A former Levin homestead relocated to Ōtaki in 2005 or 2006 is no longer considered to be of heritage value and Heritage New Zealand wants it removed from its books. Horowhenua Chronicle editor Janine Baalbergen finds out why.
It was once the home of the first Horowhenua College headmaster, but its first occupant was the one who built it.
The house at what was then 66-68 Weraroa Rd, Levin, was built in 1908 by George Kenmer Douglas, a local builder and borough councillor. It was his first home and is believed to have been a wedding gift to his wife.
It has two hexagonal domed bays, a characteristic of Douglas' work. In 1956 it was converted into four flats and was relocated to a lifestyle block in Ōtaki in 2005.
A central flight of wooden steps with decorative balustrades gave access to a front door with stained glass windows. The left dome was a bedroom, while the other one was a sitting room.
It is believed to be the last remaining home with domes built by Douglas.
So why does Heritage New Zealand want to remove the house from its books?
While alterations to the home are partially to blame, its relocation to the lifestyle block in Ōtaki is the real culprit.
Heritage NZ said in its historic place review report that the house's heritage value relied strongly on its being in its original location and context. It is currently at 69 Taylors Rd in Ōtaki and was previously at 66-68 Weraroa Rd, now 106 Weraroa Rd.
The Heritage New Zealand review said the house was an advertisement of Douglas' design and building skills. He established his building firm G.K. Douglas in 1902 and operated from a joinery factory in Oxford Street.
Douglas prepared the firm's building plans himself and the timber was processed at his factory. Domes were a characteristic feature of his domestic work and were most extravagantly expressed in the family home, which is believed to be his only surviving domed house.
Douglas built over 300 houses in Horowhenua and surrounding areas and was also responsible for constructing local infrastructure, including the first road bridge over the Ōtaki River.
According to Levin historian Corrie Swanwick, in an article about this house, "over his long career as a builder [Douglas] earned a fine reputation for his workmanship and his better quality houses were always distinctive in style".
The building firm appears to have suffered financial difficulties at the end of World War I, as the business was liquidated in 1918 and the factory offered for sale in 1920.
The house was sold in 1919 to Foxton farmer Edgar Derham and the Douglas family later moved to a Californian bungalow around the corner in Bath Street that was built by Douglas in 1922.
Despite these changes Douglas continued to work as a builder, constructing Lodge Horowhenua's Masonic temple in 1923.
Edgar Derham lived in the Weraroa St house until 1928, when he and his wife moved out of the area. It was sold to William and Ethel Thomas in 1936 and the couple may have rented the house before buying.
William Thomas was the first principal of Horowhenua College, which opened about 50m along the road from the house in 1940, and he remained the principal until his death in 1946.
Ethel Thomas lived in the house until she died in 1955.
The next owner, Bessie Wilson, converted the house into four flats (two one-bedroom and two two-bedroom) in 1956 and it became a rental property.
The veranda on both sides of the house was enclosed as part of the conversion and the front steps and balustrade were replaced by concrete steps running the length of the veranda. It may have been then that the belvedere was rendered inaccessible by removal of the external stairs.
The house remained a four-flat property until it was relocated out of Horowhenua to a lifestyle block on Taylors Road, Ōtaki, in 2005 or 2006. By then it had been empty for some time and subjected to vandalism, the review said.
It was returned to a single dwelling and retains some local interest, but due to "its removal from Levin as well as major alterations done, it does not warrant retention on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Kōrero and should therefore be removed", the review concluded.
Kete Horowhenua reports the late Mr Douglas operated a business from his joinery factory in Oxford Street. He employed a staff of 40.
The houses were made at his joinery works and transported to the site by a team of horses and drays, allowing six weeks to complete each project.
He took tremendous pride in his work and was renowned for the quality of his workmanship.
The 300 houses Douglas built in the district carried distinct features. Some of his older contributions to Levin were The Arcadia Hotel, a three-story building on the eastern corner of Bath and Oxford Streets, as well as the Masonic Temple, on the corner of Bristol and Salisbury Streets, the swing bridge access to the water works, and the old bridge on the main highway over the Ōtaki River.
Heritage NZ said it received a number of submissions on the review.
"Following the independent assessment and work that may flow from this, the review will be considered by the Board of Heritage New Zealand, which makes the final decision regarding confirmation or removal from the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero.
"We anticipate this process occurring over the next couple of months," a spokesperson said.