Statement of Significance

The group of houses is a significant cluster around six surviving houses built as a major speculative venture by a lady investor. The precinct has considerable historical homogeneity. It is an intact group of vernacular cottages. Despite individual alterations, the cottages display a unity of style and detail.


The majority of surviving early houses in the proposed Henry Street Conservation Area were built as a speculation by Mrs Ryan in 1915. In the block closest to the Great Western Highway, Mrs Ryan built the surviving houses nos 4 (which she called Kildare), 6 (Oakura) and 8 (Woodbridge), as well as the original house opposite at 13 Henry Street (now replaced). In the next block, beyond Adelaide Street, on the western side of Henry Street, she also built nos 15, 17 and 19, which survive.

Mrs Marie Ryan herself was of German extraction and used one of the cottages as her home initially from 1915 until 1918, when she moved to Woodford. She returned to live in Woodbridge (8 Henry Street) about 1920, but sold that house in 1922 and moved next door to Oakura, 6 Henry Street. Her other cottages were leased, Kildare (4 Henry Street) to a member of the Gabriel family in 1919. The Gabriels had come to New South Wales in 1880 and had bought Bromley Hudson's large house with a tennis court further along Henry Street, at no.25, in 1915. One of the many Gabriel sons bought Kildare long after Mrs Ryan's death in the 1930s and the house has remained occupied by the Gabriel family ever since 1919.

The house on the corner of the Great Western Highway, 2 Henry Street, was built around the time of world War I and contributes to the group. 10 Henry Street, originally named Suva, is the earliest of the cottages in the precinct, already owned by Mrs Sayers of Lawson by 1907. 12 Henry Street was given the Swiss name Berne by William Tell Windeyer, the local postmaster, who built it in 1915 as an investment just before he moved to Lidcombe. (Rate books courtesy Joan Smith; Pauline Gabriel, owner of 4 Henry Street, 1999)

5.3 Lawson Conservation Area 3: Commercial Group

Statement of Significance

Criterion (a) Historic

The creation of a shopping centre is an index of a small urban centre having a viable population and an opportunity to provide services to trade passing on the highway or travelling on the railway. The commercial area along the highway and on the west side of Douglas Square is highly significant at a local level since it displays successive phases in the development ITom the 1880s until the present day. It is an important part of the coming of age of South Lawson, gaining its independence of the initial strength of North Lawson. Its relationship to Honour Avenue, Douglas Square and the war memorials which make Lawson Commercial Area 4 of State significance, enhances the importance of the commercial strip.

Criterion (b) Persons

The bulk of the commercial area was built by or on the land ofthe Wilson family which dominated the origins of Lawson in the nineteenth century. In particular the Blue Mountains Hotel is in lineal descent ITom the series of inns and hotels built on the highway by the Wilson family between the opening of Victoria's reign and World War I.

Criterion (c ) Aesthetic

The best of the shop ITontages are good examples of class sic early 20th century commerical architecture. Anyone on the railway station has an excellent view of this characteristic genre now rare in the mountains.

Criterion (d) Social

The protracted local debate over the implications of the proposed widneing of the Great Western Highway has demonstrated in community meetings and in the local press that the shops at Lawson generate a deep and genuine afection. The intelligent concern about the loss of these commerical premises and the strenght of purpose displayed by local people to ensure that these values are properly consedered are highly significant.

Criterion (t) Rare

There is no other comparable group of historic shops ITonting the highway in any of the Blue Mountains townships.


The commercial premises extending ITom the north end of Honur Avenue westwards along the Great Western Highway as far as Staples Street have been a significant feature of urban Lawson for most of the twentieth century. The group of shops, hotel and other services with Highway addresses all lies within the landholding of Henry Wilson. Wilson's primary grant in 1843 "had been 100 acres (40 hectares), portion 12 in the parish of Jamieson. He and his wife Sarah immediately built a hostelry for treavellers, the Blue Mountain Inn, on a site now within the public-school grounds, just to the west of Staples Street. The initial two-storey inn burnt down and was replaced by a single-storey inn on the same site, with numerous outbuildings.

The Wilsons were for a time absentees ITom Lawson, but returned to run the Inn in 1867. The railway station was, however, constructed some 300 metres to the east of the Inn and in 1875 the Wilsons built a new Blue Mountain Inn on a new site within their portion 12, conveniently opposite the station, at what is now 287-289 Great Western Highway (GWH). This resiteed Blue Mountain Inn of 1875 is the first development within the present commercial centre. (Bentley, Christmas Swamp, 11-15)

In 1882, soon after Henry Wilson's death, allotments in the newly surveyed government village of Lawson were offered for sale. Although the basic rectangle ofthe new village lay to the north of the highway and the railway, there were two town sections to the south-east, bordering on the Wilson property. The northern rectangle did not succeed, but important purchases were made in the south east sections. Henry' widow, Sarah, bought an allotment of land immediately adjacent to her portion 12 and in 1887 built new premises there, the first Blue Mountain Hotel. This building forms the core of the present Blue Mountains Hotel. (Bentley, 154,60-2; Mitchell Library, ZTP L3/16)

In 1887 the Wilsons owned two former inns and one functioning hotel along the main western road. The I 840s inn remained in existence until 1917, when the building was demolished. The 1875 inn was allowed to become ruinous in 1906 and when in 1922 the block (287-289 GWH) was finally sold by Fred Jones (the son-in-law ofMrs Sarah Wilson), it was described in the Rate Books as 'vacant land and ruin'. The purchaser in 1922 was Laurence MacBrair, who employed the contractors Knight and Morgan to erect the MacBrair Buildings, comprising three shops and an office, over the foundations ofthe 1875 inn, now finally demolished.

MacBrair proudly put his name on the building in 1923, ensuring that he would not be forgotten. This was prudent, for he died less than two years later and in 1927 the property returned to the Wilson family, in the person of Percy Bernard Wilson. By this time the Bank of New South Wales occupied 287 GWH and the other premises operated as a sin_e shop. P.B. Wilson died in 1937 and his daughter Mrs Claire Wilson Smith of Hazelbrook inher_tne block. In the I 940s 288-289 GWH contained J.S. Roper's chemist's shop, while the Bank of New South Wales still occupied 287 GWH. The Bank (then Westpac) later moved to a new infill building at 291 GWH where the funeral parlour is now located. (Rate Books courtesy H. Mollenhauer).

The Wilsons' Blue Mountain Hotel of 1887 remained on its comer site, a single-storey building facing both Douglas Square and the highway, expanded into the fine two-storey Federation hotel with a small central tower which is so prominent in early-twentieth-century photographs (Bentley, 11,15; Phillips, 28 Views of Lawson, 1,2).

Up to 1906 the Wilsons had made relatively little effort to sub-divide their 40 hectares. The streets named in the family's image to the west of the original Inn, Henry and Charles, and Adelaide Street to the south, were laid out and progressive land-sales in the I 890s, 1907, 1912 and 1921 gradually created a new residential area in south-west Lawson, known as the Lawson Township Estate. (Bentley, 15, 66; ML, ZTP L3/3) This increasing concentration of residents on the south side of the railway created a need for more shops and services to supplement the older established premises around Badgery's Crescent on the north side. Accordingly the first quarter ofthe twentieth century saw the creation of new service buildings on the Wilsons land between Honur Avenue and Staples Street. The character ofthe present commercial precinct was formed by the time that the MacBrair Buildings (287-289 GWH) were built in 1923 on the site of the 1875 Blue Mountain Inn, vacant since 1906. (Mollenhauer, no 15)

The earliest surviving building in this precinct is almost certainly the Mountain Magic Cafe (300 GWH) which is shown on the San Jose sub-division map ofthe I 890s (ML, ZTP: L3/16). This is particularly interesting because it began life as a holiday house for a Warmonger gentleman, E.D. Andrews, who called it, temptingly, Lingerlonger (changed in 1917 to Lingalonga). By 1923 it was described in the Rate Books as a cottage and shop, with Lowden's timber yard adjacent to the back garden. Andrews continued to own Lingalonga until his death in 1929 or 1930 and it remained under the control of the Public Trustee until an estate agent, Albert Thomson, bought it in 1942. The house was rented by the police department ITom 1944 until 1950 and Constable Carlisle lived in the cottage. The surviving annexe at the rear, though not very substantial, was used as a police lockup in the 1940s. It is now a pleasant cafe, rejoicing in the name of Mountain Magic. (Rate Books courtesy H. Mollenhauer; lessee, 2003; Bentley, 56-7)

In 1911 William Lowden built four shops on the east corner of Staples Street (then called Lowdens Lane), where he established his garage. These buildings were destroyed by fire in 1923 and rebuilt to their present appearance (301-304 GWH). Lowdens Lane gave initially a narrow access to his garage and his Excelsior Timber Yard, but it was widened in 1920 and after Lowden's death in 1938-9 was renamed Staples Street. Part of the corner site was also occupied by the local fire brigade ITom 1937 until the new fire station was opened west of Wilson Street in 1961, while the garage was run by Hilton Royal Hutson taxis of Honour Avenue after Lowden's death. (Rate Books courtesy H. Mollenhauer; BM Shire Council, Building Register, sub 1911; Bentley, 71)


At the eastern end of the commercial precinct, closer to the Blue Mountain Hotel, four old conifers dominated the road-frontage as far west as New Street in the early 1900s (Phillips, 2). On the west of New Street (which was created about the end of World War I), there was vacant land, bought for postal purposes in 1915, where the present Post Office (292 GWH) was ultimately erected in 1925 (Bentley, 71; Springwood Local Studies, Lawson Township Estate brochure, 1912; Mollenhauer, nos 11,12).

Next door to the Post Office land, at 293-295 GWH, were the refreshment rooms built in 1907 by William Parkes after the second Wilson sub-division sale: 'REFRESHMENTS' is still prominent on the panel above 293 GWH today. The narrow section of295 GWH with its stone pier was added in 1914. The refreshment room!> had become a fruiterer's, run by Charles Jeffiess by 1919, when it is described as a shop and room. After 1923, however, Jeffiess moved along to 297 GWH and 293-295 became two separate shops, one with a residence over, and the building remained in this configuration. Today 293 is a hair stylist's, 295 a pizzeria, returning to the refreshment theme of 1907. (Rate Books courtesy H. Mollenhauer)

At 296 GWH, just to the west, there was Rees' butchery. Rees, who had come to Lawson in 1894, built his new shop in 1912, but by 1917 it was owned by George Davies, the influential butcher based in Katoomba, who had also a fine shop in Leura Mall. Davies sold this part of his chain in 1925 to Thomas Rees, so that it again became Rees' butchery, as its parapet had proclaimed throughout the eight years of Davies ownership (Rate Books courtesy H. Mollenhauer; Jack, BM Heritage Assessments, K , L ).

297 GWH was, like the Mountain Magic Cafe at 300 GWH, originally a cottage, called Burraneer. This is the fourth building shown on the 1912 plan. By 1917 it was owned, rather mysteriously, by the Thirroul police but it was sold in 1923 to Charles Jeffiess, the fruiterer who had previously occupied 293-295 GWH. After Jeffiess died in 1927, a Hazelbrook man, W. Robinson, and after 1930 his widow, owned the property, presumably leasing it for commercial purposes. (Rate Books courtesy H. Mollenhauer). Modern in-fill has completed the highway strip of shops: the funeral parlour (formerly Westpac Bank) at 291 GWH; the Seniors' Co-operative and the pet shop at 297 A and B.

The premises occupying 1-7 Honour Avenue, just east of what is now called the Blue Mountains Hotel, date from between 1890 and 1911, though much altered externally. When village allotments were first offered for sale in 1881, the buyers adjacent to Sarah Wilson's lot I were at lot 2Joseph Hay, a major figure in early Lawson, the creator of San Jose Avenue and the southern part of what is now Honour Avenue, and to the south at lot 16, one of the Wilson sons. Hay sold his allotment and in 1890sWilliam Hart built his store on the site. In 1892 the post office moved from North Lawson to Hart's Store, which became at once the Post Office Store. W.G. Staples, who had run a successful store in Badgerys Crescent, moved across in 1907 to take over Hart's Store: by 1910 I Honour Avenue (beside the hotel) was the post and telegraph office, while the matching part of the two-storey terrace (3 Honour Avenue) was Staples' Cheap Cash stores. 5 Honur Avenue was from 1890 to 1910 a single-storey real estate office owned by William Lowden (whose garage was on Staples Street), and extended to a second storey while preserving its distinctive parapet in 1911. Staples' Store became Jackson's bakery, while Staples moved in 1911 to new single-storey premises at 7 Honur Avenue and Lowden's real estate took over small premises adjacent. (Phillips, Lawson, I; Lawson Post no 26, 16 April 1910, 7; Mollenhauer, 52) The building now 8 Blind Avenue was built after World War I to produce the bread for the bakery at 3 Honour Ave and is therefore included as part ofthe commercial Conservation Area. (Mollenhauer, 52)

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