Historical Towns Directory

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 Leeton

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Leeton, situated 560 kilometres south-west of Sydney, was established as part of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA). It's concentric design was created in 1915 by Walter Burley Griffin, the American architect who designed both Canberra and nearby Griffith in similar styles.

The Wiradjuri Aborigines were the indigenous inhabitants of the region.

Kurrajong Ave, Leeton, 1916. Original Pioneer Kurrajong Tree in foreground.

During the 1840s Yanko station was taken up by white settlers. Railway reached the area in 1882 and a settlement began to form around the station, about six kilometres west of the current town. It became known as Yanco by the end of the 1880s.

The notion of irrigating the region was canvassed from the late 1870s. However it wasn't until Sir Samuel McCaughey, pastoralist and politician, bought North Yanco station in 1899 and implemented an irrigation scheme on his land, that the idea started to become a reality. At his instigation the 1906 'Barren Jack and Murrumbidgee Canals Construction Act' was passed, heralding the beginning of work on the MIA.

McCaughey's red-brick and sandstone homestead is now a part of the Yanco Agricultural High School. Irrigation enabled the large grazing runs to be subdivided for use in smaller mixed-farming, horticulture, dairying and sheep enterprises.

Hydro Hotel Leeton, 1926

In 1911 buildings were established at North Yanco by the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Areas Trust. The MIA was formally opened in 1912. This was also the year that Leeton was named in honour of the Minister for Public Works and trust member, Charles Lee.

More buildings were constructed in 1913 and the services of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin were engaged to design the town. Town lots were first sold in 1913, which was also the year that the establishment of Leeton's churches and schools also began. Between January 1916 to around September 1917 Leeton was home to noted Australian poet Henry Lawson, who was employed to write articles and poems advertising the MIA. His writing contained some less-than complimentary pieces.

Railway arrived at Leeton in 1922, diminishing the importance of the Yanco settlement. Leeton's architectural landscape includes a proliferation of Art Deco-style buildings, 21 of which are registered with the Art Deco Society of NSW. The Roxy Theatre (1930) and the Information Centre building, built as a residence for an MIA executive in 1913, are two of Leeton's best architectural examples.

Roxy Theatre (courtesy Leeton Visitors Information Centre)

The Historic Hydro Hotel (1919) was built to house Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission executives. The hotel was licensed in 1924, the year prohibition was lifted in the MIA. The establishment of the MIA is portrayed in its stained glass windows.

In 1927 Archbishop Mannix officially opened St Mary's Convent (1924). The courthouse was also constructed in 1924.

Rice was first grown in the district during the 1920s, with the MIA's first rice mill opening in town during 1951. Rice production is now the region's major industry.

Leeton Visitors Centre
Information: Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm; and Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays from 9.30am to 12.30pm.
Phone: 02 6953 6481
Fax: 02 6953 2361
Address:

8-10 Yanco Avenue
Leeton NSW 2705

Email: enquiries@leetontourism.com.au
Website: http://www.leetontourism.com.au/
   
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