lawson 1920's

Photo above of Blue Mountain Hotel (far right)


A considerable amount of historic documentation on the history and development of the Lawson Village Core Area has been prepared by professional and community groups in the planning processes leading up to the adoption of Option 1 A as the preferred option for the upgrading of the Great Western Highway through Lawson. This material while scattered though a number of reports provides adequate information on the evolutionary and associational history of the village and individual components of it, to allow an assessment of the potential impacts of the proposed development on the Blue Mountains Hotel to be made.

This assessment is specifically related to the visual and physical impacts of Option 1A on the Blue Mountains Hotel which forms an important focal element in the structure of the village and in particular in the area adjoining Douglass Place and Honour Square.

The summary of the historic information contained in this report is taken from the information contained in previous assessments supplemented where possible with additional historical material specific to the Blue Mountains Hotel site.

Lawson Township Historic Development

The area occupied by the township of Lawson was first traversed by Europeans in 1813 when Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson sought a way through the mountains to the Western Plains. For millennia prior to this, the area had been occupied by aboriginal people and evidence of their use of the land is well documented.

In 1815 a permanent roadway was constructed through the area by William Cox and his road gangs, providing access to the town of Bathurst.

Sustained settlement in the Blue Mountains began in about 1830 and the village of Lawson commenced its early life as a small staging camp adjacent to the road because it provided a relatively level area with grass and fresh water. This was used to rest and water the horses that were used to transport people and goods between Sydney and the Western Plains. Thomas Pembroke is said to have built the first hut there in the late 1820's.

Initially the area was known as 'Christmas Swamp' and subsequently as '24 mile hollow' indicating its distance along the Bathurst Road from the Nepean River ford.

In the mid 1840s a two storey inn, known as the "Blue Mountain Inn" was established there by Henry and Sarah Wilson, to meet the increasing needs of travellers over the Mountains.

A Railway Station located at an elevation of 732 metres above sea level was opened there in 1867 adopting the name 'Blue Mountain' after the nearby Inn. In order to dispel confusion the name of the station and subsequently the village was eventually changed by the Government in 1879 to commemorate the early explorer Lawson.

Crown Land sales were held there in the 1860s and 1870s and a proposed plan for the Village of Lawson was submitted to the Surveyor General in 1880 with an amended plan being finally adopted in 1881.
In the Lawson Village Core Area, the adopted Town Plan involved the creation of a wide roadway to the south of the main road that divided the area into two sections. The road was known as Broad Street (Honour Avenue) and subdivisions to either side defined by Railway Crescent to the north and east, Waratah Street to the south west and Orient Street to the south.

The frontage along the Great Western Road (Railway Crescent) west of the new town was noted on the 1886 survey plan of the town as being a stock yard belonging to Henry Wilson. Further to the west, the frontage along Railway Crescent is noted as the original Blue Mountain Inn and its adjoining orchard.

map lawson village 1886

(above)Town Map of the Village of Lawson 1886 (Part)

Source Department of Lands, AD map 80,057 with annotations up to about 1911 showing the subdivision in the Lawson Village Core area.

detail town map 1886

above :Detail of Town Map of the Village of Lawson 1886.

Source: department of Lands AO map 80,057 with annotations up to about 1911 showing subdivision in the Lawson Village Core area.

The 1886 Plan of the Village of Lawson shows the location of buildings owned by Henry and Sarah Wilson and in particular a building at the corner of Broad Street (Honour Avenue) and Railway Crescent (Great Western Highway) indicated as "INN" This building appears to be attached by some form of connection to a series of other buildings further west one of which is noted as a House and is set within a fenced yard adjoining the stockyard.

detail town map 1900

above: Detail, Town Map of the Village of Lawson C 1900 (Part)

Source Department of Lands, AO map 80,058 with annotations up to about 1930 showing early 20th Century development of the Lawson Village Core Area.

The Detailed Town Map of the Village shows modifications made up to about 1930 including the naming of Douglass Place and Honour Avenue both gazetted in January 1918. The map also shows the early development of the retail strip along Railway Crescent on land formerly identified as a stockyard and the building on Henry Wilson's land designated as a Post Office.

Development of the Village Core Area reached a peak in the Inter War period when the Blue Mountains became a major tourist destination and Lawson was identified as one of the most desirable places to visit on the Mountains.. Development in the later 20th century has been slow with a concentration on residential buildings.

Summary History of the Blue Mountains Hotel

The first hotel on the current site dates from about 1885, and was constructed on land owned by Sarah Wilson  on lot 1. This land was purchased in the new town layout adjacent to her husband Henry's existing land holding to the west where the original Blue Mountain Inn had operated from about 1845 and where they had a stock yard.

The current building (which is claimed to contain some elements of the earlier hotel) was rebuilt between 1900 and 1910 most likely to compete with the new Grand Hotel on the opposite side of the Broad Street. A license for the new hotel was applied for in 1909.

The hotel changed owners a number of times and became tied to the large brewers Tooth and Tooheys who supplied their beer on a yearly licence arrangement.

In 1930, the building was described by Tooths as being a 'tourist' hotel, two storeyed, lower part brick - upper wood - very good repair. Fairly big rambling building, appropriately newly painted and fully brightened up - no tiling. It had 12 bedrooms, a sitting room, a dining room and 2 parlors

Tooths declined to purchase the freehold of the hotel on several occasions but assisted with finance when the building was significantly extended with the present front wing in 1936.

The verandahs of the building were re-floored in 1938 and the tower section was re-roofed with metal by Wunderlich & Co., replacing the deteriorated redwood shingles in 1939. By 1949 the tower had been removed.

Other changes that saw the verandah infilled with glazing and the internal fitout removed and re-arranged, took place from that time and have generally been intrusive to the building's intrinsic heritage values. The building continues to operate as a hotel and bottle shop with some residential accommodation on the upper floor.

blue mountain hotel

The Blue Mountains Hotel from the east (left)showing the projecting 1936 additions that would be removed to implement Option 1 A.

Archival Images of The Blue Mountains Hotel 1914 -1960

Early photographs the Blue Mountains Hotel, Jawson in the first half of the 20th century show it as an impressive building addressing Douglass Square. The changes in setting and the losses and accretions to the building fabric can be clearly seen in the following images providing evidence for future conservation and reconstruction works.

lawson railway station1914

(left)View of Lawson Railway Station 1914-1915 with the Blue Mountains Hotel in the background showing it as the focal point of the village complimenting the character of the Lawson railway Station Group.

(Photo Dr. K. King)

blue mountain hotel 1915

above:The Blue Mountains Hotel C1915 Northern presentation to Great Western Highway showing the original configuration of the building proposed to be reconstructed as part of option 1 A

lawson shopping centre 1920's

above:Lawson shopping centre in the 1920s, The photo shows the impressive form of the buildings on the western side of Douglass Square. The prominence of the Blue Mountains Hotel in its origin

additions to blue mountain hotel lawson

above:The Blue Mountains Hotel showing the intrusive additions made in 1936 to the corner of the original hotel. This structure would need to be removed for the implementation of road widening Option 1 A Note modifications to the tower roof

(Photo Tooth Collection - Noel Butlin Archives ANU)


Physical Description

The Blue Mountains Hotel, despite later unsympathetic additions and changes remains one of the dominant buildings in the Lawson Village Core Area. Any early surviving portions of the building dating from the 1880s are very hard to discern and probably do not exist. The c1909 design resulted in the complete reconstruction of the smaller earlierbuilding.

The early 20th century structure largely survives on the upper level and roof (less the corner tower) and on the western side of the building where the original verandahs are intact but infilled with glazing.

The earlier part of the building is in the Federation Arts & Crafts style and in its original constructed form presented as a well detailed and resolved almost symmetrical corner building with elaborate timber verandah detailing and striking gables, acting as a visual focus for the village. The extensive timber verandahs surround the public facades of the building following the plan form with a projecting bay to the corner reinforcing the tower detail. Each street facade is enriched with a double gable treatment featuring half timbered paneling.

The roof has both hips and gables with timbered gable ends, roughcast chimneys and well detailed joinery to doors, windows and verandah (now clad over in most locations). The upper floor is timber clad and the ground floor is of masonry construction. This is similar to the construction of the Alexandria Hotel in Leura from the same period.

The hotel is in several sections with the former dining room and kitchen on the western side, the bars to the east and residential accommodation on the upper floor. Much of the internal fitout remains intact.

The unusual tapered roughcast chimneys are good examples of Arts & Crafts design. The original corrugated iron roofing was later replaced with terra cotta tiles and the tower was removed due to its poor physical condition.

The building was originally surrounded by a low fenced garden area separating it from the footpath.

The 1936 additions consist of a single storey painted brick projection with a flat roof deck over (now roofed) that is in poor condition with significant roof leaks. Archival information from the Tooth & Co. collections indicates that roof leakage has been a major problem for these additions since its original construction.

The 1936 additions to the Blue Mountains Hotel showing the modified roof treatment and the typical Inter war detailing of shopfronts. cantilevered awning and decorative wall tiling. This section of the building would be removed to allow the implementation of.


Heritage Listings

The Blue Mountains Hotel, Lawson is not identified as aheritage item on any statutory heritage list in New South Wales. It forms part of the National Trust of Australia (NSW) Urban Conservation Area for Lawson but is not individually listed as a heritage place by the National Trust. No approvals or other statutory obligations arise from any National Trust listing. The material contained in the National Trust UCA listing of the area has been considered in this assessment.

The heritage assessment made by Biosis I Paul Davies pty Limited indicates that the dominant corner form of the Blue Mountains Hotel (particularly if seen in its originally planned form with the corner turret) is an aspect of local heritage significance of the Lawson Core Village Area. The hotel is clearly an important aspect of the built environment of the town and is a prominent visual component of the Douglass Place I Honour Avenue precinct when approaching the village from the east.

A proposed heritage listing of the hotel as a local heritage item in the Blue Mountains LEP is recommended by the heritage report and a draft State Heritage Inventory form for the place prepared by Biosis I Paul Davies is attached to this report. (See attachment D)

Subject to the inclusion of the place as a local heritage item or in a local conservation area in the Blue Mountains City Council LEP, approvals under the standard heritage provisions of the LEP and any specific Heritage DCP requirements would be required prior to any development taking place on the site. Such approvals would normally be based on a detailed Statement of Heritage Impact prepared for the development to be submitted with a specific Development Application.

A requirement for a Conservation Plan under the Blue Mountains City Council LEP is not mandatory but applications involving demolition of all or part of a heritage item must be referred to the Heritage Council of NSW unless in the opinion of Council the partial demolition is of a minor nature and will not affect the significance of the Heritage Item.

In the case of any excavation of part of the site, the Relics Provisions of the NSW Heritage Act would apply.

No further requirements in relation to Heritage approvals other than those mentioned above are associated with work to this building.

Draft Conservation Management Plan

A Draft Conservation Plan of Management was prepared for the Blue Mountain Hotel site by Biosis I Paul Davies pty Limited in specific response to the proposed upgrading of the Great Western Highway.

The hotel building was not previously identified as having heritage significance though it is located within a National Trust Conservation Area.

Public concern over the potential loss of the hotel building contributed to the adoption of a proposal for the road widening that would allow for its retention as well as the retention of the more significant components of the Lawson Railway Station Group and its access ways.

The Draft Conservation Plan for the Blue Mountains Hotel and its policies address specific impacts on the building that arise from the proposed road widening proposal as well as those relating to its current state of integrity and dilapidation. The policies are generally in the form of management recommendations to meet the immediate impacts arising from the current proposals for the area adjoining the site and to provide guidance for future conservation works to the fabric including potential for the reconstruction of the earlier appearance of the Hotel.

The Draft Conservation Plan is a fairly brief and pragmatic study as a response to the proposed road widening and the potential for retention and conservation of the hotel building. The historical research provides basic information regarding the evolution of the site and the development of the existing structure indicating considerable modification. Nevertheless, the excellent archival illustrations reproduced in the Draft Plan and the fabric analysis provide ample evidence of the prominence of the hotel building in this focal point of the village and also provide information that would allow recovery of its former appearance and detail.

It must be emphasised that the Conservation management plan for the Blue Mountains Hotel prepared by Biosis / Paul Davies pty Ltd. is still in draft form and has not been adopted by the Blue Mountains city Council or the RT.A.

Proposed Statement of Heritage Significance


The statement of significance adopted for this assessment is that found in the Biosis / Davies report. This states that the hotel has High Local significance for the following reasons:


The Blue Mountain Hotel is of local significance for its historic importance to the development of Lawson, for its former and potential high aesthetic value located at the centre of the Lawson civic square and Honour A venue precinct in its own right and with regard to the townscape, for its social value as the only hotel remaining in the area and for its association with the early pioneering Wilson family.

Criterion a - Historic Evolution

  • The Blue Mountains Hotel demonstrates the pattern of development of Lawson with a continuity of use that dates to the earliest settlement of the area.
  • The place demonstrates the importance of Inn and hotel building on major transport routes.
  • The place is an icon building in the local area that has been associated with Lawson and tourism to the area since the 1880 period.
  • The hotel is one of a group of mountain hotels that have given the Blue Mountains much of their cultural character and which have contributed to the long and significant tourism to the area that extends back to the opening of the railway in the 1860 period.
  • Criterion B Historical Associations

  • The Blue Mountains Hotel was associated with the Wilson family, one of the principal pioneering families of the area. Their naming of the inn as the Blue Mountain Inn gave the name of 'Blue Mountain' to the township.
  • Criterion C - Aesthetic Values

  • The Blue Mountains Hotel, although now compromised by additions and alterations, has the ability to recover its significant form and make a major aesthetic contribution to the township of Lawson. The building in its pre­altered state was the most significant building in Lawson and early photographs show its fine detailing and ornate decorative treatment. The location of the building on the most prominent corner of Lawson and at the gateway to Honour A venue gives the building especial importance in the townscape.
  • Criterion D - Social significance

  • The building has been identified by the community as a key building within Lawson. This has been demonstrated by the retention of the building and the proposed realignment of the road to allow the building to be retained.

  • Criterion E - Research Potential

  • The building may have some ability to provide information on its early construction, however it appears that construction techniques and use of materials is standard and that it is the overall form and presentation of the building that is most significant.
  • Criterion F - Rarity

  • The building is rare in the local context as the only surviving hotel or building of substance in Lawson. On a wider scale it forms one of a group of major hotel buildings from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries located across the upper Blue Mountains that typify tourism development and demonstrate a pattern of tourism that has spanned almost 150 years of retreating to the mountains.
  • Criterion G - Representativeness

  • The Blue Mountains Hotel has the ability with its surviving intact fabric and through recovery of significant aspects of the place to demonstrate the principal characteristics of a federation hotel building that served both a local community and the important tourism of the area.
  • The place also is important in demonstrating the range of accommodation types and tourism facilities available noting that many guest houses in the area have been restored and upgraded with a major return to traditional forms of accommodation and tourism in the area.
  • In the absence of more detailed research, some aspects of this identified significance have been questioned by the RT A in their review of the Draft Conservation Management Plan. The author of this report agrees that the more detailed Statement of Significance makes a number of assumptions that are not backed up by the level of documentation in the Draft Conservation Management Plan.
  • In general however the Statement of Heritage Significance identifies the overall heritage significance in terms of the NSW Heritage Office criteria. The important aspects of the significance of the place that are able to be identified from the available information in the Biosis IPaul Davies pty Ltd. report are:
  • Its potential aesthetic and townscape values in association with Douglass Square and Honour Avenue and associated potential to demonstrate the development of the Lawson Village structure.
  • Its association with the pioneering Wilson family.
  • Its association with Mountain tourism.
  • Its various social values to the local community.
  • These aspects are largely demonstrated by the remnant building fabric of the 1909 hotel building and the potential for its restoration by removal of the latter intrusive modifications.

    These aspects of significance are appropriately incorporated into the summary statement of significance by Biosis / Paul Davies pty Limited and are repeated in the larger, more general Heritage Report for Lawson Township.

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