The most important house in the country…

treaty house

The Treaty House, Waitangi. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library

It may look like just a humble homestead, but it’s the most symbolically important and most visited building in New Zealand. So on the eve of Waitangi Day, let’s take a look at the house where New Zealand’s founding document, The Treaty of Waitangi was signed.

Situated in the beautiful Bay of Islands in New Zealand, what is now known as The Treaty House was originally the residence of James Busby who was the British government’s representative in New Zealand from 1833 to 1840.

Busby was born in Scotland, his family emigrating to New South Wales in 1824. He was a teacher of Viticulture, training in France and Spain before returning to Australia in 1828.

When he arrived in the Bay of Islands as British Resident of New Zealand in 1932, he planted a vineyard from the vine stock he brought with him after constructing his house in Waitangi.

As well as being regarded as the father of the Australian Wine Industry, James Busby was also instrumental in gaining official recognition for a New Zealand flag and helped draft the Treaty of Waitangi, signed at a great gathering at his residence on 6 February in 1840.

Waitangi Crowd

Crowd at Treaty House during Queen Elizabeth’s 1954 visit. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library.


Square and symmetrical in shape, with panelled front door, the single story Georgian style home was to be a much larger, more stately and elaborate building with famous Sydney architect John Verge commissioned by Busby for the design.

New South Wales architect, Ambrose Hallen modified the original plans and imported Australian hardwoods from Sydney to construct the now, more modest house which included a detached lean-to kitchen and servants quarters at the rear made of native timbers. Two additional wings were added to the house over the following decade.

The estate was eventually sold by the Busby family in 1882, slowly falling into disrepair until the 1932 purchase by the then Governor-General of New Zealand, Lord Bledisloe and his wife. They formed the Waitangi National Trust Board which in turn hired leading architects William Gummer and William Page to undertake a major restoration of the almost derelict building, which was then gifted to the nation.

The Treaty House. Image: Sids1

The Treaty House today.

Many changes have been made to the house over recent decades but it remains a symbol of importance in New Zealand History. Visitors can view the Treaty House, still exhibiting some of its original features with rooms set out as they would have looked 1840.

The Treaty Grounds take in the beautiful panoramic views of the Bay of Islands and is also home to other significant structures such as the exquisite carved meeting-house, Te Whare Rūnanga (opened in 1940) which sits opposite the Treaty House, the two buildings symbolising the partnership between Maori & the British Crown.

Meeting House

Interior of Te Whare Rūnanga. Image: Phil Whitehouse

Did you know…

– The Treaty House is one of the oldest surviving buildings in New Zealand.

– Is New Zealand’s earliest imported dwelling.

– Was the the first house purchased as a state monument in New Zealand.


If you’re thinking of visiting the Treaty Grounds, take a look at the Waitangi website for more information.

If you’re visiting Waitangi this weekend, share your pics with us on instagram.

JFK and Wexford: The political lives of a President and his holiday home


An aerial view of Wexford, which for two weeks served as the Kennedys’ weekend retreat.

Last week saw the anniversary of the birth – and death – of two iconic individuals. One lives in a police box and carries a screwdriver, the other in a white mansion and preferred… daiquiris to screwdrivers.

This blog focuses on the second guy, and manages to combine real estate, photography and history. Nifty stuff.


On October 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy and family enjoyed their first weekend at Wexford, their newly built retreat just west of Middleburg, Virginia. They were to spend just one more weekend there before that ill-fated trip to Dallas on 22 November.

Fifty years later, Wexford is on the market with a price tag of almost US$11 million. Though it spent little time in Kennedy ownership, its role in US politics and history was far-reaching.

Kennedy’s wife, Jackie, designed almost all of Wexford (named after the county from which the Kennedys descended). It was built on 39 acres of land overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains at a cost of $100,000. It contained seven bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms, including one oversized bathtub imported from England especially for JFK. One of the bedrooms was to be a nursery for their youngest child, Patrick; tragically he was born six weeks early and lived just two days.


Wexford’s floor plan, as published (much to Jackie’s chagrin) by Newsweek.

It was the perfect house for a Commander in Chief. Kennedy’s bedroom came with a secret hideaway in the ceiling of his closet. It also had a bomb shelter beneath the stables, in case Cuba got cocky again, and a special communication room linked to Washington.

It was during the Kennedys’ second trip to Wexford, on 10 November, that the fateful decision to visit Dallas was made. New footage from the scene of the crime, taken by an American-Kiwi, was made public just last week.


Newly-published footage of JFK, taken just prior to his assassination. Photo by H. Warner King.

H. Warner King spent his Second World War in New Zealand before returning to Dallas to sell jewellery. A keen photographer, and avid Kennedy fan, he was determined to get some good shots of the president that day. And he did; unfortunately, as we know, he wasn’t the only one.


Texans pay their respects two days after Kennedy’s assassination. Photo by H. Warner King.

Warner returned to New Zealand in 1975 and brought his Kodachrome slides with him. After his death in 2005 his daughter, Sonia, discovered the Kennedy footage – and last week, 50 years after the assassination, they were published for the first time. Unfortunately it appears a distraught Warner destroyed some of the post-shooting photos, although one can hardly blame the guy. The full article by Sonia is well worth the read.

Also grieving, of course, was Jackie. After the shooting she visited Wexford only once more – to pick up some belongings that December. In November 1964, she sold the property to Quing Non Wong and his wife, Jacqueline.


The Kennedys’ master bedroom at Wexford.

By 1980, the house had switched allegiance to the Republicans. Then-presidential candidate Ronald Reagan rented the house from owner William Clements, Nixon’s Deputy Secretary of Defense and Governor of Texas, to rehearse for his debates with President Carter.

Fast-forward to present day and the property has lost none of its prestige. It has grown to 137 acres (55.4 hectares) and also has alternative power generators. Though now listed as a four-bedroom place it’s retained most of its original features, Secret Service bunker and all.

Check out the full listing here. If you can’t make the open home, do the next best thing and head to Yahoo Homes for home videos of the Kennedys’ visits, as well as a tour of the house. Looks like JFK beat us to real estate video by a few decades.


The story, and sale, of Wallaceville Church

Open2view 298904 church Upper Hutt

We shoot a heap of houses at Open2view. But a church? Well, that’s somewhat less common.

Wallaceville Church was built in 1893 by the Presbyterian Assembly, and now it could be yours. You’ll have to be quick though, if the experience of current owners, Alan and Heidi McGhie, is anything to go by.

“We purchased the church in November, 2002,” Heidi told us by email. ‘We drove past it one summer when we were dating, and it looked so lovely we stopped, waded through the long grass and peered through the windows. I even commented to my now husband, Alan, “Wouldn’t it be neat to own one day?”

“And what do you know, not long after that, it was mentioned in our local paper that they had three offers on it already and it was going to be decided the next evening who they would sell to. Within 24 hours we had an offer faxed through and we won the tender. Just like that.”

Open2view 298904 upper hutt Wallaceville Church

‘One Hundred Years of Worship,’ compiled by Len Gorrie and Phyllis Macnab, contains plenty of the church’s history up to 1993.

The history of the church is essentially the story of Wallaceville. It was intended that the building be the hub of the village, and for a while it appeared it would be.

The 108-seat church was built by a Mr Whitcher of Petone at a cost of 97 pounds. At the opening ceremony/picnic social in November 1893, the Petone Chronicle reported excitement unseen in the valley since Pakeha first settlement.

Sunday services were heavily attended in the church’s early days. In 1905 it hosted its first wedding. Records also show suggestions that the building host socials “in the week previous to the full moon.” Perhaps, surmised Gorrie, “the moon played a part in the success of the social.” Alternatively, perhaps full moons gave rise to behaviour unsuitable in a place of worship.

With some churches in the area struggling to balance the books, the Co-operating Parish (a union of the local Methodist and Presbyterian congregations, later renamed the Upper Hutt Uniting Parish) was formed in 1976.

By 1983, however, Phyllis Macnab reported an average of just eight people coming to services. Many families had, she wrote, “moved away, or married into a different denomination or prefer to attend worship at Upper Hutt… [the building] is no longer the centre of the district.”

Open2view 298904 Upper Hutt church

Fast-forward to 2002. New owners Alan and Heidi bought the building from the Parish and hosted many weddings in the 11 years since. It has also found use as a film set, the host of a poetry evening, county school fairs and was “part of many garden tours raising money for the Life Flight Trust.” Annual Christmas services, run by the Parish, are also “a big hit.”

Little about the building has changed; the powder room is a relatively new feature, but much is as it was when built. The wrought iron gates are the originals. The pedal organ is “nearly as old as the church” and still forms the soundtrack for many a wedding. The christening font remains there, along with, says Heidi, a “record of christenings which… dates back to the very early 1900s.”

Open2view 298904 church organ

Open2view’s local, Liz Evans, jumped at the chance to photograph the property.

“The church would be up there in uniqueness,” she said. “I haven’t photographed a church before!”

Photographing a church brought its share of unique challenges. “It was dark inside and full of wood,” explains Liz, “which absorbs the flash produced from the camera’s external flash instead of bouncing the light off walls. So I exposed for the windows and had a slow shutter speed.” Ultimately, as with any challenge, the secret to successful photos is to take a whole lot of them.

So what now for the McGhies? Heidi and Alan plan to carry on with their other business, Almack Electrical, and do some more crayfishing.

“We love adventures and life is short,” says Heidi, “so, for us, it is time to move on. We’ll certainly miss the place!”

Check out the photos of this amazing property and it’s easy to see why. There’s an on site auction on 19 October; check out the photos on our site, then head along for your chance to own this wonderful slice of Upper Hutt history.

Open2view 298904 Wallaceville Church front

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

For sale: a 127-year-old slice of Auckland history

Historic house Auckland

Here at Open2view we love all our houses equally. There are some houses, however, that especially stand out – be it for their looks, their fantastic views, or – as in this particular case – the house’s history.

Early settler James Young built Breveg Villa, named for his Norwegian-born wife Anna Breveg, in 1885. This Western Springs home has been owned, and more or less occupied, by the same family for the following 127 years. Now, it can be yours.

Current owner Sue Andersen wrote a great account of the house and family history to accompany the listing. I’ve put an abridged version below, and you can read the full story (and see more photos, of course) on our website.

(Ok, I did do some work for this blog; Sue’s story inspired me to find this list of early Auckland settlers. Check it out, and see if any of your family had a hand in building our biggest city.)

The house was built in 1885 by James Young, son of Joseph and Jane Young who came to Auckland aboard the ‘Jane Gifford’, arriving here on 9 October 1842. James was 10 – 11 years old at the time of the journey to New Zealand.

The family first lived in Shortland Street. Joseph worked on the erection of St Paul’s church in lower Symonds Street, the wages being 2/- 6d per day. The family later acquired some 80 acres of land in what were then the back-blocks. They named their farm ‘Arch Hill’, after the farm Joseph had been raised on near Strabane, Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Joseph died in 1880 on his ‘Arch Hill’ property at the age of 78. The district still retains that name today. The farm stretched from what is now Great North Road, down the gulley where now the North Western Motorway cuts through, and up the other side to the Morningside area.

Historic house NZ living room

James Young married Anna Breveg (born 1832), a young lady who had travelled to New Zealand from Norway. James built the house in Western Springs Road, at the far end of what had been the ‘Arch Hill’ farm. The house was the second to be built on the road, after ‘Hastings Hall’, which also still stands today.

The house was known as ‘Breveg Villa’, and had a brass nameplate bearing that name for many years. At some point it was removed and has since been lost, but recently replaced with a new version.

Historic house NZ name plate

James and Anna lived in the house for the rest of their lives, having two sons to carry on the ‘Young’ family name; Joseph Breveg Young was the first born, followed by William John Young.

James was blinded by a kick to the face from a horse when the boys were still young, and died at the age of 66 in 1901. Anna continued living on her own with her sons, until William (Bill) married and built his own house at the top of Tuarangi Road. Joseph (Joe) married Janet Fleming, and they lived with Anna until he built his own house next door, at 45 Western Springs Road. They had two daughters and a son (deceased as a baby) by the time they moved into their new home in 1912/13. Another daughter was born in 1915.

Anna continued living in the house until her death in November 1921 at the age of 89. After Anna’s death, the house was rented out to several families, until Joe’s middle daughter (Muriel) married (Paul Andersen) and they moved into 47 to make this their own home. They had two children – Timothy and Susan. They lived here together until Paul’s death in 1996, and Muriel (Billie) continued on her own until failing health necessitated hospital care in 2009. She passed away in 2010 at the age of 99!

The house is now 127 years old, and much is still original. The living room, with the pantry off to the side, was the kitchen / scullery – with the range where the fireplace now is. A ‘long drop’ used to be at the bottom of the garden where ladder ferns now grow. A gas heater used to heat the water in the bathroom for the original claw foot bath, which is still there today.

The wooden lacework and brackets, which used to adorn the front and side verandas, were removed in the early 1960’s – and burnt as firewood! A photograph showing the style is still available. The wooden front steps and sides were replaced when too fragile in the 1960’s as well. The original roof lasted (just!) until it was replaced in 2007, along with most of the spouting in 2008.

An era has come to an end for the Young family, and it is now time for a new family to stamp their mark on this amazing property, which has such a long history stretching back to the Colonial times of Early Auckland.

Historic house NZ garden backyard