Acacia Cottage is a rare survivor from early colonial Auckland and an important symbol of the city's pioneering roots. Built in the heart of the early settlement in 1841, this small timber dwelling originally stood to the rear of the Shortland Street store run by William Brown and John Logan Campbell, two of the earliest traders in the town. Campbell, prominent in business and charitable circles, was also a mayor and benefactor who became known as the 'Father of Auckland'. Initially lived in by Campbell, Brown and Brown's wife, Jessie, the cottage was already known as the oldest surviving house in the settlement in 1844, and gained further prominence with the rise of pioneer nostalgia in the late nineteenth century. Threatened by redevelopment in the 1920s, it was moved to Cornwall Park, where it is now displayed and open to the public. The park had been donated to the nation by Campbell in 1901, and contains a number of other memorials to him.
The cottage has undergone several transformations since its original construction. It started out as a simple, four-roomed dwelling of Georgian design, with a fifth room appended to one side. Built when most other settlers were living in tents, it was occupied by a succession of families after Brown and Campbell moved out. Modifications during this time included the addition of a brick chimney, bedroom and rear verandah, as well as an outhouse with a bath and toilet. Some of these elements were demolished as unsuitable when the cottage was transferred to Cornwall Park, as they were not considered to be part of its pioneer origins. The modified cottage was moved to a more prominent position within the park in 1956, since when successive restorations have been carried out. It now retains fabric from several periods of its use, including modern reconstruction and repair.
Acacia Cottage is nationally significant as one of the earliest surviving timber dwellings in the country and the oldest in Auckland. It is an important example of early vernacular architecture, demonstrating many aspects of pioneer technology. The building provides valuable insights about domestic life in early colonial New Zealand, and is closely linked to the development of trade and merchant activity. It is of particular significance for its associations with Sir John Logan Campbell, who became mayor of the city, and subsequent attitudes to 'pioneer' history and the conservation of buildings in the early twentieth century. The building has value as evidence of the educational role public parks played in the early 1900s, and for being part of a larger commemorative landscape that celebrates Campbell and the history of Auckland. It has important symbolic value for its associations with early colonial settlement, for which it enjoys high public esteem. It has educational value as a public museum, located in a popular and attractive setting.
William Brown and John Logan Campbell were major figures in the commercial and administrative development of Auckland city, from its founding, and in Campbell's case, for over 60 years. Campbell's early arrival in and long association with Auckland, his role in commerce and education and as patron of the arts, as well as his bequests to the city (particularly that of Cornwall Park) explain why he is often referred to as 'The Father of the City'. On his death Campbell was interred on the summit of Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) on a site marked today by a visually spectacular monument.
In spite of Brown's and Campbell's relatively short occupation of Acacia Cottage, and although it is not now on its original site, the cottage is one of the best known symbols of the founding of Auckland city, being Auckland's oldest surviving residential building.
Its original location in the early commercial centre of the developing Auckland of the 1840s notwithstanding, Acacia Cottage is a typical example of a very early New Zealand colonial cottage. Being four-roomed it was larger than most early houses. Despite its relocation to Cornwall Park, and a variety of structural changes over the years it largely retains its architectural integrity.
The building is pleasantly set facing Huia Lodge in Cornwall Park, but it does not have any townscape or landmark significance as such.
Registration covers the building, its fixtures and finishes. It also includes recent modifications. The building lies on the lower slopes of the site of Maungakiekie pa, and early colonial farmland.
Its age and its association with John Logan Campbell.
Kauri timber construction, both framing and weatherboards; rough sawn; boxed corners. The gabled roof originally with kauri shingles; wooden guttering.
Ceilings and inner walls lined variously with kauri board and batten or vertical tongue and groove.
Originally on wooden, now concrete, blocks.
Acacia Cottage is Auckland's oldest surviving residential building. The cottage was built in June 1841 by William Brown and John Logan Campbell at the rear of their business allotment in Shortland Street. An earlier (by one month) two-roomed cottage built by them on land on which they had squatted before the first official land sale, had to be sold to the eventual purchaser of that land. When Mr and Mrs Brown, and later, Campbell, moved into the cottage it was in an unfinished state, comfortless and dreary, with bare walls, 8 feet high partitions separating the rooms, no ceiling so that rafters and shingles were visible, no chimney and no fireplace. But it was the first permanent home, for a few years, of two of Auckland's pioneers and businessmen.
Brown and Campbell were both born in Scotland where they studied law and medicine respectively. Before emigrating Campbell had also taken some training in carpentry. The two men met first in Australia, and later, in 1840, formed a business partnership in Coromandel. They purchased Motukorea (Browns Island) and then moved into the commercial area of the newly established capital city.
Both men were at various times members of the Legislative Council and Superintendents of the province, although Brown, before he returned to Britain permanently in 1858, had keener political interests than Campbell. Apart from the years 1848-1850 and 1856-71, which were spent in Britain and Europe, Campbell remained largely in Auckland. He was prominent in the founding and development of several major companies and banks. He was chairman of the Auckland Education Board and in 1877 he established the Free School of Arts which he maintained until the founding of the Elam School of Fine Arts in 1889.
21st August 2001
Report Written By
Auckland Institute & Museum
Auckland Institute & Museum
John Logan Campbell Papers (MS 51)
Auckland Public Libraries
Auckland Public Libraries
Hickson, T.W. (surveyor), 'Map of the City of Auckland, New Zealand', 1882
John Cobb, Cornwall Park: The Story of a Man's Vision, Auckland, 1994
Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)
Land Information New Zealand
A M Kelly (surveyor), 'Deposited Plan 13496, dated 7.10.1919'
New Zealand Herald
New Zealand Herald
'Our King of the Forest - Kauri - The Oldest House in Auckland Still Standing', 15.6.1882:6
'Local and General News', , 11.1.1921:4
'Pioneer Home Renovated', New Zealand Herald, 12.4.1956:12
Jeremy Salmond, Old New Zealand Houses 1800-1940, Auckland, 1986, Reed Methuen
G. H. Scholefield, A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, 1940
'To Let', 21.12.1844:1
R. C. J. Stone, Young Logan Campbell, Auckland, 1982
pp.95-96, 114, 117 & 132.
Map: J Vercoe and S.W. Harding, City of Auckland, New Zealand, Auckland, 1866
E Axford, The Story of Auckland in Pictures, Auckland, 1971
Bretts, 1883 (reprinted 1902)
Bretts, Colonists Guide & Cyclopedia of Useful Knowledge, Auckland, 1883 (reprinted 1902)
W E Bush. 'Map of the City', December 1908
School of Architecture Library
School of Architecture Library, Auckland
Heaney, R. et. al., 'Acacia Cottage', September 1946
J Wilson (compiler), AA Book of New Zealand Historic Places, Lansdowner Press, Auckland 1984
Dave Pearson, 'Buildings of Cornwall Park: Conservation Plan', Auckland, 1992 (held by NZHPT, Auckland); Dave Pearson, 'Acacia Cottage, Cornwall Park: Conservation Plan', Auckland, 1995 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)
This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.