The Penola state heritage area links two adjacent heritage precincts: Petticoat Lane and Woods MacKillop Schoolhouse.
Petticoat Lane is an authentic example of a 'turn of the century' small town country lane and the Woods MacKillop Schoolhouse is one of the most significant sites associated with St Mary MacKillop. It is linked to the founding of the Josephite Order and the Catholic education system.
Penola, a gateway to the famous Coonawarra wine region, is around 400km south east of Adelaide and 50km north of Mount Gambier. It is the oldest town in south east South Australia.
The Petticoat Lane/Woods MacKillop Schoolhouse state heritage area is located on the south-eastern side of Penola, between the town centre and its rural surroundings. The area is bounded by Portland Street and Roden Lane, and includes St Joseph's Church and a former Convent, 'Bawcoodalyn'. The Woods MacKillop Schoolhouse is on the corner of Petticoat Lane and Portland Street.
Petticoat Lane is South Australia's best-preserved example of a country lifestyle based on self-sufficiency. Residents of the lane provided fresh produce from residential blocks that date from 1850 to the First World War. These buildings exhibit a range of early South Australian construction materials and techniques, and reflect the typical growth of small country towns.
The Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, a religious teaching order that established schools for poor, needy and isolated students across Australia and New Zealand, was co-founded in Penola by Father Julian Tenison Woods and St Mary MacKillop in 1866.
The Woods MacKillop Schoolhouse was the first of these schools built specifically for the Josephite Order. It is particularly significant to the Catholic community because of its association with St Mary MacKillop, Australia's first saint.