Pinnaroo Hotel in the Murray Mallee South Australia.
The township of Pinnaroo is just a few kms outside of Goyder’s line for agriculture rather than pastoralism. Its reasonable rainfall, suitable soils and gently undulating terrain gave great promise for farming. The local pastoralist William Hensley had failed in his attempts to make a profit from sheep here. The railway act of 1903 meant Pinnaroo would have cheap, reliable transport for the farmers to obtain superphosphate and send their wheat or hay (and Mallee roots) back to Adelaide. It was also the first railway line constructed in the Murray Mallee. No wonder the local historical society named their history of Pinnaroo “Miracle of the Mallee” in 1983 and the town had a hotel named “The Land of Promise.” Even the name Pinnaroo in an Aboriginal language means “big man” and perhaps foreshadowed a lustrous future. Although almost on the SA-Vic border Pinnaroo had a good agricultural hinterland and it drew economic benefit from across the border, especially with a rail line to Ouyen and on to Melbourne. The early good harvests were like those of the Lameroo district. Eudunda Farmers opened a depot and later a store in the town by 1909. An Agricultural Society was formed in 1910 at the Land of Promise Hotel. Annual Shows were held and special trains ran from Ouyen in Victoria to bring people to the highly successful Pinnaroo Show. The Pinnaroo Local Council was formed in 1908 (remember the train reached Pinnaroo in 1906.) Pinnaroo sprang up almost overnight but it was a town of substance with heavy stone buildings, erected at great cost as the stone had to be railed from Adelaide or elsewhere. The first farmer was William Harvey who leased the old Pinnaroo homestead and cleared land for a farm a few years before the railway came to the town. The railway might have been the lifeblood of the district but it was the blood sweat and tears of the farmers clearing the land that made it productive. Consequently the township of Pinnaroo thrived and soon had almost 1,200 residents by 1920. Growth slowed down during the Depression of 1929 and never recovered until after World War Two.
The more recent resurgence, or at least holding situation, has developed since the declaration of a water irrigation zone around Pinnaroo in the early 1980s. SA is now the largest producer of potatoes in Australia with about 35% of the total Australian output. The Pinnaroo potato region includes Parilla and Peebinga. In the immediate area around Pinnaroo the potato producers include Golden Sunrise Potatoes, the Frank Mitilo Group and Potato Masters. In recognition of the importance of potato growing Pinnaroo still has its annual Show in September but also a Spudfest in February. Although the town is not now growing, as a tourist we can now see some of the fine buildings constructed during the boom periods. Alas some buildings, such as the former Anglican Church are now deteriorating. The town museum beside the former railway station in the rail yards also has an excellent section called the Letterpress Printing Museum. It is partly located in Pinnaroo because since 1911 Pinnaroo has had a local newspaper, the Pinnaroo Border Times which is still published weekly on Wednesdays.
Some of the structures or places of note in Pinnaroo, primarily in Railway Tce South- the Main Street:
•Pinnaroo is a rare town as it actually has a street called Lovers Lane- on the eastern outskirts of the town!
•the Golden Grain Hotel built in 1906 when it was called the Land of Promise Hotel. It has wonderful curved stone gables, arched doorways, louvre vents in the gable ends complete with decorative shades, etc. The original structure was a small single story hotel. This current structure was built in 1914 when the named was changed to the Commercial Hotel. In the 1930s it became the Golden Grain Hotel.
•the sandstone Post Office, 5304, with a hipped gable roof line, brick quoins and a pleasing appearance. It opened in 1912 with a triangular stone pediment above a front veranda which has now been replaced by the half hipped gable roof.
•The Pinnaroo Police station, built to look like a double fronted stone villa residence with fine brick quoins. It opened in 1909 but was demolished to make way for a new station in 1974.
•The Pinnaroo Institute. The first institute was completed in 1908. The current wonderful Art Deco Institute replaced the first one in 1925. This is one of the finest examples of Art Deco in SA.
•The Pinnaroo Hotel with its wonderful iron lace work around the upper veranda; its cut off corner façade, and its interesting roof line. The original stone appearing cement bricks have all been painted yellow. This two story structure opened in 1911 replacing the former simple Pinnaroo hotel which opened in 1910.
•Victoria Buildings, in 1927 after the original shops burnt down. Art deco in style, simple but indicative of wealth in the district at the time of construction. Pretty plaster rosettes across the roof pediment. Unsympathetic modern veranda.
•Next to Victoria buildings is the IGA Supermarket, still owned by Eudunda Farmers. This was the site of their original store in 1909 which has been rebuilt and modernised.
•The first National Bank in Pinnaroo opened here in 1910. This structure was built during World War Two.
•Parr’s Buildings 1927. Another great example of a grand Art Deco shop complex with a stucco façade now in need of restoration.
•the fine War Memorial , Memorial Gates and Clock Tower. The obelisk War Memorial was opened in 1951, the bandstand opened in 1922. The Memorial Gates with a clock were erected in 1934.
Significant buildings elsewhere in Pinnaroo:
•the former All Saints Anglican Church, now privately owned is in Bundey Tce. Like the Methodists the Anglicans erected a tin shed for a church early in 1908. The foundation stone of the former stone church was laid in 1923 and the church about a year later. It was erected with the help of the Bishop’s home Mission Society. The church closed in the mid 1980s. It is pictured to the left in its ruinous state.
•the Catholic Church which still operates is in Devon Tce. Our Lady of Good Counsel Church opened in 1913. It has mini towers on each corner of the façade and five narrow gothic windows above the entrance porch. An adjacent Josephite convent and Catholic School opened in 1924.The school is now closed. The town cemetery is just along Devon Tce west of the Catholic Church.
•the former Methodist Church, now the Uniting Church, is in Railway Tce North. It was the first church and public building in Pinnaroo being erected in 1906. It was a simple tin shed, nothing more than that. It served as the first school room. In 1912 the fine stone Gothic style Methodist Church opened in Pinnaroo. It had buttresses on the corners, double arched windows on the façade and a steep roof. It had brick quoins. Adjacent is the modern style Sunday School Hall built in 1961 which also looks like a church!
•the UELCA Lutheran Church is in Hensley Street. A simple tin but Gothic style shed opened as the Lutheran Church in 1909. Many of the original settlers of Pinnaroo were of German descent. A fine stone church opened in 1910. It was superseded with a new stone Lutheran church in 1957 after the amalgamation of the two Lutheran congregations in Pinnaroo.
•Pinnaroo raised money and then received some government assistance to open a hospital at Pinnaroo; opened in 1922- the Pinnaroo Soldiers Memorial Hospital. New wings were built in 1974. It is located at the corner of Bundey and Gordon Terraces in the parklands reserve. The hospital mainly has aged care beds.
•The Pinnaroo state school opened with a fine stone building ready for the start of the school year in February 1911. Adjacent was a headmaster’s residence. The school had 108 pupils by February 1912. From 1923 it was a Higher Primary School with some secondary classes. In 1948 it became an Area School. In 1990 it reverted to being a primary school. The current enrolment is about 60 pupils. The school is in Bundey
Tce opposite the former Anglican Church.