Restoration mission for popular hilltop homestead
AFTER buying, renovating and selling about 30 homes over the course of his life, Ron King vowed he would never do it again.
That was before his gaze fell on the Penola property high atop the Minden Range and he decided he would go out "with a bang".
Ron and his partner Frank Comuzzo bought the home in 2005 with the aim of restoring it to its former glory and they are almost over the finishing line, having already sunk a quarter of a million dollars into the renovation.
The Minden landmark is a familiar sight for regular travellers along the Warrego Highway and it has undergone a variety of identities since it was built in 1914.
It has operated as a restaurant, nursery, antique shop and function centre over the years.
The couple have completed a full restoration of the top floor and renovated most of downstairs.
The only room to not have been overhauled is the large downstairs room that served as the main restaurant area and the pair are debating the next course of action.
It is common for people to wander onto the property, reminiscing on old memories of the place which was the site of countless weddings, birthday parties and other celebrations.
Four years ago on Christmas Day, the two popped outside to see a previous owner walking down the driveway for a look.
The building first served as a single-storey Methodist manse in Nundah before it was purchased by the Catholic Church and branded Penola, in honour of the South Australian town where Mary MacKillop once lived.
In 1978, the building was cut into five sections and transported to its current location where a second storey was added underneath the main building.
"It would have been cheaper to knock it down and build it again," Ron laughed.
"It is important that it gets restored but it has to be restored properly.
"I'd been buying and renovating houses in Ipswich for so long, I've seen (it go wrong)."
They understood the importance it held in the area early on into the project, when tradespeople and other visitors would comment on their time spent in the building previously.
"They all knew it if they were from this area," Frank said.
"It was more famous than we thought.
"Anyone who has been in Ipswich or Gatton or Toowoomba for any length of time, they've all got a story about it."
Penola's top level features six large bedrooms, wrap around verandahs, bathroom, lounge room, hallway and sitting room, with 12-and-a-half foot ceilings.
The bottom level has recycled timer and fittings from an old ambulance station in Ann St in Brisbane with modern kitchen, bathroom and an open plan living area.
The home, bought for $550,000 14 years ago, sits on 2.2 ha.
"Our motivation is to get it to a point where someone can just walk in and take off and do whatever they want to do with it," Frank said.
"That'd be the ultimate if someone could buy it off us and do something with it so that the public can enjoy it.
"To bring it back to life has been a fun project. There has been lots of hard work.
"It's unique. It's a lovely property and more people should see it."
Ron ran an architecture business in Ipswich for several years before selling it to focus on hand making balustrading, which the couple both do full time.