Historical Significance or Value
The house at 15 Jubilee Avenue has historical value for its association with wealthy Auckland builder and entrepreneur Alexander Richardson Watson who was closely associated with New Zealand’s late-nineteenth kauri timber industry and whose Torpedo Bay residential development illustrates Devonport’s development as a popular nineteenth-century seaside suburb of Auckland. The place also has historical significance as one of the assets of the estate inherited by his son, Devonport-born philanthropist A.R.D. Watson one of whose many bequests enabled the further development and beautification of Devonport’s esplanade where a civic memorial marks his beneficence.
Aesthetic Significance or Value:
The house at 15 Jubilee Avenue has aesthetic value for its visually appealing external appearance, and its setting within a well-established seaside neighbourhood. The residence is one of a pair of elegant villas (15 and 17) of virtually identical design within a row of well-maintained Victorian-era timber houses. Notable visual features of the residence include the formal entrance steps with a pair of pillars topped by orbs; three brick chimney stacks (two symmetrically placed); the return verandah with paired posts; bay windows; and the configuration of the building on the site. The place also has aesthetic value for encompassing elements including sitting room fireplace; board and batten ceilings and ceiling roses; and original joinery including four-panel doors and sash windows with fastenings.
Architectural Significance or Value:
The house with its associated outbuilding has architectural significance as a well-maintained example of a suburban, upper-middle class, late-Victorian villa residence of timber construction. It has value as one of a diverse collection of substantial rental houses erected and possibly designed by prominent nineteenth-century Auckland builder / contractor Alexander Richardson Watson. It has value as a well-designed house constructed in kauri timber and joinery materials widely available at the time. It largely retains its overall exterior form, internal joinery and much of the original layout. The architectural value of the place is enhanced by the survival of an associated outbuilding originally erected as a washhouse, fuel store, and lavatory - in which an early twentieth-century water closet survives.
Social Significance or Value:
The house at 15 Jubilee Avenue has social value as a reflection of a superior rental residence built in a sought-after seaside suburb for the intended purpose of accommodating tenants of high social standing, as evidenced by the first occupant - a respected senior public servant of the judiciary who relinquished his decade-long tenancy following his appointment to the post of Deputy-Commissioner of the colony of Rarotonga (1913-17). The layout of the residence incorporating a rear hall and elements of the original service area including a door linking the former dining room and kitchen area; evidence of a former room for domestic help; kitchen entrance linked by a separate path to the street; and outbuilding (former lavatory, washhouse and fuel store), reflects the day-to-day operation a moderately well-off household at the opening of the twentieth century.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:
The house at 15 Jubilee Avenue reflects the turn of the century consolidation of seaside residential suburbs that emerged during the economic boom of the late 1870s and 1880s within commuting distance of the central business districts of the colony’s major cities, to cater for an emerging urban middle class.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:
The place has a close association with Alexander Richardson Watson, a leading Auckland builder / contractor and reputedly one of Auckland’s wealthiest citizens, who was a founding shareholder and a director of the Auckland Timber Company and a local advisor to its successor the Melbourne-based Kauri Timber Company. The place also has an association with his son Alexander Richardson Dickey Watson a notable public benefactor who made numerous public bequests in Auckland, including funding for much of the sea wall along Devonport’s King Edward Parade.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:
The place has value as an externally well-preserved suburban villa that retains its internal joinery and much of the original layout, and contributes to an understanding of the diversity of late-Victorian residential design. The place illustrates the incorporation of elements of an earlier mid-nineteenth century colonial Georgian or Regency style, as evident in the formality and simplicity of the design; the hipped roof; and the wrap around verandah with paired posts. The architectural value of the place is enhanced by the survival of an associated outbuilding in which an early twentieth-century water closet is located and enables an appreciation of household layout and management at the beginning of the twentieth century.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:
The place forms part of the historical and cultural landscape of Devonport, a maritime suburb noted for its well-preserved nineteenth- and early twentieth-century buildings. The houses at 5, 15 and 17 Jubilee Avenue and 60 King Edward Parade are believed to be four of a number of residential buildings identified in the mid-1970s for their architectural interest and as representative of the former Borough’s earlier character. The houses at 15 and 17 Jubilee Avenue are located approximately 500 metres to the east of the Watson Memorial, erected by the former Devonport Borough Council to commemorate the generosity of A.R.D. Watson whose fortune was partly derived from a property portfolio that included the villas at 15 and 17 Jubilee Avenue.
Summary of Significance or Values
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, g and k.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category 2 historic place.
Early history of the site:
The northern shores of the Waitemata Harbour are of significance to several iwi, having been explored and occupied since early human arrival in New Zealand. According to oral tradition the Arawa canoe under the navigator chief Tama Te Kapua investigated the Waitemata. The canoe deposited a ritual obsidian core brought from Hawaiki on Te Mata (Boat Rock), an island to the west of Chelsea Bay, giving rise to the name of the Waitemata Harbour. The Tainui canoe also landed at Te Hau Kapua (Torpedo Bay) in present-day Devonport before travelling to its eventual heartland in the Waikato.
According to oral tradition, there were people already living at Te Hau Kapua at the time of the visit of the Tainui canoe. Physical evidence of very early settlement has been found on the foreshore where adzes were manufactured on stone working floors. Recorded horticultural features in the Maunga Uika (North Head), Takarunga (Mt Victoria) and Takararo (Mt Cambria) vicinity and evidence of terraces, pits and midden indicate that Maori occupied the volcanic cones in later times. The beach at Te Hau Kapua was the site of a late-eighteenth-century battle when a Nga Puhi, Te Kawerau and Te Parawhau alliance raided the Ngati Paoa pa, Takapuna, now known as North Head.
Following Ngapuhi incursions in the 1820s, much of the North Shore was depopulated, assisting its purchase by the British Crown after formal colonisation in 1840. A small Maori settlement at Te Hau Kapua remained inhabited until 1863.
Early colonial land division:
Devonport, originally known as Flagstaff, emerged as a colonial settlement with its use a British naval station in the 1840s. Crown land in the area was subdivided into suburban farms in 1850 and went on sale in 1851 and 1853. Located a short distance across the harbour from the colonial capital, Auckland, the land was particularly sought after by investors and speculators.
The site on which the house at 15 Jubilee Avenue was constructed straddled the boundary of suburban farm Allotments 13 and 13A at North Head, land purchased by James Hammond in 1851 and 1854. Hammond, one of three elected wardens of the Hundred of Pupuke in 1854 and an inaugural member of the Flagstaff District Highway Board in 1867, had established a brickworks in Stanley Bay by 1845. He later personally advanced funds for the completion of one of the North Shore wharves.
Although Devonport was subject to speculation and land subdivision in the 1860s, large-scale development emerged primarily during the economic boom of the 1870s and 1880s. With the establishment of good quality ferry services to and from Auckland, Devonport became a well-established residential suburb and significant seaside resort.
Parts of Allotments 13 and 13A, purchased from a trust in 1874 by Hammond’s children Edward Hammond and Sarah Burgess, were bought in 1882 by Alexander Richardson Watson (1828-1911) a leading Auckland building contractor.
By 1884, during an Auckland real estate boom that largely targeted speculative investors, Watson created a 30-lot residential subdivision extending from Torpedo Bay to North Head Road (later renamed Takarunga Road). A private road to Watson’s residence in spacious grounds at North Head provided frontage for many of the new lots. The thoroughfare was known as Artillery Road by 1886, reflecting military fortifications constructed nearby during the Russian scare, and was later renamed Jubilee Avenue in 1897.
Lot sales in Watson’s subdivision were slow due to the economic depression of the late 1880s and early 1890s Although Watson retired as a contractor in 1888, he continued to erect buildings for himself. In 1894, as the Auckland economy began to recover, Watson built the first of three rental houses in place south of Artillery Road by 1897. During the year ending February 1896 he also erected a single-storey villa with a side tower (14 Takarunga Road); followed by a villa of similar design (17 Jubilee Avenue) in place by 1899.
The locality afforded views of the harbour and the Domain’s cricket ground, and was close to the Flagstaff commercial centre. Cheltenham Road at the west end of the Avenue was an important route for commuters from the developing seaside suburb of Cheltenham who caught the inner harbour ferry to the city; and an important link for city excursionists visiting Cheltenham’s Rangitoto Bathing Beach.
Three of the Watson residences overlooking Torpedo Bay incorporated a cupola, each of a different design. In two instances the cupola topped a tower, lending an exotic appearance, inviting comparison with the architecturally eclectic Orientalism that emerged in English seaside resorts in the 1860s; or the pavilions of Midway at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, an attraction visited by Watson in 1893.
Construction of residence (1901-2):
The single storey, timber villa at 15 Jubilee Avenue, Watson’s six or seventh rental house in the subdivision, was built during the year ending May 1901. Although it lacked a tower and had a roof of corrugated metal rather than slate, the design was similar to the neighbouring houses at 17 Jubilee Avenue and 14 Takarunga Road.
The front entrance was approached by plastered steps with large decorative pillars and orbs. The seven-roomed dwelling of L-shaped plan had a return verandah along two sides, and three bay windows. The design loosely reflected colonial Georgian influences. The residence shared more in common with the square-front villa style than the more ornate bay villa also popular at the time. Two brick chimneys located towards the front of the hipped roof served back-to-back fireplaces in the four front rooms. A third chimney towards the rear served the kitchen.
Internally the front door opened into wide central hallway. The most prestigious spaces located at the front of the house included the parlour off the east side of the hall. Immediately behind was a dining room with two doors, one opening into a rear hall adjoining service quarters accommodating the kitchen, scullery and pantry, and a room for the domestic help. At the end of the central hall were the bathroom, and the back door. A timber outbuilding with a gable roof and brick chimney housed the lavatory, a washhouse and the fuel store.
Although the identity of the architect and builder is not known, Watson - evidently a former draughtsman for William Henry Playfair (1789-1857), architect of the Scottish National Gallery (1851-7) - may have been the designer.
At the time of his death in 1911, Alexander Watson was one of Auckland’s wealthiest citizens. Born in Peebles, Scotland, the son of joiner / wheelwright Thomas Watson (1794-1884) and Isabella (nee Richardson), Alexander was an engineering apprentice at Leith and Liverpool before moving to Edinburgh. He emigrated to Australia in 1851 where he undertook significant building contracts including banks, government buildings, and one of the first lighthouses on the Victorian coast. He accrued substantial capital and he moved to New Zealand in 1864 where sizeable Auckland contracts undertaken included the Thames, Waitemata and Albert hotels; the Albert Brewery; and possibly the four-storey Auckland Timber Company Building (ATC). Watson was a founding shareholder and a director of the latter company and, after the formation of the Kauri Timber Company (KTC) which incorporated the ATC in 1888, was a member of the local Board formed to assist the Melbourne-based directors. Watson personally gifted kauri timber to a value of £700 for fittings, pulpit, pews, wall linings and the ceiling in the new United Presbyterian Church in Peebles, Scotland, in 1890.
Twentieth century and beyond:
In June 1901, shortly after completion of 15 Jubilee Avenue, Devonport Borough Council resolved to install sewerage. Several properties at the end of the street still awaited connection in late 1903, suggesting that a water closet may not have been provided at the property until circa 1904.
The first tenant of the four-bedroom house was Henry H.G. Ralfe (1861-1949), Clerk of the Auckland Stipendiary Magistrates Court, and his wife Emma and their three children. As a cadet at the Warden’s Court at Kumara, Ralfe had commenced what was to be a 40-year career in the Justice Department in 1877. Located off Cheltenham Road and overlooking King Edward Parade - two streets known for their large and handsome residences - the Jubilee Avenue address reflected Ralfe’s social standing as a respected senior public servant of the judiciary. The decade-long tenancy ended in circa 1913 with Ralfe’s appointment as Deputy Commissioner of the Cook Islands, a British colony annexed by New Zealand in 1901.
Following Watson’s death in 1911 and that of his wife Matilda (nee Dickey) a year later, the couple’s only child Alexander Richardson Dickey Watson (1878-1917) came into a considerable inheritance that included the Torpedo Bay subdivision and rental properties. A.R.D. Watson already owned the Mining Chambers on Auckland’s Queen Street and had business interests in Sydney where he and his wife lived the greater part of each year. Reputed to be an excellent mathematician, Watson was one of few qualified actuaries in New Zealand. He was a noted public benefactor both before and after his death, having given over the Watson family home - a prominent feature on the headland of North Head - to the Auckland Hospital Board for use as a convalescent home for soldiers wounded in the First World War (1914-18).
Following A.R.D. Watson’s premature death in 1917, half of his sizeable estate was shared among nine bodies, being two Presbyterian orphanages (Auckland and Sydney), the Salvation Army (Auckland and Sydney), Dr Barnado’s Homes, the St John’s Ambulance Association (Auckland), the Sydney Picture Gallery, Auckland City Art Gallery, Auckland City Council and Devonport Borough Council. The bequest to the latter was to be used ‘in or towards extending or completing or permanently improving the esplanade along the beach or foreshore ...’. The first section of the King Edward Parade had been built to commemorate the dual events of ‘Peace in South Africa’ following the South African - or Second Boer War); and the coronation of Edward VII. Subsequent improvements were to include a new bathing beach completed in 1928 which became a focal point for a memorial (unveiled in 1936 as part of Devonport Borough’s fiftieth jubilee celebrations) recognising Watson’s bequest which by that time had yielded £4,000 for seafront improvements. The Watson Memorial was one of several memorials erected along the esplanade in the early to mid 1900s that contributed to beautification of the seaside suburb.
A survey plan prepared in 1916, a year before A.R.D. Watson’s death, re-subdivided the unsold portion of the Jubilee Avenue property into 26 sites. Lot 24 (15 Jubilee Avenue) - tenanted by 1919 by government employee Ferdinand Burnett - was sold in 1921 to a Richard Burke. Burke’s daughter Florence and her husband Edward Patterson, a plumber, moved into the property in 1921. In 1935, the year the house was transferred into Florence’s ownership and was rented to William Laurie a commercial traveller, who purchased the property in 1950. A lean-to with verandah may have been added to the kitchen by this date. Apart from the removal of portions of the verandah balustrade and installation of French doors between the parlour and the side verandah, comparatively few alterations were made during the Lauries’ six-decade occupation. A garage was constructed at an unknown date prior to 1963.
The property changed hands several times after 1994. Alterations included removal of a small kitchen lean-to with verandah and partition walls within the service area to accommodate an enlarged kitchen with dining area opening onto a patio. A further rear addition provided a bathroom en suite for a bedroom. The partition wall adjoining the dining room / parlour chimney breast was removed. To provide better access to a replacement garage, the rear outbuilding was relocated and converted into a home office. A timber fence at the front of the property was replaced by a low wall.
The house at 15 Jubilee Avenue is located in Devonport, a maritime suburb of the north shore of Auckland. Devonport, noted for its well-preserved nineteenth- and early twentieth-century buildings, lies on the northern shoreline of the Waitemata Harbour, across from the inner eastern suburbs and the central business district (CBD) of Auckland. The house occupies a site in Jubilee Avenue, a no exit street overlooking King Edward Parade on the Torpedo Bay foreshore.
Properties located towards the southeast end of the street back onto North Head - Takapuna (Record No. 7005, Category 1 historic place), a former nineteenth- and twentieth-century military fortification alternatively known as Fort Cautley. A considerable distance to the northeast, adjoining Cheltenham Beach in the Vauxhall Road / Tamaki Naval Base vicinity, is O Peretu (Record No. 7231, wahi tapu area) a site of ancient historic, cultural and spiritual significance - one of few remaining icons identified, of Ngati Paoa pre-fleet heritage and of a presumed extinct people Tini o Maruiwi. Along the Torpedo Bay foreshore of the inner harbour are a number of archaeological sites including nineteenth-century shipyards and a timber mill. Some 500 metres to the west of the Jubilee Avenue property, is Holy Trinity Church (Anglican) (Record No. 504, Category 2 historic place) constructed in 1881 in Church Street. On the esplanade at the south end of Church Street is the Watson Memorial (Record No. 4517, Category 2 historic place), constructed by Devonport Borough Council in 1936 in remembrance of A.R.D. Watson, a major public benefactor.
Approximately a kilometre to the west of Jubilee Avenue is Devonport’s main commercial thoroughfare, Victoria Road, its southern gateway marked by the Esplanade Hotel (Record No. 4481, Category 1 historic place). The hotel is one of a number of commercial buildings of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century date in the main street. Also at the southern end of Victoria Road are a number of commemorative monuments including the First World War Memorial (Record No. 4515, Category 2 historic place); the Alison Clock (Record No. 4513, Category 2 historic place); and the Coronation Sea Wall (Record No. 4516, Category 2 historic place). Within wider Devonport are a number of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century residential buildings.
Several residences in east King Edward Parade and the western portion of Jubilee Avenue date from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Notable examples are two-storey houses at 5 Jubilee Avenue (Record No. 4524) and 60 King Edward Parade; and the pair of elegant single-storey villas of virtually identical design at 15 and 17 Jubilee Avenue (Record No. 4522 and Record No. 4523). These are believed to be four of a number of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century residential buildings that were identified in wider Devonport in 1974 for their architectural interest and as representative of the former Borough’s earlier character.
The site lies on slightly sloping ground that descends southward towards Jubilee Avenue. The property is approximately rectangular in plan with an irregularly-shaped rear boundary.
The main residence largely lies within the front half of the site. The front boundary is marked by low hedging and a wall of recent construction which replicates pillars and orbs, a feature of the original front entrance steps to the verandah. A second path leads from the frontage, to the kitchen wing towards the rear. To the northeast of the house an original outbuilding has been relocated to a position adjoining the east boundary. A garage is situated in the northwest corner of the property.
The main residence with a hipped roof; prominent return verandah supported by paired verandah posts; centrally located entrance with narrow side lights and flanked by symmetrical windows; and the kitchen wing located off one side towards the rear, loosely references colonial Georgian and later Regency influences of the 1860s - elements of which enjoyed a revival towards the end of the nineteenth century.
The house is of timber construction, with a hipped, corrugated iron covered roof. The roof retains its three brick chimney stacks - a symmetrical pair at the front and a third to the rear on the east side. The well-preserved building exterior is clad with horizontal, rusticated weatherboards.
The single-storey structure stands on brick piles and low foundation walls. The building is L-shaped in plan with the main entrance facing south towards the harbour. Two bay windows finished with simple columns face onto the front verandah. Remnant sections of turned and pegged balustrading connect paired verandah posts. The posts are chamfered and have rudimentary capitals from which robust timber brackets spring, providing a degree of ornamentation to an otherwise simple design. The predominant window style is four-light (two over two) double-hung sashes. The front door, side lights and rectangular fanlights contain etched glass.
The verandah and detailing of the east elevation with one bay window, is identical in style to the front. Towards the rear, the kitchen wing extends at right-angles from the house, with a path leading from the front kitchen door to the street.
In the west elevation are five, four-light sash windows.
The north elevation has been modified by two small wing additions which surround a U-shaped patio partly sheltered by a verandah that extends along three walls. The rear wall incorporates a pair of modern French doors with a large arched fanlight. The back door of late nineteenth- or early twentieth-century date and matching fanlight at the rear of the central hall may not be an original feature. Both have coloured glass margins and corner panes with an etched star motif.
Unlike many large urban residences of similar vintage, the building remained a single dwelling and was not converted into flats in the mid- twentieth century. It largely retains its original layout and joinery, apart from the rear additions incorporating a modernised kitchen area that still retains early twentieth-century vertical tongue and groove wall linings.
The interior incorporates seven main rooms and two hallways. The generously-sized central hall runs north-south from the front to the back door. Towards the rear, a second hall branches east.
The fanlight above the right hand side light in the front door case is hinged to allow ventilation. The hall and dining room have a tongue and groove timber dado. Ventilation grilles have been introduced into the dado in places, for central heating.
Opening off the front portion of the hall are two bedrooms (west) and the parlour (east). Fireplaces have been removed from the two front rooms and a fireplace in the second bedroom appears to have been replaced. A hearth slab survives in the front bedroom, but the location of the former hearth in the parlour has been patched. Four-panel doors, moulded architraves and board and batten ceilings survive throughout. Rooms in the front portion of the house have decorative ceiling roses. Door and window furniture is largely original and of a simple functional style.
As the most formal room, the parlour has pronounced cornices of rounded profile. The French doors onto the side verandah appear to precede the alterations undertaken in the mid 1990s. The partition wall on either side of the parlour chimney breast has been removed to allow interconnection between the parlour and a sitting room (former dining room) behind. The sitting room fireplace may be an original feature, but has a modern insert. The room is lit by a bay window that overlooks the side verandah and path to the kitchen. An internal door in the north wall no longer connects the former dining room with the kitchen area, cupboards having been installed along both sides of the rear hall.
Within the rear of the house, the north bedroom opens into a modern bathroom en suite in a recent addition. A bathroom on the east side of the hall now includes an indoor lavatory and retains tongue and groove timber linings. Cupboards along the rear hall, block off the door to the sitting (former dining) room and prevent access to what was originally a room for the domestic help. The latter room has been incorporated into the modernised open-plan kitchen and dining area. Two turned columns mark the former location of the east wall of the domestic’s room, but tongue and groove timber lining survives on the remaining walls. The original kitchen stove alcove and chimney breast is evident on the east wall of the kitchen. The kitchen extension has a timber-lined gable roof to distinguish it from the original service area.
The timber-framed structure erected in 1900-01 in association with the original house has a gable roof with corrugated metal covering and horizontal rusticated weatherboard wall cladding. The verandah along the west elevation was added in 1996, the year the building was relocated within the property. The building has three external entrances in the west elevation. Now in reverse order in relation to the house and internally interconnected, these spaces are: the lavatory (north); the former washhouse (centre); and the wood / coal store (south). The external doors of the lavatory and the former washhouse appear to be original features.
The building consists of three interconnecting rooms. A Humber lavatory pan of white and sugar cane colour, and a cast iron cistern with pull appear to have been originally installed circa 1900-01 to 1903-04; and reinstalled in the building in its new location. A shower stall has been added, with access off the lavatory room. The location of the former laundry copper with brick chimney on the east side of the central space is evident from the patched floor. The timber floor of the former fuel store in the southernmost space bears axe marks. The central space has modern wall linings, but tongue and groove timber wall linings are evident in parts of the lavatory; and linings of deep, butted timber boards in parts of the southernmost space.
The garage was not inspected
1900 - 1901
Construction of villa, and outbuilding
1901 - 1904
Installation of water closet in outbuilding?
Additional building added to site
Shed or garage behind outbuilding
Lean-to and verandah to kitchen?
Installation of French doors in parlour; removal of coal stove, some fireplaces and balustrading
Demolished - Other
Additional building added to site
Kitchen extended; verandah to outbuilding
Ensuite bathroom to rear bedroom
House: Brick foundations; timber frame and cladding; corrugated metal roof
Outbuilding: Concrete piles (?); timber frame and cladding; corrugated metal roof
Garage: Concrete slab; metal roof and cladding?
28th March 2012
Report Written By
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1902
Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol.2, Christchurch, 1902
Sydney Musgrove (ed), The Hundred of Devonport: A Centennial History, Devonport, 1986.
Jeremy Salmond, Old New Zealand Houses 1800-1940, Auckland, 1986, Reed Methuen
Young, Amanda, ‘Early Domestic Buildings in Devonport’, Research report MA in Anthropology, University of Auckland,  (copy held by NZHPT Auckland)
Salmond Architects 1989
Salmond Architects, ‘Devonport Historic Register’, Auckland, 1989
Verran, David, The North Shore: An Illustrated History, Auckland, 2010
A fully referenced report is available from the Northern Region Office of NZHPT.
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.