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Leura – back in the day …
Leura's main street was wide, dusty and often muddy - suitable only for horses and brave customers.
- As horse and wagon was the means of transportation,navigation could be hazardous or daring – depending upon your point of view.
- The main street of Leura was rarely crowded.
After the opening of the train platform, Leura’s reason for being was altered.
- The first trains were not as modern as this later version. Back in the day, one often needed a good scrub after travel on a train!
- Those seeking respite, the few who could afford to escape the summer heat of Sydney, had discovered a hillside protected from westerly winds and with the healing powers of the mountain mists. Henceforth, Leura would be a tourist destination.
- These 'gents' at the Gordon Falls lookout knew the importance of protection
- Elegant attire was important for every occasion
The buidings ’ verandah posts have had a checkered history: installed to provide protection from the weather and supporting posts to hitch up a horse. With the advent of automobiles, residents thought they were antiquated and out of fashion. Demolished between 1950 and 1970, they were replaced and repainted in 1980 restoring the look of an early Leura.
Beautifying The Mall then was an ongoing effort by business owners as it is today in 2018. Trees matured and fencing was installed to protect the costly plants and flowers. Sometime after 1910 The Mall was paved and shops by this time included grocers, butchers and a mercantile store. Automobiles were now an everyday occurrence on The Mall and the old hitching posts on The Mall gradually disappeared. The Mall from Megalong Street up to the highest point, 3 231 feet above sea level, while still unpaved has been landscaped – notice the trees along most of the mall.
c. 1925 A Harry Phillips photograph
Above, many of the original buildings on The Mall were built sometime between 1900 and 1921 and today the interiors of these buildings are reminiscent of that earlier time. Uneven timber floors, draughty doors and windows and high ceilings are commonplace. Look up as you walk The Mall for the construction date embedded on the exterior façade near the roof line.
Creation of tracks for bushwalking led to preservation and conservationism and a greater awareness of the life of Aboriginal communities and practices. Hikers coming up from Leura Falls found respite when the Leura Kiosk serving tea and sweets was built above the track.
Above left, the Leura Kiosk on Cliff Drive was also a gathering place for locals on a Sunday outing. Today, now known as Solitary Point Kiosk, the building exterior is strikingly identical to this 1913 heritage kiosk and remains a respite for hungry trekkers. For those who are automobile bound, the restaurant is a trendy high-end eatery with a stunning view. Some kilometers around the escarpment near Echo Points is the very upmarket, Darley's Restaurant at Lilianfels Resort. Above right, it was the grand home home of Sir Frederick and Lady Lucy Darley in 1890.
Harry Philips photograph - early 1900s
From the turn of the century, inventive and creative people have drawn to the Blue Mountains, some to escape the depressive crowding of Sydney, others look for a new opportunity and many to recover their health. Among them was Harry Phillips, an injured printing machinist who would become a talented photographer with a passion for the region. Far ahead of his time and he experimented with superimposing striking photos of beautiful people and beautiful nature.
- In the 21st century, Leura is the popular getaway. Automobiles line The Mall and holiday-makers fill shops and cafes.
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Guy McIlrath – Manager, Everglades Gardens
You spend your young years in the bush of Sydney, trekking and road biking. As a young adult you hitched hiked across Europe to satisfy the travel bug in your soul and expanding your horizons. At some point, you want to claim some place as ‘home’.
Thus, was the life of Guy McIlrath, now manager of Everglades House & Gardens in Leura. Returning from European travels, Guy and his wife operated as florists in Sydney for five years and during those years, he turned his back on a career in industrial chemistry. He ventured into landscaping. In 1998 the young couple moved to the Mountains – they love the outdoors – they love nature -- they love their home -- the Blue Mountains.
For approximately 14 years Guy filled the role of head-gardener at Everglades – carer of fabulous gardens, beautiful and hand-built Sorenson-designed stone walls and trees of a height that leave one breathless. Everglades is an historic property maintained by staff & volunteers for the National Trust of Australia (NSW) which is dedicated to preservation and conservation of many historic properties in New South Wales.
In 2017, Guy’s role changed. Manager – now raising funds, motivating dedicated and hardworking volunteers, answering the constantly ringing phone and minding staff keep him running daily. His responsibility as manager also expanded to include the art gallery on the grounds. Not only have his responsibilities expanded, but also his views on art. “Yet,” he asserts, “I’m aware that my tastes in art are subjective.” So, he pushes his boundaries when choosing artists to exhibit. (*See the next Exhibition below.)
Everglades House, with Art Deco interiors was built in 1935 on 13 sloping acres by Renaissance man and Belgian-born businessman, Henri Van de Velde and is set in elaborate gardens designed by Danish -born Paul Sorenson. Throughout Leura’s many small and private gardens we often see replicas of the Sorenson stone walls.
Guy knows these gardens well. Over the years, he has seen visitors interact with Everglades – gardens viewed and enjoyed through different eyes. He leads the team who care for this Art Deco house and the gardens that surround it.
The upcoming exhibition at the Gallery: National Trust (NSW) and the Reconciliation Council (NSWRC) will again join forces to present a state-wide tour of award-winning artworks from this year’s Schools Reconciliation Challenge. Sixteen artworks, selected as the best of more than 700 entries to NSWRC’s annual art competition, will be displayed at Everglades Gallery from 3rd – 26th August 2018