The businessman and the philosopher

PerryBrothersShe sees sunshine for just a few minutes each day, but the grand old lady of Brisbane’s skyline reveals a shining story that encompasses one of the great philosophers of the nineteenth century.

Once the tallest building in Brisbane, the eight story Royal Albert is today lost in the monoliths of commerce. She was constructed with great fanfare to house Perry Brothers hardware merchants, after they published the building plans in 1910 to mark the business’s golden jubilee.

The founding brothers in 1860 were headed by William Perry, a businessman of abundant intellect. He was also a personal friend and constant correspondent with James Martineau, the eminent English philosopher.

Martineau chose his friends wisely. Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote that he “regarded Martineau as the master mind of all the remarkable company with whom he engaged”. British prime minister Gladstone said, “He is beyond question the greatest of living thinkers.”

The majestic tower was built by William Perry’s sons as a lasting memorial to their father’s commercial legacy. Inadvertently they have also memorialised a great theorist’s contribution to the culture and business acumen in the colony.

So when you are next in the city, pause at the corner of Albert and Elizabeth streets. Use the moment to listen for thoughts and memories from the businessman and the philosopher that may permeate from within.

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