Where dreams are born

By Graham Hepburn

SIZE: Land 1189sq m, house 192sq m
PRICE INDICATION: Upwards of CV $1.7 million
INSPECT: Sat/Sun 11-11.30am. Auction August 14
SCHOOL ZONES: Freemans Bay Primary, AGGs
CONTACT: Hugh Seabrook, Ray White, ph 021 909 012
5 Gunson St, Freemans Bay. Photo / Ted Baghurst
5 Gunson St, Freemans Bay. Photo / Ted Baghurst

When John and Wendie Rykenberg paid £4000 for their Gunson St home in 1964, Freemans Bay was regarded as a slum.

As their son, Peter John Rykenberg, recalls: "The house was rundown and had been used as a boarding house. At this time the area was designated as a 'reclamation area'. Houses couldn't be built or modified as the land was planned to be compulsorily acquired by the council.

"High-density housing was planned and the first stage of this housing was the development between Franklin Rd, Wellington St and Hepburn St. Luckily, the second stage was abandoned, and in the 70s my parents engaged an architect to design a new house on the site."

However, building restrictions meant the new house could not occupy the original, elevated platform so the villa was renovated, with a master bedroom added upstairs that would embrace the harbour views.

The large home on its sprawling site was a great place for the Rykenbergs to raise their three children, and it was close to John's photography business in Albert St.

John was well known about town as he did wedding photography, took pictures of diners at restaurants and mentored young photographers.

Peter John and his sister Maria Grieve have special memories of the home, enjoying being so close to the city but having a large property to roam.

Maria says, "We used to have running races from one side of the fence to the other. When cars would go past we would try and race them, too, until we got to the fence when we had to stop.

"We would pitch our big orange tent and stay in it overnight, imagining that we were in Africa in the wild."

The fruit trees her parents planted are still there, and there is a formal patio in front of the house that John had built as a setting for wedding photos.

Inside, the circa 1880s kauri villa is looking tired, but still has good bones.

As Maria says, "My father was a very intelligent man but he wasn't so good at the practical stuff around the house."

At the front of the house is Maria's old bedroom, which she used to share with her sister, and an adjoining playroom with another bedroom off that. The large sash windows have views to the north and were easy to open quietly, when Maria would slip out to go clubbing with her mates, unbeknown to her parents.

Also at the front of the house is the main living area, which opens on to the north-facing veranda with city and harbour views. A serving hatch connects the kitchen with the lounge, something that was part of the 1970s renovations. Beyond the kitchen is a laundry, which used to be the old kitchen. At the rear of the house is Peter John's old bedroom.

Upstairs, the master bedroom has a sensational view of Rangitoto Island across the city and harbour, which Dutch immigrant John treasured after coming from the flat landscape of Holland.

At the rear of the home is a sleepout that Maria occupied when she was older. There is also storage under the house as well as the double garage and double carport on the street frontage -- a rarity in this part of town.

Maria says that the property has a special place in the family's heart, but with her father having died earlier this year it is time to pass it on.

"I would love to see it done up because it could be a beautiful big home and the property is big enough to have a tennis court and a swimming pool and still have a garden," she says. "For central Auckland it's a very peaceful place and it's got a great view as well as the northerly aspect."

- NZ Herald

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