Rendell House (Former)

31 Victoria Avenue And Tirohanga Avenue, Remuera, Auckland

  • Rendell House (Former). June 1986. Image courtesy of ‘Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, Record ID 1052-M5-17.
    Copyright: Auckland Libraries. Taken By: Unknown.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 600 Date Entered 26th November 1981


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 69296 (CT NA93C/571), North Auckland Land District, and the buildings and structures known as Rendell House (Former) thereon. (Refer to the extent map tabled at the Heritage List/ Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 11 February 2016)

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)


Auckland Council

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 69296 (CT NA93C/571), North Auckland Land District


Rendell House (Former) was designed by notable Auckland architect Horace Massey in 1927 for John Robert Rendell, a successful businessman and son of the founder of Rendell’s Department Store. Rendell’s house is of Spanish Mission design, an exuberant architectural style imported to Australia and New Zealand during the interwar period from Spanish-influenced parts of North America, particularly California. The first notable Spanish Mission building in New Zealand was the main block of Auckland Grammar School in 1916, but the style was not widely used in New Zealand until after the Napier Earthquake of 1931; Rendell House was built between these two milestones. Within the context of Remuera houses built at the time, mostly in the Georgian, English Cottage and Arts and Crafts styles, the Rendell House is an architecturally significant exception. Its striking street presence on a corner site is reinforced by a prominent stucco boundary wall.

Remuera has been associated with the settlement of rich and successful Aucklanders since the middle of the nineteenth century. From about 1900, the palatial houses of the wealthiest settlers of the 1800s made room for the smaller, but often grander townhouses of the city’s commercial and professional élite. In 1925, a land parcel on one of Remuera’s most desirable streets, Victoria Avenue, was purchased by John Rendell. Rendell was a managing director of Rendell’s Limited and particularly notable for his involvement in the formation of the New Zealand Federation of Drapers and Clothiers, becoming its first president. Rendell sold two portions of his property in 1926, assisting to finance construction of a Spanish-Mission-style residence the following year.

The designer of Rendell’s new house, Horace Massey (1895-1979), was a prolific and award-winning architect, and a master of many architectural styles. One of his former business partners estimated that Massey designed one in every five architect-designed houses in Auckland during the 1920s. The exterior of Rendell House incorporated many of the features often associated with Spanish Mission residences: twisted columns, archways, arched windows, terracotta roof tiles, and ornamental wrought iron. Stucco applied to brick walls to simulate adobe masonry was also used on the front boundary wall. On the ground floor was a living room, with an arched loggia, a dining room and small study plus a maid’s bedroom, service areas, and an attached garage. The first floor was smaller and contained four bedrooms, an upper hall and a bathroom. Three of the bedrooms opened onto a roof terrace above the loggia. In 1933 Massey enlarged the small study, maintaining the same style.

John Rendell owned the house until 1942 when it was sold to Corisande Russell, the widow of lawyer Edward Russell. In 1893, Russell had succeeded his father J. B. Russell at the law practice founded in 1863 that went on to become the well-known firm Russell McVeagh. Corisande and her daughters, to whom she gave the house in 1953, lived at the address until 1970. A further area was subdivided from the property in 1973. No significant renovations appear to have been made to the house until that year, when some interior spaces were reconfigured.

As a desirable, élite residence, the house has since been occupied by other prominent figures in Auckland society, including former government minister John Banks during one of his terms as Mayor of Auckland. A series of renovations in keeping with the existing exterior style were undertaken in 1999-2002. This increased the size of both the ground and first floors.

In 2015, the house remained in use as a private dwelling.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Massey, Horace

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

J. A. Penman and Sons

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1927 -

1973 -
Reconfiguration of interior spaces

1991 -
Lift installed

Modification and addition – Basement added, rooms added on ground and first floors.

Completion Date

3rd December 2015

Report Written By

Elizabeth Cox

Information Sources

Lloyd Jenkins, 2004

Douglas Lloyd Jenkins, At Home: A Century of New Zealand Design. Auckland: Random House, 2004

New Zealand Building Record

New Zealand Building Record

Gatley, 2008

Julia Gatley (ed.), Long Live the Modern: New Zealand's New Architecture 1904-1984, Auckland University Press, Auckland, 2008

Carlyon and Morrow, 2011

Carlyon, Jenny, and Diana Morrow, A Fine Prospect: A History of Remuera, Meadowbank and St Johns, Auckland, 2011.

Massey, 1924

Massey, Horace, ‘Essentials of the Future Domestic Architecture of New Zealand’, New Zealand Building Progress, March 1924

Other Information

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.

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