Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Harold Boas (1883–1980)

by Max Poole

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Harold Boas (1883-1980), architect, town planner and Jewish community leader, was born on 27 September 1883 in Adelaide, third son of ten children of Abraham Tobias Boas and his wife Elizabeth, née Solomon. Harold was educated at Whinham and Prince Alfred colleges, Adelaide. Indentured in 1899-1904 to the architect Edward Davies, he studied at the South Australian School of Mines and Industries and became a member of the South Australian Institute of Architects. Boas moved to Perth in June 1905 and transferred to the Western Australian institute; he was subsequently to become a fellow of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. Having joined the firm of M. F. Cavanagh & Austin Bastow, he worked with different architects before settling with Oldham, Boas, Ednie-Brown & Partners. At the Brisbane Street Synagogue, Perth, Boas married Sadie ('Sarah') Cohen on 29 March 1911.

During World War I, although a Jew, he was involved in the Australian Young Men's Christian Association's dealings with the Australian Imperial Force. In London in 1917 Boas sent cards to soldiers and to their next of kin, visited the wounded in hospital and arranged gifts and loans. He published The Australian Y.M.C.A. with the Jewish Soldier of the Australian Imperial Force (London, 1919) and compiled the illustrated Australian Jewry Book of Honour, the Great War, 1914-1918 (Perth, 1923).

With his partners, Boas had designed the King's (open-air) picture theatre in Perth (1905), a warehouse for Sands & McDougall Ltd and the Nedlands Park Hotel (1907); he was also to design premises for radio station 6WF (1924), aircraft hangars in the 1920s, bulk-storage wheat silos during the 1930s, the Emu Brewery in Mounts Bay Road, the Adelphi Hotel, the Gledden Building, various churches and private homes.

In 1914-16, 1926-42 and 1944 Boas represented South Ward on the Perth City Council. A member (from 1914) of the Town Planning Association of Western Australia and chairman (1928-30) of the State government's Metropolitan Town Planning Commission, he also belonged to the British and American town planning institutes. He chaired (1930-33, 1938-42) the City of Perth's town planning committee, and was foundation president (1931) of the Town Planning Institute of Western Australia and an inaugural member of the State division of the Town Planning Institute of Australia.

He had helped to inaugurate the Young Liberal League of Western Australia (1911) and founded the popular, anti-socialist Argonauts Civic and Political Club (1925); with Nationalist political affiliations, he was influential in the Western Australian Consultative Council. In 1932 Boas stood unsuccessfully for the Legislative Council as an anti-secessionist. 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 and plant. In May 1947 he founded the anti-Zionist journal, Australian Jewish Outlook. He was president of the Western Australian branch of the United Nations Association and represented Australia and the Council of Australian Jewry at the U.N. conference in Bangkok in l950. Vice-president (l952) of the Liberal Jewish Group, he was a founder (1954) and life member of Temple David.

Boas lived in Mount Street in the house which he had designed in 1925. He worked professionally and was active in public affairs until late in life. Predeceased by his wife and survived by their two daughters, he died at Subiaco on 17 September 1980 and was cremated. The Harold Boas Gardens in West Perth were named in his honour.

Select Bibliography

  • J. S. Battye (ed), Cyclopedia of Western Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1912)
  • D. Mossenson, Hebrew, Israelite, Jew (Perth, 1990)
  • Architecture in Australia, 56, no 1, Feb 1967, p 116
  • Labour History, no 18, May 1970, p 32
  • Australian Jewish Historical Society, 9, pt 1, June 1981, p 71
  • Politics (Sydney), 12, no 1, May 1977, p 124
  • Maccabean, 26 Sept 1980, 28 Sept 1983
  • West Australian, 1 Apr 1976, 18, 19 Sept 1980
  • M. Pitt-Morison, Immigrant Architects in Western Australia, 1885-1905, (typescript, State Library of Western Australia)
  • H. Boas, Autobiography: Bricks and Mortar (typescript, 1971, State Library of Western Australia)
  • Boas papers (Jewish Historical Society, Perth, and State Library of Western Australia).

Citation details

Max Poole, 'Boas, Harold (1883–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 23 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


27 September, 1883
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


17 September, 1980 (aged 96)
Subiaco, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.