The Blue Mountains YHA is one of the most highly regarded hostel options in Australia for backpackers and thousands of tourists pass through their halls every year whilst they are here to enjoy the stunning scenery the Blue Mountains has to offer. For those who haven’t enjoyed the facilities, you might not be aware of the incredible art deco era architecture the venue has to offer, complete with original lighting, greek-revival statues, intricate cornice, ornate stage and a timber dance floor. If you feel like a stroll through this wonderful part of the Mountains’ history, why not join an introductory swing dance lesson this Saturday at 3pm (but come along early to register), and stick around as local swing band, The Katoomba Jazz Quartet, will get you putting those new dance moves into action.
The YHA was originally known as Homesdale . . .
Between World War I & World War II, guesthouses in Australia grew in popularity as tourism developed. They were often run by single women or widows, who opened their own homes to travellers. One such woman had the first guesthouse on this property, built in 1918, and called it Homesdale. It could cater to 56 guests.
By 1923, Horrie Gates, an important local figure for tourism, acquired management of the house. He made several additions, including more guest rooms and the ballroom with a sprung timber dance floor in 1934. This room became the famous Wentworth Cabaret, a popular spot for dances, parties, and concerts. The Cabaret even had its own band for guests to enjoy nightly entertainment.
By the 1960’s, tourism was suffering in the Blue Mountains due to the ease of travelling to further distances. Mr Gates closed down the Wentworth Cabaret and leased Homesdale to Illawarra Bible College in 1969. In 1977 the Assemblies of God purchased the building, and the ballroom was used by Commonwealth Bible College as a chapel.
After a year of restoration, the new Blue Mountains YHA opened in April 2001. The building was diligently restored to maintain its art-deco style, showing its inter-war, functionalist beauty. Many of the entryways retain their 1920s and 1930s character, and much of the original joinery survives. The ballroom is important as one of only a few surviving in the Blue Mountains.