New Farm, an inner suburb, is two km north-east of central Brisbane and about one km further if travelling by Ann and Brunswick Streets. It was the site of Brisbane's second farm area (c1839), replacing an earlier farm in South Brisbane.
By 1843 New Farm was subdivided into suburban allotments around the main thoroughfares later named Brunswick Street and Merthyr Road. 'Suburban allotments' approximated or were larger than the street blocks that were formed when residential subdivisions occurred 50 years later. They sold for small farms or for speculation. Around Bowen Terrace and the intersection of Ann and Brunswick Streets the allotments were smaller. A racecourse was laid out in 1846 and was used until 1861. By then some of the suburban allotments were occupied as semi-rural estates and more concentrated settlement would shortly occur. The better, elevated areas were taken first, and in the 1880s the lower lying parts along Sydney Road and near Teneriffe were drained.
A horse tram service along Brunswick Street was extended in stages from Harcourt Street to Browne Street (1885-86) and in 1898-1900 it was electrified along with a collector route around Barker Street, Morag Street and Merthyr Road to New Farm Wharf and the Hawthorne Ferry. St Michael's Anglican church and school in Brunswick Street were opened in 1891, along with a post office, a fire station and the New Brunswick Hotel. Along the riverfront in Lamington Street the Colonial Sugar Refinery was built in 1893, marking the beginning of concentrated industrial development along the New Farm side of Bulimba Reach. A railway goods line was run from Bowen Hills to the Bulimba gas works and along the riverside to CSR (1897). Within about ten years it serviced Dalgetys Wharf (1907), general stevedoring wharves and an array of smaller industries. The shipping channel along the Brisbane River was deepened up to Bulimba Reach by 1925, and shipping services transferred to there from South Brisbane. The New Farm railway line was kept busy until the 1970s.
Industry attracted workers' houses within walking distance of their employment. For recreation they had a bowling club (1908), a picture theatre (1914) and New Farm Park at the end of Brunswick Street. The park was taken over in 1913 by the Council, which added a bandstand and a kiosk. In 1926 the tram service along Brunswick Street was extended from Merthyr Road to the river, ending at New Farm Park and a ferry crossing to Norman Park. The council had taken over the running of the tramways in 1925 and found that electricity supplied by the City Electric Light Company was costly and unreliable. It embarked on the building of a new, higher capacity power house at the end of the railway line, between CSR and New Farm Park. Its capacity was doubled in 1928 and by 1940 had five times the generating capacity of when it began operation. It was also interconnected with the Bulimba powerhouse, both supplying power to the tram system and domestic and industrial consumers.
The main shopping centres followed the tram lines: Brunswick Street the largest, with two hotels, the Astor picture theatre (c1921) along with mixed businesses, butchers and grocers. (The theatre is on the Queensland heritage register.) Merthyr Road was the second shopping street and James Street, smaller, but with the Queens Arms Hotel. James Street also had the State primary school (1901) and a private high school. Protestant churches were well established but Catholics attended St Patricks in Berwick Street, Fortitude Valley, until 1930 when the Holy Spirit church was opened in Villiers Street. The adjoining primary school was opened in 1937.
During the 1930s several blocks of flats were built, making for a mix of housing styles of varying affordability. A group of flats in Julius Street is listed on the Queensland heritage register. In the postwar years the residential stock attracted a varied clientele, including Italian migrants wanting lower-cost inner suburban accommodation. Local riverside employment continued throughout the postwar years. The closure of the powerhouse and the railway line (1990) signified an approaching gentrification. The Italian community dispersed to other suburbs, and dog-owning house dwellers were granted a leash-free walking area on Powerhouse Park. Next door, the powerhouse was converted to a centre for the live arts.
New Farm's personal income level in 2001 was 9% higher than the average for metropolitan Brisbane, slightly behind Windsor but ahead of Yeronga. Personal income levels were put in the shade by real estate values between 1994 and 2004. New Farm had a middle ranking house price median of $191,000 in 1994, but by 2004 it came third after Ascot and Hamilton, at $629,000, ahead of St Lucia. Mirvac's remodelling of the heritage-registered sugar refinery produced apartments in the range of $1.15 to 3 million. On the other (western) side of New Farm property owners were provided with an 850 metre Riverwalk promenade ($16m) from the Story Bridge. New Farm Park, with its famous rose beds designed by Harry Oakman, was put on the heritage register. The suburb's river frontages, once the locale of timber yards, coal yards, wool and tallow, became a desirable and finite residential asset.
In January 2011 about half of New Farm Park was flooded, along with the Merthyr Croquet Club and the built-up area north-west, to Merthyr Road and the shopping centre. A smaller area south of Mountford Road and the riverside linear park was also flooded. On the western side (Merthyr) a piece of the Riverside Walkway broke loose and was towed to safety by a tugboat before becoming entangled with a bridge.
New Farm's census populations have been:
In 2011, 71% of all dwellings in New Farm and Merthyr were flats, units and apartments. Merthyr is described in a separate entry.
Booroodabin: a sesquicentenary history of Breakfast Creek, Bowen Hills, Newstead and Teneriffe, 1823-2009, Bowen Hills, Qld Women's Historical Assoc. inc, 2009