The Duce House – Great Houses of Ipswich 2019
The Duce House, 88 Brisbane Road, East Ipswich
According to the Brisbane Truth, it was thanks to a winning ‘glamour look colt’ named El Wonder that Ipswich’s most successful racehorse owners, Norm and Norma Duce, could build their new glamour home in Brisbane Road late in 1952. Although the architect is not known, one family recollection is that Norma Duce admired the design of an existing Brisbane home and made enquiries from there.
Born c1915, Norman Victor Duce worked for CA Kruger and Sons sawmill at Bundamba through the 1930s and into the early 1940s. At the Congregational Church in Booval, on 12 June 1937, he and Norma Fletcher Stafford were married. Following the Second World War, the Duces operated Duce Car Sales, initially from Booval, before expanding into Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley and South Brisbane. They also purchased a number of racehorses, one of which in 1952 won them £4,900 in the Stradbroke Handicap.
Norm and Norma Duce had purchased the land at the corner of Brisbane Road and Fox Street, once part of the Elamang estate of early Ipswich mayor Richard Watson, late in 1949. The glamour house they built there, subsequently always referred to by locals as The Duce House. is a late example of the single storey or cottage version of the English Domestic Revival style. Externally it features many of the popular attributes of the style, such as rendered brick construction, basket-weave pattern brick gables with ventilation openings, a tile roof, a prominent chimney, leadlight windows, a tiered main entrance, randomly patterned porphyry, a front coach light and a quaint weather vane.
Many of the decorative features you see today are original—the semi-circular window flower box, the screened sunroom, the patchwork concrete driveway, the porphyry retaining walls and, what really made The Duce House special in the 1950s, its pergola and swimming pool, reportedly the first private pool in Ipswich to be built as part of an integrated design and well remembered by those who visited.
In 1963 the house was sold to Gerald and Mary Josephine (Molly) Nolan who, with their family, moved from nearby York Street. Gerald Nolan was the proprietor of a popular chemist store and Golden Casket agency at the corner of Brisbane and Nicholas Streets. Originally from Raceview, Gerry Nolan had married Molly Thomas in September 1924 at St Brigid’s Church in Rosewood, where he was then the pharmacist. Gerald Nolan also was a well-known racing identity with interests in both horse and greyhound racing.
The current owners purchased The Duce House in 2007. Since that time they have refurbished the kitchen, re-instated the pool that had been filled in and been awarded an Ipswich City Council Award for Excellence as a Best Maintained Heritage Property.