Author Julian Leatherdale reveals two fascinating historical stories that he uncovered while researching his novel Palace of Tears; the strange tale of the Hydro Majestic hotel and the shocking reality of German internment during WWI.
A luxury spa hotel, the Hydro Majestic was opened in 1904 in the Blue Mountains by department store entrepreneur Mark Foy. He spared no expense on lavish décor, a gallery of expensive artworks, a hydropathy clinic with a German doctor, and luxuries and mod cons such as Turkish coffee and a telephone in every room. The clinic was short-lived but the hotel itself thrived as a mecca for the rich and famous well into the 1920s and 1930s, renowned for its banquets, balls and parties and its illustrious guests.
During WWI, the Australian Government interred thousands of citizens of German descent as ‘enemy aliens’ who were considered a risk to national security. The largest internment camp was at Holsworthy, near Liverpool holding 6,890 internees, most having German or Austrian parentage. The camp grew from a collection of tents to a small town of huts complete with restaurants and cafes and other small businesses.
Both these stories illustrate Australia’s difficult journey towards becoming a multicultural society
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