Jenolan Caves

Keeping Unique Heritage Alive at Jenolan Caves

May 5, 2020

Men standing outside the old Jenolan Post Office

Tiny and quaint, the old Jenolan Caves Post Office, is a relic of a simpler, bygone era.  But the effort to protect the little building has brought together many committed people over the years, and has highlighted the importance of keeping alive mementos of a rich heritage.

Example of Vintage Jenolan postcardFrom 1836 onwards, when development began at Jenolan Caves, the new facilities were not only for tourists.  The caves were so isolated from other communities that most staff had to live on site.  So, in the 1800s a tiny village developed with its own public school, small store and police station.

As public access improved and more caves were discovered, the fame of Jenolan Caves continued to spread, and the community grew.  By 1887, visitors were enjoying a hotel with capacity for 30 guests.  In 1898, for the convenience of both tourists and staff, a small cedar weatherboard Post Office was opened, between the hotel and the Grand Arch. Two years after that, Jenolan was connected to the outside world by a telegraph line.

Postcards and letters could be mailed, and telegrams could be sent and received. Jenolan Caves postcards were an extremely popular sales item. Cave tour tickets were sold from the Post Office by the Postmaster or Postmistress.

However, in 1971, Jenolan staff discovered that the little old Post Office was due for demolition. Some of the guides got together and agreed that the little building was such a significant part of Jenolan’s history, that it needed to be conserved. So, in 24 hours they dismantled and stored the cedar weatherboard Post Office, and the Jenolan Caves Historical and Preservation Society (JCHAPS) was born.

The old telephone in the Jenolan Caves old post office/museum.The little old Post Office was rebuilt on the other side of Caves House, and became the JCHAPS museum.  Initially, volunteer society members opened the museum to the public frequently.  These days, the museum opens on special occasions only.

When the old post office was dismantled and repurposed, staff and guests still needed to post letters.  Therefore when a new ticket sales kiosk was built near the Grand Arch, ticket sales staff were also able to sell stamps and post mail.

In fact, to receive a postcard or letter postmarked Jenolan Caves was something to brag about.  In 1974, the new Post Office had a special pictorial canceller (with purple ink) that featured a drawing of the inside of one of the caves. Around the edge are the words, “AUSTRALIA’S UNDERGROUND FAIRYLAND – JENOLAN CAVES N.S.W. 2790”. 

in May 1984, the postal service at Jenolan ceased, and postage stamps are no longer available. Today, visitors can purchase Jenolan Caves postcards at Jenolan, as lovely mementos of their visit. There is a letterbox, but it is rarely used, as there are now many alternative ways to communicate.

When you next visit Jenolan, stay in our hotel, dine in our Chisolm’s Restaurant or in our Caves Café, remember to use your smart phone to take lots of fabulous photos and video for Instagram. On Facebook, check in, and post your amazing images for all your friends and family. 

Old Post Office and museum getting renovated in 1993JCHAPS continues to do important work to conserve Jenolan’s unique history.  In 1993, they restored and reopened the old Post Office again. They continue to build their substantial collection, which is collated and stored off site.  They maintain a fascinating website and produce a quarterly newsletter for members.  If you would like to become a member of the Jenolan Caves Historical and Preservation Society, please complete the Membership Form and return it to info@jenolanhistory.org.au.

 

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4655 Jenolan Caves Road, Jenolan Caves, Blue Mountains NSW. Ph: 1300 76 33 11 or +61 2 6359 3911
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