Friday, 27 November 2015

Woodhill, Grange Road

Woodhill, Postcard, undated postcard
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library
Woodhill in Grange Road, Tauranga is the second house built on his farm for Henry Stainforth Brabant, the first being Maungawhare. Fitzgibbon Louch, an Irish architect and Katikati settler designed the ‘domestic Gothic’ style house and David Lundon built it in 1885. Kauri logs from the Coromandel were milled on the site. The house had an imposing position on a ridge looking across the Waikareao estuary to what was then the small town of Tauranga. The whole building is cladded with timber weatherboards and has a corrugated iron roof. The original block of land is much reduced and there is just a few metres to the boundary hedge on the east side.

Woodhill from the East, 23 July 2002
Photo by Shirley Arabin, Courtesy of Heritage New Zealand
The house is large with a frontage of over twenty four metres. Originally there stood a three storey tower at the south end with a copper roof but an owner removed the top storey some years ago. The present function of the house is as a venue for funerals and rooms at the north end have been modified to provide a large room for services.  Otherwise much is original like the timber panelled wainscoting in the hall and the door and window joinery. The first front door is on the east wall that is now the back wall of the house. The ceilings are made of panelled kauri. Fire surrounds are original although repairs have been made at times to the brick fireplaces.

Woodhill, view of front, August 2002
Photo by Shirley Arabin, Courtesy of Heritage New Zealand
The elaborate barge boards on each gable are crowned by a finial which is itself braced by a scroll. The Italianate splayed bay window by the original front door is surmounted with embrasures and cappings. The label mould above the windows diverts water away from the windows while the verandah posts and barge boards demonstrate the elaborate styles popular in their day.

There were several owners between the Brabants and Legacy Funerals who have owned the house since the founder Greg Brownless bought it in 1993. During this time the grounds have reduced to half an acre and the driveway brings visitors to the west side that has become the main entrance to the house.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Commercial Hotel, The Strand

Strand, Tauranga, c.1910
Image courtesy of Justine Neal
Building of the Commercial Hotel began July 1876 on the site previously occupied as a timber yard. The hotel was built for Mr. Joseph Ellis, the first proprietor. On 24 July 1900 the Commercial Hotel was lit up in front with hydron carbon gas, being reported as the first installation of gas in Tauranga. At one stage it seemed to fashionable for policemen to resign from the force and take over as licensees of hotels. 1911 saw Constable Quirk resign to take over the Commercial. In November 1916 the hotel, along with several other buildings on The Strand, was destroyed by fire. A new hotel built on the site opened 2 September 1918.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Sir Bob Owens and the Statue of Tangaroa

Small casting of Tangaroa statue
Tauranga Heritage Collection 1805/85
Many Tauranga residents will have heard the name Sir Robert Owens. As Mayor of Tauranga from 1968 to 1977 and Mayor of Mount Maunganui from 1971 to 1974 he made a significant contribution to the development of our city.

Arthur Honeyfield and Robert Owens with a small casting of Tangaroa. This casting would later be given to the Tauranga District Museum and remains in the Tauranga Heritage Collection.
Image: Private Collection
Sir Owens was a generous person giving to many people and organisations in need. While those gifts will be remembered by individuals, Sir Owens also made a number of public donations. These include the SS Taioma to the Tauranga Historic Village, and the nine-foot Tangaroa statue at the entrance of the Tauranga harbour. At the time of the statue’s unveiling in April 1976 the Bay of Plenty Times wrote:
“Thanks Bob, it was a fine gesture. The people of Tauranga should be grateful for the time, effort and talent you have given in being Mayor of this city. This gift will be appreciated by all who live here and will certainly be remembered by all who visit this city. There can be no question that you have been an outstanding mayor and the donation of this statue is only further proof of your generosity.”