Sisters bid farewell to Mt Kembla home

A sprawling property at Mount Kembla will go under the hammer today, severing ties with a pioneering family who have lived there for 116 years.

Master baker Henry James Graham bought the 2.3 hectare site on Cordeaux Road - just up the road from his shop - in 1896. His son Harry Graham, also a baker, became Wollongong's first mayor in 1947.

Granddaughter Coralie Barr, 80, an award-winning artist who co-owns the property with her sister, Kathleen, a retired teacher, said they had lived on the property all their lives and she was "a wreck" even thinking about the sale.

"I know it's time to go but I don't want to," she said, "I'll miss most its spirituality, its serenity and peace."

Artist Coralie Barr.

Artist Coralie Barr.

Inside the Graham property.

Inside the Graham property.

Ms Barr's house, one of four on the property, is built on the site where her grandfather lived and it still retains the original sandstone chimney.

She and her sister grew up in the second house just metres away after their mother, Kathleen Maude Graham, married William Barr. The Barr sisters never married.

Coralie is well known in art circles, winning recognition as a finalist in the 1973 Archibald Prize with a portrait of Wollongong journalist Ethel Hayton.

In the 1980s, '90s and early 2000s, she converted two rooms in her house into the Graham Gallery, one of the few in the region at the time.

Ms Barr was born in 1932, after her grandfather died, but she has vivid memories of the bakery run by her uncle and ex-Wollongong mayor Harry Graham.

"As a child I used to go down the road to get the bread each morning and I'd pick out the delicious centre by the time I arrived home - I've never tasted bread like it since," she recalled.

Also on the property are two original miner's cottages and the burnt-out remains of what was once the Windy Gully Workmen's Club, which was the second oldest licensed gambling club outside Sydney between 1895 to 1905, operating as a full casino.

Phil Donaldson, 65, who spent his first six years on the property in one of the miner's cottages his family rented, said the property was significant in Mount Kembla history.

"One of the main rites of passage for young boys back then was to ride shotgun on Harry Graham's bread cart led by old Nell the draught horse," he said.

"I remember it as an idyllic lifestyle for a kid, running wild in the bush."

What was formerly known as Soldiers Road was renamed Harry Graham Drive in 1974 in honour of the early mayor.

Raine and Horne agent Joe Casarotto declined to reveal the reserve on today's auction but said he expected four serious bidders to attend.


Property guide inside today