St Lucia, a residential suburb with the University of Queensland occupying its eastern end, is four km south-west of central Brisbane. Travel via Coronation Drive, the Brisbane River CityCat or by ferry from West End is considerably further. The western part of St Lucia includes the locality of Ironside.
Farming was begun at St Lucia in the early 1850s, and Darts sugar mill operated there from 1865 until flooding by the Brisbane River in 1893. The Ironside primary school was opened in 1870.
In 1883 there was an unsuccessful attempt to sell the subdivided St Lucia sugar plantation estate, named after the Caribbean island of St Lucia where Alexander Wilson was born. Wilson purchased the sugar plantation and named it after his birthplace in 1882. The area was considered to be an outlying part of Indooroopilly, and a proposed bridge from West End in 1885 did not improve its subdivisional potential. Some of the 1880s pre-University roads are still recognisable: St Lucia Road (Sir Fred Schonell Drive), Carmody Road, Mill Road, Coronation Drive (Hawken Drive) and the Esplanade.
St Lucia remained a rural district with a few farmhouses. Cairngorm (c1900), a verandahed Queenslander is in the university grounds and is the Alumni Centre.
In 1926 the Mayne family provided 60,000 pounds for the purchase of a site for a new university, to replace the Old Government House accommodation in George Street, Brisbane. In 1927 111 ha west of Mill Road were resumed by the Government, and site works began about ten years later. About one third of the site, on the northern side adjoining the Brisbane River, was below the 1893 flood level (and again in 1973). The new university building, in an Art Deco style, was constructed during 1937-40, to a design by the architects Hennessy and Hennessy. The dominant material is Helidon sandstone, with other Queensland stones and timbers for internal fittings. During World War II the building was used for headquarters for the Allied Land Forces, South West Pacific. Occupation for academic purposes began in 1946, and by the 1970s many other buildings had been erected.
Upon the postwar occupation of the university the academic community began to have residences constructed in Ironside. Some were of innovative, modern design. There were a few shops, the Esquire Cinema, an Anglican church and the St Lucia Hall along Sir Fred Schonell Drive (then St Lucia Road). St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church (1960) was of a large modern design. Closer to the river, the Alvey engineering works (1920) and fishing reel factory was in Macquarie Street. The Kingsholme aged care home was in Swann Road, and the Indooroopilly (later St Lucia) golf links were on Ironside's southern border.
By 1980 St Lucia had reached about two thirds of its present population level. In 2006 access to the university from Dutton Park was changed from a ferry crossing to Eleanor Schonell Bridge, restricted to bus and pedestrian traffic.
When Ironside was settled and the university’s buildings were pegged out, they were above the 1893 flood level. Not so, much of the postwar residential building along Sir Fred Schonell Drive and down Brisbane and other streets. Numerous riverside apartments had their basements filled with water, often rising to living areas.
St Lucia's census populations have been:
Judy Magub, The history of St Lucia, St Lucia, Cr Magub, 1998
Sylvia Bannah, St Lucia campus heritage tour, Brisbane, Brisbane History Group, 1998