Live like a leader: the story, and sale, of Hill Haven

We get to photograph many interesting houses here at Open2view. No one will object, I’m sure, if I say this place especially stood out.

House at 66 Harbour View road, Northland, Wellington, purchased by the Government for the use of the Prime Minister in 1939. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 1/2-C-028332-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

House at 66 Harbour View road, Northland, Wellington, purchased by the Government for the use of the Prime Minister in 1939. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002): Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 1/2-C-028332-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Known as Hill Haven, 66 Harbour View Road, Wellington was home to two of our most well loved prime ministers – Michael Joseph Savage and Peter Fraser.

A very quick political lesson: Savage was the first leader of the First Labour Government, which won office in 1935, and he helped design what is known as the ‘welfare state’. Peter Fraser was his deputy and Minister of Education, and following Savage’s death he was PM for the next decade.

Michael Joseph Savage

Michael Joseph Savage

The history of Hill Haven itself is even more interesting. The eight room Victorian style villa, designed by prominent architect Frederick de Jersey Clere, was built from native timbers in 1909. English-born de Jersey Clere (1856-1952) was responsible for creating many of our important buildings. Wellington’s AMP building still stands today, as do 85 of the more than 100 churches he designed.

Prior to 1939 Hill Haven belonged to one F.W. Manton. Manton was the President of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, but records show he was much more besides.

In 1908, Manton embarked on a journey of Hobbit-like proportions. For ten days he treked and sailed from Napier to Auckland, via Wairoa, Te Kepo and Katikati. Due to bad luck and forgetfulness, some of Manton’s 250 miles of walking was done in thunderstorms and without food. This intrepid adventure earned him, in the Poverty Bay Heraldthe mood-encompassing headline ‘A Long Tramp.’

It might be that he was better off staying in the Ureweras. In 1917, under the equally flowery heading ‘Accident to Mr. F. W. Manton’, the Evening Post reported:

“Mr Manton… was working on his property at Harbour View-road, Kelburn. He was on a slope, and had occasion to cut some gorse with an axe. While doing so something flew up, hit him on the head, and, it is presumed, rendered him unconscious. He fell to the ground, rolled down the slope, and then dropped over a cliff on to the road, the final fall being one of twenty to thirty feet.”

Needless to say, thanks to pioneers like Mr Manton, the land is gorse free and completely safe now. Manton was made of sterner stuff than most; he suffered merely a broken collarbone and injured hip, from which he recovered and lived a full life. Until he died.

At this point, the New Zealand Government saw a house fit for a king – or, failing that, a prime minister. The Crown purchased Hill Haven in 1939 and Mickey Savage promptly took up residence. His stay was short-lived; Savage was suffering from cancer at the time and he passed away, at home, on the morning of 27 March 1940.

1939 Evening Post article on Hill Haven

The Evening Post’s 1939 article on the Hill Haven purchase, courtesy of The National Library.

Peter Fraser was Hill Haven’s next occupant. New Zealand History suggests the new prime minister was “entranced by ‘one of the most beautiful views in the world’”. In between heading our war effort, and helping establish the United Nations, Fraser would rest his weary head back here.

Sidney Holland, who defeated Fraser in 1949, found the view less alluring and decided to live in Thorndon. This might, one speculates, have been due to the Thorndon air being “sodden with the smell of hops and malt from the brewery up the street”.

Hill Haven harbour view

The view from Hill Haven today. Peter Fraser would approve.

After 1949, like many a humbled politician, Hill Haven kept its head down and enjoyed the quiet life. Then, much like the New Zealand economy, it experienced some major renovations in the 1980s.

According to Saturday’s Dominion Post (article unavailable online) these changes included “drive-on access [and] a double garage with internal access to complement the double garage on the street.” Probably not a huge priority in 1909.

This work was designed by the awesomely-named Cranko Architects – check it out on their online portfolio.

Which brings us to 2012. Hill Haven has, for 103 years and counting, played host to all kinds of VIPs – be it former statesmen, or happy families. It has all the character of the early 1900s, is equipped for 21st Century living, and retains all its remarkable history from in between.

For the first time in over twenty years Hill Haven is for sale. Check out all the photos and floorplans on the Open2view website – maybe you’ll be tempted to write the next chapter of its colourful story.

Special thanks to The National Library, Open2view photographer Grant Down and floor plan designer Peter Burtonwood.

Hill Haven 2012 Open2view

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