In 1902, Tom Petty and his wife Eliza purchased 559 acres of land known as “The Park!” At the time it was covered in trees and scrub having been part of a larger cattle run since the area was settled in 1838.
Over a four year period, Tom Petty planted a large orchard on the land together with 10 dams and several workers cottages from Richmond for his workers. Park Road was established to enable cart loads of fruit to be taken to market and become a beautiful avenue winding through fields of trees that were covered in blossom in Spring and glowing with coloured leaves in Autumn. After the death of Tom Petty in 1922, the land was purchased by timber merchants, Ms Australia Sharp and John Taylor with a plan to develop it into “The Park Orchards Country Club Estate”.
A family playground of 650 half acre blocks were residents would enjoy a variety of open air sporting facilities including golf courser. Designed by surveyors whom had worked with Sir Walter Burley Griffin on other developments in Mt Eliza & Heidelberg, they gave the road layout a circular “Canberra feel. The idea was to create a family playground, where life would be healthy, pleasurable and worth living.”
Facilities such as tennis Courts, golf course, croquet lawn, football ground and club house (now the Chalet) were built but due to the depression of the early investment, owners Sharp & Taylor covered the unsold lots in pine trees to provide future timber for their timber yard.
During the second World War, the Australian Army requisitioned the Chalet for use as a signals base due to its elevation and natural protection. 400 personnel moved in and brought with them water mains and electric power!
By 1950, only 25 families lived in Park Orchards. The Chalet was again running as a cabaret style reception centre. The bulk of the land was now in the hands of Edments (jewellers) of Bourke Street, Melbourne. During the 1950’s, the sporting facilities fell into disrepair and individual allotments were again put up for sale by 1961, a post office, general store and even a school catering for 70 children had been built. Most of the new homes were being built on blocks close to Park Road as residents were required to lay their own pipes up to the mains and pay their own electricity connection from the main road. Most of the side streets were unmade and impossible in Winter. The Park Orchards Ratepayers Association was formed in an effort to organise the construction of infrastructure. Residents also got together to build the tennis club on its present site together with netball courts and a football ground at Domeney Reserve. Through this, a strong community spirit was born that lasts to this day.
Although the country club originally planned by Mr Sharp in 1926 may not have eventuated, the quality of life in Park Orchards is well and truly alive today.