184 ARTHUR ST, ONEHUNGA
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SIZE: Land 1212sq m, house 175sq m.
PRICE INDICATION: CV $1.425 million.
INSPECT: Sat/Sun 1pm-1.30pm.
ON THE WEB: bayleys.co.nz/1410044
SCHOOL ZONES: Onehunga high and primary, Royal Oak intermediate.
CONTACT: Andrew Rumbles, 021 383 938, or Lindy Lawton, 021 222 3210, Bayleys.
AUCTION: September 24, 1.30pm, on site.

Richard and Robyn Northey have a long history of service to the people of Onehunga, and wider Auckland -- Richard as an MP and more recently on Auckland Council; Robyn on the Auckland District Health Board, and both as volunteers in an eye-watering number of community organisations.

So it is only fitting that their house of 23 years is also well embedded in the fabric of the town. Built in 1903 for Louise, the widow of Archibald Somerville, and her daughter Alice, the grand kauri villa named Leura was once part of the Somerville family estate that stretched from Arthur St up the Spring St hill and across to Victoria St.

"We've enjoyed looking after this house for our time, we've been quite touched as we've added bits and pieces to the history of the house," says Robyn.

"The deeds go back to 1855 when it was obtained from the Ngati Whatua, there are pictures of pigs and sheep on the land. The Somervilles ran the general store near the waterfront."

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The Northeys have photographs of Edwardian tennis parties on the courts that ran between the house and Spring St; the trellised gazebo is still in the corner of their sunny north-facing back yard.

The courts were subdivided into flats some time in the 1970s, but the grand front porch and door still open on the west side on to a smaller lawn and path. Where formerly there were stables towards Victoria St, there is now a modern double garage on the sweep of brick driveway.

Miraculously, apart from opening up the kitchen to the living spaces, and addition of a master bathroom, the grand house has retained all its original features, still in great condition.

In the new Unitary Plan, the street is now zoned for terraced houses and apartments, along with the blocks around to nearby Church St, but the Northeys hope this piece of history will remain intact as a family home.

Robyn says when she started working from home, installing insulation in the floors and ceilings and adding central heating was a must, drafts being a drawback of Edwardian architecture.

The tongue-and-groove farmhouse-style kitchen was installed by previous owners but the working coal range, with its jaunty blue and white tiles, is now more for comfort and decoration than need. Cabinets painted a china blue complement the original kauri tongue and groove walls in the east-facing room.

The Northeys removed a wall to open the space to the door of the dining room, and laugh that the majority of guests ignore the grand front door in favour of the pretty stained glass tradesman's entrance.

The side porch has a modern laundry cupboard and access to a service yard and barbecue patio, but it is the grand sweep of railed and trimmed verandah opening off the bedrooms that makes the most of the sunny garden.

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Robyn and Richard used local stone to terrace the lawns, adding vegetable beds to the original plantings.

The two main reception rooms must have impressed old Auckland, as they do today. With ceilings at nearly 4m, panelled bay windows and glorious proportions, these street-facing rooms are gracious and welcoming.

The working fireplace has an iron and tile hearth and elaborate wood mantelpiece and the light fittings speak of another era.

Sliding pocket doors connect the two rooms, which the Northeys have set up as a sitting room and a library, but which would have been formal dining and living rooms.

On the other side of the generous hallway are three grand bedrooms, one of which is now a study, with french doors opening to the verandah.

These rooms, along with the hall and kitchen, still have original built-in wardrobes, while the bathroom still has the clawfoot tub and original fittings (with an upgraded shower).

Ten years ago the Northeys reconfigured a bedroom and sunroom into one, adding a walk-in wardrobe and modern en suite.

It too opens to the verandah (with a stained-glass door) and garden.

Many of the vintage-style wallpapers and trims were in the house when the couple bought it, and have been left in keeping with the period.

The Northeys enjoy access to the newly restored Onehunga waterfront, and have watched the bustling shopping street pick up over the past decade.

"We've had wonderful memories of this house, some wonderful parties," says Robyn. "We'd be sad to see someone bulldoze it."