Mt Victoria is on the western edge of the Blue Mountains. It came into existence mainly because of the coming of the railway in 1868, when it became the terminus while the Great Zig Zag was being constructed near Lithgow. This allowed the railway to descend from the mountains to the more fertile regions beyond. The development of Jenolan Caves as a tourist resort brought crowds to the town as it became the base for those coming from Sydney by train before transferring to road transport for the rest of the journey. Right from the construction of the first road across the Blue Mountains in 1815 until now, most road traffic has left the mountains at Mt Victoria.
Despite all of this development, the town’s population has not exceeded 1,000 and today it is a quiet mountain community which gives the impression that it plans to stay that way.
Mt Victoria Park is one of the most accessible spots along the Great Western Highway for travellers to stop for a break and they share it with the locals who clearly have a great deal of affection for the place.
Two of its entrances have signs over them; that from the Highway calls the place “Memorial Park” while the Station St entrance rather grandly states “Imperial Park Museum”. This reflects the fact that the two sections of the park had different origins. The First World War memorial is a prominent feature of one, the original community owned part, while the other was formerly the property of the Imperial Hotel (across the road). It contains a number of bizarre structures which look like they might have once have held exhibits of some sort, perhaps animal dioramas, though I haven’t been able to confirm this. The two were merged as “Mt Victoria Park” when the Blue Mountains City Council bought the lower section from the Hotel owners in 1979.
The stimulus for the purchase of the land now forming the core of the park seems to have been the centenary of the crossing of the Blue Mountains in 1913. While nearby Mt York was the focal point for the unveiling of memorials (just as it has been in 2013 for the bicentenary), a site was needed which was more suitable for festivities, which was more accessible and could accommodate a crowd. You can read about all this in the newspapers of the day. The photograph (source unknown) show the crowds making their way to the park for the celebrations in May 1913.
The park became the venue for large picnic groups soon after this, since it is handy to the railway station. Railway picnics brought thousands and you could say “a good time was had by all”.
The construction of the War Memorial must have been a great event too, and the newspaper reports reveal
Some recommended reading (source www.trove.nla.gov.au): The 1913 Centenary celebrations (Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW: 1889 - 1915), Thursday 29 May 1913, page 5);
The 1914 Railways Picnic (Nepean Times (Penrith, NSW): 1882 - 1962), Saturday 12 September 1914, page 6);
The March of the “Cooees” (The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW: 1842 - 1954), Friday 5 November 1915, page 8);
The opening of the War Memorial (The Blue Mountain Echo (NSW: 1909 - 1928), Friday 7 June 1918, page 3).
View my Blue Mountains videos here . I have three other playlists - gem hunting/mining, Glen Innes and New Zealand. The video about Mt Victoria Park is here.