A very special birthday
In my last post, I wrote about Langenbaker House in Ilfracombe and the special stories the collection inside told. In this post, I will introduce you to another special house with a unique closed collection, but from the opposite end of the social scale.
Greenmount Homestead at Walkerston near Mackay turns 100 this year. Greenmount was originally the residence of the Cook family, who had been amongst the earliest land owners in the Mackay region. John Cook, the son of Welsh immigrants, first arrived in the Mackay region in 1862, only two years after John Mackay himself had established a cattle property called Greenknoll on the southern side of the Pioneer River. John Cook took up land on the northern side of the river and called his property Balnagowan.
John’s interests expanded to include sugar cane growing and processing as this industry gained momentum in the region, and parts of his land were turned over to sugar cane, supplying Pleystowe Mill, and John soon became one of the Mill’s directors. He remained in this position until his death in 1901, at which time his son Albert Alfred took over the management of Balnagowan.
It is Albert Alfred we have to thank for Greenmount Homestead. Albert acquired the land, which incorporated John Mackay’s original Greenknoll, in 1912 and supplied the Mackay-based architect William Sykes with some rough drawings for a homestead. Sykes created an impressive traditional Queensland style homestead from these drawings, and construction was completed in 1915 by local builders Carter and Co. The homestead’s impressive facade, sweeping views, and commanding location at the top of the hill would leave no visitors in doubt as to the wealth and importance of the Cook family.
Albert and Vida had three children, Thomas, John and Althea. John died in 1929 at the age of 17, so on Albert’s death Thomas managed the property together with his mother and sister, as well as his wife Dorothy. Thomas and Dorothy had no children and by the mid 1970s were spending an increasing amount of time away from Greenmount. Thomas died in 1981 and Dorothy, now living permanently at Buderim on the Sunshine Coast, gifted Greenmount Homestead to the Pioneer Shire Council in 1984.
Like Langenbaker House, Greenmount contains a virtually untouched record of the activities and tastes of three generations of one family. Unlike Langenbaker House however, it represents a family familiar with wealth and status, and this is reflected in the objects remaining in the household. This includes large numbers of books, photographs, portraits, children’s toys, fine furniture and impressive dining sets. Active cattle breeders, the Homestead also contains records of the successful Aberdeen Angus, Brahman, and Santa Gertrudis stud established by Albert and Thomas Cook. A man of many talents, Albert was also a skilled water diviner with two publications to his name, and his water divining equipment can still be seen at the Homestead.
Greenmount Homestead is celebrating its 100th birthday with a Heritage Fair on May 31st. So why not come along and learn more about this remarkable piece of Queensland history. But the question on everyone’s lips is – will the Queen send Greenmount a telegram?