Perched on an elevated stretch of raw and rugged land midway between Brisbane and Toowoomba, Penola Homestead is the classic colonial Queenslander chosen to feature on the 2019 Heritage Bank Calendar.
Penola has lived many lives. The residence’s wide wooden floorboards and carefully considered detailing create a distinctive home. The grand residence’s story began in 1914 when it was built as a single storey Methodist Church manse in Nundah, Brisbane. Since then, many chapters have contributed to its long journey to the present. In 1963, The Catholic Church purchased the building and turned it into St Joseph’s Catholic School. In 1978, Penola was relocated to its present location in Minden, where a second storey was added underneath the main building. Penola went on to operate as a restaurant, a nursery, an antique shop and function centre, and finally, most recently, as Ron and Frank’s “labour of love” home.
After purchasing the house in 2005, Ron King and Frank Comuzzo began restoring Penola. The result is a majestic Minden mansion that continues to attract attention from locals and others who remember its past incarnations. The home is hugged by wide verandahs accessed by French doors and full length sash lead light windows. It boasts high ceilings which add to its grandeur. A union of fresh white features and recycled timber and fittings from an old ambulance station in Ithaca, Brisbane, enhance the old world feel whilst embracing the new.
King says that despite the home being neglected when they took it on, the restoration process has been a pleasure. “It was a challenge because the house was quite run down and crying out for some love and attention,” he said. The pair are proud to have been able to bring the stately residence back to life and make their contribution to preserving a piece of Queensland’s architectural history. “They were really sensible buildings,” Ron said. “It was one of those things; the more we took it apart, the more and more problems we found, but I can appreciate for its time, the amount of skill the tradesmen in those days must have possessed to manufacture and build this house.”
The challenges of restoring Penola have offered some perspective. King says, “It’s a strange thing because I’m a modern thinking guy and I try to keep up with what’s happening in the world and technology and those sorts of things.” He says Penola provides a much needed respite from modern living. “It’s always good to come back to that base of having this old home, it centres you. It ties you down to something that’s quite stable.”
History is a collection of significant moments. This home’s foundations and facades have been grasped, restored and brought back to life by King and Comuzzo to be enjoyed into the future. Their home, Penola, is now a Minden landmark embraced by many, after travelling many miles and finally finding its place midway between two cities.
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