By Marie Sinanidis.
The fight for save the Paragon, a valuable establishment steeped in history, is rapidly growing. Led by the “Friends of the Paragon”, the petition has collected more than 3,700 signatures and hundreds of comments which were presented to local MP Trish Doyle on August 16 – coinciding with the birthday of Paragon’s Kytherian founder, Zac Simos, in 1897. Ms Doyle will make an official presentation to the Heritage Minister’s office , Penny Sharpe, and considerations are underway while the future of the Paragon is up in the air.
Ms Doyle told the Greek Herald that Friends of the Paragon the group’s representatives told him that the Paragon was “unloved and neglected.” “It may be neglected, but it is not unloved,” she said, emphasizing the passion of the people fighting to protect it from degradation. “I moved to the Blue Mountains 20 years ago; and my first memory was taking my sons, aged four and six, for hot chocolate at Paragon,” she said, adding that she visited the establishment before the former tenant left , Robyn Parker, in 2018.
Ms. Parker, the Paragon’s third owner, played an important role in getting the venue added to the National Heritage Register. But for five years, the place has been ravaged by time and neglect.
Rod Stowe, chairman of the Blue Mountains branch of the National Trust, met Ms Doyle and highlighted the significant powers the government and its agencies have to safeguard these monuments. He told the Greek Herald that during his meeting to present the petition to Ms Doyle, he highlighted the recent findings of the Auditor General’s report highlighting gaps in Heritage NSW’s efforts to maintain heritage properties listed by the State.
“It is tragic that the future of this mountain icon is now seriously threatened. Accordingly, the National Trust strongly supports the sentiment expressed in the petition presented by Friends of the Paragon calling for the intervention of the Minister for Heritage to ensure that essential maintenance and conservation works are undertaken on the property as soon as possible. did he declare. , imploring Minister Sharpe to exercise her authority and ensure that the owner, lawyer John Landerer, fulfills his obligations under the Heritage Act.
Ms Doyle said Minister Sharpe, who has also been an establishment boss in the past, is already monitoring the situation closely. “Petitions and legislatures are different, but comments accompanying the online petition can be impactful if addressed to the right person at the right time,” she said. “We haven’t spoken yet, but we will look at the comments and see what we can do to ensure the owner complies with local heritage laws.” We have made requests in the past and now we will see what we can do.
The Heritage Council of New South Wales had published general conditions of approval for conservation and repair works at the Paragon in May 2020, with approval granted in November that year. However, concerns have been raised that conservation efforts are being blocked, which could cause further water damage to plasterwork and cabinets.
Heritage NSW had inspected the property on June 9 this year to check its condition. At the time, they were told work would begin in August, but when the Greek Herald called Mr Landerer’s office, there was no comment on the hotel’s future.
A café of historical significance
Once famous for its bespoke chocolates and pastries, as well as its art deco interiors created by renowned architects, designers and artists, the Paragon was a must-visit destination for visitors to the Blue Mountains.
Historian Leonard Janiszewski and photographer Effy Alexakis, who have spent nearly four decades documenting Greek-Australian culture, emphasize the importance of conserving the Paragon. “The development of the business during the 20th century demonstrates the complete evolution of Greek coffee in Australia with its American influences. As such, its preservation is paramount,” Mr Janiszewski told the Greek Herald.
“Like the recently restored Niagara Café in Gundagai, New South Wales, the Paragon must have a sustainable business plan for future operations. Once restored, it cannot run on nostalgia alone. It can be approached sensitively at 21st century by catering to current food tastes and organizing a variety of unique events – celebrity chefs, chocolate-making workshops, public lectures, musical entertainment, etc.
Managing Director of Friends of the Paragonattorney Hal Ginges, said: “We are encouraged by the support of many locals and visitors to the mountains and by the interest that continues to be shown in the preservation of the Paragon and its return to a place of preeminence in tourism. and dining options in the High Mountains.
Jan Koperberg, a staunch restoration advocate, said the Paragon “has been part of Katoomba life for over a century and many people remember the Paragon from their visits to Katoomba as children”, highlighting the emotional connection that generations have shared with coffee.
“The Paragon also recalls the important contribution that our first immigrants made to our young nation. » said another supporter, Edina Hunter.
The words that accompany those signing the petition echo the sentiments of a community that values the historical and cultural significance of the Paragon. The anniversary of founder Zac Simos’ birth serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring legacy that The Paragon represents.