Chermside, a residential suburb on Gympie Road, is 11 km north of central Brisbane. Australia's first drive-in shopping centre, with 700 car spaces, opened in Chermside in 1957.

The Chermside area was originally known as Downfall Creek, the suburb's present northern boundary. Seeking a more attractive name, residents decided on Chermside when it was announced that Sir Herbert Chermside would become Governor of Queensland in 1902, with the name formally adopted the following year.

Chermside was originally an agricultural district. The sale of farm lots began slowly in 1865 and continued until 1868, most lots being 15-20 acres. Lands along Gympie Road witnessed considerable volumes of passing traffic after the opening of the Gympie goldfield in 1867, with Cobb and Co ferrying goods and prospectors to the northern workings. German immigrants established a German Quarter near the corner of Hamilton and Webster Roads. The land was unspectacular, roughly timbered and considered to be in need of improvement.

THE GYMPIE ROAD

It took until the 1870s for signs of permanent settlement to appear: a general store in Gympie Road (1870), a Methodist church (1877) and a post office (1879). Blacksmiths and coachbuilders later operated along Gympie Road, and several slaughteryards began operation along Downfall Creek, in turn leading to byproduct industries including fell-mongering and leather tanning. Downfall Creek became the administrative centre of the Nundah local government division in 1884, the more populous urban area around Nundah township having constituted itself as the Toombul division.

In 1899 the soft drink manufacturer, George Marchant, acquired land along Downfall Creek, east of Gympie Road, as a spelling paddock for his horses. He later donated the land to Kedron Shire after the shire had been directed by the State Government to provide municipal open space for its community.

A local lodge built the Alliance Hall near the corner of Gympie and Rode Roads, and the building also served as a public hall and place of worship until several church faiths constructed their own buildings. In 1900, nearly opposite the hall, the Downfall Creek school opened. The Chermside School of Arts and Technical College was formed in 1909, acquiring the Alliance Hall and building up a stock of library books.

In 1911 the Australian census recorded over 400 people in Chermside, and other authorities suggest a figure of 1000 in the district (including Aspley and Chermside West). A horse-bus service from Aspley to the Wooloowin railway station began in 1912, converting to a motorised service in 1923. From a different direction, the city tram service advanced toward Chermside from Kedron Park to the Lutwyche Cemetery from 1925. The decisive and final extension was along Gympie Road to Hamilton Road in the middle of Chermside in 1947.

A Church of England was constructed in 1914, and a more commercial place of assembly – the Dawn picture theatre – opened in 1928. Motor cars as well as buses used the Gympie Road, persuading a Chermside butcher to rent part of a local farrier's premises and install petrol pumps and a roadside mechanic.

From World War I land along Downfall Creek, east of Marchant Park, was used for military exercises. In 1941 the Commonwealth acquired the land for the Chermside Army Camp, bringing a huge influx of population and associated services. At the end of the war some of the military barracks were used to relieve the housing shortage, and the military's presence is remembered with the naming of the 7th Brigade Park, east of Marchant Park.

AUSTRALIA'S FIRST DRIVE-IN SHOPPING MALL

The 1947 extension of the tramline opened Chermside to residential expansion, and in that year the census recorded a population of nearly 4500 people. Many new homes were built by the Queensland Housing Commission and the War Service Homes Commission to accommodate the growth. A short way west of the tram terminus temporary prefabricated wards were constructed in 1952 for the Brisbane Chest Hospital, servicing tuberculosis patients. Seven years later a high-rise chest hospital opened, later diversifying into cardiac and other services and being renamed the Prince Charles Hospital.

By then Chermside was on the metropolitan map. Right at the end of the tram line the Allan and Stark department store opened Australia's first private-enterprise drive-in, free standing shopping centre, preceding Myer's Chadstone centre (Melbourne) by two years. The opening was given state-wide publicity and national reportage by the Melbourne columnist, Keith Dunstan. The drive-in centre, enlarged several times and reinforced by a Kmart centre (1971) 1 km northwards, is classified as a regional shopping centre. Today it includes a three-story department store, hundreds of specialty shops, cinemas and a bowling alley, as well as a major bus station. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Chermside's community infrastructure was completed with several new churches, a municipal library, a service reservoir, fire station and additional local reserves. Rose gardens along Gympie Road succumbed to road widening in 1968. Hamilton Road was upgraded in 2008 allowing motorists to travel a direct route from Chermside to McDowell complete with a purpose-built 'fauna bridge' for possums and wallabies to use.

Wavell Heights State school, located in Chermside, was severely damaged by fire in 2011.

Queensland's first children's hospice, Hummingbird House, was constructed on the campus of Wesley Mission Brisbane's Wheller Gardens site in Chermside, and scheduled for opening in 2016.

CHERMSIDE WEST

In the mid-1950s the first of several housing estates was opened up in Chermside West, culminating with a Jennings estate on a former tannery site in 1973. The Chermside West (Craigslea) primary school was opened in 1972, alleviating severe pressure on the schools at Aspley and Chermside. In 1975 Craiglsea State High School opened. Shopping amenities are at Chermside Markets and the Rode Road Centre (1966), on the eastern and southern boundaries of Chermside West respectively. There are large reserves along Downfall Creek in the northwest, and about one third of Chermside West is open space. The Raven Street Reserve (24 ha) has extensive ranges of plant and birdlife species. Chermside West was formally gazetted as a suburb in 1975.

Chermside's census populations have been:

Census DateChermsideChermside West
1911*427n/a
1947*4435n/a
1954*14,702n/a
1961*19,972n/a
1971*29,542n/a
197676663036
198664336305
200160286021
200663485953
201181706121
* 'Chermside' 1911-71 approximated Chermside, Chermside West and much of the Wavell Heights area.
Further Reading: 

D.R. Teague, The history of Chermside and Chermside West, Stafford, Colonial Press, 1977

P. Spearritt, 'Suburban Cathedrals: the rise of the drive-in shopping centre' in G. Davison et al, eds, The cream brick frontier: histories of Australian suburbia, Clayton, Monash University, 1995

Pat O'Shea, History of Chermside and District, Chermside and District Historical Society, 2010