The spectacular former Manager’s Residence of the Condong Sugar Mill is for sale. Steeped in history, this magnificent property has more than one story to tell – and not just about the residence itself but its vital role in the region’s history.
Owner, Perry Snodgrass, has a long-lasting love affair with 121 McLeod Street, Condong. Perry lived in the Manager’s Residence many years ago when she was married to her late-husband who was then the Manager at the Condong Sugar Mill.
“We were young and it was a very social time, hosting parties on the verandah, barbecuing by the river while family fished and water skied,” said Perry.
When Perry’s husband died suddenly ,she moved out of the region, seeking new beginnings. Five years ago, when Perry was living in Adelaide, her daughter phoned to say the former Manager’s Residence was up for sale. It didn’t take long for Perry, and her current husband, Craig, to jump on a plane and fly back to see it.
“It was just as I remembered it. It had stood the test of time and had been extremely well maintained. Standing in the garden, listening to the river and feeling the serenity… the urge to return was so strong, I couldn’t resist!”
So, Perry and Craig bought the property and moved in.
The Condong Sugar Mill, built in 1880, is the second oldest sugar mill in Australia. The Manager’s Residence was built in the same year and played an important role in the success of the business, and bringing the community together.
The history of how the Condong Sugar Mill evolved is fascinating. In the 1870s, several independent farmers in the Tweed region took initiative to construct small mills on their properties, attempting to produce sugar with varying levels of success and quality.
Unfortunately, most of these modest mills did not endure the test of time. Their endeavours were hindered by the scarcity of a consistent supply of high-quality sugarcane and the use of inefficient production techniques. The sugar had to be transported to either Sydney or Brisbane by ship, which was another long step in the process.
By 1872, sugar cultivators in the Tweed region were doing it tough. They approached the Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR) with a proposition to establish a more substantial mill along the Tweed River.
The CSR purchased about 2,435 acres of land and then leased it back to the farmers at a low rent so they could grow cane for the mill. By the end of the 19th Century, much of the land in the Tweed River Valley had been cleared and transformed into cane fields.
Smaller mills in the region were eventually closed down and the Condong Mill and Cudgen Mill were the main producers, until Cudgen was destroyed in a fire. Condong became a small established community with staff quarters and cottages being built to house the workers and their families. Not long after, a Post Office and general store was built and a school for the local children.
Now owned by Sunshine Sugar, the Condong Mill supports around 500 farming families in the Northern Rivers and has about 1000 direct and indirect employees.
At this time the Manager’s Residence played a significant role in the business and community. It was where the head office managers would gather to have discussions around the dining room table about the industry and make future plans.
The residence became the social hub for staff and families living nearby. When there was little transport in the region, local events were a big attraction and many fun activities happened at the residence.
“From my research, I discovered that tennis parties were popular here. There were originally two tennis courts on the property,” said Perry. “It was a special event to be invited to the Manager’s Residence to play tennis.” Table tennis has replaced the tennis tournaments.
And the heritage-listed rotunda, the haven for refreshing drinks or afternoon tea after the games, is still standing.
While times have changed, the romance of the property stands strong. On the edge of the spectacular Tweed River with lush flat lawns and established gardens, it is a sight to behold. The striking Queenslander has its original ornate detailing, high ceilings, bay windows, airy spacious bedrooms, and closed in and open verandahs. Perry and Craig have kept up the tradition of using the space to entertain.
“We’ve catered for a few amazing social events in the recent years, including weddings. The lawns are perfect for marquees and the main living area holds 60 people while the large verandahs can have about 100-150 people. There are still the old-fashioned coloured light bulbs decorating the verandah – they were here from before we moved in the 1970s,” said Perry.
There are many business opportunities on the property. There is a self-contained two-bedroom cottage which Perry offers to guests, however it had been used by previous owners as short-term and holiday accommodation.
An artist, Perry has a studio on the property in which she paints. She insulated it and there is a large concrete-covered area where they host parties.
“It’s a beautiful, tranquil space to paint. The only noise are the birds that come to visit. The birdlife here is exquisite, ranging from kookaburras to ducks.”
The studio would make a fabulous home office or wellness centre for yoga or Pilates.
Perry and Craig spend a lot of time on the verandah, watching people fishing, ducks paddling and rowers going by. It’s an ever-changing scene. They also relish watching the sunset over the mountains and cane fields.
Growing up in the Tweed region, Perry has loved returning.
“Murwillumbah is a thriving artistic and cultural community,” said Perry. “Condong is still as quaint as I remember, but the original Post Office across the road is now also a café serving delicious brunch and lunch six days a week. And the Condong Bowling Club has a night once a month, that’s a huge event.”
Perry and Craig are staying in the area but have decided it’s time to downsize.
“We want someone with a true appreciation of the incredible history of this house to keep its legacy going,” said Perry. “We chose MANA Real Estate because of Julie-Ann Manahan’s profound engagement and active participation within the local community. She aligns with our vision and understands the significance this property has in the region’s history, which is important to us,” said Perry.
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