The story of Paronella Park is that of a man's dream coming to reality, yet it has endured its share of sadness.
The story of Paronella Park is that of a man's dream coming to reality. Yet it has endured its share of sadness.
José Paronella came to Australia from Spain in 1913. For 11 years the former pastry chef worked hard in Queensland, cutting cane, purchasing, improving and reselling cane farms.
In 1924 he married Margarita back in Spain and in 1929 purchased five hectares of virgin scrub along Mena Creek, which he had first seen in 1914 when he had been inspired by its waterfall.
First José and Margarita built a home for themselves and then work began on the castle.
The home is made of stone, but all other structures were of poured concrete, reinforced with old railway track. The concrete was plastered with cement and clay by hand. Fingerprints are a reminder of the hard work.
They worked long and hard until the park opened to the public in 1935. Each Saturday night, films were screened and patrons relaxed in canvas chairs to enjoy them. When the chairs were removed, the hall became a favourite venue for dances and parties.
A great ball covered with 1270 tiny mirrors and suspended from the ceiling, rotating slowly and highlighted with spotlights of pink and blue, produced the effect of a room full of pastel snowflakes.
The theatre ceased to be a working theatre in the mid-1960s and the hall became a place for functions, particularly romantic weddings.
Over the refreshment rooms was the projection room and up a further set of steps the Paronella Museum, which housed coins, pistols, dolls and samples of North Queensland timbers.
Avenues and paths were carefully laid out with planters. Concrete tables forming the lower tea gardens and swimming pool have always been popular.
The creek is lined with rocks and crossed by small bridges. Some parts have cascades. Kauri Avenue has been created by some of the 7000 trees planted by José.
The park fell out of the Paronella family's hands in the late 1970s and José's pride and joy endured general neglect, complicated by fire and floods.
Fortunately, Mark and Judy Evans purchased the property in 1993 and have sensitively nursed the grand lady back to her former beauty.
They discovered that José was a very early eco-tourism operator and ran fountains from gravity feedlines this was an amazing feat as the water is cycled through and reused.
The elegant buildings, stairs and paths have been carefully tended to and evidence of José's green thumb is once again visible. Birds, bats and flying foxes have made a sanctuary in the grounds and their sounds are quite enchanting.
A great surprise is the bamboo forest, creating a soft, green barrier between Paronella and the adjoining property of paddocks, cattle and sugarcane.
Sadly, not all of José's grand plans stood the test of time. There are bits and pieces of his Tunnel of Love remaining, but judging by the spiders and bats forming ceiling decorations, it may not have been the most romantic of tunnels.