Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Kratzmann, Noel Austin (1917–1989)

by Gregory Kratzmann

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Noel Austin Kratzmann (1917-1989), builder and property developer, was born on 12 December 1917 at Murgon, Queensland, second child of Queensland-born parents Herman William August Kratzmann, builder, and his wife Emma May, née Fick. When Noel was 7 the family moved to Toowong, Brisbane, where he attended the local state school. He was to live at Toowong for the greater part of his life. Starting work in his father’s construction firm, he studied trade and design subjects at Central Technical College and in 1938 won the Master Builders’ Federation of Australia’s federal building construction prize. On 23 December 1939 at Albert Street Methodist Church, Brisbane, he married Olive Eileen Mulligan, a shop assistant. They were to have three sons.

In the 1940s Kratzmann bought the business from his father. He operated as a sole trader until 1954, when he formed N. A. Kratzmann Pty Ltd. As business grew he established new companies, based in Brisbane and Townsville, and won contracts for a number of large projects: hospitals, power stations, hotels (including Stanley Korman’s Chevron Hotel, Surfers Paradise), banks, buildings at the University of Queensland, and housing developments, both public and private. Among the high-rise apartment buildings erected late in the 1950s by Kratzmann, using new construction techniques such as lift slab, were Torbreck at Highgate Hill and Paradise Towers at Surfers Paradise. He pioneered the establishment of suburban business centres, including Toowong.

In 1960 Kratzmann sold out to Reid Murray Holdings Ltd. Retained to run the construction enterprises, he continued to trade under the Kratzmann name. The collapse of Reid Murray in 1963 and N. A. Kratzmann Pty Ltd’s subsequent bankruptcy was the subject of a special investigation into their affairs by Peter Connolly, QC. In his report, presented to the Queensland parliament in 1964, Connolly criticised Kratzmann’s for `the chaotic state of the company’s books’ and an inflated estimate of its profitability at the time of the take-over. A resilient businessman, Kratzmann expanded and diversified his interests. In 1973 he bought and restored Cintra House, a grand colonial house at Bowen Hills that became the home of Cintra House Galleries. He developed the Toowong Private Hospital, an acute-care psychiatric facility that opened in May 1976, and chaired the hospital board until his death.

Patrons of the Twelfth Night Theatre, in the 1960s Kratzmann and his wife helped to finance the company’s new theatre at Bowen Hills. They were a stylish couple; always fashionably dressed, Kratzmann had a fondness for fine tailoring and for colourful shirts and ties. Often photographed at the races, they were usually at Flemington for the Melbourne Cup. Kratzmann was a founding member (1979) of the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation, a justice of the peace, and a fellow of the Australian Institute of Building. He was a member of the Queensland Turf and Tattersall’s clubs. Interested in sport, he played tennis and golf.

Kratzmann’s last major building project was a 120-square (1115 sq.m) mansion on what had been the site of Sir John Chandler’s estate at St Lucia. At the time he and his wife were living in semi-retirement at the Gold Coast. He died on 23 February 1989 in Brisbane, just before the family’s planned move to the new property, and was buried in Toowong cemetery. His wife and two sons survived him. The family has since endowed (1997) the Kratzmann chair of psychiatry at the University of Queensland, and assisted the university to restore the Customs House, its city campus. Sir William Dargie’s portrait of Kratzmann is held by the family.

Select Bibliography

  • P. Connolly, Report of a Special Investigation into Reid Murray Developments … (1964)
  • Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 5 Mar 1989, p 23
  • Sunday Sun (Brisbane), 5 Mar 1989, p 30
  • private information.

Citation details

Gregory Kratzmann, 'Kratzmann, Noel Austin (1917–1989)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kratzmann-noel-austin-12757/text23009, published in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 23 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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