The John Riddoch Centre is housed in the State Heritage listed Penola Mechanics Institute and Public Library, originally built in 1869. The centre incorporates the Penola and Coonawarra Information Centre, local history room, the local history display and the John Shaw Neilson art collection containing the winning works from Wattle Range Council Offices and Penola Coonawarra Art Festival.
The local history display centre invites the visitors to be a part of the journey of the people who lived and worked in the Penola area and its various districts, dating back to the 1850s. It tells how they contributed to the diversity, culture and spirit of Penola. You can learn a lot about the history surrounding Penola by looking at the interactive displays of mining of local areas. There is also information about the local Pinejunga people.
The local history room displays an extensive collection of local resources and is managed by the Penola branch of the National Trust. This is also their meeting room. The group also arrange occasional themed displays within the main local history display centre, especially for South Australia’s History Festival.
The centre is named after pioneering pastoralist John Riddoch (1827-1901), ‘the squire of Penola’, who was chairman of the district council, and benefactor of Penola’s Presbyterian church and its institute and library. His home was the Italianate mansion Yallum Park built for him just outside Penola between 1878-1880 and contains largest collection of William Morris wallpapers in Australia. Tours are available of the house and opening times can be confirmed with the visitor centre.