When the world was kicking up its heels and shimmying and shaking to the sounds of jazz and ragtime, so was the Blue Mountains.
In fact the mountains was the place to be, thanks to Mark Foy, an enterprising retailer-turned-hotelier who created the perfect pleasure palace for parties and other pursuits.
Foy’s Hydro Majestic Hotel began life as the a hydropathic retreat, a kind of forerunner to today’s spas and wellness centres. He’d travelled the world and knew that rich folks craved fresh air and fine surroundings. Soon his health resort morphed into the place to be and to be seen by Sydney’s hip crowd of the day.
Other guest houses such as the pillared Silvermere Guesthouse sprung up in the mountains to house the hordes of funsters who were making their way up to the Blue Mountains by train and in the latest form of transport, motor-coaches, to party all weekend long.
Today the fabulous Hydro Majestic still stands on a precipice at Medlow Bath commanding one of the most outstanding views in the mountains. Other buildings of the era include old picture theatres, such as the former Victory Theatre at Blackheath (now an antiques emporium) and the former Savoy Theatre at Katoomba (now the Avalon Restaurant). The Art Deco craze has also inspired entrepreneurs to establish themed cottages such as the lovely Gatsby in Katoomba, while original-era cafes such as the Paragon are reliving the heady days of old by screening vintage movies and staging cocktail and tango nights.
“Everything old is new again” is a bit of a mountains mantra; everyone relishes the past and with such wonderful buildings it’s easy to celebrate the bygone era.
For the past seven years, the mountains has staged the Roaring 20s Festival and kicked it off, literally, with a mass Charleston Challenge where hundreds of people – gals dressed as flappers in feather boas and beads, and guys in waistcoats and spats – have danced their way into the Guinness Book of Records. The month-long festival takes places every February with a glittering program that includes an Art Deco ball, high teas, long lunches, cocktail evenings and fashion parades. Nostalgia fans will love it!
However, for those who can’t make the February festival, the vintage-era shops and Art Deco-designed cafes and hotels are open all year round.