The Untold History of Highgate Hill Dental Centre

In 2019, Highgate Hill Dental Centre celebrates 15 years of treating families at our current location on the corner of Brook Street and Gladstone Road. However, the practice itself has a history of more than 50 years in the Highgate Hill and South Brisbane area. We thought it would be fitting to take a journey back in time to see where it all began.

Highgate Hill Dental Clinic
Highgate Hill Dental Centre –
the big blue house on the corner of Gladstone Road and Brook Street

Highgate Hill Dental was not always the big blue house on the corner, in fact, it has travelled some way since its original owner, Dr Leo Stellmach, first started the family dental practice in 1957, further up Gladstone Road on Morris Street.

When Bill returned to Australia from a stint practicing dentistry in the UK, he was bright, young dentist (no beard yet) looking to continue his dental career in the area where he grew up – West End, Brisbane. The stars aligned as Leo was looking to retire just as Bill found himself back in Brisbane, so in 1984, Bill and his wife Judy became the new owners at our first premises at the corner of Gladstone Road and Morris Street.

Bill and Leo catching up

Many of Leo’s patients, as well as their children (and now grandchildren), continue to see Bill, continuing the family dental traditions of the practice to this day!

Leo still comes in to see Bill for his regular check-up and clean. In fact, we always allow extra time for his appointments because chances are, he will run in to half a dozen of his old dental patients in the waiting room when visiting.

When Leo owned the practice, things ran a little differently than they do today. At that time, X-rays were still developed by hand in a dark box, patient charts were big files of paper and appointment books were handwritten in pencil. These days, it is all digital. Leo is always keen to find out all the new things we continually update at the surgery.

Bill showing Leo our digital charting and x-ray system.

Highgate Hill Dental remained on the corner of Gladstone Road and Morris Street until 1987, when it moved just across the road to the corner of Gladstone Road and Prospect Terrace.

It was only a few months later that Dr David Ewen and his wife Jan joined the clinic. When asked what he remembered most about when he first started at the old premises at Propect Terrace and Gladstone Road, David recalled,

“It was a pokey little place. The décor was very brown. Brown was in back then. Also, we think there was a snake living in the bathroom.”

– Dr David Ewen

It’s safe to say that there was not indeed a snake in the bathroom and the
décor has been updated to a nicer blue since then.

Bill and David operated out of the Gladstone Road and Prospect Terrace until it was time for an upgrade to somewhere a little more spacious and a little less brown. This is when the big blue house on the corner of Gladstone Road and Brook Street became the Highgate Hill Dental Centre that stands today.

“The big blue house actually used to be pink and and an old man who made shoes used to live here”

– Dr Bill Morris

In 2008, a young Dr William Wang joined the practice. After working in the public dental system on the Gold Coast, Will decided to return to Brisbane. In July 2008, Will was hired by David while Bill was away on holidays. Three weeks in at his new job, Will noticed a familiar face on one of Bill’s dental assistants in a photo behind reception.

“One day I was looking at the old photos and someone that I used to sit next in maths class from Brisbane Grammar was on there. It was then I found out that it was Bill’s son and the coin dropped. I can see now that they both had a big belly laugh and had the last name Morris. What a small world.”

– Dr William Wang

When Bill returned from holidays the ‘Morris connection’ finally clicked and Will realised who everyone was.

Will and David enjoying a spot of staff mini-golf

Fast forward to 2019, and things look a little different around here. If you’ve been in to see us recently, you may have noticed some changes. Halfway through last year, the big blue house had a bit of work done – we now have new chairs and x-ray machines in both surgeries, Bill painted the house (still blue of course) and the bathroom has been completely renovated.

So that’s the official history of Highgate Hill Dental Centre in the big blue house on the corner of Gladstone Road and Brook Street. Some things have changed, but we still carry on the same preventative, family dentistry traditions that Dr Stellmac established back in 1957. We’ve come a long way since then and we hope you think so too!

Now you know our story, we hope to continue to be a strong part of your family’s dental story.

See you and your family at your next dental checkups!