Thursday’s Special : Traces of the Past…

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Australia is an ancient land form with a 40000+ year history of indigenous settlement. But European convicts and pioneers have only been here for approx. 200 years.

One of those early pioneers was José Paronella. He arrived in Australia from Catalonia in Spain in 1913, a 25-year-old man with dreams to be rich and build a castle. For 11 years he worked hard cutting the sugar cane, a hot, hard, labour intense job. Buying, improving and selling cane farms.

In 1924 he went back to Spain to find a wife and married Margarita in 1925. The trip back to Australia was their honeymoon. I wonder what her first impressions of this hot, humid land would be.

José first saw the 13 acres of virgin scrub along Mena Creek in 1914. He eventually purchased it in 1929 for £120 and started to build his pleasure gardens and reception centre for the enjoyment of the public.

It became a passion and a life long project

All of the structures were constructed of poured, reinforced concrete, the reinforcing being old railway track. The concrete was covered with a plaster made from clay and cement, which they put on by hand, leaving behind the prints of their fingers as a reminder of the work they had done. They laboured with unswerving determination, until, in 1935, the Park was officially opened to the public. The Theatre showed movies every Saturday night. In addition, with canvas chairs removed, the Hall was a favourite venue for dances and parties.

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Jose planted over 7000 trees creating a dense rain forest environment and also planted this impressive avenue of Kauri Pines.

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A waterfall carried the copious, tropical rainfall past the castle and this enabled Jose to commission a Hydro Electric generating plant, commissioned in 1933, it was the earliest in North Queensland, and supplied power to the entire Park.

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In 1946, disaster struck. Upstream from the Park a patch of scrub had been cleared and the logs and branches pushed into the creek. When the first rains of the Wet Season came, the whole mass began to move downstream until it piled up against a railway bridge a few hundred metres from the Castle. Water backed up until the weight broke the bridge, and the entire mass descended on the Park. The downstairs Refreshment Rooms were all but destroyed, the Hydro was extensively damaged, as was the Theatre and Foyer.

Undaunted, the family began the task of rebuilding.

They faced many natural disasters with floods of 1967, ’72 and ’74, but struggled on.

After Jose and Margarita died son Joe and daughter Teresa with their families carried on the family tradition to keep the dream alive. But in 1977 they sold and then in 1979 a fire swept through and the castle was closed to the public.

Cyclone Winifred in 1986, a flood in January 1994, Cyclone Larry in March 2006, and Cyclone Yasi in January 2011 were all further setbacks and challenges for Paronella Park.

Amazingly Paronella Park is making a come back. Mark and Judy Evans, the current owner/operators, purchased the Park in 1993 and formulated a plan to put the Park back on the map. They see the Park as a work of art, and work on maintaining and preserving, rather than rebuilding.

Now it is the number 1 tourist attraction in Queensland. I rate it as a “must see”.

We stayed in the camp ground for $14/ night so we could do the night tour and see this amazing place lit up.

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Paula asks us to share “traces of the past”. This magnificent castle, one man’s dream, is a solid reminder of the past in Australia. Though it looks as though it came from the middle ages of Europe it is in fact only 86 years old.

Categories: Australia, memories, Paronella Park, photography, Thursdays special, traces of the past | Tags: , , , , | 30 Comments

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30 thoughts on “Thursday’s Special : Traces of the Past…

  1. I have so much admiration for people with such creative vision and the determination to keep at it when disaster strikes. An amazing place and the avenue of pines is the best bit for me!

    • I wonder how people can cope with such a huge job when so many disasters hit them. It just resonates with their past passion.

  2. Thanks so much for posting – what an extraordinary story. To go and see the avenue of kauri trees would be enough for me, so pleased to hear another group of keen owners are taking on a renovation of the castle and grounds

  3. a great morning read… thank you..

  4. This is just magical, Pauline. What a fascinating story, and a magnificently creative endeavour. Thank you for showing us all these wonders.

    • Jose and Margarita must have been very special people to build that castle on their own. What a labour of love and I cringe to think how hot and sweaty it would’ve been building that in the tropics

  5. morselsandscraps

    I have never heard of this place, Pauline. You really find the most amazing places and your account of this one is intriguing: it’s experienced every disaster known to Australia pretty well. That kauri avenue is stunning and so are the building shots.

    • We first visited in 1996 on our first trip along the east coast and the new owners had just owned it for 3 years, it was still very run down. We visit every time we pass along the coast so have been 4 times now. There has been an amazing transformation in 20 years, despite all the natural disasters during thar time.

  6. Those Kauri Pines are so BIG! Wow! Never heard of this place, but on looking it up I see that I have been close by. I wish them success.

  7. Thanks for sharing this gem. What a chequered history, so glad it is doing well now. I’m adding it to my QLD list whenever we get up there for a visit.

  8. This is wonderful Pauline. I have enjoyed this walk. Thank you.

  9. Pingback: Thursday’s Special: Traces of the Past Y2-01 | Lost in Translation

  10. What a fabulous place, Pauline! I could hardly credit it. It’s not often that we look at Australia’s history and this is amazing! 🙂

  11. By visiting your blog my bucket list gets longer and longer…

  12. Wow! Talk about persevering! What an amazing story and beautiful photos. I am just now reading this because of all my and my husbands disasters since New Years. So, glad I saved this to read when I got more time. Thanks.

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