historic Wiss Bros Store and dwelling
Welcome to Kalbar's unique heritage precinct containing the Wiss Bros Store c.1909 and Dwelling c.1890.
Built for Mr Lionel Ainger Wiss, this quintessential country store and dwelling enables you to experience a moment of Queensland's past and colourful history. Kalbar is situated within the rich, fertile Fassifern Vally in the Scenic Rim region, fringed by the majestic and world heritage-listed Scenic Rim mountains of South-East Queensland. This giant extinct volcanic caldera is only 60 minutes from Brisbane's CBD heading towards Warwick.
Kalbar was first settled as scrub farms back in the 1870's by mostly German migrants. Originally the town was named Engelsburg but due to rampant anti-German sentiment which prevailed across Australia during the First World War and also to celebrate the arrival of the railway into the town in 1916 it was prudently changed to Kalbar - an aboriginal name meaning "bright star".
The Wiss Bros Store is still a landmark building in Kalbar today and attracts interest from afar. Constructed in 1909 for Lionel Ainger Wiss (a grand old pioneer in the highest sense of the word) and at a time when only hand tools were available for use, it was quality crafted from magnificent timber directly logged from the original surrounding forest - clearly this was a time when buildings were made to last!
Fondly called the Wiss Emporium by the locals it was built to replace the original general store that the two Wiss brothers -Lionel and Campbell, first established in 1890. Their first small store was simply called Wiss Bros. and originally stood on the present site of the big Emporium building right beside Lionel Wiss' first residence which is now known as Wiss Cottage.
The new Emporium building was said to be six times larger than its predecessor, and in afterthought, was developed into a classic early twentieth century "department store". It boasted of being a "Universal Providers ... the House of Quality", and sold a great variety of goods from the most delicate lace and haberdashery items to sweets, newspapers, produce, groceries, hats, boots, shoes, drapery, tailors, ironmonger, hardware, stoves, paint, household furniture, insurance, farm machinery, milking machines, separators, tractors, oil engines, petrol and kerosene. It also traded farm produce, acted as agent for major farm equipment suppliers and offered substantial credit doing much to assist the local farmers.
Today following a meticulous and carefully researched restoration by the current owner, the Wiss Bros Store and Dwelling have returned to be another "Star of the Fassifern" just as the Wiss Bros Store was the jewel in the crown for the Wiss Family's vast commercial enterprise in the early part of the 20th Century.
Both buildings are listed by the National Trust of Queensland due to their cultural heritage and significance and are much valued and treasured by the local community as a link to the past for future generations to enjoy. The Wiss Bros Store was regularly used for specific community events, charity functions and used to be open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Being "almost famous" the buildings are invariably used as a draw-card to encourage tourists and visitors to our beautiful Scenic Rim region, highlighted in much of the principal advertising for the area: on tourist brochures, guidebooks, newspaper articles and television programs. Visitors marvel at the grandeur and craftsmanship of the intact, early 20th century, huge timber building of a general purpose country store contrasted against the primitive construction and quaintness of the c.1890 little worker's cottage. This sharp contrast clearly illustrates the Wiss Family's humble beginnings and their growth to establish one of the most important businesses in the town, as the town progressed into being the centre of a thriving dairying and agricultural district in the early part of the 20th century.
Today both buildings stand proud as evidence of a bygone era.