Statement of Significance

Criterion (a) Historic

The town planning of this area of Lawson is precocious, using a broad public street  as a link between two unusual triangular public reserves. The influence of World War I is unusually strong, with the striking, architect-designed monumental arch, the long memorial gardens with significant plantings and stone-walling and the name Honour Avenue itself, fitting into a memorial genre more familiar in Victoria than in New South Wales.

Criterion (b): Persons

Honour Gardens and the war memorial are associated with two highly significant architects, Sir Charles Rosenthal, who was also a dashing and successful soldier who rose in the war to the rank of Major-General, and Sir John Sulman, a formative force in Australian town-planning in whose honour the Sulman Prize for painting is still awarded annually.

Criterion ( c): Aesthetic

The wide, well planted, divided Avenue with its handsome flat-arched war memorial joining two important triangular reserves is a most striking element in the aesthetic of Lawson.

Criterion (t): Rare

Honour Avenues, though relatively numerous in Victoria, are rare in the state of New South Wales and this is the only example in the Blue Mountains.

History

The rectangle ofland known as Douglas Square is part of the reserve for travelling stock established in 1861. The railway cut across this reserve in 1867 and the southern part, the present triangle, was dedicated for public recreation in 1898, under the name of Grand Reserve. It was fenced and planted under local trustees, including Joseph Hay, the government surveyor who developed the Grand Avenues of San Jose and Santa Cruz in Lawson at this time. Flanked in the early twentieth century by the original public school to the south-east, Bellevue Park and the Grand Hotel to the east, by the Blue Mountains Hotel and Staples Store to the west and leading to Honour Gardens to the south, Douglas Square was, and is, a significant entry to Lawson. Its association with Honour Gardens and the war memorial there prompted the renaming of the square after General Douglas Haig in the 1920s. (Bentley 1986, 24-5)

In 1934 or thereabouts, the faux rock fountain was erected in the middle of Douglas Square, in the style associated with the Sydney Zoological Gardens, which characterised Echo Point at Katoomba (K 002) and the Memorial Park at Mount Victoria (MV 044). (Oral, Mollenhauer)

The road down to South Lawson Park was significantly spacious ITom the beginning and the northern part was appropriately named Broad Street in the nineteenth century. Survey Greaves' map of Jamison parish drawn in 1861 declares the road reserve to be 200 feet wide, but all subsequent maps show the present width of 132 feet (42 metres). In 1896 at the south-east end of the initial straight section of Broad Street another triangular reserve was gazetted as Queen's Oak Park: this demonstrates an unusually developed respect of contemporary town planning ideas.

World War I brought great changes to Broad Street. In 1915 the northern straight section was reconstructed in two levels (as today) with gardens in the long central rectangle. (Bentley 1981) In 1917 the concept of an Avenue of Honour was publicised in Victoria: new recruits for the war were to be encouraged by being told that their name would be attached to a tree specially planted in a memorial avenue. In Ballarat the Avenue was begun in 1917, the town had a commitment to 4000 plaqued trees by 1918 and the Avenue soon reached for 24 kilometres. (Inglis, 156-7; Richards, 109-24)

The Honour Avenue in Lawson was more modest, but it was proposed by the Blue Mountains Shire Council and a local committee was formed in 1918. John Sulman, the distinguished architect, who had a house in Lawson, was President of the Town Planning Board, and, with the Shire Engineer, Mr Wikner, supervised the completion of one side of the Avenue and the planting of at least six memorial trees. Advice on appropriate trees came from Searl and Sons, nurserymen, and the landscape design was overseen by Sulman and Wikner. A.A. Spahno ('that eminent Mountain's horiculturalist') supplied shrubs and daffodils, while construction was undertaken by Council employees and volunteers. (Blue Mountain Echo, 27 September 1918,3; II July 1919;4 May 1923)

The new avenue, the only one of its kind in the Blue Mountains, was dedicated in July 1919 by Mrs Edgeworth David (the wife of the great Professor of Geology at Sydney) and Lawson's returned soldiers assembled under a wooden arch bearing the Horatian line 'duke et decorum est pro patria mori' (it is sweet and proper to die for one's country'). Palms were planted in raised geometric plots, with ceremony and speeches, to commemorate the first two Lawson soldiers killed in action and the Echo reporter forecast that, as well as being a sacred symbol, Honour Avenue would be a 'pleasing and picturesque park where people may rendezvous and recreate at leisure'. (Blue Mountain Echo, 11 July 1919)

Permission to erect a more substantial archway at the entrance to Honour Avenue was granted in 1920 and in February 1922 Sir John Sui man, whose son had been killed in action, presented a plan for trees along the Avenue. (Springwood Local Studies, Sulman file, letter 2 May 1923). This plan has not been found, but the Shire Engineer's minutes show that estimates were later made, based on Sui man's proposals for other plantings in San Jose Avenue in North Lawson in 1926. (Bentley 1981; Blue Mountains Shire Engineer's Minutes 4279/1928)

While wheels ground slowly over the grand design, the Returned Soldiers and Sailors' League had been working for the erection of a war memorial. The stone arch was designed by the distinguished soldier and architect General Sir Charles Rosenthal, four times wounded in France, seven times mentioned in despatches. Rosenthal (who later designed the Memorial Arch in Blackheath also, BH 123) laid the foundation stone in Honour Avenue in January 1922. At the ceremony donations of money were placed on the foundation stone, so that within fifteen minutes all debt had been cleared. (Blue Mountain Echo, 3 February 1922; Australian Dictionary of Biography XI 451-3)

The Memorial was completed in just over a year and the Governor, Sir Walter Davidson, unveiled it in April 1923. The earlier wooden arch was transferred to serve as the entry to Bellevue Park adjacent. (Bentley 70; Blue Mountain Echo, 4 May 1923) The improvements proposed by Sulman, including the stone walling on the western side of the Gardens, were implemented in 1928 and Sulman supervised without a fee. (Bentley, 1981, 1986; Blue Mountains Shire Engineer's Minutes 667/1928 minute 4279; 644/1928)

An aerial photograph taken in 1932 shows that Honour Gardens had been planted along its full length, with substantially the same layout as today, with the path running close to the eastern side of the central gardejed space.

The triangular Queen's Oak Park at the south-east end of Honour Gardens had been controlled by trustees at the end of the nineteenth century. But 'for many years the need ofa Public Tennis Court in Lawson had been felt by lovers of the game'. A Tennis Club was formed in August 1902, the trustees made land available and by October a court had been completed. This was a public court and holiday makers were encouraged to join 'at a minimal cost', so that a 'social connection exists between residents and visitors, which would otherwise be found wanting.' (Official Guide to Lawson, 1905, 17). Over a century later, the tennis court still flourishes.