Harold Boas – Architect & Town Planner

From Australia’s Jewish Past:

Harold Boas

Architect, Town Planner and Community Leader

First published in J-Wire March 29, 2022

Harold Boas was born 27 September 1883 in Adelaide, the third son of ten children of Abraham and Elizabeth Boas. He was educated at Whinham and Prince Alfred Colleges in Adelaide and went on to study further at the South Australian School of Mines and Industries and became a member of the South Australian Institute of Architects.

In June 1905, Harold moved to Perth and transferred to the West Australian Institute of Architects and subsequently became a Fellow of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. He worked with several architects including one of the most respected Perth architects – Charles Oldham. Following Oldham’s death in 1920, the executors of the estate requested Harold continue the matters of the architectural practice which included use of the Oldham name and extended to – Oldham & Boas.

This took place in 1923 and Harold then invited Colin Ednie-Brown to join as a partner. The company –Oldham, Boas & Ednie-Brown – has not changed its name, even though the three partners are no longer alive. It is a thriving architectural practice employing more than 50 people.

Harold married Sarah Cohen in March 1911 at the Brisbane Street Synagogue in Perth and they had two daughters.

During World War I, Harold became associated with the Australian Young Men’s Christian Association which was involved with the Australian Imperial Force. He travelled to London in 1917 and volunteered with the YMCA assisting them in sending cards to soldiers, their next of kin, visiting the wounded in hospital and arranging gifts and loans.

Between 1905 and the 1930s, Harold, together with his partners, designed the King’s (open-air) Picture Theatre in Perth, a warehouse for the publishers, Sands & McDougall and the Nedlands Park Hotel. He was also involved in the design of the premises for radio station 6WF, aircraft hangars, bulk-storage wheat silos, the Emu Brewery in Mounts Bay Road and the Adelphi Hotel in St George’s Terrace.

The Gledden Building, which Harold had presented a proposal to the University of WA Board for an office tower and a two-level retail arcade, has remained one of Perth’s highlighted heritage buildings. His design was inspired by the vertical emphasis employed by many American skyscrapers of the day, especially in New York and Chicago.

Howard became interested in local politics and between represented the South Ward on the Perth City Council over a number of years. He joined the Town Planning Association of Western Australia in 1914 and served as its chairman between 1928 and 1930. He was a member of the British and American Town Planning Institutes as well as the State Government’s Metropolitan Town Planning Commission. In 1931, this Commission became the Town Planning Institute of Western Australia with Harold becoming its Foundation President. He twice chaired the City of Perth’s Town Planning Committee and was an inaugural member of the State Division of the Town Planning Institute of Australia.

Time did not stand still for Harold and he went on to help establish in 1911 the Young Liberal League of Western Australia and was an influential member of the Western Australian Consultative Council. He founded the popular, anti-socialist Argonauts Civic and Political Club in 1925. After working for the Federal Government in Melbourne during World War II, he returned to Perth where he was briefly responsible for the disposal of wartime buildings.

In May 1947, he founded and edited the Australian Jewish Outlook, a short-lived anti-Zionist monthly. However, the periodical went out of circulation after little more than a year as he had overestimated the level of support for it.

In 1950, as President of the Western Australian Branch of the United Nations Association, he represented Australia and the Council of Australian Jewry at the United Nations Conference in Bangkok. Other communal activities included his involvement with the Liberal Jewish Group as its Vice-President in 1952, together with his having been the designer, foundation and life member of Temple David.

He was awarded an OBE in 1969 for services to town planning and to the Jewish Community of Perth. He continued to work professionally and remained active in public affairs.

Harold continued to live in the house he had designed in 1925. He died at Subiaco on 17 September 1980 and was cremated. The Harold Boas Gardens in West Perth were named in his honour.

Another string to his bow was the publications – The Australian YMCA and the Jewish Soldier of the AIF in London in 1919 and the illustrated Australian Jewry Book of Honour in 1923 on the Great War, 1914-1918.

From Australia's Jewish Past is written by Ruth Lilian OAM for AJHS and published weekly in J-Wire. ​