Leeton is located 560 km south-west of Sydney, and is the administrative centre of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA). The area is known for its rice fields and orchards, and has a population of about 7,000. The Wiradjuri are the First Peoples and Traditional Custodians of the lands and waters of the area.
The town of Leeton was created under the MIA, and the town was named after the New South Wales Minister for Public Works, Charles Lee. Lee was an prominent supporter of the MIA scheme. The MIA was established in 1912 with a focus on fruit growing. In 1951, the first rice mill opened and Leeton is the headquarters for Australia’s rice industry. The above photo is of the Leeton Museum and Art Gallery, which is in the former Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission building.
The town was designed by Walter Burley Griffin, the American architect who also designed Canberra, and there are lots of public parks and reserves to explore. Art Deco architecture is a feature of the main street. The extravagant detail which is often found on this type of building design can even be spotted on the water storage tanks shown above, designed by Griffin. You can read more about Griffin’s architectural association with towns of Leeton and Griffith here.
The Griffin Memorial Fountain was unveiled in December 2003 to celebrate 75 years of local government by the Leeton Shire Council. The mosaic base includes the Leeton Hydro Motor Inn, rice being harvested and the cornucopia of agricultural riches the district is famous for producing.
Built in 1919 to house executives of the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission who were supervising the construction of MIA, the Leeton Hydro Motor Inn is still welcoming visitors over a century on. You can read more about its history here.
Another landmark building of Leeton is the Roxy Theatre, which was under renovation when I passed through the town. It opened in 1930, and is undergoing significant redevelopment to keep it as a community hub for future generations.
There is a great overview of the town’s history and unique Art Deco background on the Two Minute Postcards site here; check out the video as well. The fantastic Aussie Towns website also provides an overview of other places of interest in the area.
Have you done a lap of Leeton?
Photo: Leeton Shire Council building