When Lapstone was the centre of world affairs

Overlooking the Cumberland Plain, Lapstone Hill was occupied by John Lucas and Charles Smith and his son from 1867 to 1921.

In 1921, Herwold Kirkpatrick and G.H.D. Morris bought the land. Disagreeing, they parted, leaving architect Kirkpatrick to develop a high-class hotel, retaining the stone foundations of Smith’s house.

Slowly developing through the 1920s and early 1930s, the hotel’s reputation was marred by attempted arson, suicide and accidental fire but it finally became a desirable holiday destination for the socially elite. Honeymooners, too, enjoyed its privacy, its facilities and its views. Lapstone Hotel also soon welcomed large groups and conferences.

In February, 1938 it housed the rowers in the British Empire Games.

After opening at Sydney University on Saturday, September 3, 1938, The British Commonwealth Relations Conference retired to the privacy of Lapstone Hotel, away from prying journalist eyes.

International delegates were intensely aware of the European political situation, as the conference was held “under the shadow of the gravest international crisis since 1914”, the Czechoslovakian crisis.

Many delegates agreed that Neville Chamberlain’s forthcoming visit to meet Hitler could only bring positive results; others feared war. One delegate, Ernest Bevin, general secretary of the (British) TGWU, believed Chamberlain must “stand firm to protect the democracies”.

Under this cloud, delegates to the conference at Lapstone explored the nature of Empire and the concept of Commonwealth.

In World War II, larger hotels like Lapstone, were appropriated for government use but, by 1945, the hotel had re-opened.

The hotel hosted the conference of the Far Eastern Division of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) Conference in February 1945. Its purpose was to “attempt to bring adequate relief to the suffering of scores of millions of people” affected by war.

In December 1948, the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) Conference, was held there. The federal government spent eight-thousand-pounds ensuring that everything was perfect for this prestigious conference.

They aimed to plan for “the reconstruction of Asia’s tattered economy.” Issues arose. The Netherlands-Delegation walked out disgustedly when the Indonesian Republic became an associate-member.

Ironically, the final conference at the Lapstone Hotel, in May 1949, was the “biggest in Australia’s business history”.  J Kitchen and Sons introduced their 70 salesmen, managers and supervisors to revolutionary improvements in washing powder, made possible by research during the war!

Delegates were shown the powder dissolving immediately it was sprinkled into water. They noticed how the improved washing powder made whites whiter and colours brighter!

On Friday 22 July 1949, the hotel closed. Purchased for the RAAF in September 1949, it re-opened as the RAAF’s Eastern Area Command in 1950.