Cape Broom Hotel and Dairy (Former)

Fruitlands-Roxburgh Road (State Highway 8), Fruitlands

  • Cape Broom Hotel and Dairy (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: A Middleton.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: A Middleton.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: A Middleton.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3241 Date Entered 9th December 2005


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the land in certificate of title OT18D/272 and the buildings (the former hotel and the dairy), fixtures and fittings thereon. See Plan in Appendix 4 of registration report.

City/District Council

Central Otago District


Otago Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 26689 (CT OT18D/272), Otago Land District


Cape Broom Hotel and Dairy stands around 14 kilometres from Alexandra on State Highway 8 in an area now known as Fruitlands. The Hotel and hexagonal form dairy date from the mid 1870s and provided services for the local community, as well as acting as a changing station for horses en route from Lawrence to Alexandra. The stone hotel, replacing an earlier one on the same site, operated from 1874 for at least thirty years. In the twentieth century the building fell into disuse, but has remained a notable ruin adjoining the one of the main routes into to Central Otago.

What was to become known as Fruitlands became the centre of gold mining activity in 1862, when, following the opening of the Dunstan Gold Field, miners moved to prospect in the streams running from the Old Man Range. On the slopes of this range are the Butchers, Gorge, Obelisk and Coal Creeks, and the site of the packers' town that was called Chamounix. These places are important in local history for the stories of hardship, danger and loss of life associated with gold mining in the 1860s. Fruitlands itself is located mainly on the flood plain of Obelisk Creek and extends north towards Butchers Creek. Gold was discovered on Coal Creek (according to McCraw, more likely to be Obelisk), resulting in a rush to the area. Mining eventually focused on the more productive area of the Obelisk Creek flood plains, where the creek crosses Bald Hill Flat.

According to McCraw , John Kemp, first proprietor of the Cape Broom Hotel, was responsible for renaming the area Bald Hill Flat in 1865. The bald hill Kemp referred to is a prominent conical hill to the east of the main road, capped with porous gravel that prevented the growth of vegetation.

Miner John Rymill Kemp arrived in the area in 1865. Miners had the right to occupy a residential area of one acre but no right to freehold occupation. Kemp first had a mining claim at Butchers Gully, and also grew vegetables to sell to miners and packed goods over the Old Man Range to Campbells Gully. Following a petition to the Provincial Government, 2,046 acres (828 hectares) was surveyed off the Teviot Run in 1869 and subdivided into 51 sections from 17 to 50 acres. John Rymill Kemp was one of the first to take up his lease.

An 1870 survey plan shows Kemp's lease of 38 acres, with two buildings located on it. McCraw identifies these as Kemp's store and an earlier hotel built prior to the Cape Broom Hotel. The Hotel was a changing station for the coaches travelling between Lawrence and Alexandra, when the road to the west of the Clutha River was developed in the early 1870s.

By the early 1870s Kemp had plans to enlarge his premises. In January 1873 the Governor of New Zealand, Sir G.F. Bowen, while he was on a journey from Tuapeka to Queenstown, laid the foundation stone of the Cape Broom Hotel. This building was completed before December 1874, when Kemp's establishment, consisting of the hotel and store, was described in the Otago Daily Times as:

without exception, the prettiest place on the road between Dunedin and Queenstown. The buildings are all of stone and upon the most extensive scale, and although the means of the owner have not permitted him to carry out fully his rather extensive ideas, his outlay up to the present time upon buildings alone already amounts to £2000.

Kemp's land holdings consisted of forty freehold and eighty leasehold acres. The hotel had two acres of gardens planted with fruit and ornamental trees. The garden was hedged with Cape broom (now known as Montpellier broom, Cytisus monspessulanus) intermixed with sweet briar. This explains the origin of the hotel's name.

In an 1874 photograph, John Kemp and his sister are standing outside a building named the Cape Broom Hotel and Store. The sign shows that the store was also the Bald Hill Flat Post Office. While the hotel would have been important for providing accommodation, the store and post office would have provided essential functions in such an isolated rural community in the nineteenth century, supplying food and other goods to miner and settlers as well as postal services. In the dairy, milk would have been processed into butter and cheese, and these products as well as milk itself kept cool at a time well before any refrigeration. The hotel provided accommodation for those travelling to and from the further Central Otago gold fields, as well as miners proceeding to the diggings up the Old Man Range behind Bald Hill Flat.

In 1873 Cape Broom Hotel was the focus of a growing conflict of interest in the Bald Hill Flat community between farm settlers and miners. Miners wanted to continue mining land within the subdivided sections, and wanted to build a sludge channel over a mile long to section 27, in the middle of the Flat. Farmers, entitled to freehold their leases after three years of occupancy, were anxious to do so, and to prevent mining from taking place on their productive sections. A meeting was held at the hotel in August of 1873 to look at the issue, which polarised between the two groups. Following further public meetings an inquiry was held. This resulted in the richest auriferous flood plain of Obelisk Creek being declared a Mining Reserve. It was surveyed off in 1874 and licences issued from 1876. The intention of mining section 27 of the subdivision was dropped and the fertile, subdivided land retained by the farmers.

Mining continued for a further thirty years at Bald Hill Flat. In 1899 the Bald Hill Flat Freehold Gold Dredging Company bought all of Kemp's land, as well as that belonging to George Burton of the neighbouring Speargrass Hotel, a total of 300 acres. The company began using a large dredge in March 1901, behind and just downstream from the Cape Broom Hotel, but ceased working only three months later. The company was in debt, the dam was too small for the dredge, and the gold was not easily separated from the clay at the bottom of the stream. The company was liquidated and the dredge dismantled and moved to the West Coast.

One of the last mining companies to operate at Bald Hill Flat was the Last Chance Company, with a water race cut to Obelisk, Coal, Gorge and Shingle Creeks in about 1890, although the Gorge Water Race Company had built earlier races in the 1870s. This company stopped working in about 1910, but the water rights were sold to the government and subsequently formed the basis of the Last Chance Irrigation Scheme.

John Kemp sold the hotel in 1900 to the Bald Hill Flat Freehold Dredging Company Ltd. The following year the Company on sold it to John Dowdall. Dowdall owned the property until 1910, when he sold it to members of the local Butler family.

Original owner John Rymill Kemp died on October 15 1914, aged 84.

After mining days at Bald Hill Flat ended, in 1915 the Otago Central Fruitlands Company began the enterprise that gave the area its current name, planting extensive orchards. Around 1920 Company bought the Hotel site, consolidating its large holdings in the area of some 478 acres. According to Moore, the name of Fruitlands was a misnomer as the company's efforts failed, only a single crop of fruit being picked and exported as the climate was too severe for this kind of enterprise.

In the 1930s the Company sold the property, and little is known of its use during this period. By the 1980s the Hotel was being used as a shearing shed by the then owners of the property.

Over the years the hotel fell into a ruined state. In the 1990s the section was subdivided with plans to establish gardens and a small retail nursery, restore the building, and build a new residence on the rear of the section, with the New Zealand Historic Place Trust supporting the proposed development.

Currently the hotel is unoccupied.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Cape Broom Hotel and Hexagonal Dairy are buildings that demonstrate aesthetic, architectural, and historical value.

The buildings have historical significance as they are evidently the earliest buildings in the Fruitlands area still standing, dating to the first European settlement when Fruitlands was a gold mining settlement.

The hotel building faces directly onto State Highway 8 at Fruitlands, presenting an impressive façade that is well known to people who travel this road, and which stands out against the expanse of vast rugged hills behind. The ruin of the hotel, its faded sign still in has a strong aesthetically presence in the landscape.

Architecturally, the hotel is a representative example of wayside hotel building and store, with the associated service buildings such as the dairy and bakery. The buildings are constructed from shaped schist, a building material readily available in Central Otago and commonly used in the nineteenth century. The dairy is a significant structure because of its unusual hexagonal form, seen also at the Werner Dairy in Lowburn.

The hotel and dairy have aesthetic significance. They are prominent and well known features in the spectacular rocky landscape in this part of Central Otago. Fruitland is notable for its stone buildings, including Category I Mitchell's Cottage, Butlers Farm Buildings, and other former residences in a ruined state. Cape Broome Hotel is an important element in this outstanding landscape. The building itself In the mid-1870s was considered "the prettiest between Dunedin and Queenstown", and built on "the most extensive scale."

The Cape Broom Hotel and Hexagonal Dairy is representative of aspects of New Zealand's history - particularly the patterns of settlement typical of the gold mining period and the associated routes. The Hotel was built in an era of horse-drawn travel when accommodation houses were required at regular intervals. This was among the earliest of buildings in the Fruitlands area, and it would also have provided accommodation to gold miners moving on to the Old Man Range and other parts of Central Otago to work. In the dairy, a cool stone structure, milk would have been processed into butter and cheese, and these products, as well as milk, itself kept cool at a time well before any refrigeration. This was also the site of the Cape Broom Store and Bald Hill Flat Post Office, fulfilling essential functions in what would have been an isolated rural community in the nineteenth century. In this way the Cape Broom Hotel and dairy demonstrate the physical remains of a former large local community and its infrastructure.

The buildings date to the first years of European settlement in this part of New Zealand. The hotel was built approximately three years after the first subdivision of land at what was then known as Bald Hill Flat, replacing an earlier, smaller structure. These are two of only a few buildings in the Fruitlands area still standing that date back to the first European settlement.

The associated hexagonal dairy is a rare vernacular building. In 1976, Higham et al noted that there were only three such poly-sided structures in New Zealand.

As part of a network of places associated with the old coaching routes which wend their way through Central Otago, the Cape Broom Hotel is part of the wider historical landscape which includes several significant stone buildings still standing in the Fruitlands area - the former Speargrass Hotel, Butlers Farm Buildings, Mitchells Cottage and other ruins about which little is known.. Wayside hotels such as this provided both accommodation, and a place to change horses on the coach route. The surviving buildings are important in understanding the larger historic patterns of use in the area.


Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The former Cape Broom Hotel is a single-storey stone ruin that faces onto State Highway 8 at Fruitlands. A faded sign naming the structure "Cape Broom Hotel" can be made out above one of the filled in windows, the same sign that can be seen in a nineteenth century photograph of the building.

Nineteenth century photographs of the building show windows in the gabled roofline, and two doors and three windows facing the road, with a bay window in the south gable. The original structure had a chimney at the north and south ends. The building was originally one and a half storeys, but the top portion has been removed. A bay window has been removed from the south end, and the original twin-gabled roof has been replaced with a flat one.

The interior has not been viewed.

The dairy stands at the north-west (rear) corner of the hotel. It is a hexagonal structure with a corrugated iron roof. The roof was originally thatched with a small ventilation turret in the centre, as indicated by historical photographs (See Appendix 4). There is a door at the front of the building, and a window in each of the sides. The floor is earth, and the interior walls whitewashed.

Immediately adjoining the hotel building are the ruins of what was apparently the bakery associated with the business. No historic photographs of this structure have been found. Currently it is in a ruined state situated at the north-west corner of the former hotel, next to the dairy.

There are several other significant stone buildings still standing in the Fruitlands area. Just to the north of the Cape Broom Hotel the original façade of the former Speargrass Hotel has been retained for use as the Fruitlands Gallery in a reconstruction that was carried out in 1987. While the original façade is listed in the Central Otago District Plan register of heritage buildings, places, sites & objects and notable places (2000), this structure is not registered with the NZHPT. Further to the north, to the east of the road at a slight bend in State Highway 8 an impressive collection of early farm buildings can be seen. These are the Butler farm buildings, built in approximately 1880. An important Category I historic place is Mitchell's Cottage, about 500 metres off State Highway 8 along Symes Road. This house was completed in 1904 by Shetland Islanders John Mitchell and his brother Andrew, renowned for their stonemason skills, who both worked as miners at Bald Hill Flat and in the Old Man Range . The ruins of other similar structures, built of stone and of mud brick are located along the highway in this area. There is also archaeological evidence of gold mining in the area, as well as a number of rock shelters associated with this industry that were used as housing.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1874 -
Current Cape Broome Hotel built. Dairy added later

Used as a shearing shed

Construction Details

Both buildings are built from shaped stone brought to course. The former hotel has red brick quoins and window arches. The doors and windows of the hotel have been removed and the cavities filled in with the same stone. The dairy retains its original timber joinery.

Public NZAA Number


Information Sources

Gilkison, 1978

R. Gilkison, Early Days in Central Otago Whitcoulls, Christchurch, 1978

Harrison, 1982

A. Harrison, 'Lake Roxburgh Archaeological Survey', NZHPT, Cromwell, 1982

Lovell-Smith, 1931 (2)

E. Lovell-Smith, Old Coaching Days in Otago & Southland, Lovell-Smith & Venner Ltd, Christchurch, 1931

McCraw, 2003

J. McCraw, Gold on the Dunstan, Square One Press, Dunedin, 2003

Moore, 1953 (reprint 1978)

C. Moore, The Dunstan, Whitcombe & Tombs, Dunedin, (First published 1953, Capper Press reprint 1978)

Webster, 1948

A. H. H. Webster, Teviot Tapestry. A History of the Roxburgh-Millers Flat District. Whitcombe & Tombs / Otago Centennial Historical Publications, Otago, 1948

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Otago / Southland Area Office

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.