Houghton House

234 Harris Street, Kaiti, Gisborne

  • Houghton House, Harris St, Gisborne.
    Copyright: Meg and Russell Stewart. Date: 11/04/2009.
  • Houghton House.
    Copyright: Meg and Russell Stewart. Date: 11/04/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3511 Date Entered 5th April 1984


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 29 DP 1480 (CT GS3B/102) Gisborne Land District, and the buildings and structures known as Houghton House thereon.

City/District Council

Gisborne District


Gisborne Region

Legal description

Lot 29 DP 1480 (CT GS3B/102), Gisborne Land District


Houghton House, built in circa 1914 for John Houghton, is a visually well-preserved corner bay villa located in the early twentieth suburb of Kaiti. The residence was constructed during a period of expanding suburbanisation in Gisborne and has architectural significance as a late example of this type of design. The place also has historical significance for reflecting the importance of family networks in the early twentieth century, and for its associations with the effects of the First World War (1914-18) on small communities. Houghton House is one of several notable dwellings in its immediate neighbourhood that reflect architectural and social variation in the development of Gisborne’s early twentieth-century suburbs.

Tūranganui-a-kiwa has a long history of Māori occupation.The earliest permanent European settlers moved to the area in the 1830s and the colonial town was laid out by the Crown and named Gisborne in 1870. Located to the east of the township, the Kaiti block remained in Māori ownership before it was partitioned in 1888. With the establishment of new industries in the region at the end of the nineteenth century, the population of Gisborne grew and there was increased suburbanisation of the land around the outer fringes of the early town. After subdivisions in 1897 and 1907 John Houghton, a labourer at the Gisborne gasworks, purchased a “quarter-acre” corner lot at the junction of Harris Street and Score Road in 1911. Houghton had immigrated to New Zealand from Scotland in 1901 along with his wife Agnes and their sons Joseph and Robert. By 1914 Houghton House had been constructed on the property with John and Agnes in residence.

Houghton House was erected as a corner bay villa. Villas had been a popular house style in New Zealand since the 1860s and were constructed across the country. Houghton House was a timber weatherboard-clad building with a central gutter hipped roof and two gabled faceted bay windows, each facing one of the street frontages. As was the trend in housing design in the 1910s, the house featured restrained ornamentation with decorative brackets around the bay windows and a finial at the top of each gable. The house also had a verandah extending between the bays on two sides. A square outbuilding was located at the rear of the house. Houghton House differs from other significant residences in the immediate neighbourhood erected at a similar time, as it was not based on an overseas style and was unlikely to have been architect-designed. This is likely to reflect the likely lesser social status of John Houghton in relation to some of his wealthier, professional neighbours.

With the almost immediate advent of the First World War after construction was completed, John and Agnes’ sons enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Joseph served at Gallipoli and Robert was wounded in Passchendaele. After her marriage to Robert in 1916, Elizabeth Patterson Houghton also lived at the property while her husband was at the war. Robert and Elizabeth appear to have moved to a neighbouring house after his return at the end of the conflict, until Elizabeth’s early death in 1920. Additionally reflecting the importance of family networks among some recently-arrived migrants, in 1925 John sold Houghton House to his younger brother Thomas Houghton who had recently migrated from the United Kingdom. Thomas lived at the house with his wife Ada and their children. From 1933 Thomas lived in the neighbouring house while probably renting Houghton House before selling the property to Phyllis Sibley in 1939.

Houghton House has since remained a residential home owned by a number of long term owner-occupiers. An extension was added to the rear of the house by 1979. Since 1984 minor modifications to the house exterior have included the addition of decorative brackets and a frieze on the front verandah, and the repair or partial replacement of a previously existing picket fence. The outbuilding has been modified and is now rectangular in plan. In 2018 the house remained in private ownership.


Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1914 -

Rear extension added

Outbuilding modification

Minor external modifications

Completion Date

26th June 2018

Report Written By

Alexandra Foster

Information Sources

Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Monty Soutar, “East Coast places – Gisborne”, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/east-coast-places/page-6

Salmond, 2005

Salmond, Jeremy, Old New Zealand Houses, 1800–1940, Reed, Auckland, 2005.

Auckland War Memorial Museum, Online Cenotaph

Auckland War Memorial Museum, Online Cenotaph, ‘Joseph Houghton’, URL: www.aucklandmuseum.com/war-memorial/online-cenotaph/record/C46338.

Auckland War Memorial Museum, Online Cenotaph

Auckland War Memorial Museum, Online Cenotaph, ‘Robert Houghton’, URL: www.aucklandmuseum.com/war-memorial/online-cenotaph/record/C91285.

Other Information

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.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Northern Region Office of Heritage New Zealand.