And now John Key won't live here either

By Rebecca Lewis

Helen didn't live there, and John won't either.

Wellington's Premier House the official home for the Prime Minister may have an elevator, a tennis court and a ballroom with a sprung floor, but it's not enticing enough to lure John Key from his $9 million Parnell mansion.

Key and his family will not be shifting to Wellington and will stay put in Auckland perhaps with a few trips to their $3 million holiday home in Hawaii.

Key's Parnell abode on St Stephens Ave boasts a huge 920sq m of concrete and garden. Through the front doors high ceiling studs and a grand stairway lead you inside, and out the back sits a tennis court and a swimming pool.

Key also has a temperature-controlled wine cellar below the house. But while it might not be quite as flashy as the Parnell mansion, Premier House certainly has its drawcards, as Key will discover when he dosses there on week-nights.

The two-storeyed structure was built on Tinakori Rd more than 150 years ago and carries the proud history of housing 20 of our past prime ministers.

After the Crown bought the house in 1865, Sir Julius Vogel and his wife hired an architect to spruce up the old cottage and turn it into the elegant home it is today.

With gramophones, billiard tables and a grand piano, Premier House became known as a "social centre" and it was not uncommon for cabinet members to drop around for a tipple and some sing-song.

The house also boasts New Zealand's first elevator and a ballroom with a sprung floor two things still there today. It is also believed the country's first tennis court is at Premier House.

The elegant home was then, oddly, converted into a children's dental clinic in 1934 when Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage decided he didn't want to live there.

It was known as the "Murder House" to Wellington kids for a good 40 years.

In 1990 the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board agreed to fund a $1.8 million refurbishment project on the house and helped restore it to its original state.

Layers of paint and hardboard were peeled back and a plaster moulding copied from an 1880s design now graces the ballroom ceiling. The old stained glass windows were also restored.

A dining table which seats 20 designed for cabinet dinners sits downstairs, and the house is surrounded by a huge lawn, which is ideal for croquet.

The sunporch, balcony, ballroom and dining room are as they were 150 years ago _ except for a new modern kitchen, and a modest flat upstairs for private living quarters for the prime ministerial family.

- Herald on Sunday

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