Amohia

127 Mountain Road, Epsom, Auckland

  • Amohia, Epsom.
    Copyright: Lynne Sheather. Taken By: Lynne Sheather. Date: 27/03/2007.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4505 Date Entered 30th April 2010

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Lot 2 DP 4122 (CT NA397/107), North Auckland Land District and the buildings and structures known as Amohia thereon, and their fittings and fixtures. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)

Region

Auckland Council

Legal description

Pt Lot 2 DP 4122 (CT NA397/107), North Auckland Land District

Summaryopen/close

Located in prestigious Epsom, the two-storey timber villa Amohia was established on its Mountain Road site in circa 1911-12 by Auckland industrialist and entrepreneur Joseph James Craig (1860-1916). The impressive residence - initially an adjunct to Craig's homestead property Omana - was briefly owned in the early 1920s by philanthropist Frank Mappin while he developed Birchlands, later known as Government House Auckland, on an adjoining property.

Amohia is situated on the lower slopes of Mt Eden (Maungawhau), the site of a pa with a long history of human occupation. The Auckland Isthmus was taken over by Ngati Whatua in the eighteenth century preceding Auckland's 1840 founding as colonial capital. Part of an 1856 Crown Grant, the land initially lay within the grounds of a grand country house, Boxley, developed after 1876 by grocery wholesaler and kauri gum merchant Arthur Heather (d.1933). In 1907 it was bought by J.J. Craig - a business magnate with interests including shipping, haulage, mining, quarrying and brick making - to add to the curtilage of his large adjoining residence, Omana.

A few years after the purchase, Craig established Amohia on the site. The slate-roofed Italianate-style villa was of a type favoured in the 1870s and 1880s, and may have been relocated from elsewhere. The building had a rectangular plan with paired round-headed windows, bay windows and valance verandahs. Established in circa 1911-12, it stood on cyclopean concrete block foundation walls, a comparatively early use of a material first produced commercially in Invercargill in 1909. Chimney pots, and the bricks in the steps, may have been produced by Craig's extensive Avondale brick works. Internally, the dwelling's main rooms were arranged either side of the central hallway on each floor. Initially, the property was occupied by widow Margaret Gleeson, whose son Robert died at Gallipoli (1915) while she was in residence.

In 1920 the house was transferred to James Craig, later a managing director of the family firm. Subdivided in 1921, the property was bought the following year by philanthropist Frank Mappin who lived there while converting Boxley into his home Birchlands, later known as Government House Auckland. Auckland lawyer and academic Robert Moody, for some years the legal advisor to Tonga's King George Tupou II, bought Amohia in 1924. The slate roof was replaced in metal, possibly during 1970s renovations. Subsequent alterations included the replacement of a rear wing by a new kitchen and family room.

Amohia has aesthetic significance for its striking external appearance, its visual prominence from Mountain Road and its location adjoining the well-established grounds of Government House Auckland. It has architectural significance as a well-preserved, elite residence of Italianate design. The building has technological value for its cyclopean concrete block foundation walls, an early use of the material in the Auckland region. The place has historical significance for its associations with Auckland business magnate J.J. Craig, philanthropist Frank Mappin, and lawyer Robert Moody. The place lies within a significant and comparatively well-preserved historical and cultural landscape in Epsom, a suburb favoured by the influential and wealthy in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Amohia has historical significance for its links with business magnate J.J. Craig initially as a subsidiary residence within the curtilage of his larger Omana homestead property. It also has historical significance as the home briefly of prominent orchardist and philanthropist Frank Mappin during a formative period of redevelopment of the adjoining property into the larger Mappin family home Birchlands, now known as Government House Auckland. Amohia also has historical value as the home of Robert Moody, a figure of note in Auckland legal circles in the early decades of the twentieth century. The prominent villa property also illustrates wider Epsom's longstanding historical importance as a suburb favoured by influential and wealthy members of Auckland society for their residential estates and for the large suburban houses of a growing number of wealthy professionals and entrepreneurs in the early-twentieth century.

Aesthetic Significance or Value:

Amohia has aesthetic significance as a visually impressive suburban villa of ornate design. It has considerable value for its prominent contribution to the visual amenity of Mountain Road, for its grand appearance, and the quality of its surviving external detailing including pairs of round headed windows, return valance verandah, bay windows, and miniature classical columns with decorative capitals on window frames. Its aesthetic value is enhanced by its location adjoining the park-like grounds of Government House Auckland.

Architectural Significance or Value:

The place has architectural significance as a well-preserved elite residence of two-storey Italianate design executed in timber. Its grand appearance reflects the relationship between architectural design and social status.

Technological Significance or Value:

The place has technological value for the cyclopean or rock-face concrete blocks used in the construction of Amohia's circa 1911 foundation walls, a comparatively early local use of a material first produced commercially in New Zealand at Invercargill in 1909.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

Amohia reflects representative aspects of New Zealand's history including the enterprise and social aspirations of self-made entrepreneurs in late-nineteenth and early twentieth century Auckland, several of whom developed sizable busi-nesses based on transport or the production of building materials for a local ur-ban economy dominated by suburban construction. The place is also important for reflecting the emergence of exclusive residential neighbourhoods based on wealth in late nineteenth and early-twentieth century urban society.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

Amohia has associations with individuals of significance namely Joseph James Craig (1860-1916) of the regionally significant business conglomerate J.J. Craig, who developed the residence as an adjunct to his suburban residential estate Omana. It also has links with his son James Campbell Craig (1895-1976), a later managing director of the family firm. The place is also associated with the Mappin family who briefly owned and occupied the house in the early 1920s while developing the adjoining Birchlands estate later gifted for use as Government House Auckland. For over a decade until his death in 1936, the place was the home of Auckland solicitor, teacher and academic Robert Moody (1883-1936), the legal advisor of King George Tupou II and the Government of Tonga.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

The place has technical value for the circa 1911 foundation walls of the house, which represent an early use of cyclopean or rock-faced concrete block in the Auckland region and a comparatively early use of the material nationally. The place also has some value as a well-preserved example of an elite suburban residence in Auckland, and as a well-preserved timber villa designed in the Ital-ianate style.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape

The place lies within a significant and comparatively well-preserved historical and cultural landscape in Epsom, a suburb favoured by the influential and wealthy for their residential estates in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Epsom contains a number of surviving historic nineteenth-century estate buildings including Highwic, Marivare, Rockwood and the residence that became Rocklands Hall, which were established in the 1860s. Grand homes of a more recent era including Florence Court and Omana, built in the first decade of the twentieth century.

Summary of Significance or Values

This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, g and k.

Conclusion

It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.

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Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Early history of the site

Amohia is situated on Mountain Road in Epsom on the lower slopes of Maungawhau (Mount Eden). Maungawhau has a long history of human occupation. The renowned military engineer, Titahi of Ngati Awa, built a large pa there which is believed to have been occupied up to the late 1600s. Extensive cultivations and related activity areas were located on volcanic soils on the mountain's lower slopes. Maungawhau was subsequently part of the broader area in the Auckland isthmus taken over by Ngati Whatua in the eighteenth century. No Maori occupation of the mountain is currently known immediately preceding the foundation of New Zealand as a formal British colony in 1840 with Auckland as capital.

Epsom was subdivided into farms following the transfer of the Waitemata-to-Hobson and Waitemata-to-Manukau blocks in 1841. The area became renowned for its fertile farmland and large country homes. The land later occupied by Amohia was part of a Crown Grant (Allotment 37) of almost 10 hectares made in 1856 to Scottish-born naval surgeon Andrew Sinclair (1794-1861). Sinclair held the position of Colonial Secretary from 1844 until 1856. The property was bought in 1860 by Auckland storekeeper Edward King (d.1865), who served as superintendent of stores during the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s. The holding passed to merchant George Owen in 1866 and was subdivided into four parcels.

Following subdivision, the site was located in the southeast corner of the grounds of a large country house known as Boxley belonging to Mary Heather, the wife of Arthur Heather (d.1933). Heather, a prosperous Auckland grocery wholesaler and kauri gum merchant had bought the two-hectare remnant from Owen in 1876 while a partner in the general mercantile firm Owen and Graham.

In December 1907 Joseph James (J.J.) Craig (1860-1916) purchased the site of just over an acre (subdivided from Mary Heather's holding) to add to the curtilage of the large property on which his residence Omana was built in circa 1901. Craig had relocated to Epsom from a former Beach Road neighbourhood largely industrialized by 1900 following successive reclamations of the capital's foreshore. The owner of one of the biggest business conglomerates in the Auckland region, Craig's commercial interests included shipping, haulage, brickmaking, cement, mining and quarrying. In 1901 the firm J.J. Craig took pride in being a provider of virtually all construction materials other than timber.

Establishment of the house (circa 1911-1912)

Valuation records show the site of Amohia as vacant as at 1 April 1908, but the creation of the two-storey residence was well advanced by 1 April 1912 when the presence of improvements to a value of £930 is indicated. A year later, by which time the house had presumably been completed, the value of the improvements had risen to £1550.

There are some indications that the house could have been relocated from another site in Auckland. In rates records for 1923-4, the building is described as being about 58 years old. An uncorroborated 2003 article in a local newspaper states that the house was built between 1860 and 1880 and moved in several pieces by horse and cart to its present location in 1920. According to a previous owner, the building was relocated from the Princes Street area.

Like the grand residences of that locality, the two-storey timber villa with slate roof was of an Italianate style fashionable in the 1870s and 1880s, particularly among merchants whose commercial premises were often built in a similar style. Such dwellings were modelled on the designs of Italian Renaissance buildings associated with commercial wealth. Many of the houses constructed in Auckland's mid-to-late Victorian-era Princes and Symonds Street area, and on the semi-rural fringe represented by Epsom and Remuera - addresses favoured by the city's businessmen and professional people - were built in variations of the Italianate architectural style, but were often highly individualised.

On its current site, the residence occupied a lower-lying portion of Omana's grounds forward of the homestead, but of sufficient distance from Mountain Road to allow a moderately-sized formal front garden. The dwelling Amohia was rectangular in plan and had single-storey verandahs on three elevations (south, east and north). Service rooms occupied a small single-storey wing that extended at right angles from the rear of the house maintaining the line of the north wall.

The house stood on foundation walls constructed of cyclopean or rock-face concrete blocks giving the illusion of stone. These walls represented a comparatively early local use of the material in Auckland, a product first produced commercially in New Zealand at Invercargill as early as 1909. In 1925, the building trade magazine New Zealand Building Record carried illustrated advertisements for similar products manufactured by the firm J.J. Craig and marketed as Fancy Concrete Blocks. It is not clear when Craig first manufactured the product.

The imposing front elevation of the Mountain Road house had a valance return-verandah and paired circular-headed windows with Italianate detailing. A single-storey bay window of a type traditionally manufactured in joinery shops for addition to early bay villas contributed to the overall impression of affluence. It is not known whether the monochromatic brick chimneys with their tall, plain, dark-glazed pots were constructed using J.J. Craig's products. Likewise the formal front steps with brick wing walls terminating in rectangular, corbelled pedestals incorporating a round-profiled moulding.

At the beginning of the twentieth century Craig promoted his Avondale brick and pottery enterprise as the largest such works in the colony. At this time it produced 90,000 bricks a day plus fire bricks, chimney pots, drain pipes, roofing tiles and cornices. Brick, tile and pottery manufacturing - poorly represented in Auckland's specialised industries in 1890 - had grown substantially in Auckland by 1906 as attention turned to the production of building materials for an urban economy dominated by suburban construction. In 1969 J.J. Craig Limited was subsumed by the Auckland firm Winstone, which became a Fletcher Challenge subsidiary in 1988 and continues to produce concrete and quarry materials.

Use and modifications (1914 - onwards)

The completed two-storey Italianate-style timber villa would have been an attractive rental property, or equally a fitting residence for a member of Auckland's entrepreneurial Craig family.

By April 1914 the dwelling was occupied by a Mrs M. Gleeson who appears to have named the house Amohia for the duration of her tenure. Little is known of Margaret Gleeson who was the widow of a Thomas Gleeson. During the First World War (1914-1918), her son Robert Louis served in the Auckland Mounted Rifles and died at Gallipoli in 1915. By April 1917 Mrs Gleeson had returned to Clonberg Road, Remuera, her earlier place of residence.

The house was subsequently occupied by a Mrs J.C. Colbeck, about who little is known. Mrs Colbeck, whose tenure may have been as short as a year, was no longer resident by April 1919.

Two years after J.J. Craig's death in 1916, Amohia was described as an 11-roomed timber residence with a slate roof. A motor garage was built on the site in 1918. In 1919 the property was offered for sale as a two-storey house containing 12 beautiful rooms, one of which was a billiards room. Electric lighting was installed, possibly two months after the property was put on the market.

Evidently unsold, Amohia was transferred to J.J. Craig's son, James Campbell Craig (1895-1976) in October 1920 and briefly became his place of residence. By 1928 J.C. Craig was managing director of the family firm. Freight forwarding, cartage and the extraction and processing of ground-based resources for the construction industry had become the mainstay of the business by this time as the high amounts of capital needed for acquisition of powerful steamers saw J.J. Craig's role as a fleet owner diminish after 1910.

The site occupied by the Mountain Road residence was subdivided to close to its current size in 1921, and sold to farmer Frank Mappin (1884-1975) in May 1922. Amohia was apparently renovated at this time and a portion of the building removed. Mappin, a notable orchardist and philanthropist, converted the adjoining Boxley estate (purchased in 1921) into a 'splendid private park' known as Birchlands. Street directories indicate that the Mappins lived at the former J.C. Craig property (then known as 63 Mountain Road) for a short period. Around this time they redeveloped part of an existing residence on Birchlands into the larger establishment now known as Government House Auckland. Government House is a Royal or Vice-Regal residence gifted by the Mappins to the Queen in the 1960s.

Mappin sold the former Craig residence to Robert Moody (1883-1936) in July 1924. Around this time the front garden was reduced in size by the taking of land for the widening of Mountain Road. Moody, a practising solicitor and academic, is said to have been the first person in New Zealand to hold the master of laws degree. Admitted to the bar in 1904, he became a part-time law lecturer at the Auckland University College in 1922. Moody was also for some years the legal advisor of King George Tupou II and the Government of Tonga. In 1937, a year after his death, Moody's widow added a new washhouse to the property and in 1938 enclosed one of the verandahs by adding sash windows.

Following Margaret Moody's death in 1952 the property was bought by a Mona Sutton (1898-1973) who appears to have lived there for the remainder of her life. Suggestions that the house was used as a boarding house for the sisters from the Mercy Hospital or that it was in five flats until the early 1970s, appear to be unfounded having regard to information in street directories and Council valuation records.

Civil engineer Neville Rykers purchased the property in 1974 retaining it for around two decades. In 1976 the interior was renovated. Timber walls were covered by Gibraltar Board and the service area including ground floor kitchen and bathroom were remodelled. A lavatory and bathroom were installed on the first floor. At an unknown date the slate roof was replaced in corrugated metal. A swimming pool was introduced in the rear outdoor living area and a single-storey dual-purpose garage and workroom structure was erected. In 1993 a small flat-roofed addition was constructed over a single-storey box room (the enclosed south-facing verandah) to accommodate a further bathroom on the upper floor.

The property changed hands several times in the decade following 1996. During this period, a small flat-roofed addition was made at the rear (southwest corner) of the house to accommodate a new bathroom and games room, replacing an existing bedroom and bathroom on the ground floor. The corresponding area on the first floor was redeveloped as a new bathroom, and an ensuite. Further works completed by 2001 included demolition of the single-storey rear wing containing a laundry and larder, and the demolition of part of the kitchen. A new kitchen and family room was constructed, and a glassed patio erected across the remaining length of the west elevation. Rusted panels in the pressed metal ceilings were replaced with matching moulded plaster.

In latter years the house acquired the name Stonefeld (2003) or Stone Field (2008). It is still in use as a private residence.

Physical Description

Context

Amohia is situated in Epsom, an inner suburb of Auckland. Located to the southeast of Auckland's main city centre, Epsom is largely a residential area in which a number of recognised historic houses are located. The house occupies a slightly elevated site which contributes to its visual prominence on the west side of Mountain Road in a well established residential area near the base of Maungawhau. The extensive gated grounds of Government House, hidden by tall trees, adjoin the north boundary of the property.

Amohia is surrounded by other dwellings, a few of which may date from the 1920s. Florence Court (Record no. 7106, Category II historic place), a grand circa 1907 residence of rendered brick construction, is located a short distance to the south in Omana Avenue. The early twentieth-century residence of J.J. Craig, Omana, occupies a rear site two properties to the southwest off Omana Avenue. Historic structures towards the northern end of Mountain Road include Auckland Grammar School (Record nos. 4471, 4472, Category I historic places, and Record no. 4532, Category II historic place). A number of significant nineteenth-century gentlemanly estate houses survive in the Epsom area. These include Highwic (Record no.18, Category I historic place), Clifton (Record no. 2623, Category I historic place), Rocklands Hall (Record no.7276, Category I historic place), Marivare and Rockwood.

The property consists of a rectangular-shaped plot, approximately 1200 square metres in area. The house occupies a slightly elevated location in the mid to eastern part of the site. The land rises from east to west with a pronounced cross-fall at the front of the house down to the side (south) boundary. A pair of relatively recent concrete pillars marks the driveway entrance at the northern end of a low rock wall that runs along the front boundary. The side boundaries are delineated by walls of dry-stone construction. A right-of-way adjoins the south boundary, enhancing the prominence and visibility of the house from Mountain Road.

Plantings in the front garden include young camellia and a maturing rimu tree. In the rockery garden, between a relatively recent stone path and the house, is a standard rose of some age, which may be the only remnant of the early garden. A driveway leads along the north side of the house to modern garaging in a single-storey building that adjoins the north and west boundaries. To the rear of the house is a modern outdoor living area with lawn, stone-faced terrace and swimming pool, all enclosed by stone walls and hedging.

Main building - exterior

The residence is a timber-clad building with a corrugated metal roof. The two-storey portion, to which recent single-storey additions have been made at the rear, stands on perimeter foundation walls of early twentieth-century block work. The sub-floor has small metal vents of decorative appearance. The evenly-sized, oblong, rock-faced blocks of the foundation walls appear to be manufactured of a fine concrete and extend along part of the east and the south sides of the house. The worked surfaces of several of the blocks are identical in their markings.

The house is designed in an ornate Italianate architectural style and largely retains its early appearance from the front. Recent single-storey additions made to the rear of the building include a kitchen and family room, and a connected glass-roofed patio. Two 1990s additions at the southwest and southeast corners of the house are of a comparable style to the original building, but have reduced the visual prominence of the south-facing bay.

The residence is largely rectangular in plan and has a hipped roof. The overall style, finely detailed capitals of the window surrounds and the scale of timber materials is similar to grand merchants' villas of circa 1870s or 1880s date, although detailing such as that on the window columns was still used on grand villas constructed in the early years of the twentieth century.

The roofline of the house is emphasised by eaves with heavy timber brackets and is broken by three brick chimneys. The brick chimneys have corbelled tops surmounted by tall, glazed earthenware chimney pots and are more utilitarian than decorative in their appearance. The two front chimneys each have four pots.

The main entrance is reached by a flight of new stone steps within old brick wing walls which curve to terminate in square, brick pedestals. It is not known whether the brickwork, the chimneys and pots and foundation walls, use J.J. Craig building products.

The building's front (east) elevation is particularly striking. The two-storey square bay has a single-storey bay window with pairs of miniature columns and composite capitals in timber. Similar detailing occurs on pairs of round-headed sash window frames which bear representations of keystones. The heavy window sills have lugs. The deep, valance return-verandah is supported by plain, turned timber columns and has a frieze incorporating recessed blind quatrefoils. The verandah roof has a heavy timber balustrade similar to that of the lower storey. The front elevation has rusticated weatherboards, a contrast to the plain weatherboards of the other three elevations. The corners are boxed by plain pilasters with a simple capital.

The location of the front door is accentuated by paired flanking verandah posts. The entrance itself is round-headed. It incorporates sidelights and a fanlight with lead-light windows within a heavily moulded architrave. The lower sections of the 12-light door and its surrounds have timber panels with heavy mouldings.

Other than a round-headed window lighting a staircase at the rear, the windows on the side and rear elevations have rectangular heads. The window openings of the double-height bay on the south elevation have paired plain pilasters with capitals similar to those at the front of the house. The heads of window openings on the lower storey are a blind curve with a keystone. The gable end and that of the single-storey bay window on the north elevation has a smooth-shingle finish of unknown age.

Recent single-storey additions at the west end of the building are clearly distinguishable from the building's earlier form.

Main building - interior

The interior of the building has not been inspected, the owners not having given permission. The information in this section has been compiled from existing plans.

The interior of the house contains a central hallway on both floors. Towards the western end of the ground floor hall is the staircase. A door at the rear opens to the exterior, while another off the south side accesses a bathroom. Forward of the hall arch which traditionally distinguishes the public rooms of the house from the private, are four large rooms with back-to-back fireplaces. The house has eight fireplaces, most with coal fire register grates. Three have apparently been converted to gas. The ceilings in the hall and main rooms downstairs are pressed metal.

The two large rooms off the south side of the hall on the ground floor each have a window bay. The front room overlooking the garden has a small room off its south side within a former verandah space. The central room connects to a room behind, which in turn opens onto a glass-roofed patio addition.

On the north side of the hall is a small front room. A larger room with a north-facing bay window connects to a new open-plan kitchen and family room at the rear of the house.

On the upper floor are five rooms and three bathrooms. Apart from the master bedroom, which has a pressed metal ceiling, the ceilings are timber board and batten. The southeast bedroom accesses the roof deck on the return verandah.

Garage

The garage and workroom structure was not inspected.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1911 - 1912
House (possibly involving relocation of circa 1870-1880s house to the site)

Modification
1922 -
Renovation

Modification
1937 -
Washhouse added

Modification
1938 -
Installation of sash windows to enclose a verandah

Modification
1976 -
Interior renovated, including remodelling of kitchen and bathroom (ground floor); provision of bathroom and lavatory on first floor

Addition
1993 -
Upper storey extension southeast corner (bathroom)

Addition
1999 -
Two storey extension southwest corner

Modification
1999 -
Ground floor: Bedroom and bathroom converted to bathroom and games room, doors added to west elevation

Modification
1999 -
First floor: Dressing room, bathroom, toilet area converted to new bathroom, and an ensuite for bedroom (former games room)

Addition
2001 -
Family room and glass roofed patio (rear)

Construction Details

Block foundation walls, timber frame and cladding, corrugated metal roof, brick chimneys

Completion Date

14th April 2010

Report Written By

Joan McKenzie

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1902

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol.2, Christchurch, 1902

Bush, 2006

G.W.A Bush, (ed.), The History of Epsom, Auckland, 2006

Rolfe, 2002

J Rolfe, Eden Garden: From Wilderness to Paradise, Auckland, 2002

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Northern Region 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.