Historical Significance or Value
The house at 5 Jubilee Avenue has historical value as part of a 1880s subdivision undertaken on the lower western slopes of North Head by wealthy Auckland builder and entrepreneur Alexander Richardson Watson. As part of Watson’s Torpedo Bay venture, the place illustrates Devonport’s development as a popular nineteenth-century seaside suburb of Auckland.
The grand residence illustrates Devonport’s historical importance as a suburb favoured by upper middle class businessmen who commuted to and from Auckland’s commercial and financial district. The place also has historical significance for its brief association with amateur botanist and photographer Frank Blackwell; and as the home of Alexander Morrison, a longstanding director of the Takapuna Tram and Ferry Company which established and operated an Auckland / Bayswater ferry and an associated steam tram service (1910-27) that linked the emerging suburbs of Belmont, Takapuna and Milford and boosted residential settlement during a formative phase of North Shore’s early twentieth-century development.
Aesthetic Significance or Value:
The house at 5 Jubilee Avenue has aesthetic significance as a visually striking, two-storey timber villa notable for its elegant design incorporating a pair of brick corbelled chimney, bracketed eaves, double-height factory bay window with ornamental detailing, and the extravagant use of turned and fretted timber decoration on both floors of a gracious return verandah. The place also has aesthetic value as one of a handful of visually prominent late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century two-storey residences that make a significant contribution to the visual character of a well-established seaside neighbourhood on the Torpedo Bay foreshore and lower southwest slopes of Devonport’s North Head overlooking the inner Waitemata Harbour.
Architectural Significance or Value:
The place has architectural significance as an externally well-preserved, elite Italianate-style villa of timber construction. Its grand appearance, size, and lavishly ornamented return verandah reflect the relationship between architectural design and social status. The house is one of a number of two-storey villas that contribute to Devonport’s historic character.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:
The house at 5 Jubilee Avenue reflects the emergence of seaside residential suburbs 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. The place also reflects the status and material achievement of the rising middle class in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century colonial suburban New Zealand.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:
The place was owned from 1899 until 1904 by amateur botanist and talented photographer Frank Blackwell whose images made a significant contribution to New Zealand’s first popular book on botany, Plants of New Zealand. The 1906 publication jointly authored by Blackwell’s sister, Ellen Wright Blackwell, and Robin Malcolm Laing remained in print for six decades.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:
The place has value as an externally well-preserved, elite late-Victorian two storey Italianate bay villa of timber construction. The design of the two-storey verandah on two elevations illustrates a late-Victorian eclecticism and taste for lavish ornamentation and public display evident in the timber fretwork, spindles and paired verandah posts with simulated capitals created from timber mouldings. The rectangular plan, hipped roof with bracketed eaves and corbelled chimneys; and the varied styles of fenestration including plain sash, factory bay, and Chicago style windows illustrate manufactured joinery components of the period, contributing to an appreciation of the development of late-Victorian villa design, a residential style of particular importance in the history of New Zealand domestic architecture, and that of colonial Auckland in particular. The value of the place is enhanced by the survival of a random rubble front boundary wall with corner and gate posts of squared basalt.
(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 house at 5 Jubilee Avenue is one 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 house is one of at least three notable late-Victorian villas in Jubilee Avenue (including those at number 15 and 17) and is 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 who - along with his father Alexander Watson - contributed to Devonport’s development as a popular seaside resort.
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 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 5 Jubilee Avenue was constructed lay within suburban farm Allotment 13 at North Head, a purchase made by James Hammond in 1851 who bought adjoining Allotment 13A in 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 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. At the time of his death, Watson - a founding shareholder and a director of the Auckland Timber Company in 1877 - was reputedly one of Auckland’s wealthiest citizens.
In the early 1880s Devonport increasingly became a suburb of commuting businessmen and lesser lights of the commercial community, as private residences were built within easy travelling distance of Auckland’s commercial centre. By 1884, during an Auckland real estate boom that largely targeted speculative investors, Alexander Watson created a 30-lot residential subdivision extending from Torpedo Bay to North Head Road (later renamed Takarunga Road). A private road to the Watson 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.
Sales within the subdivision were slow as the late 1880s economic depression took hold towards the end of 1885. Following Watson’s death in 1911, the inheritance of his son Alexander Richardson Dickey Watson (1878-1917) - a noted public benefactor - was to include the Torpedo Bay subdivision where Watson Senior had built several villas in the 1890s as rental properties for genteel tenants.
Construction of residence (1887) and damage / destruction by fire (1895):
In January 1887, Harriett Walker wife of warehouseman C. George Walker purchased Lot 35 and part of Lot 36 (at a cost of £268) on the north side of Jubilee Avenue. Harriett evidently had financial resources of her own, but a £450 mortgage appears to have financed construction of the single-storey, ten-roomed family residence occupying the site by 1888. George Walker was a buyer for the Manchester and dress department of Macky, Logan, Steen, an English firm that opened a store in Auckland in 1882. Five children were born to the Walkers, the youngest whilst at Jubilee Avenue.
The single-storey family residence insured for £450 evidently ‘burnt to the ground’ in October 1895.
Re-construction of residence (1895-6):
By February 1897, an impressive Italianate-style timber villa of two storeys occupied the property increasing the rateable value from the £35 assigned in the previous listing of February 1895, to £50. It is unclear whether the new residence incorporated elements of the earlier similarly located single-storey structure which had a comparable footprint and a return verandah.
A number of Devonport houses constructed at this time were the work of noted Auckland architect Edward Bartley (1839-1919) who lived locally, although it is not known whether he designed the Walker residence. Nor is the identity of the building-contractor known.
Reflecting contemporary bay villa design as a symbol of the status and material achievement of the colony’s rising middle class, the imposing new residence incorporated a two-storey return-verandah with extensive timber fretwork along two elevations. Chicago-style sash windows faced onto the verandah which terminated in a double-storey bay window unit - a component traditionally manufactured in joinery shops for addition to early bay villas to contribute to the overall impression of affluence. Internally, the dwelling’s main rooms were arranged either side of the central hall on each floor. The rooms of greatest social importance including the master bedroom and parlour were located at the front of the house, with less important rooms including the kitchen at the rear.
The Jubilee Avenue address off Cheltenham Road and overlooking King Edward Parade, two streets known by that time for their large and handsome residences, well suited George Walker’s business ambitions. The locality enjoyed views of the harbour and Devonport Domain’s cricket ground. It was also close to the Flagstaff commercial centre, until 1904 a major ferry terminal for commuters to Auckland’s central business district (CBD).
George pursued work as a mining agent in late 1895 while still a warehouseman, prior to entering a short-lived partnership - Whalley, Walker and Co., surveyors, civil and mining engineers and general mining agents. The firm operated from premises near the stock exchange in Auckland’s financial district, capitalising on renewed interest arising from increasing gold yields from Waihi and the Ohinemuri district following the introduction of the cyanide extraction process earlier in the decade.
Subsequent use and modifications:
In 1898, Harriett increased a mortgage taken out two years earlier. A court order that George pay an £8 debt in instalments, suggests the family may have experienced financial difficulties. An October 1899 advertisement offered a charmingly-situated family residence in Jubilee Avenue, for immediate sale. The house containing ten rooms, bathroom, pantry and scullery, and extensive balcony view of sea and harbour was described as having perfect appointments and finish.
Frank Bartram Blackwell (c.1862-1934) became the new owner the following month. His father, John - a master hosier who had done well in the drapery trade and owned eighteen houses in the Midlands city of Northampton - had left Frank a £6000 inheritance the previous year. Frank Blackwell, an amateur botanist and talented photographer, married in 1900 but the family appears to have lived on his Pahi River farm at Kaipara. Photographs taken by Frank and his sister Ellen featured in Plants of New Zealand, a 1906 publication jointly authored by Ellen Wright Blackwell (1864-1952) and Robert Malcolm Laing (1865-1941) that became a botanical classic running to seven editions over the next 60 years.
During Blackwell’s ownership, the Jubilee Avenue house was let to shipbroker Alfred G. Taine (1852-1941). Taine was a son of James John Taine (1817-1914) and Leocadia (nee de Oliveira) said to be the ward or adopted daughter of Edward Gibbon Wakefield. As a young man Alfred was employed by a London manufacturer of ice-making machinery, work that took him to India and the United States. Returning to New Zealand in 1879 he went into business as an auctioneer and commission agent, retiring to Auckland around 1900. Taine Senior later leased the luxurious Watson residence at the end of Jubilee Avenue, where he died in 1914.
In August 1904, 5 Jubilee Avenue was bought by Alexander Roger Morrison (c.1854-1922) manager of the Direct Supply Company (D.S.C.). The D.S.C., a major Auckland furniture, drapery and clothing manufacturing retailer based in Queen Street, had emerged in 1893 from the Auckland Direct Importing Company purchased by Morrison in 1889. Morrison’s closure of his premises at 6 pm rather than 10 pm on Saturdays commencing from 1890 earned praise from those concerned that late shopping and long hours in Auckland’s retail sector was the cause of the moral and physical wreck of many young lives.
In 1908, Morrison added four vacant Takarunga Road sites to his Jubilee Avenue property. A two-storey rear verandah added to the home shortly after would have enabled better enjoyment of the enlarged grounds. Retired by 1909, Morrison remained active as a member of a syndicate that acquired the assets of the D.S.C; and as a director of the National Timber Company, and of the Takapuna Tram and Ferry Company (TTFC). Until its demise in 1927, the TTFC (founded in 1910) offered a steam tram service through Belmont and Takapuna to Milford from its Auckland / Bayswater ferry. Shareholders invested in land along the way to encourage residential settlement in the Takapuna and Milford areas.
Following Morrison’s death in 1926, the Jubilee Avenue house formed part of a family trust with considerable land holdings. In 1927 a timber outbuilding was constructed as a washhouse, lavatory, wood and tool shed. The site plan shows a new fowl house of timber construction, and an existing brick outbuilding on Lot 22.
Morrison’s daughter and son-in-law, lawyer Eric Blampied, occupied the house until circa 1943. Following subdivision of the property in 1946, the land fronting Takarunga Road was sold although the area occupied by the fowl house and a brick garage was retained as part of 5 Jubilee Avenue.
In 1948, a period of increased pressure for residential accommodation as New Zealand’s marriage and birth rates escalated following the end of the Second World War (1939-45), the Blampieds obtained permission to convert the house into three flats: two downstairs; and one upstairs. Associated alterations included construction of two new bathrooms and kitchens; the introduction of new partition walls and the relocation of doorways. New openings were created to the exterior; the back porch was remodelled; rear stairs were constructed, and a dining alcove was created extending from the northeast corner of the ground floor - works overseen by architects Watkin and Stemson.
The house sold in 1967, ending more than six decades of Morrison family ownership. Reflecting a movement towards the gentrification of Auckland’s older suburbs in the 1970s, the property reverted to a single family home. In 1974, a photograph of the house accompanied a newspaper report that 64 selected buildings were to be recorded by the Borough Council as a reflection of the character of earlier Devonport. Restoration of the villa continued after the property changed hands in 1979. Alterations undertaken by the new owners included a deck and conservatory addition at the rear of the house (1985); construction of a carport or garage addition (1988) to or adjoining an existing shed; and replacement of the slate roof with corrugated metal.
The house at 5 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 Auckland CBD. The house occupies a gently sloping site on an outer bend of Jubilee Avenue, a no exit street overlooking King Edward Parade on the Torpedo Bay foreshore. The location and elevated setting enhances the visibility of the two-storey house within a row of late nineteenth-century timber houses visible from the intersection of Jubilee Avenue and Cheltenham Road. As viewed from a pleasance area close to the south end of Duders Avenue, and from the esplanade and the harbour, the houses at 5 Jubilee Avenue and 60 King Edward Parade make a significant contribution to the well-established seaside neighbourhood that contains a number of well-maintained late-Victorian timber houses.
Properties towards the southeast end of Jubilee Avenue 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. 7321, 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. Approximately 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 King Edward Parade and the western portion of Jubilee Avenue date from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Notable examples in addition to 5 Jubilee Avenue and 60 King Edward Parade are a pair of elegant single-storey villas of virtually identical design at 15 and 17 Jubilee Avenue. These are evidently four of a number of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century residential buildings identified in wider Devonport in 1974 for their architectural interest and as representative of the former Borough’s earlier character.
The information in this and the following section of the report has been compiled from archival plans and images, a recent aerial image and views from the street.
The site lies on a slight slope that descends southward towards Jubilee Avenue and has a slight cross fall to the west. Apart from a shallow, blind pan-handle extending across the rear of the adjoining property, the site is largely rectangular.
The visually striking, well-maintained residence is sited comparatively close to the front boundary - separated by a pocket handkerchief-sized front garden - and largely retains its original external form as viewed from the street and public places. The front boundary is defined by a random rubble basalt wall with corner and gate posts of rectangular profile. A formed driveway runs parallel to the west boundary and leads to modern garaging that abuts and partly incorporates an earlier outbuilding (1927) located to the northwest of the house. The rear outdoor living area consists of an impermeable sealed area, lawns and trees.
The front entrance of the house is approached via a path that branches off from the driveway.
‘One of Devonport’s collection of large two-storey villas’, the residence has been described as ‘particularly impressive, with extravagant use of turned and fretted verandah decoration on both levels’.
The house appears to consist of the 1896-7 double-storey residence (possibly containing elements of the 1887 dwelling destroyed by fire); an early twentieth-century two-storey rear verandah - possibly enclosed; a 1950s single-storey rear addition with flat-roof (east end) and a 1980s deck and conservatory (west end) extending across the rear.
Viewed from the street, the Italianate-style bay villa retains its late 1890s appearance. It is largely rectangular in plan and has a hipped roof with centre gutter. The roof is sheathed with corrugated metal. The building has bracketed eaves, a double-storey manufactured bay window with classical detailing (brackets and columns), and a gracious return verandah. Factory-style bay windows preceded the first true bay villas (late 1890s) in which bay windows were brought under the main roof as part of the house. Chicago windows (sash windows flanked by two narrow windows of the same height) such as those facing onto the front verandah, were a feature that enjoyed a renaissance during the 1870s until after 1900.
The roof line is broken by two brick chimneys designed to serve back to back fireplaces. Consistent with the late-1890s construction date, the chimney tops rise from a red-brick shaft above which a light-coloured frieze incorporates shaped stone brackets - and reflect a transition from the more ornate polychromatic brick chimneys of the 1880s and 1890s, to the plain red brick chimneys popular by 1900.
The wall cladding is of plain timber weatherboards said to be unusually narrow for a house dating from the 1890s. It is unclear whether the house may have been re-clad at some point.
The impressive timber ornamentation is confined to the verandah on the two main public elevations: facing Cheltenham Road and the Domain (west); and King Edward Parade and the harbour (south / southwest). Fenestration on the east elevation consists of plain sash windows, a style also adopted for some of the windows on the south and west elevations.
The upper and lower friezes of the return verandah are of contrasting styles. The frieze of the uppermost level incorporates turned spindles reflecting Eastlake influences, a lavishly decorated style adopted for many New Zealand villas between 1890 and 1910. Paired verandah posts with fretwork brackets and capitals formed by timber mouldings; turned tear drops; and turned balusters further reflect late-Victorian architectural eclecticism and love of display.
The front entrance with a heavily moulded architrave is reached by a short flight of shallow steps flanked by a pair of urns on rectangular pedestals. The door case incorporates narrow sidelights, and three rectangular fan lights. The lower sections of the door and its surrounds have timber panels with heavy mouldings.
The interior of the house appears to be arranged around a central hallway on both floors. A 1989 reference suggests there has been considerable internal change.
On the ground floor are two large rooms opening off the front hall: the front parlour with a faceted bay window overlooking the street; and a room with a square bay window extending into the side (west) verandah. A large room, behind the parlour and located directly across the hall from the kitchen - may have been the original dining room. The space formerly occupied by the original kitchen and service area may open into the conservatory addition at the rear. The layout and function of the late 1940s northeast addition is unknown.
The upper floor appears to have accommodated six bedrooms originally. The upper hallway with a staircase at the north end terminates in a south-facing doorway that opens onto the verandah. The verandah is also accessed by a set of French doors on the west elevation. The location of the former master bedroom is suggested by the bay window that overlooks the street and the harbour.
The extent to which nineteenth-century features including fireplaces, joinery, fittings and finishes may survive is not known.
It is unclear whether a hip-roofed outbuilding to the rear of (or incorporated within) a modern garage is a surviving timber-framed structure dating from circa 1927, but seems likely. It is not known whether an earlier brick building, used as a garage in the 1920s and still in place in the 1960s, survives. The brick structure was not indicated on a 1994 site plan.
Pre-construction: Single-storey residence
Demolished - prior building
Destruction or substantial damage by fire
1895 - 1896
1908 - 1919
Two-storey verandah (rear)
Additional building added to site
Additional building added to site
Fowl house (timber)
Additional building added to site
Timber outbuilding (washhouse, lavatory, wood and tool shed)
Single storey (north-east corner of house)
Conversion of house into three self-contained flats
Reconversion to single dwelling
Demolished - additional building on site
Fowl house and brick shed?
Deck and conservatory to rear of house
Additional building added to site
Construction / Addition: Carport adjoining 1927 timber shed
Alterations: Slate roof replaced with corrugated metal
House: Brick foundations (?); timber frame and cladding; corrugated metal roof
Outbuilding (1927): foundations (?); timber frame and cladding; metal roof
Carport / Garage (1988):Concrete footings (?); timber frame; metal roof
29th 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
Di Stewart, The New Zealand Villa Past and Present, Auckland, 1992
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.
This place is included in other heritage listings. The reference is Auckland Council, Cultural Heritage Inventory, computer no. 2430 House
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.