These pictures are of an early concept 3D model created from scratch based on available photographs and my own reckoning. In order to produce a more detailed version I will need additional images and reference materials. This is where you, dear readers, may be able to help. 

The dancefloor on a summer morning, sunlight filtering thorugh the windows on ground floor and balcony.

Yes - the art deco angels and other ornamentation will be added to the column capitals.

The stage with fluro lighting features

Surprisingly few photos and descriptions are available in the public domain but I have no doubt that thousands of pictures are hiding in albums and shoe boxes around the city. Material from any era will be of use – not just photos but also any schematic plans and written descriptions that may have survived. Oral histories as well – do you know anyone who was particularly familiar with the space? It would be my pleasure to interview that person. All contributions will be duly attributed in the published article. 

 

Again - ALL photos of the interior space will be useful and in particular I’m keen to see details of:

  • The fringing lounge areas on the ground floor, including details of windows, lighting, ceiling and furniture.

  • The magnificent central chandelier, including photos showing the colour and texture of the glass when lit.

  • The upper floor areas, including flooring, seating, walls, windows, entrances and ceiling.

  • The area behind the half-dome stage

  • The main entrance linking the ballroom to the famous external arch, located opposite the stage.

 

Below is a gallery of some of the images (multiple pages - click) sourced so far, from the State Library collections, BCC, the Lost Brisbane and Old Brisbane Album Facebook pages and other sources.

If you know of any other collections, please ping me at magnus.eriksson.ercons(at)gmail.com. Again – all contributions will be duly attributed with my sincere thanks.

 

This is a complex research, modelling and rendering project and it won’t happen in a hurry, but I will post occasional updates here and on the facebook page. Thanks for your interest, and for your support.

 

HH