Historically Nambour was the capital of the Sunshine Coast then known as the Near North Coast.
The character of Nambour town and the range of shopfronts reflect a different era and building style to more recent business centres on the Coast.
Nambour’s role as a business centre dates back to the opening of the North Coast railway line in 1891 when the town then known as Petrie’s Creek, was renamed Nambour.
A trip to town to pick up provisions and do the shopping has been a regular part of the Nambour heritage.
Some Nambour shop facades have not changed a great deal since the early times and their physical features reveal a lot about how early residents bought and sold their goods and services in a particular place and time.
Many Nambour shops hold a special place in this community’s memory.
The window displays and signs advertising a business, the high ceilings and skylights all tell a story.
The general store from a bygone era with its glass cabinets, timber countertops and shelves extending along walls with items at times suspended from the ceiling were all highly organised with an atmosphere of clutter.
Stock stacked and displayed on tables with racks of merchandise strategically placed throughout the store were commonplace.
Customers were given personalised service and everyone knew everyone in those times.
The specialist shops such as butcher with his window full of meats of all kinds, the baker with open racks of freshly baked loaves just out of the oven, the barber known by his traditional red and white ‘barber’s pole’ and the pharmacy that dispensed essential cures and prescriptions were all vital parts of the bustling community.
The early streets of Nambour were officially named in 1896.
Two of the street names Mitchell and Currie Street (previously the Gympie Road) have not changed since that time however the naming of McNab Street was later changed to Howard Street.
It is estimated the first cane tram line was constructed in Howard Street in about 1897 where wagons of sugar cane were pulled to the Moreton Mill by teams of horses.
Howard Street has been the location of businesses such as a Tucker’s Blacksmith, Mr Fred Gilmore’s Wax Factory, a canning factory and many other diverse businesses.
Currie Street was originally named to honour Daniel Currie, the father of Maroochy Divisional Board member John Currie who with other board members D Mitchell and J McNab were part of the official committee chosen to name Nambour streets.
The Currie family at one time owned the general store, a butcher shop and also a hotel in the main street of Nambour town.
Lowe’s family butchers and ice manufacturers located in Currie Street advertised “Better meat is not obtainable” and “small goods made on the premises”.
While strolling down Currie Street in 1908, shoppers would have encountered E Deegan’s Tinsmith Shop selling all kinds of tinware and W Coles the greengrocer advertising fireworks as well as his staple lines of fruit and vegetables.
Close to Christmas, J Lowes Butcher Shop advertised trussed fowls ready for the oven and A Tucker not only sold fruit and vegetables, his special line was tombstones.
After selling his cordial factory to Wimmers in 1910, George Pitman caused excitement in town when he arrived back from a trip to Melbourne with Nambour’s first private car.
He transported the automobile from Brisbane by rail to Nambour and when he pulled into the back of his old cordial factory a horse grazing nearby jumped the fence and had to be restrained.
Later, as automobiles became more popular Nambour had many garages.
The Returned Soldiers Garage situated in Currie Street was known as one of the best in town.
Many fires have changed the town landscape and in 1914, the Commercial Hotel and 15 buildings were destroyed between the corner of Currie and Howard Streets and Petrie Creek.
In 1939, Nambour Chamber of Commerce unveiled a plaque honouring James Lowe and his contribution to the town of Nambour. Lowe Street was later named after him.
The largest mixed business was that of W Whalley which sold everything the customer would ever need. It contained hardware and groceries with goods displayed in two large glass shop fronts.
There was also a special display of sandshoes, if perhaps you wanted to visit the seaside.
Stores such as Whalley’s served customers over the counter and sent orders out by delivery, with an account at the end of the month.
It an unfortunate turn of events fire again caused major destruction in Nambour when Whalley’s store and adjoining buildings were razed in 1946.
In a stroke of bad luck, just before Christmas in 1946 many shops in the centre of Nambour were destroyed by fire.
Nambour did not have a reticulated water supply and firefighting equipment was virtually non-existent at that time.
This major incident signalled a need to improve services to the thriving business hub and to build a dam somewhere within the Near North Coast hinterland.
Nambour’s population in 1945 was 3000 and by 1955 the town’s population had reached 5000.
Prosperity grew and by 1955 Nambour was experiencing a building boom.
New brick structures including Nambour’s Shire Hall, cafes, banks and churches provided stimulus and confidence.
The search for a suitable dam site for Nambour town began about 1951.
In February 1955, work began on the construction of Wappa Dam and on December 24 1958, Nambour was connected to town water.
The project involved five miles of mains and several town reservoirs and was regarded as the biggest single development in Nambour for 50 years.
After World War II, the post-war drift of the Australian population to sunnier places had begun.
The climate and beauty of the region attracted holidaymakers and also a new type of resident, the retiree.
Maroochy Progress Association had argued in 1947 that the coastal towns should be separated from the existing shire as Nambour’s rural-based council could not cope with coastal needs.
In the shire elections of 1952, David Low was a candidate contesting the chairmanship from Maroochy Chairman Andrew Thompson.
Mr Low argued for a coastal road system connecting Caloundra to Noosa and Cr Thompson proposed that better roads be built to connect productive inland areas to the coast to service both rural and tourism opportunities.
The 1952 election resulted in a victory for David Low.
In 1957, Frank Nicklin, the Member for Murrumba for 25 years and Leader of the Opposition, became Premier of Queensland.
During the 1950s and 1960s increased development plans across the area reflected the optimism of the region with Maroochy Shire Chairman David Low and Premier Nicklin leading its direction.
In 1953, the Maroochy Shire Council completely modernised Station Square.
Nambour Civic Centre was built and opened in 1960.
Kenilworth dairy farmer Eddie De Vere became Maroochy Shire Chairman in 1967 and realised the importance of both rural enterprise and tourism to the region.
Horticulture still played a big part in Nambour’s economy in the 1970s with pineapple growing, sugar and dairying all important industries for the area.
During the 1970s a new Shire Chambers was built on the corner of Bury and Currie Streets and opened in 1978.
Due to building development in the 1980s and onwards, the number of farms and land devoted to farming fell considerably.
By 1985, tourism had become a major industry in Maroochy Shire with a shift in population growth from the hinterland towards the coastal towns.
The dynamics of Nambour were changing. Large shopping centres were being built around this time.
The increasing through traffic on the Bruce Highway, which ran through Currie Street in Nambour, was diverted when an alternative route was built skirting the town centre.
The Nambour bypass opening in 1990 taking the Bruce Highway traffic away from Woombye and Nambour streets.
After more than 100 years of crushing sugar cane, the Moreton Central Sugar Mill in Nambour closed in December, 2003.
The last cane train rumbled up through the centre of town and blew a mournful whistle of farewell to an industry that had been a cultural and economic icon for so long.
Growth and tourism has seen many changes in the Nambour town area.
Today Nambour has a population of about 17,000 and is a main transport hub for both rail and bus due to its position on the rail line.
The original shops on Currie and Howard Street still remind us of an earlier time and provide a link to the past even though they offer different goods to the wares of yesterday.
Local community involvement and action has seen organised events and fundraising to support future heritage themed projects, as well as the Queensland Garden Expo and Sunshine Coast Council events on offer throughout the year.
As new bars, eateries and live music venues change the dynamics of what was once a thriving country town, Nambour continues to meet the challenge to reinvent itself.
From the historic business centre of long ago to a new experience for locals and visitors alike, Nambour offers numerous things to do and see.
Whether it be visiting the retro inspired op shops, theatre, movies, creative space of the Old Ambulance Centre, Nambour Museum, boutique shopping, dining or enjoying a relaxed coffee with friends, Nambour still has much to offer.
Bullock team in front of William Whalley's Store at the northern end of Currie Street, Nambour, ca 1909.
A. J. Dingwall's Grocery Store, Currie Street, Nambour, 1930.
Whalley's Motor and Engineering Works and adjacent business premises, looking south along Currie Street, Nambour, 1930.
Lowe's Ice Works & Butchers shop, Currie Street, Nambour, ca 1935.
Nambour Meat Hall interior, Currie Street, Nambour, 1960.
Wappa Dam under construction on the South Maroochy River near Yandina, 1961. Maroochy Shire Councillors and officials inspecting the dam site. The dam was constructed in stages between 1958 and 1961.
Shops along Currie Street, Nambour looking north towards the Maroochy Shire Hall, 1962.
Sunshine Plantation passenger train, Big Pineapple and Visitor Centre, Woombye, April 1976.