Katoomba’s iconic Carrington Hotel celebrated its 130th birthday in appropriately regal style on August 14 when Lithgow Highland Pipe Band members surprised more than 150 guests by marching into the hotel’s grand dining room, kilts, bagpipes, drums and all.
With the benefit of a $10 million facelift since reopening in 1999, The Carrington fast returned to its heyday when it hosted royalty, prime ministers and the elite of turn of the 20th century Sydney.
Current owners Mark Jarvis and Michael Brischetto — who were part of a consortium of buyers who rescued the property after its darkest period in the 1980s — talked about how “the future of this hotel and the town go hand in hand”.
“This is an occasion I really think we nearly didn’t see,” Mr Jarvis said.
“In the 1990s this room you are in tonight was full of pigeons — but there really is something magic in this place and it did get under my skin, so we bought into it.
“It was a challenging time but we answered that challenge and I think history will be very kind to us and everyone in this room that contributed.”
Since reopening, the hotel had its magnificent common areas, gardens and many accommodation rooms refurbished, a co-generation power system installed, renovations made to the adjoining Old City Bank Brasserie, Harp and Fiddle Irish Pub, Baroque nightclub and converted the old power station into the Carrington Cellars and Deli.
Mr Brischetto said “nobody builds like this anymore — the architectural features, the workmanship”.
“We’ve always said we’re the custodians of the hotel, there were many owners before us and there will be many after us.
“We’ve just got to look after it.”
Some things residents may not know about the Carrington Hotel include:
• it was renamed in 1887 in honour of former NSW Governor Lord Carrington;
• the grand dining room was added under the ownership of Mr F. C Goyder, boosting the hotel’s growing reputation as a rival to only Singapore’s Raffles Hotel as the best resort in the British empire south of the equator;
• Sir James Joynton Smith purchased the hotel in 1911 and introduced the elegant stained glass front facade;
• a federal cabinet meeting was secretly held in the hotel’s library room during World War II;
• a power station and chimney stack were built on-site in 1913, providing power to Katoomba before electricity came to Sydney; and
• The Duke and Duchess of York dined in the hotel in 1927, as did the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester in 1946.
The hotel’s ‘own’ historian Paul Innes said the property has a habit of regularly revealing clues about its past.
“We now know exactly when the hotel opened after the discovery of an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald’s classifieds section by original owner Harry Rowell that showed it would open on August 15, 1883 as the Great Western Hotel,” Mr Innes said.
“We were also recently sent a 1913 photo by the great grand-daughter of a British tourist who is shown sitting with other staff members on steps located inside what is now the lounge, so it is the only image we have of what the hotel’s original southern facade looked like.”
Unlike the hotel’s early owners, the Carrington’s management actively engages with the local community by regularly hosting community group meetings, local events and festivals including Wines of the West, Winter Magic and Oktoberfest.
Mr Brischetto said “for this town it’s important to build momentum.
“So we can proudly announce that our next project is a micro-brewery and thanks to a Destination NSW grant we’ve been able to get started.”