Heritage Listed Public Toilet at Nundah

Nundah Air Raid Shelter
Photo credit: Shiftchange/ Wikimedia Commons

Do you know that a public toilet in Nundah has been classified as a state heritage site by the Queensland Heritage Register?

Yes, that’s right! A public toilet located at Sandgate Road in Nundah is included amongst Queensland’s heritage-listed sites due to its historic role as an air raid shelter back in World War Two.

Nundah Air Raid Shelter

Brisbane’s population increased dramatically during the Second World War. This population growth was brought by the different military headquarters and supply facilities that were set up in the area in aid of the ongoing war.


Given its strategic position and the number of people dwelling in Brisbane, the Brisbane City Council then took responsibility for the different Air Raid Precaution (ARP) activities to cover the area. The council established an Air Raid Warden system, which include a firefighting operation system and provision of air raid shelters.

Nundah Air Raid Shelter
Photo credit: Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd/ Wikimedia Commons

The Nundah air raid shelter was designed by Council Architect Frank Gibson Costello, and it was built in 1942 by the Brisbane City Council. This shelter was built in preparation for the possible bombing raids by the Japanese in Nundah. Nundah was seen as a potential target during that time because of its close proximity to the Petroleum Warehouse built by the United States Army in Brisbane.

Renewed Purpose

Majority of the structures built for wartime purposes, such as military camps and munition factories, were removed shortly by the end of the Second World War. However, some of the structures that had survived, including Costello’s public surface shelters, were given a secondary purpose. Amongst these wartime structures that still exist even at present day are the Story Bridge Hotel, Howard Smith Wharves, and the Nundah Air Raid Shelter.

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The Nundah Air Raid Shelter at present is a rectangular structure that accommodates public toilets. The toilets are enclosed by block walls and a mural is placed around the exterior walls of the structure. Its original floor slab has now been covered with pebbles and tiles. For lighting, wires have been placed inside the structure and skylights have also been cut into the roof slab.

Nundah Air Raid Shelter
Photo credit: Shiftchange/Wikimedia Commons

Significance of Nundah Air Raid Shelter

On the 6th of April in 2005, the Air Raid Shelter in Nundah was listed amongst the heritage sites in Queensland after successfully meeting the following criteria:

  1. The place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history. The Nundah air raid shelter had a significant role during World War Two. It was part of Brisbane’s implemented Air Raid Precaution activity that provided protection to the civilian population of Brisbane in the event of an air raid attack.
  2. The place demonstrates rare, uncommon or endangered aspects of Queensland’s cultural heritage. There were many structures built for wartime purposes by the Brisbane City Council during World War Two, however only very few  of these structures have survived. This air raid shelter is amongst those structures that have lasted until today.
  3. The place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places. Given its shape, siting, and solid construction, this structure demonstrates the principal attributes of a pubic air raid shelter in Brisbane during the World War Two.
  4. The place is important in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period. With its secondary purpose, from an air raid shelter to a public toilet, it then possesses an innovative and durable design using concrete technology available during the World War Two.
  5. The place has a special association with the life or work of a particular person, group or organisation of importance in Queensland’s history. This structure is an important example of the wartime work of the City Architect’s Office, and particularly the work of Architect F.G. Costello.