In 1880, when construction commenced on the hotel, Katoomba was described as a nondescript little mining town. Only three years earlier Katoomba had been known as Crushers, in recognition of its most prominent feature, a rock crushing operation beside the railway line.
Mr. Harry Rowell, Sydney hotelier and shrewd businessman, built the hotel employing the services of Mr C Kirkpatrick, a Sydney based architect, and Mr. F Drewett of Lithgow as the contractor for construction. It was Mr. Rowell’s original intention to call the hotel the Western Star Hotel but only weeks after its opening in 1882; he changed the name to The Great Western.
When first opened the hotel was described as having “accommodation for seventy to eighty persons, contains nearly sixty rooms consisting of a large drawing room, a general ladies’ drawing room, a gentleman’s smoking and reading room; the intermediate space is divided into suites of private sitting and bedrooms”. The hotel quickly became successful in attracting the upper classes to The Mountains and its reputation began to grow.
In 1885 Harry Rowell died and his wife continued to manage and operate the hotel until Mr F.C. Goyder, a squatter from Queensland who was delivering one of his sons to school at Katoomba College, stayed in the hotel and decided that he would purchase it from Mrs Rowell.
The hotel changed hands in 1886, and Mr. Goyder almost immediately commenced extending and improving the existing facilities. It is recorded that one of his first tasks was to order two thousand pounds worth of furniture and artwork, pieces of which are still seen in the hotel today. The extended facilities he had built included an additional 60 rooms, The Dining Room which today is much as it was when it first opened its doors, tennis courts, additional drawing rooms and a music room.
The hotel also changed its name in 1886 to The Carrington Hotel, with permission and in honour of Lord Carrington who was the then Governor of New South Wales. This name change secured the elite Sydney market, just as Mr. Goyder had hoped when he approached Lord Carrington, a regular visitor to the property.
The Dining Room as you see it today is very close to the way it was when it opened its doors in 1886, with some concessions to modern convenience and comfort. The carpet on the floor is a direct replication of the original linoleum, which became known during the restoration; the tables are reproductions of the original tables. The famous silver cabinet contains silver, which has significance to The Carrington and its various owners. On close inspection you will see pieces engraved with the name Goyder, the initials JSMT (Joynton Smith Management Trust), Hotel Imperial and Arcadia Hotel (both owned by Sir James Joynton Smith).
In 1889 the Illustrated Sydney News recognised in writing that Katoomba was a town whose existence and continued growth was directly attributable to The Carrington. F.C. Goyder became the first Mayor of Katoomba, and his son William became the first Town Clerk and eventually Mayor himself.
In 1896 Goyder employed a manager, Mr. A. Peacock who eventually bought a lease on the hotel in 1902 and continued the tradition of those newly ‘in charge’ of The Carrington by extending facilities and introducing new services. Peacock was also civic minded and joined Goyder on the municipal council, eventually becoming a Councillor.
Spurred by the needs of the hotel, both Goyder and Peacock were instrumental in introducing the telephone, a water supply and sewerage system to Katoomba. Had they not had the hotel’s needs as an impetus, it is very likely that these services would not have been introduced to Katoomba until quite some time later.
In 1911, and after protracted negotiations, Sir James Joynton Smith bought The Carrington. Sir James was a self made man, who travelled from England to New Zealand and then to Australia. He was the owner of various hotels, including the Hotel Imperial at Mount Victoria and the Arcadia Hotel in Sydney. He was also the owner of Smiths Weekly – an influential magazine of the day, and was, at one time, Lord Mayor of Sydney.
As with those who had gone before him, Sir James further enlarged and enhanced The Carrington with the introduction of many works of art, and the complete alteration of the façade of the hotel. The famous stained glass façade, the tiled and columned verandah, the Italianate balustrades and curved stairs were introduced in 1913.
Also introduced to The Dining Room at that time were the Ming Vases shipped and trained from China to Katoomba, where one was dropped and broken. The repair to the broken vase was made with brass staples, which encircle its neck and form a seam running the length of the vase. Whilst both valuable and historically significant to The Carrington, these Ming vases are not of the Dynasty that would make them priceless.
Sir James Joynton Smith also built the powerhouse behind The Carrington in c1914 to provide the hotel with electricity. The power station had such capacity that it provided the Katoomba district with electricity until 1925.
The magnificent lead light dome and minstrel gallery in today’s Cocktail Bar were added in honour of the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York in 1927, as was another wing of accommodation.
Sir James died in 1943, however the Joynton Smith Management Trust continued the management of The Carrington until 1968, when they sold it to developer Theo Morris. Unfortunately the hotel was becoming run down at this time, and while certain maintenance works were undertaken they were not sufficient or frequent enough to arrest the deterioration that had commenced.
In 1978, The Carrington was placed on the register of the National Trust. In 1985, the building was listed with the Australian Heritage Commission as a building of both state and national significance, not just for the fabric of the building, but for its cultural significance. In the same year, 1985, The Carrington hotel was closed by the Licensing Court of NSW due to breach of Fire Ordinances, and remained closed and boarded up until its purchase at the end of 1991.
The restoration of the hotel has taken twelve years to date, with work continuing on the observation deck, the power house, and garages. Completed to date are The Library, The Billiards Room, The Lounge, The Dining Room, The Cocktail Bar, The Ballroom, The Carrington Cellars, carpark, front Piazza, gardens, and 65 rooms and suites.