A desire by its new owners to make Castlecliff's historic Gardeston House a more public place sees it included in the NZ House and Garden tour of Whanganui homes.

Designed by C. Reginald Ford for Whanganui forefather Alexander Hatrick and his family, the house was finished in 1918, the year Hatrick died.

Last year American couple Robi Martin and J. Michael Caruso, recent arrivals in Whanganui, bought the Karaka St house after it failed to sell at auction.

Since purchasing the house in July, Ms Martin has done some rejuvenation and Gardeston House is now part of the sold-out NZ House and Garden tour on Friday, February 23.


"This place is really special and has a great feel," Ms Martin says.

"You don't feel stressed out here. It's a peaceful place and made so well for 100 years old. We want people to come and enjoy the house - it's been closed up for so long."

The couple, who live in another property in Whanganui, currently rent out the house for short-term stays but hope to also host events and weddings. It has been fully booked over the summer and they have their first wedding booked for January next year.

The front of the house, designed to look like a ship's bridge, has panoramic views over the sea.
The front of the house, designed to look like a ship's bridge, has panoramic views over the sea.

Mr Caruso, an emergency medicine consultant at Whanganui Hospital, said the house fed into the history of Whanganui, Hatrick's business interests and the river as well as the city's architectural history.

"We feel it should be more of a public place than a private one, at least in the short term," Mr Caruso said.

"We are so glad and appreciative to be here. We're pleased it's opened up and people can come through."

The house was the first built in that part of Castlecliff and the garage is the original.

"That would have been unheard-of in 1918 - to have a garage - but Hatrick had the first car in Whanganui," Ms Martin said.

"The house has had only a few alterations over the years and most remains as it was. I've just repainted and changed things up a little bit."

Before moving to New Zealand, Mr Caruso and Ms Martin owned a medical salon in Denver where he worked as a doctor and she was a cosmetologist. Ms Martin has also worked as a stylist and brought furnishings from the United States "which happened to fit really well here".

"The house is actually quite a modern design," Mr Caruso said.

There is a formal dining room with a sea view, as requested by Hatrick. The front of the house and lounge, overlooking the sea, was designed to look like the bridge of a ship.

The couple has added some of their prized possessions to Gardeston House. Part of Ms Martin's doll collection takes pride of place in one of the bedrooms and the hallway displays some of Mr Caruso's collection of framed programmes from Cornell University football games.

They are enthusiastic in their love of the property and Whanganui and are looking forward to sharing Gardeston House with up to 1000 people on the NZ House and Garden tour.