THE history of skiing in NSW is captivating and dates back to the early 20th century. Author Donald Johnston has recaptured an intriguing and important piece of this history in his just released book, “Hotel Kosciusko”, the history and legacy of Australia’s first planned alpine resort.
The Hotel Kosciusko, now called Sponar’s Chalet and situated on the road to Perisher is still a stunning site, but its total grandeur was lost in the fire of 1951.
In his preface for the book, Donald said he first visited the hotel in August 1958, when at the age of 17 embarked on his first skiing experience.
“I was immediately fascinated by the tales told by my travelling companions about the loss of the original Hotel by fire and how it had been a popular recreational establishment in the early part of the 20th Century,” said Donald.
Donald started researching his book in 2012 and finished writing the final words in December 2019. What he has produced is 310 pages of tales and historic photographs that will make for compelling reading for those with history or snow interest. He has also created a scale model of the original building.
“When I first started, it was after I discovered the original architectural plans and the original 1911 hotel registers.”
That sparked his interest into looking at the social side of the hotel. To source more information, he had support from the Sydney Morning Herald RSVP column when they noticed he was asking for anyone who had information on the building.
“Amazingly over that 7 years, 150 individuals or families suddenly discovered all their old family albums of their parents or other relatives including those on the staff. They were wonderful contributors to the background of the research.”
“This discovery was fortunate as so many of the early records were lost in the fire in April 1951. These included personal papers of George Petersen (manager 1931-1959), which in detail had encapsulated much of the Hotel’s life, as well as many of the Hotel’s trading files and historic guest registers.”
One reader, Mark Hutchinson, contacted Donald as his father Herbert was an engineer at the hotel and present on the night of the 1951 fire. Herbert suffered burns to his hands and arms on the night.
“Mark has kept some wonderful records, photographic and documentation from his father about his time at the hotel, he has been a wonderful contributor as well.”
Visiting Sponar’s Chalet today you can still see the original building footings. Sponars was actually the staff quarters of the Hotel Kosciusko, and itself alone is an impressive building with much history documented inside.
Author Donald Johnston with the new book.
The book is available now from the Perisher Historical Society website. The society have also been instrumental in supporting the publication of the book.
President of the Perisher Historical Society Philip Woodman said, “As a retired heritage architect Donald was drawn to the heritage of the destroyed hotel building and its remaining four storey staff accommodation. Soon he realised the gold mine of history that was generated by this building. Donald went on a voyage of discovery that has resulted in this wonderful book. It contains details of humanity, derring-do and structure presented so as to reveal the culture of the times, of the guests, of the employees and the managers.”
“Donald Johnston is to be congratulated on the accurate and realistic detail that his book provides.”
Visit the website to purchase a copy of “Hotel Kosciusko” and experience the full history of its trading, meet its former management, staff and guests who patronised the Hotel plus hear their stories, anecdotes and eyewitness accounts of escaping the fire.
A model of the Hotel Kosciusko.