Mb002 : Hydro Majestic | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Mb002 : Hydro Majestic

Item details

Name of item: Mb002 : Hydro Majestic
Other name/s: Belgravia Hydropathic Hotel
Primary address: 52-88 Great Western Highway, Medlow Bath, NSW 2780
Local govt. area: Blue Mountains
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
52-88 Great Western HighwayMedlow BathBlue Mountains   Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The grandest of the grand hotels in the mountains, the Hydro has state significance as a pioneering spa resort with advanced facilities for the health and pleasure of guests. The century and more of use as a hotel, capitalising on one of the finest situations in the mountains, is also of state significance. The Hydro Majestic Hotel is a unique overlay of hotel building styles including the pre-fabricated Casino and Federation free-style Reception buildings and the art deco Hargravia, Belgravia and main wings and the federation free classical south wing. The hotel also includes a number of freestanding buildings with a unity of styling and detailing such as the north bunkhouse, toilet block and rear of the Road Bar.

The arrangement of buildings along the ridge parallel to the Great Western Highway with the distinctive street fencing and row of mature radiata pinus trees quickly became, and remains, a significant landmark on the road through the Blue Mountains.

Some individual elements including the Casino and Reception buildings are fine examples of Federation free style architecture.

The tennis courts have a rare quality with their rustic stone walling and location on the edge of the ridge.

The unusual feature of a prefabricated imported casino which became a showpiece for some of the greatest singers of the Edwardian period, the art collection and the cuisine further enhance the social significance of the Hydro.

Technical interest attaches to the remains of the flying fox into the Megalong and the symbiosis between the hotel and valley below has remained a significant element in the Hydro’s success.
Date significance updated: 25 Mar 00
Note: There are incomplete details for a number of items listed in NSW. The Heritage Division intends to develop or upgrade statements of significance and other information for these items as resources become available.

Description

Construction years: 1904-
Physical description: The Hydro Majestic Hotel consists of a series of buildings stretching north-south along the edge of a steep slope overlooking the Megalong Valley. The main hotel buildings in the centre are connected with a long enclosed promenade along the western side.

From north to south the buildings are;
A free standing residence (north residence)
the Hydro Road Bar, on the Great Western Highway boundary
a lavatory block to the west of the Hydro Road Bar
Tennis Courts
Belgravia Wing
Main Block,
A wishing well is to the north of the Main Block.
Casino,
Reception,
Hargravia Wing,
South Wing.
The dining room is on the north side of the South Wing.
The two bunkhouses are freestanding buildings at the south end of the site, close to the Great Western Highway.
West of the bunkhouses is a freestanding plant building. Service buildings and kitchens are located to the south of the dining room (east of the south wing)

The Great Western Highway boundary of the site is marked by a fence of rockfaced sandstone piers with turned sandstone balusters and sandstone cappings. Gateposts are taller rockfaced sandstone piers.

A row of radiata pines are planted inside the fence, complementing those on the opposite side of the Great Western Highway.

A croquet lawn is located to the east of the Belgravia Wing and the tennis court.

A swimming pool is located to the east of the Hargravia Wing.

Walking paths leading down to the Megalong Valley are located to the west of the hotel.

North residence:
A gabled 2 storey building with a hipped roofed wing on the west (rear) side, possibly built on the remains of the original Belgravia hotel.

The roof is corrugated steel with exposed rafters.

The walls are of cavity brickwork with sandstone sills and sandstone footings.

A stair with a catslide roof is on the east side

Paired framed and sheeted 1/2 glazed doors are on the south side.

A triangular bay window is in the west wall of the first floor.


Hydro Road Bar:
The Hydro Road Bar has a single storey octagonal pavilion at the core. The pavilion has turned timber posts and an asbestos shingled roof with terracotta ridging and a ball finial.
The pavilion has been extended south along the highway frontage and a rendered crenellated, parapetted façade to the Great western Highway, returning to the north and south has been added. The rear (west) walls are lined with rusticated weatherboards and have large picture windows.

The east façade has recessed entries in breakfronts towards each end. The entries are through paired glazed doors with sidelights.

The roof over the north and south extensions is a corrugated steel skillion.

Lavatory Building:
A single storey pyramidal roof building with an asbestos shingled roof and terracotta ridging set at 45 degrees to the adjacent buildings. The southeast wall is set back from the line of the eaves to allow a walkway to the ledged and sheeted lavatory doors. The west corner of the building is open.

The walls of the building are painted brick.

Tennis courts:
Two tennis courts set out end to end with a sandstone wall around the east and north sides. The sandstone wall is partly sparrowpecked and partly eroded in the manner of a romantic ruin. The wall has arched openings and the entry to the south court is recessed towards the court. Some of the wall has brick merlons.

A raked retaining wall is on the west side of the courts.

Belgravia Wing:
A rendered two storey building in the inter-war art deco style with a crenellated parapet wall entered through a breakfront in the centre. The breakfront has rounded corners, is taller than the side wings and has a straight parapet.

The entry doors are recessed into the breakfront and are a pair of glazed doors.
A vertical window of glass bricks is above the entry doors and has reeded reveals.

The windows to the hotel rooms are aluminium framed.

A stair at the south end of the building has a rendered spandrel.

Wishing Well:
A wishing well with a dry stone base and an asbestos shingled roof with terracotta ridging supported on steel posts and timber roof framing.

Main Block:
A three storey rendered building in the inter-war art deco style with a crenellated parapet and horizontal banding.

The building has timber hopper windows to the upper floors.

The central entry is through a semi-circular parapeted tower element, supported on the ground floor on circular columns.

The entry doors are glazed with a toplight and sidelights.

A stair at the south end of the building has a rendered spandrel.

Casino:
The casino is a single storey building with a large central domed roof and verandah to the east, south and north. The roof has a central lantern with a lead roof and bracketed eaves.

The roof to the dome is zinc shingles. The chimneys, to the north and south of the dome are rendered with moulded corbels. The verandah has a single slope roof with a parapetted wall to the east, returning one bay to the west.

The east wall is painted brick with sandstone arches. The parapet is decorated with pediments at each end and a balustrade. The walls are flemish bond brickwork

Central paired doors on the east side have carvings and a toplight. The windows either side of the door are in the form of french doors with a fixed panel below.

The west side of the Casino has a large curved front with a wide, plain eaves. Picture windows overlook the Megalong Valley.

The Casino is connected to the Reception by a skillion roof walkway with a crenellated parapet to the west. The east wall of the walkway is rendered. A hipped roof addition at the south end of the east side has brick piers infilled with casement windows and toplights.

Reception:
A single storey gabled building on a north-south axis with a hipped roofed porte cochere (added c. 1920s) centred on the east side. The porte-cochere has paired face brick piers.
The east end of the building has a smaller gabled breakfront.

The building has a terracotta tiled roof. Chimneys at each end of the building are spatterdash with a three brick corbel.

The walls of the building are painted brick with a spatterdash frieze and a rendered base. The gable ends are shingled.

The entry doors are glazed with a decorative brick surround. Pairs of french doors either side of the porte-cochere have metal hoods.

The west side of the building has a crenellated parapet and arched windows with rendered sills. A terrace with a steel balustrade and rendered base is on the east side overlooking the Megalong Valley

Hargravia Wing:
A two storey rendered building with crenellated parapets. The east façade has turrets at each end and a central element with the name "HARGRAVIA 1903". A bullnosed verandah is on the first floor and a wide skillion with a terracotta tiled roof extends east of the verandah.

The east entry is a central circular breakfront to the ground floor skillion with a metal tray roof supported on square posts with turned timber brackets and a turned frieze.
The first floor verandah has a glazed infill.

The west elevation has arched openings with rendered architraves and weatherboard spandrels on the ground floor. The windows to the openings are sets of 3 double hung windows. First floor windows are double hung with label moulds.

Dining Room:
A single storey building with rendered parapet walls and a crenellated parapet. Picture windows open to the east. A central breakfront on the east wall marks the chimney.

South Wing:
A two storey building with rendered walls and a corrugated steel mansard roof. The north end of the building is built on an exposed rock outcrop.

The wing has double hung windows with label moulds.

The west wall has arched openings to the ground floor with sets of three double hung windows and boarded timber spandrels below.

North Bunkhouse:
A long hipped roof building running north-south close to the Great Western Highway with an asbestos shingled roof and terracotta ridging. A small gable is at the north and south ends of the east elevation.

A central entry on the east side had a gabled roof (now removed)) and has a pair of 10 pane glazed doors.

The walls are rendered to the east, corrugated steel to the west.

Windows on the east side are casement with toplight and to the west are 2 over 2 pane double hung.

South Bunkhouse:
A gabled fibro building with a corrugated asbestos roof with a skillion on the centre of the north side. High level 4 pane windows are on the west side of the building.

Plant Building:
A 2 storey gabled face brick building. The main gable is on an north-south axis. Single storey gabled wings are at the north and south ends of the east side. A skillion is on the west side.

The roof is corrugated steel with plain bargeboards and exposed rafters.

The walls are of English bond brickwork. The north single storey wing has corrugated walls to the east and south, and the east end of the north wall.

A bullseye opening in the gables is bricked in.

Framed and sheeted doors open into the north and south walls.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Good to Poor - See Further Comments after construction dates
Date condition updated:07 Feb 00
Modifications and dates: North residence:
Skillion roof over east stair

Hydro Road Bar:

Lavatory Building:
Corrugated sheeting around north corner
Lattice screen on southeast side.

Tennis courts:
Belgravia Wing:
Wishing Well:
Main Block:
Casino:
Reception:

Hargravia Wing:
4 panel hotel room doors with toplights on the east side.

Dining Room:

South Wing:
Balconies on steel brackets to second floor rooms on west side.

North Bunkhouse:
South Bunkhouse:

Plant Building:
Steel and concrete stair on east side
Further information: Construction Dates:
North residence: c.1922
Hydro Road Bar: c.1900 east façade c.1920s
Lavatory Building: c.1900
Tennis courts: c.1900
Belgravia Wing: c.1923
Wishing Well: c.1900
Main Block: c.1930s
Casino: c.1904
Reception: c.1900
Hargravia Wing: 1903
Dining Room: c.1920s
East Wing: c.1910s
North Bunkhouse: c.1900
South Bunkhouse: c.1930s
Plant Building: c.1900

Condition:
North residence: Reasonable
Hydro Road Bar: Reasonable
Lavatory Building: Fair
Tennis courts: Good
Belgravia Wing: Good
Wishing Well: Good
Main Block: Good
Casino: Good
Reception: Good
Hargravia Wing: Good
Dining Room: Good
East Wing: Good
North Bunkhouse: Poor
South Bunkhouse: Poor
Plant Building: Poor

Current Uses:

North residence: Residence
Hydro Road Bar: Bar/function space
Lavatory Building: Storage
Tennis courts: Tennis courts
Belgravia Wing: Hotel accommodation
Wishing Well: Wishing well
Main Block: Hotel accommodation
Casino: Hotel public space
Reception: Reception
Hargravia Wing: Hotel accommodation
Dining Room: Dining room
East Wing: Hotel accommodation
North Bunkhouse: Unused
South Bunkhouse: Unused
Plant Building: Unused


Previous Uses:
North residence: Residence
Hydro Road Bar: Bar
Lavatory Building: Lavatories/Storage
Tennis courts: Tennis courts
Belgravia Wing: Hotel accommodation
Wishing Well: Wishing well
Main Block: Hotel accommodation
Casino: Hotel public space
Reception: Reception
Hargravia Wing: Hotel accommodation
Dining Room: Dining room
East Wing: Hotel accommodation
North Bunkhouse: Staff accommodation
South Bunkhouse: Staff accommodation
Plant Building: Electricity plant

Intactness:

North residence: Reasonable
Hydro Road Bar: Reasonable
Lavatory Building: Reasonable
Tennis courts: High
Belgravia Wing: High
Wishing Well: Good
Main Block: High
Casino: High
Reception: High
Hargravia Wing: High
Dining Room: Medium
East Wing: High
North Bunkhouse: Reasonable
South Bunkhouse: Reasonable
Plant Building: Low
Current use: Hotel
Former use: Hotel; Spa

History

Historical notes: The iconic hotel at Medlow Bath was created by Mark Foy, the Sydney businessman, sportsman and playboy (1865 - 1950) by bringing together three existing buildings and by developing the complex around them from 1904 onwards. The three earlier buildings were:

1. the country retreat of W.H. Hargraves, registrar in Equity and a trustee of the Australian Museum in Sydney, son of the man who claimed credit for the discovery of gold in New South Wales in 1851 (Johns 120; Mitchell 346-7). The single-storeyed house, with elaborate tree and shrub plantings, was bought by Mark Foy in 1901 and developed into the Hargravia section of the Hydro (Kaldy 20).

2. the existing hotel called the Belgravia, to the north of Hargraves’ house. The Belgravia had been opened in 1891 by Mr and Mrs Ellis and was acquired by Mark Foy in 1903 (Silvey 43,98; Hungerford and Donald 103).

3. a cottage owned by Alfred Tucker, whose widow later ran the Wonderland Park guesthouse to the north of the gatekeeper’s cottage (Kaldy 30).

In 1904 Mark Foy opened his hydropathic establishment, advertising cures for nervous, alimentary, respiratory and circulatory ailments, but excluding sufferers from infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and those with mental illness. The Hydro waso, however, from the start advertised as ‘the most enjoyable place to spend one’s holidays’ (Kaldy 33-4).

A prefabricated casino of striking aspect was imported from Chicago and erected between Hargravia and Belgravia, while the famous picture gallery joined the buildings together, giving superb views over the Megalong Valley. There was initially in 1904 a resident doctor, Georg Bauer, from a Swiss spa, to add prestige, but by the end of the decade the family hotel had triumphed over the hydropathy (Kaldy 36; Silvey 43).

Entertainment in the casino was lavish, with international stars such as Nellie Melba and Dame Clara Butt singing there on a number of occasions(Walsh 571). The kitchens were supplied from Foy’s farm below in the Megalong, with produce brought up on a flying-fox. A stable of horses in the Megalong gave guests the chance to explore the valley and Mark Foy’s famous fleet of motor-cars (he was a pioneer motorist) took them on more extended trips, particularly to Jenolan Caves (cf.MB 003).

In 1922 the northern part of the hotel, including Belgravia and the picture gallery, was severely damaged in a bush-fire, but the lost buildings were replaced and the hotel recovered. During World War II it was used as a convalescent hospital for American servicemen, who did some violence to the fabric, but it again recovered after the war (Silvey 43).

When Mark Foy finally died in 1950 he stipulated in his will that an extraordonarily lavish tomb be constructed for him at Medlow Bath, but the Equity Court released his family from obligation and he is buried at South Head in Sydney (Walsh 571).

The Hydro has continued as a grand hotel on a fabulous site and has recently been the subject of a Conservation Management Plan and subsequent works of extensive renovation.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Health-Activities associated with preparing and providing medical assistance and/or promoting or maintaining the well being of humans (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation (none)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The grandest of the grand hotels in the mountains, the Hydro has state significance as a pioneering spa resort with advanced facilities for the health and pleasure of guests. The century and more of use as a hotel, capitalising on one of the finest situations in the mountains, is also of state significance.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Hydro Majestic Hotel is a unique overlay of hotel building styles including the pre-fabricated Casino and Federation free-style Reception buildings and the art deco Hargravia, Belgravia and main wings and the federation free classical south wing. The hotel also includes a number of freestanding buildings with a unity of styling and detailing such as the north bunkhouse, toilet block and rear of the Road Bar.

The arrangement of buildings along the ridge parallel to the Great Western Highway with the distinctive street fencing and row of mature radiata pinus trees quickly became, and remains, a significant landmark on the road through the Blue Mountains.

Some individual elements including the Casino and Reception buildings are fine examples of Federation free style architecture.

The tennis courts have a rare quality with their rustic stone walling and location on the edge of the ridge
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The unusual feature of a prefabricated imported casino which became a showpiece for some of the greatest singers of the Edwardian period, the art collection and the cuisine further enhance the social significance of the Hydro.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Technical interest attaches to the remains of the flying fox into the Megalong and the symbiosis between the hotel and valley below has remained a significant element in the Hydro’s success.
Integrity/Intactness: See under further comments
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanLEP2005MB00207 Oct 05 122 
Local Environmental PlanLEP1991MB00227 Dec 91 183 
Heritage study MB002   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Blue Mountains Heritage Study1983MB002Croft & Associates Pty Ltd & Meredith Walker  Yes
Heritage Study Review, Blue Mountains1992MB002Tropman and Tropman  Yes
Blue Mountains Heritage Register Review1999MB002Jack, R. I. for University of SydneyRIJ & PH Yes
Technical Audit BM Heritage Register2008MB002Blue Mountains City CouncilCity Planning Branch No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenHungerford, M. E. and Donald, J. K.1982Exploring the Blue Mountains
WrittenJohns, Fred1922Who's Who in the Commonwealth of Australia
PhotographKaldy, Elaine1900Photograph of Hargrave's House in Medlow 1883 and Now, crica
WrittenKaldy, Elaine1983Medlow 1883 and now
WrittenMitchell, Bruce1972Hargrave, Edward Hammond (1816-1891), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol IV
WrittenSilvey, Gwen1996Happy Days: Blue Moutains Guesthouses Remembered
WrittenWalsh, G. P.1981Foy, Francis (1856? - 1918) and Mark (1865-1950) in Australian Dictionaryof Biography, Vol. VIII

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 1170280


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