One of Tauranga oldest villas has been fully restored, giving its staff and clients something to celebrate.

Originally built in 1901 the gabled, red-roofed St Peters House has been fully restored to a warm, comfortable place for the social outreach service based in the building.

Staff at the Spring St villa wore coats to work in winter while their clients brought their own blankets in to keep warm during counselling.

Grants, donations and bequests funded the $400,000 project which saw the house completely lifted to pour new piles, structural earthquake proofing, electrical upgrade, interior remodelling, three new counselling rooms, insulation and heating.


"We could have knocked it down and build a more modern, utilitarian building but we made a commitment to save the house - Tauranga doesn't have many historic buildings left," St Peters House manager Cath Page said.

She said clients who came in were struggling with hard issues in life and keeping the villa made it feel more comfortable and safe, like a home, for those people.

 St Peters House back in the day. Photo/supplied
St Peters House back in the day. Photo/supplied

The house was stripped down to its kauri bones but much of its historical character was preserved.

Kauri panels, which were revealed when layers of wallpaper and paint were peeled away, have been made into a feature wall in the staff room and used to make the reception counter.

Leftover kauri was given to local handymen or St Peters in the City church-goers who made crosses.

The front door was the original, complete with its old-fashioned crank doorbell.

Even the inside and outside paint schemes were modelled on houses from the early 1900s.

Ms Page said the clients were loving the restored villa.


It was now able to better handle clients coming in for free counselling, education and personal development, budgeting and debt help, and social work.

Reverend J W Smyth, 1912-1937. He had to use the horse and carriage to conduct services in Otumoetai, Te Puna on Sundays. Photo/supplied
Reverend J W Smyth, 1912-1937. He had to use the horse and carriage to conduct services in Otumoetai, Te Puna on Sundays. Photo/supplied

One counselling room was replaced with three warm, comfortable rooms with heating. Staff felt much safer with new security measures, panic buttons and telephones in every room.

At the very least the restored house would not lose all power if one too many heaters were turned on in winter - as it was prone to do over the years.

Restoring the house brought to light historical treasures such as handmade nails used to hold the whole building together.

A hot water cylinder, which Ms Page estimated to be one of the first in Tauranga, was found and carted away to the museum store rooms.

A celebration of the house was being held on Monday evening to mark the completion of the refurbishment.


- The big manse housed ministers of the Presbyterian Church and their families in Tauranga from 1901 until around the 1980s

- The project was made possible through donations, bequests and grants from TECT and the Lottery Community Facility Fund