From 1878, Mackay merchant William Marsh developed his estate Summerlands fronting The Parade, as Lagoon Street was then named.  The estate's eastern boundary was Marsh's Road, now known as Holland Street.

Marsh had entered into partnership in 1875 with his former employee and neighbour, Charles Webster, who both found the department store, Marsh and Webster, in the heart of Mackay.

The gracious villa residence Summerlands was surrounded by well planned gardens of exotic plants and trees.  It was approached by a circular gravel driveway, and its outbuildings included a coach house and stables. On the extensive lawns, a tennis court and croquet green provided leisure activities. Young adult family members went boating on the Lagoons which, before the water supply facilities were built, contained a greater depth of water than they do now.

It is probable that William Marsh was assisted in developing his gardens by his father-in-law and former business partner, William Seaward, remembered for his keen interest in horticultural and agricultural pursuits.


A feature of Summerlands was The Fernery - made from timber and bamboo. The Fernery has been paid homage to in two locations at the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens - in the "Summerlands" section of the new Heritage Garden where a replica of The Fernery wall has been recreated and at The Fernery Garden, part of the Tropical Shade Gardens. The Fernery Garden houses those delicate plants - both Australian Native and exotic, that require extra moisture and shade and protection from drying winds.

Gardeners of the late 1800's were avid collectors of unusual, rare and exotic plants and many gracious homes featured a fernery or shade house of sorts.