Text of Article in the newsletter of the Blue Mountains Branch of National Trust (NSW) May 2023
MEDIA COVERAGE OF PETITION CAMPAIGN August 2023 In 2020 a Development Application for remediation work to restore accumulated damage to The Paragon was approved by the Blue Mountains City Council, with the support of the NSW Heritage office. Notwithstanding that approval, work had not commenced by June 2023 and the property had suffered considerable damage from three years of unusually wet and humid weather. With the lack of action and growing concern at the deterioration and lack of security at the property, Friends of The Paragon resolved to support an on-line Petition calling on the Minister for Heritage to use powers available under the Heritage Act in an attempt to encourage the owner to undertake the works as approved in order to prevent further deterioration of the interior fabric. To raise awareness of the Petition, members conducted information sessions in front of The Paragon, talking to pedestrians and handing out flyers, over a number of weekends. This was successful in gaining over 3800 signatories and resulted in many positive and insightful comments recorded on the on-line petition. The culmination of the campaign was presentation of the Petition to local MLA and Assistant Minister for Heritage, Trish Doyle, The presentation exercise resulted in some very positive media coverage. The objective of the campaign has been achieved in that the Minister has responded positively and the matter has been identified as a priority within the Heritage Office. Unequivocal confirmation that work will start is yet to be received.
Sydney Morning Herald August 29 2023 By Julie Power see below
Blue Mountains Gazette August 23 2023 By Jennie Cutain see below
Statement by Rod Stowe, Chair of the Blue Mountains Branch of National Trust NSW: “Katoomba’s Paragon is an art deco gem that is appropriately listed on the State’s Heritage Register. It is tragic that the future of this mountain’s icon is now at serious risk. Accordingly, the National Trust strongly supports the sentiment expressed in the petition initiated by the Friends of the Paragon seeking the intervention of the Minister for Heritage to ensure that essential maintenance and conservation work is undertaken at the property as soon as possible. Clearly, the large number of people signing the petition is indicative of the strong concern in the community over the potential for this unique part of our architectural and cultural heritage to be lost through neglect.”
The following is text of an article in the Newsletter of the Blue Mountains Branch National Trust NSW May 2023
HERITAGE DESTRUCTION BY NEGLECT There have been many examples of heritage buildings being destroyed or irreparably damaged by neglect. There seems to be a widespread complacency that a building can be closed-up for an indefinite period without detriment. This is a false view, particularly in the climate of the Blue Mountains (NSW) and even more so given the unusually wet and humid conditions of the 2020–2023 period. The Paragon complex in Katoomba, famous for its hospitality and confectionery since 1916, has been closed since July 2018 – now five years. The property needed some remedial attention to restore the toll of a century of public patronage and damage from water ingress in recent decades. A Development Application was approved by the Blue Mountains City Council in 2020, with the support of the NSW Heritage Office. The approved works related to restoration of the public spaces on the ground floor. The extraordinary cultural and engineering heritage embodied in the machinery and fittings of the bakery, chocolate factory and offices on the first floor remain at risk. Despite a new roof to the building in 2017, rainwater continued to penetrate some areas, damaging ceilings and other finishes. Ground water penetration remains a major concern, having wrought considerable damage to floor and elaborate plaster decoration in the Ballroom (designed by Kenworthy 1928). The damp conditions continue to damage plaster and plywood finishes and timber shop fittings, promoting almost irretrievable damage from mould infestation. Added to this is damage from vandalism. Friends of The Paragon has been actively monitoring the premises over the period of its closure and have alerted those responsible to damage by storm and vandals. Recommendations for improved security have gone unheeded. With a glimmer of hope that protection of our built and natural heritage might again receive serious consideration from the NSW Government, Friends of The Paragon are supporting a community initiative by way of on-line petition, calling on the Minister to take action available under the Heritage Act to protect the extraordinary piece of nationally significant cultural heritage that is The Paragon.
Vandalism and deterioration continues Since approval of the Development Application, no work has been carried out, leaving the property exposed to continuing deterioration from water penetration and dampness through an unusually wet period throughout 2022. The problems for the property have been compounded by vandals breaking in to rooms on the top level, leaving the interiors exposed to damaging weather events. Walls at the rear have been subject to graffitti attack. Friends of The Paragon have been monitoring the conditions and reporting problems which, thankfully, have been promptly addressed by the managing agent. However, the lack of remediation work and ongoing destructive dampness remain of great concern to the future of the heritage listed and once much admired interiors.
DA Lodged for remedial works During the more than twelve months since its closure The Paragon has undergone a series of investigative works to ascertain the extent of remedial works necessary to address dampness and other problems. Friends of The Paragon are encouraged that the owner has appointed a well respected firm of Architects to plan remedial works which have now reached the milestone of submission of a Development Application to Blue Mountains City council addressing the proposed remedial works. The application addresses some of the most necessary interventions, including: repairs to the flooring in the Cafe, which had, for years, bounced under foot traffic due to poor foundation structure; repairs to sections of roof; treatment of water penetration to the Ballroom; upgrading of kitchen areas to meet current standards; remediation of wall panelling in the Banquet Hall damaged in recent years. Unfortunately, the application is light on detail of how the proposed works will be carried out and how important heritage elements of the interiors will be protected. Friends of The Paragon, in accordance with its Aims, will continue to monitor developments and advocate for the conservation and sensitive reinstatement of the important interior finishes, fittings and contents. The Development Application is available for inspection on the Council website, reference X/844/2019.
VALE PROFESSOR IAN JACK - a great Friend of The Paragon It is with great sadness that Friends of The Paragon record the passing of Professor Robert Ian Jack. Dr Jack was Vice President and a founding member, a mentor and guide to this organisation. His efforts were largely instrumental in the listing of The Paragon on the State Heritage Register, an achievement that might well prove pivotal in preserving the heritage and important architectural interiors of the premises. His loss has been keenly felt by members of the committee who worked with him. The sense of loss will be shared by the many members and guests who enjoyed two recent public events at which Ian shared some of his insight into, and passion for, the heritage of The Paragon. Beyond this organisation, Dr Jack was actively involved in many community organisations to which he generously contributed his time and expertise, bringing the skills of a highly respected academic historian and a passion for the documentation and preservation of local heritage. From the history of the early colony represented throughout his beloved Hawkesbury region, through communities and institutions of the Blue Mountains and Lithgow, Ian’s interests and energies have left a lasting legacy. A great supporter of the Blue Mountains Association of Cultural Heritage Organisations, Ian latterly served as its President. A gentleman, in every sense of that word, Ian’s knowledge, wisdom and wit have been appreciated by all who have had the pleasure of engaging with him. This organisation, and many in the region, will be the poorer for his loss. Friends of The Paragon extend our condolences to his wife, Jan, his family and his many friends.
Dr Ian Jack, "Storytelling" event. 31/8/2019
FRIENDS OF THE PARAGON INC. HELD A TALK ON THE LIFE AND WORK OF SCULPTOR OTTO STEEN, NOTED FOR THE SET OF BAS RELIEF IMAGES THAT ADORN THE CAFE, AS WELL AS MANY OTHER IMPORTANT WORKS OF THE MID TWENTIETH CENTURY. THE TALK WAS HELD AT EVERGLADES HISTORIC HOUSE, LEURA ON SATURDAY MAY 18th. EVERGLADES, A NATIONAL TRUST PROPERTY, ALSO FEATURES WORKS BY STEEN. THE TALK WAS PRESENTED BY NOTED HISTORIAN, Dr IAN JACK
AN AFTERNOON OF RECOLLECTIONS OF THE PARAGON WAS HELD AT THE BLUE MOUNTAINS HISTORICAL SOCIETY ON AUGUST 31, TO COINCIDE WITH HISTORY WEEK. ENTITLED "STORYTELLING" THE EVENT PRESENTED STORIES OF THE PARAGON FROM LOCALS RECALLING THEIR ASSOCIATION WITH THE PARAGON, JACK AND MARY SIMOS, FROM THE 1940s TO THE 1990s. THE EVENT WAS RECORDED BY THE BLUE MOUNTAINS HISTORICAL SOCIETY ORAL HISTORY INITIATIVE AND WILL BE AN IMPORTANT ADDITION TO THE ARCHIVES, FILLING IN MANY PERSONAL IMPRESSIONS OF THE PARAGON EXPERIENCE OFTEN NOT OTHERWISE TO BE FOUND IN THE HISTORIC RECORDS. FRIENDS OF THE PARAGON INC. HAVE A RANGE OF POSTCARDS FEATURING IMAGES OF THE ICONIC RESTAURANT. THESE ARE AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE AT EVENTS OR BY EMAIL TO email@example.com