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Paronella Park, Mena Creek Falls and Mena Creek Environmental Park

  • 602017
  • Mena Creek-Jappoon Road, Mena Creek

General

Classification
State Heritage
Register status
Entered
Date entered
28 May 1999
Type
Recreation and entertainment: Garden—pleasure
Themes
1.2 Peopling places: Migration from outside and within
2.9 Exploiting, utilising and transforming the land: Valuing and appreciating the environment and landscapes
3.12 Developing secondary and tertiary industries: Catering for tourists
Architect
Paronella, Jose
Builder
Paronella, Jose
Construction periods
1931–1935, Paronella Park, Mena Creek Falls and Mena Creek Environmental Park (1931c - 1935)
1931–1935, Paronella Park, Mena Creek Falls and Mena Creek Environmental Park - Change Rooms (1931c - 1935c)
1931–1935, Paronella Park, Mena Creek Falls and Mena Creek Environmental Park - Toilet Blocks (1931c - 1935c)
1931–1935, Paronella Park, Mena Creek Falls and Mena Creek Environmental Park - Music Pavilion (1931c - 1935c)
1931, Paronella Park, Mena Creek Falls and Mena Creek Environmental Park - Cottage (1931 - 1931)
1931, Paronella Park, Mena Creek Falls and Mena Creek Environmental Park - Café by the Pool (former) (1931c - 1931c)
1932, Paronella Park, Mena Creek Falls and Mena Creek Environmental Park - Castle (1932c - 1932c)
1933–1934, Paronella Park, Mena Creek Falls and Mena Creek Environmental Park - Hydo-electric Plant House (1933 - 1934)
unknown, Paronella Park, Mena Creek Falls and Mena Creek Environmental Park - Museum
Historical period
1919–1930s Interwar period

Location

Address
Mena Creek-Jappoon Road, Mena Creek
LGA
Cassowary Coast Regional Council
Coordinates
-17.65331107, 145.95753408

Map

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Significance

Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

Paronella Park, designed and constructed by Jose Paronella in the early 1930s as a 'commercial pleasure garden' and 'Spanish-style castillo', contains the remains of several rendered reinforced concrete structures and garden elements, set in approximately 5 hectares of gardens, which were inspired by the Moorish architecture and gardens of Spain. The Park is located on the northern bank of Mena Creek in an area of exceptional natural beauty, which includes the Mena Creek Falls and the Mena Creek Environmental Park on the southern bank. Paronella Park is significant as one of the earliest tourist attractions in North Queensland, which was constructed when the tourism industry in North Queensland was in its infancy. Paronella Park is significant for its association with the development of the tourism industry in North Queensland and the Johnstone Shire.

Criterion BThe place demonstrates rare, uncommon or endangered aspects of Queensland’s cultural heritage.

Designed as a 'commercial pleasure garden' and 'Spanish-style castillo' inspired by the Moorish architecture and gardens of Spain, Paronella Park is unique in Queensland, and is a rare and unusual example of an early tourist attraction.

The hydro-electric system utilised in Paronella Park was the earliest application of hydro-electric technology in Queensland, and as such is both rare and significant as an example of creative and technical achievement, and has the potential to reveal further information about the development and application of this technology.

Criterion CThe place has potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Queensland’s history.

Paronella Park has suffered several disastrous floods, and one major fire, and as such has the potential to reveal further information about the original design of the Park, and its association with Jose and Margarita Paronella. Paronella Park also has the potential to reveal further information about the development of the tourism industry in North Queensland, and the role of Paronella Park in the development and social life of the local community.

The hydro-electric system utilised in Paronella Park was the earliest application of hydro-electric technology in Queensland, and as such is both rare and significant as an example of creative and technical achievement, and has the potential to reveal further information about the development and application of this technology.

Criterion DThe place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

(Criterion under review)

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

Paronella Park, Mena Creek Falls and Mena Creek Environmental Park, is a place of exceptional natural beauty and has considerable aesthetic significance. The place contains substantial mature plantings and remnant rainforest, which is in stark contrast to the surrounding landscape of sugarcane. The design of Paronella Park was inspired by the Moorish architecture and gardens of Spain, and as such the park has strong aesthetic and architectural qualities. The concrete structures, which have been damaged by flood, fire and weathering, are surrounded by lush vegetation which enhances the sense of discovery, and romantic qualities of ruined structures contribute to a strong sense of place. The strong aesthetic qualities of Paronella Park are enhanced by the emphasis placed on contrast which creates a series of clearly defined spaces which enable a variety of vistas and differing perspectives, intimacy and openness, and light and shade. Paronella Park also contains a significant collection of rainforest plants, as well as 'exotic' plants.

Criterion FThe place is important in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.

The hydro-electric system utilised in Paronella Park was the earliest application of hydro-electric technology in Queensland, and as such is both rare and significant as an example of creative and technical achievement, and has the potential to reveal further information about the development and application of this technology.

Criterion GThe place has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

Paronella Park is also significant for its association with the development and social life of the local community, and its role as a place of rest and recreation for servicemen during the Second World War. Paronella Park was also a place of entertainment and celebration for the local community, and as such has strong social significance.

Criterion HThe place has a special association with the life or work of a particular person, group or organisation of importance in Queensland’s history.

Paronella Park is significant for its association with the energy and vision Jose and Margarita Paronella, who were prominent members of the local community and who made a considerable contribution to the development of Mena Creek township and Johnstone Shire. Jose and Margarita Paronella were also prominent members of the local migrant community which was integral in the development of the South Johnstone region.

Mena Creek Environmental Park and Mena Creek Falls are important for their association with Henry Noone, who was responsible for establishing a camp at the top of the falls, surveying the area and giving the land which is now the Environmental Park to the local council for use as a picnic and recreation reserve. Mena Creek was named after Noone's daughter Philomena 'Mena' Fallon. Noone was important in the establishment of the Mena Creek township, and was also integral in the in the establishment of the South Johnstone Sugar Mill and the development of the South Johnstone region.

History

Paronella Park comprises approximately 5 hectares of gardens. Designed and constructed by Jose Paronella in the early 1930s as a 'commercial pleasure garden', the Park contains the remains of several rendered reinforced concrete structures and garden elements which were inspired by the Moorish architecture and gardens of Spain. The Park is located on the northern bank of Mena Creek in an area of exceptional natural beauty. The entrance to the Park, and the main buildings, are located at the top of a cliff adjacent to Mena Creek Falls. The falls flow into a large rock pool which contains a small island at the eastern end, and the southern bank of the creek is reserved as an Environmental Park.

Jose Paronella was born in February 1887 in La Vall de Santa Creu, a small village in the province of Catalonia in northeastern Spain. Jose was the youngest of six children, and the family lived in a two room dwelling and Jose's father tended olives for local farmers. His grandmother's tales of 'romantic Spanish castles' and the 'nobleza' profoundly influenced Jose and inspired him to eventually create his commercial pleasure garden and follies at Paronella Park.

Paronella initially worked as a baker in a nearby town, but decided to move to Pamplona to seek work. Before leaving, he was betrothed to Matilda Soler from the same village. While working in Pamplona, he decided to book his passage to Australia, and to send for Matilda when he had established himself. He sailed from Genoa and arrived in Sydney in July 1913, where he boarded a steamer for North Queensland and initially worked at Mt Selwyn in the mining industry for four months. He then moved to the South Johnstone region in January 1914 and worked as a cane-cutter and later as a cook for a cane-cutting gang. Paronella found the working and climatic conditions difficult to adjust to. He did not believe in wasting time or money on 'frivolous pursuits', and eventually saved enough money to purchase a section of rainforest which he cleared and planted with sugar cane. He received much assistance from members of the local migrant community, most of whom shared a strong desire to purchase and farm their own land. Eventually Paronella sold the land for a profit, and over the next few years he purchased, improved and sold approximately 12 cane farms. Paronella also purchased a mining lease at Mt Garnet which he worked, together with several labourers, over the next few years. He was also involved in money lending.

In October 1921 Jose Paronella became an Australian citizen, and was by this time comparatively wealthy. Paronella's goal was to construct a 'Spanish-style Castillo', and it was around this time that he received an extortion letter from 'The Black Hand' demanding £500. 'The Black Hand' was a branch of the Camorra of Italy and the Mafia of Sicily, and reportedly profited by prostitution, 'white-slave' trading, blackmail and extortion. 'The Black Hand' had been established in Sydney and Melbourne, and was making inroads into the successful Italian communities in the Innisfail region. In 10 years, there were reportedly 11 murders, 30 bombings, and many blackmail and extortion attempts. Paronella was susceptible to extortion as he had been involved in tax evasion. The Innisfail district had many Spanish, Italian and Greek migrants, and Mourilyan was known at this time as 'Little Italy'. Paronella decided to return to Spain to avoid both 'The Black Hand' and the taxation officials, and to marry Matilda Soler.

Paronella sailed for Spain in 1924 under the false name Jose Buxeda (his mother's maiden name) to avoid detection by the taxation officials. Unfortunately, since his departure for Australia, Jose had not written to Matilda Soler, and when he arrived unannounced he found that she had already married. Matilda's mother arranged for Jose to marry her younger sister Margarita, who had been training as a furrier in a fashion house in France, and was home on holidays. They were married in September 1925, and travelled throughout Europe on an extended honeymoon. Paronella used this opportunity to observe the architecture and gardens, including tourist parks, cinemas, ballrooms, cafes and hydro-electric schemes. In Madrid, Paronella was particularly impressed with the cafe by the water in the Botanic Gardens, and was also impressed by the work of Antonio Gaudi. In early 1926, Jose and Margarita left Europe for Australia via America, a voyage which would take 7 weeks.

On arrival, Paronella was confronted by taxation officials, who had already deducted £1,000 from his savings account for unpaid taxes, and required him to produce letters attesting to his character before he was allowed through immigration. Once this problem had been addressed, Paronella purchased a cane farm at Mourilyan, near Innisfail, where he and Margarita initially settled and where their first child Teresa was born. Paronella also retained his mine at Mt Garnet.

Paronella intended to find the perfect site for his 'Spanish-style Castillo' and commercial pleasure garden, and in the late 1920s visited Mena Creek.

At this time Mena Creek was named Stewart Creek (the upper reach of Stewart Creek was renamed Mena Creek by the Surveyor-General in March 1954 after Henry Noone's daughter Philomena 'Mena' Fallon). The area had been established by Henry Augustine Noone who obtained a lease and established a camp (c.1914) at the top of the falls, and for two years cleared the land and felled cedar. Noone, who had emigrated from Ireland in 1888, was a trained surveyor and also worked in various capacities, including as a timber-getter. He was integral in the establishment of the South Johnstone Sugar Mill and the development of the South Johnstone Region. According to his memoirs, Noone was particularly attached to the area and decided take up 'a block or two for canefarming'. He formed a Settlement Group of 40 blocks of approximately 160 acres each, arranged for enough applicants for these blocks, and convinced the government to survey the area (based on his survey). Noone was assigned portion 56 on the southern side of the creek.

Noone regularly brought his family from Innisfail to Mena Creek to camp, picnic and swim. In early 1929, due to increasing interest from campers and visitors, Noone cleared an area along the southern bank of the creek and gave it to the local council for use as a picnic and recreation reserve (this area forms the reserve on the opposite bank of the creek to Paronella Park, and was gazetted in 1947 as a recreation reserve, in 1953 as a reserve for camping purposes, and then in 1976 as a reserve for Environmental Park under the control of Johnstone Shire Council). Noone also opened the Hotel Mena and was integral in the establishment of the school, and it was around this time that Paronella visited the area and selected it as the perfect site for his 'Spanish-style Castillo' and commercial pleasure garden. At this time it was still a fairly isolated area with mill tramline and horses providing the main transport. The roads were more like tracks, and a train ran once a week to Innisfail but the journey took three hours.

By this time all of the land in the area had been taken up. Paronella convinced the owner of the land on the northern side of the creek to sell him an area of approximately 12 acres which was unsuitable for cane farming, and which fronted the creek and falls. The owner, August Koppen, agreed to a cash settlement of £120. The sale was not finalised until July 1931, however Paronella was allowed to begin clearing the land prior to possession.

Paronella restricted the cost of his ambitious project to construct a 'Spanish-style Castillo' and commercial pleasure garden by using second hand and locally available materials. These materials included sand and gravel from the creek, discarded cane train tracks as reinforcement for the concrete, timber from nearby abandoned houses for the framing to the cottage and for the formwork to the concrete structures, and clay from his property for the exterior render.

Some of the materials and methods Paronella used when constructing the concrete structures throughout the Park are thought to have contributed to their later deterioration and structural problems. The sand used in the concrete mix was reportedly not suitable for this type of concrete construction, the aggregate content may have been insufficient, and the rusting of the steel reinforcing rails (some of which were rusty and buckled when first used in the construction) was exacerbated by insufficient concrete coverage.

Many of the concrete structures have a modular character, which has been attributed to the reuse of formwork from one structure to another. Paronella drew his plans/designs in a sand box, which the workers would refer to during the construction of each element of the Park. Paronella was strongly influenced by the Moorish architecture and gardens of Spain, and the design of Villa gardens visited during his European honeymoon. He also admired the work of Antonio Gaudi, and created garden elements inspired by those in the Alcazar Garden in Seville and the Botanic Gardens in Madrid. In particular, the 'Cafe by the Pool' was inspired by the cafe by the water in the Madrid Botanic Gardens.

The exterior render was made from the clay dug from the site. Initially a cave was created in the side of a ridge in the lower section of the property, and this was gradually increased until it formed a tunnel through the ridge. This tunnel was incorporated into the design of the Park as the 'tunnel of love' connecting the 'palm grove' to the 'fernery'. The clay render was initially the rich red colour of the local soil, but this colour faded due to weathering and the buildings were soon whitewashed annually. The render was applied with a rough finish, and hand-prints are visible on the 'Cafe by the Pool'.

Paronella did much of the work himself. He also employed a canecutter (who had worked as a carpenter in Malta) and the canecutter's nephew to work on the project full-time. He also made use of the large number of unemployed men who had arrived in the Innisfail region during this period, and exchanged food and shelter for labour.

Paronella first constructed a stair linking the lower section of the property adjoining the rockpool to the upper section above the cliff fronting the road. This stair is now referred to as 'the grand staircase', and it was used to carry the sand, gravel and clay to the upper section, and the materials Paronella introduced to the site including cement, steel rails and timber to the lower section.

Next Paronella constructed the cottage, now used as the tea rooms, overlooking the falls. This enabled him to move his wife Margarita and daughter Teresa to the property from the cane farm at Mourilyan. The cottage, which was not constructed in the Moorish inspired style used for the other structures in the Park, comprised four main rooms, an entrance foyer and bathroom, with an attic with dormer windows. The building reportedly had the first indoor plumbing in the region, and was constructed with a timber frame, stone walls (initially unrendered) and casement windows. The family moved into the house on Christmas Eve 1931.

The 'Cafe by the Pool', inspired by the cafe by the water in the Madrid Botanic Gardens, was constructed in the lower section of the property to service the picnic area adjacent to the rockpool. Margarita ran the tea rooms ('Cafe by the Pool'), and Montserrat Gabasa was employed as a housemaid, as well as assisting Margarita serve afternoon teas and helping on weekends with visitors at the gate. Eventually her brother Richard was also employed to assist Jose in the Park. Changing cubicles and toilets were constructed near the picnic area, and a tennis court and music pavilion were constructed nearby.

In 1932 their second child Joseph was born. Jose then began work on the 'Spanish-style Castillo' which some considered to be a self-indulgent personal folly, but which he believed would attract tourists to the Park.

The 'castle' was clearly visible from the nearby main road. The ornamental structure had several levels with external staircases, balconies, parapets and squared planter pots. Paronella maintained a small museum in the structure, and the rooftop formed a viewing platform. The castle contained a theatre/ballroom with stage, which was intended to be used as a reception centre. The entrance comprised a loggia covered in bamboo with a fountain pool stocked with goldfish. Later, a picture theatre was installed, and the room was decorated with textured walls with Spanish pictures, blue velvet drapes edged with gold braid and fringing for the windows, red curtains for the stage, canvas seats, and Black Bean timber parquetry flooring. A large revolving mirror ball (made in the United States of America with 1270 mirrored facets) was installed, and coloured lights were used to create spectacle. An ice cream parlour, cafe, kitchen, bakery and laundry were also installed.

By August 1932 Paronella had completed most of the planned clearing and laid out steps and pathways. Margarita had developed a love of gardening and assisted Paronella in designing the paths and gardens throughout the Park. Inspired by the Moorish architecture and gardens of Spain, and the villa gardens visited during their honeymoon, they placed particular emphasis on contrast creating a series of clearly defined spaces which enabled a variety of vistas and differing perspectives, intimacy and openness, and light and shade. With advice and assistance from the Forestry Department, tree planting began in 1932. The Department supplied the trees on condition that 'representative stands of certain species are planted and nurtured', and that they were cared for and never felled. These included Hoop and Kauri pines, and a particularly impressive avenue of Kauri pines was established. Paronella planted over 7,000 trees and the whole Park was threaded by pathways, bridges and avenues. Paronella also built a shaded orchid and fern house for Margarita to tend 'exotic' plants. It is claimed that the Botanic Gardens supplied Margarita with 50 varieties of Maidenhair ferns to propagate and form the nucleus of a collection.

Paronella named the artesian spring after their daughter Teresa, and he constructed several fountains near the entrance to the 'Cafe by the Pool'. The island at the end of the rockpool was named 'Paronella Island' and a bridge was constructed so that it could be accessed for picnics, and the boundaries of the Park were screened with several varieties of bamboo. Paronella considered the Park to be a retreat and, unlike those of more arid climates, the gardens would provide an oasis not from the desert but from the acres of sugarcane which surrounded the Park.

In 1933 Paronella installed a hydro-electric system which harnessed the cascade. The system used an aqueduct from the top of the Falls across to an inlet pit. The water then fell 30 feet, and was within the capacity of the turbine, an English model with variable pitch inlet valves to control the flow, which was directly coupled to a DC generator which was ex-army stock and which Paronella acquired cheaply. Engineers from the South Johnstone Sugar Mill helped to design and install the system. The turbine and alternator were lowered onto a concrete platform built on 12 reinforced concrete piers below the cliff, and the walls and roof were then constructed around the equipment. It was the earliest application of hydro-electric technology in Queensland. The system was approved to operate in 1934, and the power was reticulated throughout the Park to operate lighting, pumps and refrigeration, and was also integral to the establishment of the picture theatre that Paronella had planned. The system also supplied power to the nearby township of Mena Creek.

By this time visitors were enjoying the walks, waterfalls, afternoon teas, swimming, boating and picnics. They could play tennis or bowls, listen to music, dance in the ballroom or relax in the loggia.

The last building constructed was the gatehouse (no longer extant) from which tickets and souvenirs were sold. A horse-shoe shaped wrought iron sign with the name 'Paronella Park' was installed above the entrance. By 1935, all of the major works had been completed at a cost in excess of £20,000, not accounting for labour costs.

The completed Park was opened to the public in 1935. A Chamber of Commerce Conference was being held in Innisfail, and the Governor Sir Leslie Orme Wilson was in attendance. A visit to the Park was arranged as part of the itinerary, and the Governor was highly impressed and commented to journalists that 'Jose Paronella has created a place of beauty which will be a great attraction to visitors in the future. His buildings are of unique design. The Park is a credit to North Queensland. It is absolutely remarkable to see what one enterprising man can do'. By this time, access to Mena Creek from Innisfail had greatly improved.

The Park proved very popular with the public. A diving board was installed over the pool, lights were strung throughout the Park, and the tennis courts became the venue for the local tennis club. However, high running costs and a series of natural disasters prevented the same degree of financial success.

Although the Park was popular with locals, the tourism industry in North Queensland was in its infancy, and interstate tourists were rare. Only one company, the White Car coaches, brought tourists from Brisbane to the area. Their itinerary included a visit to the 'Spanish Castle'. As recalled by Teresa Paronella, other tourist facilities at this time included the Malanda Jungle tourist park where visitors would watch 'Aborigines climbing trees and doing corroboree dances'. Initially the Park was not a financial success, and Paronella relied on his other business interests for income. At this time Paronella had an alluvial mine at Hot Springs near Ravenshoe, and was still involved in money lending and buying and selling farms. Paronella also installed two petrol bowsers at the Park. He was more than a successful businessman, he was a creative artist and Paronella Park was his monumental work of art displaying imaginative design, architectural planning and skilled craftsmanship. The Paronella family, and their employees, also took guests on guided tours.

In 1940 the first wedding reception was held, and the reception centre could seat in excess of 400 guests. 80 foot long tables were set up, and special china was ordered from Gibson and Patterson in England with a picture of the castle and falls. Several local women were employed to help Margarita with the catering. The ballroom was also made available free of charge for the annual children's fancy dress ball and the Park was made available for the annual school sports day. The Park was very popular with the local children, to the extent that the school had a rule which stated 'no going over to Paronella Park during school hours'. The turbulence of the bubbles below the hydro-electric scheme was 'like a spa', and children also sometimes fished in the pool.

World War Two had a substantial effect on the Innisfail region, and many Italian members of the local community were interned. By February 1942 Japanese forces had gained footholds in territories adjoining northern Australia which made it seem probable that the advance southwards would continue, culminating in the invasion of Australia. On 19 February 1942 the Japanese bombed Darwin, and the United States of America lost its bases in the Philippines. In April 1942 General Douglas MacArthur was appointed as Supreme Commander of the South West Pacific Area, and North Queensland became a hive of military activity.

In the South Johnstone area, many women and children had already been evacuated. Jose refused to allow his wife and children to be evacuated, however he did construct an air raid shelter underneath the shed in the carpark, which was lined with timber and contained a toilet, and shelving for food, candles, lamps and blankets. Much of the local population had gone, through enlistment, evacuation or internment, and basic food and supplies were rationed. However, by April 1943 111,000 USA troops were serving in the South West Pacific Area, and by the end of that year there were over 500,000. The significance of the American presence for Paronella was that it brought immediate prosperity to the Park.

Paronella Park was the ideal location for rest and recreation for both American and Australian forces. Thousands of servicemen were stationed in Cairns and throughout the Atherton Tablelands. The carpark was soon full of military vehicles, and the Americans had substantial amounts of money to spend. The Americans, with their Cairns and Innisfail girlfriends, were desperate for a respite from the war, and the Park provided swimming and other recreational activities, films, dinner and dancing that continued until the early hours of the morning. For Paronella Park, these were the boom years, and the region in general experienced a business bonanza.

After the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, the servicemen gradually left the region. However, with peace came a surge of interest in North Queensland tourism, coupled with a significant increase in the numbers of local residents who owned a car, which augured well for the continued prosperity of the Park.

However, by mid 1945 Jose Paronella began to show symptoms of a yet to be diagnosed illness. During a visit to Brisbane in February 1946 Jose collapsed, and returned immediately to Mena Creek, arriving just before rising floodwaters closed the roads and railway line. A cyclone had formed in the Coral Sea, and the intense depression brought widespread rain to the whole region. Loggers had been felling the last of the giant cedars in the creek's catchment area, and a large number of logs had been piled up near the creek ready for transport to the timber mill. The rising flood waters lifted some of the logs which had then lodged against the railway bridge upstream creating a dam and blocking the water flow. For the first time, the Paronella family saw the waterfall silenced. Local residents tried to drag the logs from the water, but for an hour a vast lake formed upstream, collecting more debris until the railway bridge collapsed and a fifty foot high wall of water carrying the huge logs hit Paronella Park. The assault continued for 40 minutes and the Park was devastated. The local paper reported 'Steel girders were snapped like splinters as the logs smashed down the concrete handrails and removed whole flights of steps. Another log shot over the cliff on the northern side of the swimming pool and tore off the outside of the power house snapping huge steel girders and leaving others in a twisted tangle. The water pipe leading to the turbine collapsed under the terrific pressure'. Mud, debris and trees lay everywhere, all the garden soil was washed away and the fernery and plant collection was destroyed.

The local community rallied to help the Paronella family. The 'Cafe by the Pool' was abandoned as it was irreparable, and efforts were concentrated on clearing the hall of debris and repairing the damage caused by logs. To ensure that the Park could again be opened to the public, all food services were moved to the hall, and an access road to the lower park was created so that the huge cedar logs could be cut out and hauled away. Electrical technicians from the nearby mill assisted Jose to repair the hydro electric plant. The system was changed to A/C, and the speed of the turbine was increased. Jose bought a second hand alternator from wartime disposals, and to power the carbon arc system in the cinema the A/C would be converted back to D/C.

The final cost of repairs was approximately £8,000, however the Park was not insured for this type of damage. This was a period of extreme economic hardship for the family. The Park was closed to visitors for 6 months, and it was at least two years before the ravages of the flood had been completely cleared. It was during this time that Jose was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Jose Paronella died on 23 August 1948, and is buried in Innisfail cemetery.

Margarita continued to operate the Park, and the property was transferred to both Margarita and Joseph Paronella in August 1954. Teresa married and moved to Brisbane, and Joseph married Valentina in 1952. Margarita died in 1967, after which time the property transferred to both Joseph and his wife Valentina. They had two sons and continued to operate the Park, with further floods occurring in 1967, 1972 and 1974. Joseph died in April 1972, and the property was transferred to his widow Valentina. Valentina married Leslie Juhas in March 1974, and the property was transferred to John and Janice Kickbusch in November 1977.

In 1979 a disastrous fire swept through the Park and destroyed the hall and cafe. The Park was closed for some years, but was slowly revived by a series of caretakers and lessees, in spite of further damage caused by cyclone Winifred in 1986 and a flood in January 1994. In January 1994 Paronella Park was transferred to the current owners Mark and Judith Evans, who have undertaken considerable conservation works and continue to operate the Park as a tourist attraction. A museum has been created with the assistance of the Paronella family. An attached caravan park is not considered to be of cultural heritage significance.

A pedestrian suspension bridge constructed across the top of the falls was officially opened on 17 September 1988 as a joint Johnstone Shire Council Australian Bicentennial Authority project.

Description

Paronella Park comprises approximately 5 hectares of gardens, and contains the remains of several rendered reinforced concrete structures and garden elements which were inspired by the Moorish architecture and gardens of Spain. The Park is located on the northern bank of Mena Creek in an area of exceptional natural beauty. The entrance to the Park, and the main buildings, are located at the top of a cliff adjacent to Mena Creek Falls. The falls flow into a large rock pool which contains a small island at the eastern end, and the southern bank of the creek is reserved as the Mena Creek Environmental Park.

A gravel carpark fronts Innisfail - Japoon Road, which crosses Mena Creek via a single lane concrete bridge. The entrance to the Park doubles as the pathway to the adjacent pedestrian suspension bridge which crosses the top of the falls to the Environmental Park on the southern bank. A single-storeyed gable roofed structure fronts the carpark and houses the museum collection. This structure is clad with fibrous cement sheeting and has casement windows.

The Park is entered via a pathway which leads through lush vegetation to the former cottage, now operating as the tea rooms. This single-storeyed with attic structure has a steeply pitched corrugated iron hipped roof with dormer windows, and a timber frame with stone walls finished with a rough textured render. The building is located overlooking the falls, and has a central gable porch on the southwest forming the main entrance. The building has timber framed casement windows, some with metal hoods, and an extension has been added to the rear. Internally the building has a souvenir shop and dining area at the front, with kitchen area and office at the rear. A toilet block is located to the east of the tea rooms, and a terrace to the south of the building overlooks the falls.

The 'Castle' is located to the southeast of the tea rooms, and its three-storey tower is visible from the road. The structure consists of the ruins of the former ballroom/cinema and its associated facilities, and is entered from the southwest forecourt/loggia. The structure is of reinforced concrete with a rough textured render. The forecourt/loggia has a central fountain, a coloured geometric patterned concrete floor, is roofed with a pergola, and is overlooked by the three-storeyed tower. The upper floors of the tower have narrow timber framed casement windows, with a balcony to the second storey. A narrow stair accesses the roof which has a concrete balustrade with squared planters creating a battlement effect. The former foyer and ballroom are open to the sky, and reinforced concrete columns, walls, stairs, and counters demarcate the various spaces. The former kitchen area is roofed, and retains some early fittings and fixtures. A free-standing fabric structure has been erected within the area of the former ballroom to provide shaded seating. The structure has been propped in various areas, and exhibits extensive amounts of concrete deterioration.

A series of paths, stone walls and concrete balustrades with squared planters are located between the tea rooms, the castle and the cliff fronting the falls. Narrow steps with concrete balustrades lead down the side of the cliff to the hydro-electric plant which houses original machinery. The plant is built into the side of the cliff and is constructed on 12 reinforced concrete piers set into the pool below. The reinforced concrete structure has rough textured rendered walls, and its roof has concrete balustrades with squared planters. Much of the hydro-electric scheme survives, including sections of aqueduct at the top of the falls, inlet pit and pipes.

The eastern end of the Park is much lower, and is accessed via the 'Grand Staircase' which is accessed via a path which leads below and behind the castle. The staircase, balustrade and squared planters are constructed of concrete, with markers indicating the levels of various floods. The lower section of the Park has a picnic area fronting the end of the pool opposite the falls. This area has concrete tables, benches and balustrades with squared planters, and provides access to the pool for swimming and boating. A small island is located opposite.

To the northeast of the picnic area is the former 'Cafe by the Pool' which is accessed via paths through lush vegetation which open into a large clearing. This symmetrical two-storeyed reinforced concrete structure has rough texture rendered walls with stairs either end accessing the first level which has concrete balustrades with squared planters. The second storey consists of a central room with side stair accessing its roof which also has a concrete balustrades with squared planters. The ground level has a wide central opening flanked by windows with battened timber valances. The structure overlooks a long pool with a series of fountains bordered by concrete balustrades with squared planters to the east. To the east of this is a large lawn, formerly the location of tennis courts.

The remains of change rooms, toilets blocks and a music pavilion are located nearby, all of which are constructed of reinforced concrete with a rough texture render, concrete balustrades and squared planters.

Paths radiate through the grounds, with the central elements being the 'Five Ways'. The paths vary in their design and materials, with some having stone edgings, concrete bridges, and concrete balustrade with squared planters.

To the north of the Five Ways is the 'Palm Grove', with the entrance to the 'Tunnel of Love' at the northern edge. The entrance has a reinforced concrete structure providing access to the tunnel which connects with the 'Fernery', which contains Giant Ferns, on the opposite side of the ridge. The Fernery consists of a gully through which flows Teresa Creek, a stone lined watercourse which is fed by Teresa Falls at the northwestern end.

The 'Kauri Avenue' runs east-west and is located to the south of the Five Ways. This impressive avenue of tall Kauri Pines provides a dramatic contrast to other areas of the Park. To the southeast of the Kauri Avenue is the 'Meadow', a large open clearing, which leads into further paths.

The eastern end of the Park is screened by substantial stands of bamboo, with a variety of paths providing access to Mena Creek and the other areas of the Park. The Park contains a substantial collection of rainforest plants, and these are identified with appropriate signage.

The Mena Creek Environmental Park on the southern bank of Mena Creek contains a steep concrete path which accesses the southern bank of the pool from the Innisfail - Japoon Road above. A timber pontoon is located on the southern bank of the pool, and barbecue facilities are also provided. Public toilets are located at the top of the path at the edge of a lawn which fronts the road. This area also has picnic facilities, provides access to the suspension bridge, and overlooks the falls and Paronella Park on the opposite bank.

Paronella Park, Mena Creek Falls and Mena Creek Environmental Park and the associated Unallocated State Land has substantial plantings and natural features, and each contributes to the overall setting for the place.

Image gallery

Location

Location of Paronella Park, Mena Creek Falls and Mena Creek Environmental Park within Queensland
Licence
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated
20 January 2016
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