Our Buildings History
An excerpt from the "30th Anniversary Kwong Sue Duk Foundation Commemorative Family Cookbook 2012"- As written by Rosalie Hiah 2012
In 1875, not long after his arrival in Cooktown, North Queensland, Kwong Sue Duk heard of the thriving townships and abundance of gold in the Northern Territory. By 1877, he took a passage there by ship and arrived at the deep water harbour of Southport. He settled in the minig camps at Brook's Creek and Pine Creek but later moved back to Southport to establish a large store with stocks of general merchandise, tools and equipment necessary for mining the goldfields. It was in Southport that Kwong Sue Duk began trading under the business name of Sun Mow Loong. He owned several gold mining leases and became a well-respected businessman, often acting as a representative for other Chinese people.
By the mid-1880s, gold was becoming difficult to find and the township of Southport suffered greatly, whilst growing township of Palmerston (now Darwin) began to thrive. Kwong Sue Duk acquired land at the far end of Chinatown in Cavenagh Street, Palmerston, and in 1888, erected a residence and large store, now known as 'The Stonehouses'. By 1889, he had left Southport with his growing family to establish a successful business in Palmerston (Darwin). It was recorded that Sun Mow Loong and other Chinese merchants and miners would often involve themselves in the general community. Sun Mow Loong and another well known businessman, Lee Hang Gong, planted trees in Cavenagh Street, held banquets for important visitors and supported the miners' Hospital in Yam Creek.
'The Stonehouses' is a terrace row of five single story shops/houses, built of porcellanite stone on concrete slab, with a verandah projection over the Cavenagh Street footpath, supported by large cypress posts. External walls to the rear and the side are of coursed rubble construction, with tuck-pointed joints (as seen only on large government buildings). originally, the roof was gabled, but was damaged during Cyclone Tracy and replaced by the current skillion roof. Each shop front has an identical pattern of openings, with a central door and a window on each side. (courtesy of the Northern Territory Government).
'The Stonehouses' represents the only remaining building associated with the Chinese presence and 'Chinatown' in 19th century Darwin and has withstood the cyclone in 1897 (during which Lim, the 'Cyclone Baby', was born), the bombing of Darwin during World War II and Cyclone Tracy. The building is held in high esteem by the Darwin community for its historic and social values, and represents the establishment and expansion of the Chinese community. It has been classified by the National Heritage Trust. (courtesy of the Australian Government Heritage Database).