Junee began as a pastoral lease called the Jewnee Run and prospered during the gold rushes of the 1860s. The railway line's arrival in 1878 saw the town rapidly develop, and the wealth of the time is reflected in many grand buildings. The Loftus Hotel was built in 1896, the Commercial Hotel in 1915, the Red Cow Hotel in the 1890s and the 1880s' era post office are all attractive reminders of the town's beginnings.
Awnings, verandah posts, hitching rings, old-style buildings and wide streets give the town an old-fashioned feel and a walk around the town is most pleasant. The railway station is an impressive French Renaissance construction. Its workshop was erected in 1885 as a hotel. Its façade features stuccoed ornaments.
Junee's wheat, canola, oats, barley, olives, triticale and pasture seed crops, along with sheep and cattle, bring in more than $35 million each year.
Monte Cristo Historical Homestead was built in 1884 by grazier, Christopher Crawley. He purchased land on which the railway passed through, and also built a hotel and general store which became the nucleus for the town.
The two-storey Georgian-style Monte Cristo has wide balconies balanced on slender iron columns decorated with cast-iron lacework and has been restored in High Victorian style. It is the family home of Reg and Olive Ryan, and without their dedication and commitment, the home would have met its demise. They worked long and hard to accumulate the necessary money to restore and revive Monte Cristo.
Built of sandstock bricks fired on site, the interior plan of the house is simple, its rooms open off a central hallway with a symmetry typical of its period. Decorative plasterwork and cast iron lattice are opulent additions. Downstairs walls are 46cms thick and upstairs they are 23cms. Ceilings are 3.5 metres high. Upstairs they are of locally milled cypress pine and downstairs are lath and plaster.
The mansion, stables and outbuildings double as a museum with antique furniture, glassware and precious collectables. The stables and outbuildings have a collection of horse-drawn carriages with resident wheelwright and carriage builder.
The Ryans had been in their home for just three days in 1963 when, from the bottom of their driveway one foggy evening, they saw light streaming from every door and window. Electricity had not yet been connected and their kerosene lamps were not lit. There were no window panes due to earlier vandalism, so their car headlights could not have caused the light. As they cautiously drove towards their home, the lights abruptly disappeared.
It happened again to their son as he returned home alone some 27 years later and there were many puzzling events in between, all without explanation or reason. Some people have "a feeling" about the house. Some have said they heard voices.
It is said a nanny dropped a little Crawley girl down the staircase and she died as a result. The nanny claimed something pushed the child from her arms. Some people have experienced palpitations and shortness of breath when entering the main children's bedroom. Another room causes some people to have severe headaches and become violently ill. Local legend says ten people have perished in the homestead grounds and there have been many reports of people seeing ghostly figures of people doing various things, particularly Mrs Crawley in her former room.
Reg Ryan has heard chains rattling at night, the noise stemming from a little room where a man had been chained up for 30 or 40 years.
Monte Cristo has been explored by many ghost hunters and the Ryans run their home as a B&B, with tour, or you can just take the tour. Dinner is served at 7pm, accompanied by videos to set the scene. Candlelight tours of the house start at 8pm. Overnight guests stay in spacious guest rooms, not the haunted rooms which are part of the tour.