(Photo from Mrs. J.Pearce descendant of Wilsons Lawson Hairdresser early 1900s)
The locality now known as Lawson appears in records as early as 1817 under the name of The Swamp or Christmas Swamp, a reference to the area's hanging swamp and easily accessible water. Mention of a swamp in the area actually dates back to 1813 when the explorer Gregory Blaxland describes 3 acres covered with rushy coarse grass with water running through it. In 1814 in his journal of the building of the first road across the mountains, William Cox describes the building of the road between what is now Hazelbrook and Lawson, while in 1817 John Oxley, the Surveyor General, took "barometrical readings", calculated elevations and put Christmas Swamp officially on the map. However, by the 1830s, in keeping with the official practice of the time the area was referred to as 24 Mile Hollow (the distance calculated from Emu Ford on the Nepean River).
The name of the town and its railway station was changed to Lawson in 1879 in honour of William Lawson, the explorer. left
Archaeological evidence shows clearly the Lawson area has been a centre of human activity for at least 20,000 years and many sites and relics remain in the area as evidence of this long history. This is an important part of the Lawson story and is covered in a special section on the Aboriginal history of the Mid Mountains
The first European building in the area and one of
the earliest European buildings in the Blue Mountains, Pembroke's
Hut, ( c. late 1820s, shown on map of Govett's survey in 1831) was on
what is now the playground of Lawson Public School.
First Blue Mountain Hotel
The second Blue Mountain Hotel.
This was also to be the site of the first Blue Mountain Inn built in 1843 by Henry Wilson on part of the 200 acres he had purchased. The area as a whole now took the name of Blue Mountain. This first building accidently burnt down and was replaced on the same site by the second Blue Mountain Inn in the form of a single storey building that was to survive until 1917.It was at this stage that the Public School, having outgrown its original home in Honour Avenue (now the Masonic Hall) was moved here in 1918. This makes the school playground an important archaeological site as was clearly shown by the results of underground radar surveys conducted by the Survey Services of the Roads and Traffic Authority.
When the railways came through in the 1860s (Blue Mountain Railway Station opened in 1867) Blue Mountain and Mount Victoria were the only listed stations, as opposed to stopping places or platforms. Blue Mountain was a major source of water for the steam trains (See Swimming in History). However by this time there was increasing confusion between Blue Mountain and Blue Mountains so in 1879 as part of a Government decision to tidy up locality names and to record the names of those Europeans who first crossed the Blue Mountains.
Its present name of Lawson was officially recorded together with Wentworth Falls and Blaxland. This is when the second Blue Mountain Inn was built.
Much of Lawson's early growth was to be found in what is now North Lawson: business, rail,electricity,local government, education, recreation and cultural developments. This area included the building to be known as Stratford, built in 1879 by Joseph Hay as the San Jose Sanitorium later to be the site of the well-known Stratford School For Girls, the Blue Mountains Shire's first Council Chambers, now housing the Council Library; and the important Railway reservoir now the Bowling Club. As well in the 1880s the Geggie family built a house and store on the comer of Badgery Crescent and San Jose Avenue, now (2004) Badgery Attic, the site of Lawson's first store and post office. Under the name of Staples Stores this business was to be transferred to Honour Avenue, then Broad Street in 1907 and to form the core of what was to become the commercial area of Lawson.
The North Lawson precinct has been home to, or closely associated with, notable identities. Hilda Gardens (now the parking area of the Bowling Club) was established by C.R Hoskins of Lithgow and Port Kembla Steel works in memory of his daughter, Hilda, killed in a car accident. Dr William Moore of Moore's Homeopathic Remedies ("Good for Man and Beast") lived in San Jose Avenue and lent money to his fellow Congregationalist, John Geggie, to help develop Lawson. George Finey, the Bulletin cartoonist and artist friend of Norman Lindsay, lived at 5A San Jose Avenue and his bright orange geometrical artwork can still be seen on the steps of that house.
Douglass Square 1920's with the Grand Hotel shown on the left
Lawson played a very important part in the early European history of the Blue Mountains not merely as a centre of commerce and local government but as one of the major tourist destinations. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and to a lesser extent to as late as the 1940s and 1950s. There were many guest houses, cottages to rent, places to board and camping areas.
At its height Lawson could boast two magnificent hotels on opposite comers of the present Douglass Square - the Blue Mountain Hotel and the Almeda Hotel built in 1887.
Alameda Hotel( later Grand Hotel Lawson)
Blue Mountain Hotel
The Alameda became the Grand Hotel in 1895 and as photographs show was a most imposing building. It was destroyed by fire in 1932. The Blue Mountains Hotel still operates as does one remaining guest house ,Guest of Honour in Honour Avenue, built as Wallawa in 1893.
The following excerpts from tourist literature of the World War I period show, Lawson was by this time a major Blue Mountains township.
A pre-1918 description of Lawson reads:
The township of Lawson which is 57 miles from Sydney and 2347 feet above sea level is noted for its beautiful mountains scenery and forest flora.The climate is salubrious and the district is a favourite resort in the summer months for tourists and visitors from all parts. On the northern side of the railway station are many beautiful spots. Dante's Glen and Falls has a beautiful pool at its base, and is noted for its display of fireflies and glow worms... On the southern side of the railway go down Santa Cruz Avenue (now Honour Avenue) then descend to Adelina Falls and Amphitheatre which is filled with a remarkable wealth of fern and shrub....
The 1918 Wilson Directory says:
Lawson is becoming a township of considerable importance, and during the last few years improvements have been effected in numerous directions. Its admirable parks and reserves all situated in convenient and suitable places, prove a great attraction. LaWson possesses an advantage over other mountain centres with its excellent train services as all passenger trains on the Great Western Line stop there. It is also the centre of the Blue Mountains Shire and the council chambers are located near the station. The town is lit by electricity, and there is a good swimming bath quite handy which is well patronised The improvements recently made by the Shire Council make Lawson one of the most desirable places on the mountains. The climate is ideal as a summer and winter health and scenic resort.