Falls Hotel

Alderman Drive, Falls Park, Henderson

  • Falls Hotel.
    Copyright: The Falls Restaurant & Cafe. Date: 2/11/2005.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7403 Date Entered 31st October 1997


City/District Council

Auckland Council (Waitakere City Council)


Auckland Council

Legal description

part of Lot 7 DP 1467

Location description

Relocated to Falls Park in 1996.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


The building was constructed in 1873 by John McLeod. (Until recently the hotel was assumed incorrectly, to have been built in the 1850s or 1860s.) In a speech given at the dinner held to mark the opening, Thomas Henderson - founder of the settlement - said he had objected to an hotel for some time, while men were engaged with axes and saws but he now had reason to believe a hotel was necessary. (Henderson's

timber mill had closed some six years before.) His comments imply that the Oratia Hotel was the first in the immediate district.

Around the 1880s the establishment was renamed the Falls Hotel. Towards the end of the century a double storey addition was made to the rear. Alienation of the hotel from the traffic passing its prominent comer site began in 1898 when Great North Road was realigned to cross Henderson's newly erected Coronation Bridge. After Henderson became a 'dry area' in 1908 the hotel was run as a guest house. It was

purchased by Jane Wilkes in 1912 and renamed the Central Hotel and Boarding House in 1925. Six years later Steve Ozich bought the building which for the next 30 years was known as the "Central Private Hotel". During this period Ozich undertook three retail developments along the road frontages, the final one in 1961 necessitating the relocation of the hotel away from the Railside Avenue frontage. At this time the lower part of the verandah was removed to provide more parking, leaving the upper section braced by supports. Steve Ozich lived at the hotel until 1991. The building is now owned by the Norcross-Waitakere Trust and was relocated to a new site at nearby Falls Park in Henderson in late 1996 where it will serve as a community building.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


The Falls Hotel was designed in a Colonial Stripped Georgian style, nominally of the period 1821-1900. Applied to hotel/accommodation house architecture, the style assumed a New Zealand vernacular form that lasted well into the twentieth century as late as the 1930s. The following are typical style indicators:

- Basic rectangular form, but with pragmatic additions.

- Wooden construction.

- Hipped roof form clad with corrugated iron.

- Facade divided into bays by verandah posts.

- Asymmetrical arrangement of windows.

- Verandahs extending the full length of the building.

- Angled comer characteristic of the 'comer pub'.

- 'Filigree screen' effect achieved on verandahs through the use balustrades, railings, valances, brackets and lattices.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


Local histories suggest that the broader locality had several 'informal hotels' last century. The Oratia Hotel, as the building was first known, is reputed to be the first licensed hotel built in Henderson. An account of its opening stressed that it was built to provide comfortable accommodation and stabling for travellers and that the house would be conducted in the style of hotels of the best class. Although later 'dry', the hotel continued to fulfil its role of providing accommodation until the 1960s.


The hotel, especially from the time of its construction in 1873 until 1881 before land sales and extension of the railway line accelerated development in the area, was an important focus for the wider Henderson community. The Henderson's Mill settlement, established in 1848 to exploit the area's kauri, had declined following an unsuccessful attempt to market land to settlers in 1864 and through subsequent closure of the mill itself in 1867. The Post Office is said to have been housed in the hotel until 1881, being kept by publicans Poppleton and Stebbing. During Stebbing's time at least the Post Office was apparently located in a small building on North Road although the above implies it shared the hotel site.

Hotel patronage was boosted by local events such as the Henderson's Mill Turf Club's Annual race meetings held from 1876 until 1888. Traditionally held on St Patrick's day the six or so races attracted people from Auckland and further afield. Likewise, sale days were also busy, with stock and buyers coming from as far away as Helensville to Alfred Buckland's Henderson yards located opposite the hotel.

Information provided in support of the nomination for registration describes the building as having a colourful history with prize fighting taking place on the road outside the hotel and states that in 1892, it was the venue for the New Zealand bantam-weight title. On a more solemn occasion the Falls Hotel provided a venue for the Coroner's Court for the inquest into the death in 1902 of Jerry Driscoll in a fight

following a drinking spree.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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

The provision of accommodation and sale of alcohol have been important activities in New Zealand's history. The Falls Hotel was built before rail extended to West Auckland, when travel was slow, making the need for accommodation stops frequent. The hotel's history is also representative of an era when such establishments were an important social focus of the community providing a place where mail could be

collected and meetings and social gatherings held. The building also illustrates the strength of the prohibition movement early this century when areas such as Henderson were voted 'dry' leaving establishments to rely solely on provision of accommodation.

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

Persons: The information accompanying the nomination for registration suggests the hotel was built by Henderson's founder, Thomas Henderson, an eminent Auckland businessman and politician and that the first licensee may have been 'Long John' McLeod, Henderson's mill manager who introduced the concept of the timber driving dam to New Zealand.

The account of the inaugural dinner held to mark the opening suggests that John McLeod rather than Thomas Henderson was responsible for the hotel's construction although the latter attended what would have been a major event in the community.

There were two men named John McLeod associated with the early history of Henderson. The hotel appears to have been built by 'Shepherd' McLeod rather than 'Long John'. 'Shepherd' McLeod is not such a well-known historical figure as 'Long John' McLeod who in addition to being one of Henderson's founders, also founded

Helensville and was a provincial politician. 'Shepherd', a Scotsman, was the manager of Thomas Henderson's 'Delta Farm' and is said to have brought a flock of sheep from Melbourne to Henderson on one of Henderson and McFarlane's Circular Saw Line ships in 1859. 'Shepherd' McLeod according to reminiscences of his daughter (Mrs Gavin Shanks of Kaukapakapa) in 1933, was also Henderson's first store keeper and opened the first butchery business there. He appears to have been the hotel's publican for less than three years.

Steve Ozich was the hotel's longest-term occupant. He bought the building in 1930 and remained there for the next 60 years until he moved out at the age of 100. Ozich, one of Henderson's oldest identifies, died in 1994 aged 103. Like many West Auckland settlers he came to New Zealand from Yugoslavia. Arriving in 1906, he initially was a kauri gum digger and later worked as a carrier and orchardist in Northland before moving to Henderson. He and his wife raised five children at the Oratia Hotel. He established one of the first taxi fleets in West Auckland and later as a land agent and valuer was involved in the development of the Henderson, Glen Eden and Massey areas of Waitakere City.


Notwithstanding that the building was built in 1873 rather than the 1850s or 1860s as was commonly believed, the Falls Hotel is still one of Henderson's earliest buildings. The hotel has an interesting local history. 'Shepherd' John McLeod has associations with the town's early history and long-term owner Steve Ozich was a well known Henderson identity. It is also of interest as an early timber hotel, uncommon because many such buildings succumbed to fire or in larger centres were replaced by more imposing masonry establishments.

Recommend Category II s23(2)(a) and (b)

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

DATE: 1873

ARCIDTECT: Not known

STYLE CODE: 1: Colonial Stripped Georgian


The Falls Hotel conforms to a mature provincial hotel style of architecture which had similar stylistic counterparts in Australia.

In New Zealand the style can be described as vernacular in the sense that unlike the Australian examples, which were usually built of brick with wrought iron decoration, the New Zealand buildings were built of timber and corrugated iron with machine processed timber decorations, and with only occasionally cast iron verandah posts.

The style was indicated mainly by its simple, stripped Colonial Georgian proportions, and by verandahs, usually two-storyed, with decorative balustrades, valances, lattices and fretwork post brackets. The style was essentially provincial since it is only found outside the main centres, and must be distinguished from contemporary hotels built of brick and plaster in the Italianate/Baroque style such as the Occidental Hotel in Auckland (1870) or Warners Hotel in Christchurch (1900).

It should be noted that over the years since the Falls Hotel was built in 1873, modifications have been carried out to the place. These are itemised in the Works Consultancy Services Conservation Plan for the Falls Hotel, and must be considered to be part of the history of the place.

The most substantial modification was the addition of a rear double storey around 1889, but perhaps the more visible modification has been the lifting of the verandah up to two storeys in height in 1931, and the subsequent removal of the ground floor posts while bracing the upper verandah with diagonal braces in 1989. These alterations have not affected the design integrity of the place, and in the case of the 1931 verandah alteration, actually enhanced the stylistic quality of the place.

From the point of view of the evolution of the design of the Falls Hotel, the unusual and interesting factor is that the mature design of the place hinged on the verandah modification, and that this emerged nearly thirty years later than was usual with this type of building. In the process of extending the original ground floor verandah, which may have dated from 1873, the owner in 1931, Steve Ozich, simply moved the original verandah post brackets up a storey, where they are to-day, and added new architectural detail to the design of the place which, in design terms was contemporary with Victorian decoration but which, by 1931, was virtually out of date. These additional features were a new continuous decorative valance running along the top of the ground floor verandah posts, a balustrade with rails on the first floor verandah running around the two main elevations, and at least one (and possibly two) lattices made of light wooden lathes located at the ends of the verandahs. Lattices offer privacy, while allowing for the circulation of cool air.

These features are important in a comparative sense because they are distinguishing architectural details which share a common design significance with contemporary Australian hotel and domestic house design. In Australia these particular features are identified with a hot climate where verandahs act as a screen between the outside and

interior of a place and are therefore described there as producing a 'filigree screen' effect. The difference is that the Australian examples are (at least with hotel designs) invariably made of wrought iron. The Falls Hotel, and its other New Zealand contemporaries, are, however, significant for the fact that while their detailing has a common basis with Australian design, the New Zealand detailing was constructed almost without exception out of timber.

As an addenda it is important to note that the removal in 1989 of the ground floor verandah posts of the Falls Hotel was, and is, effectively a reversible alteration which was made to the final form and style of the building as it appeared in 1931. It is that final evolutionary form of the place which establishes its architectural design significance today.

(m) Such additional criteria not inconsistent with those in paragraphs (a) to (k):

There is a total of 102 registered hotels/taverns/accommodation houses listed in the national register which were built between 1840-1935. Of this figure, thirteen places were identified as being designed in the vernacular 'filigree screen' style but only within the date range 1869-1904.

This is a relatively small number of places representative of a style which, to borrow the Australian term, might be better termed the 'Filigree Screen style, 1870-1930'. The Falls Hotel is unusual in that the date range for the style can now be extended beyond 1904, which is the building date of the nearest comparative example, the Brian Boru Hotel in Thames (Category I), to 1931. Registration of the Falls Hotel, would, in this respect, extend both the register and our knowledge of the provincial hotel architectural genre.

In addition, it must also be considered that the Falls Hotel is an important historical building in the Henderson area since, even with an 1873 date of construction instead of 1855 as originally thought, it is still one of the earliest surviving buildings in the district, and is therefore significant for that reason.

The Falls Hotel was shifted 400 metres from its original location in December 1996 to a new site known as Falls Park. This park appears to have been a contemporary recreation area adjacent to the hotel in its Victorian/Edwardian heyday, since it included the Waitakere Falls - since reduced by the water reservoir. The Works Consultancy Conservation Plan, and the present day Falls Hotel Preservation Trust, believe that the original name of the hotel was changed from Oratia Hotel to the Falls Hotel in the 1880s for this reason.

Trust policy on the relocation of buildings and structures (approved 27 June 1997) states in pact:

1 .... relocating an historic place or structure is not a desirable conservation option unless:

(i) the site is not of associated value (an exceptional circumstance)

(ii) relocation is the only means of saving the structure; or

(iii) relocation provides continuity of cultural heritage value.

3. Resiting may be more acceptable if the building/structure was intended to be relocatable or if relocation has been a feature of the history of either the building/structure or the site.

In relation to criteria 1 (i) there is no evidence to suggest that the original site was not of associated value.

In relation to criteria 1 (ii) the present owners state that the reason the falls Hotel was shifted was because it is believed to be the most appropriate final resting place for the building, particularly since its name was changed from the Oratia Hotel to the falls Hotel in 1889. Given that the place had become functionally redundant behind the blocks of shops built between 1953-56 by Steve Ozich, it seems reasonable to argue that relocation has effectively saved the Falls Hotel from further deterioration if not demolition.

In relation to criteria 1 (iii) it seems clear that the place was renamed the Falls Hotel in the 1880s because of its proximity to the Waitakere Falls. This argues for a cultural connection going back 117 years, one that has in no way been severed by the recent relocation.

In relation to Criteria 3, although the Falls Hotel was not designed to be a relocatable building, it was relocated once, in 1961, a distance of 45 feet back from behind the shops built on the Great North Road. Relocation has, therefore, been a contributing (although not a significant) factor in the history of the place.


Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1873 -

1996 -
Relocated to Falls Park in 1996.

Completion Date

2nd September 1997

Report Written By

Joan McKenzie, Gavin Mclean, Wayne Nelson

Other Information

A copy of the original 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.