José Paronella always had a dream, his dream was to grow up and build a castle. He chose a special part of Australia and built Paronella Park.
Paronella Park is situated on 13 acres beside Mena Creek falls, in North Queensland. Here he built his dream castle, together with picnic areas at the lakeside, tennis courts, tunnels and bridges, and planted seven thousand tropical plants and trees around the park.
Josѐ Paronella moved to Australia in 1913, he sailed from Catalonia in northern Spain to start a better life for his fiancée Margarita and himself. Jose worked hard for 11 years, earning his money by buying, developing and selling cane farms.
In his travels he found a water fall along the Mena Creek that was perfect for his plans. He purchased the land in 1929, and started building the grand staircase which has 47 steps. He used the staircase to carry sand from the bank of the river up to the castle and cottage. He built his cottage first, this took him three months and was ready for him and his wife to move in on Christmas Eve.
His next idea was to construct and install Australia’s first privately owned hydro-electric plant, to power the park. The hydro-electric plant was built in 1933. José opened the park to the public in 1935.
After he built the first castle he then moved on to building a second castle, and a tunnel in which he had plans to have an aquarium in. Sadly these plans were soon scrapped because his concrete leaked. Rather than waste the hard work he put into building the tunnel, he used it to grow mushrooms, which he sold to earn money, to put back into Paronella.
José had tennis courts made from crushed termite mounds, and canoes to hire to paddle around the river.
The park ran smoothly until a series of unfortunate events took place. In 1946 during a flood, a mass of logs from a clearing upstream swept away a railway bridge and destroyed the refreshment rooms. José replanted the gardens and fixed the rooms. The park was reopened for business within six months of the floods.
José died in 1948, leaving the park too Margarita, his daughter Teresa and his son Joe. Teresa married and moved to the city and sadly Margerita died in 1967. Joe and his wife were now responsible for running Paronella. Joe passed away in 1972, and his wife sold Paronella five years later.
In 1979 a bush fire struck burning the castles’ ballroom and leaving just the walls and the turret still standing.
In 1986 cyclone Winifred went through the park destroying much of the gardens. It wasn’t until 1993 the new owners Mark and Judy Evans, repaired and cleaned up the park.
Over the years a big gum tree had grown in front of the castle. When Mark and Judy invited Jose’s daughter Teresa back to visit the park, she spoke of a view, a view of the water fall framed by the castle. This view was not evident to Mark and Judy, until in 2006 cyclone Larry hit and the tree was knocked over, showing this view once again. The hydro turbine was restored in 2009 and is now once again powering Paronella Park.
José’s story is all about hard work and how such hard work can bring great joy and pleasure for generations to enjoy and keep as their treasured memories. I felt that although a lot of secrets had been discovered at Paronella Park, the park still has a lot of secrets in store. You could spend a lifetime just looking around finding new things.
Around the gardens