James Joynton Smith: flamboyant entrepreneur who electrified Katoomba

Flamboyant Sydney entrepreneur, James Joynton Smith, entered the Blue Mountains scene early in the 20th century. He asserted, "the Blue Mountains...cast their spell over me".

Throughout his Mountains period, Joynton Smith remained constantly active in Sydney. His interests included the Arcadia Hotel, racecourses like Harold Park, Smith's Weekly, South Sydney Hospital, radio station 2SB (2BL) and rugby league. Lord Mayor of Sydney in 1917-18, MLC, 1912-1933, he was knighted in 1920 for his philanthropy.

In 1911, he purchased the Carrington Hotel, "the pivotal point of the Blue Mountains...rest-house of the tired business man of Sydney".

He then dragged it into the 20th century, gradually adding 200 new bedrooms and an Art Noveau verandah.

"I decided to use my machinery to light the Carrington and the town of Katoomba." Thus, Joynton Smith electrified Katoomba, building the power house behind the Carrington in 1913. Its chimney still looms over Katoomba today.

Electricity was sold to townspeople and businesses throughout Katoomba, over the sparsely-populated district for 40 miles, from Woodford to Mt Victoria. Even the Hydro Majestic and Medlow residents supported by its electricity converted to Katoomba electricity in 1917.

Joynton Smith created an Itala car business, conveying tourists to Jenolan. But there were too many operators underselling and going broke, so he quickly sold it off.

He acquired the poorly-run Empire and Kings cinemas, increasing their success and value, relying extensively on Otto Camphin, manager of his Katoomba enterprises.

Joynton Smith's business philosophy, rewarding those who supported him in his ventures, made Camphin a partner in the Blue Mountains businesses, sharing half the profits.

With only one bank in Katoomba, Joynton Smith encouraged the City Bank of Sydney to establish a competing agency, donating land on a corner of the Carrington block.

As "a weekend hobby", he owned the Imperial Hotel, Mt Victoria, from 1912-1925, developing its popularity and profitability.

In 1913, Mark Foy invited him to lease Medlow Bath's Hydro Majestic, hoping he would purchase it. But Joynton Smith downplayed the Hydro, closing for the winter months, opening in the brief summer season. In August, 1922, fire destroyed the Belgravia and Art Gallery wings. The lease's conclusion in 1923 relieved Joynton Smith.

He was a director of the Queen Victoria Home for Consumptives, Wentworth Falls, part of his philanthropy.

In 1925, Joynton Smith established the Log Cabin Tearoom at Penrith, a halfway house between Sydney and Katoomba.

Tired of negative press, emboldened by the success of Smith's Weekly, Joynton Smith founded the Katoomba Daily in 1920.

His Sydney interests kept him there. Less and less involved in Katoomba, he was drawn back by the Carrington constantly. It was his until he died in 1943.

Robyne Ridge is publicity officer forBlue Mountains Historical Society.