Historical Significance or Value
The house is historically significant for its association with Gerhard Husheer, an important New Zealand industrialist, pioneer of the tobacco industry in New Zealand, and benefactor and patron of architecture. Husheer had been captivated by the views from Bluff Hill since his first visit to Napier in 1890, and the increasing success of his tobacco business enabled him to purchase a house there in 1924. His financial position continued to improve, and Husheer employed noted architect Louis Hay to expand and decorate the house. Husheer remained in the house until his death in 1954.
The house has architectural and aesthetic importance as an example of the Prairie architectural style in New Zealand, and for its decorative features that are derived from the work of important international architects and designers. It is also a significant representation of the architectural style of the notable New Zealand architect J. A. Louis Hay.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The house was designed for a way of life rare in New Zealand - a wealthy man living in a small town with several houses, limousines and servants. It is a unique expression of the wealth and lifestyle of the period.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The house is associated with Gerhard Husheer.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place
The house is associated by the community with Husheer's almost legendary status in Napier - a foreigner who became immensely wealthy in New Zealand; a reclusive man, yet flamboyant and charitable; about whom many stories were told, many of them untrue; who was not interned during the war as he managed an essential industry, but was still monitored and watched carefully by local authorities during the war years; highly regarded by the community as an example of the spirit, determination and fortitude of the people of Napier from the era; and, in his later years, seen by most people only as a lone figure in a massive Pierce Arrow limousine with its melodious wind horn and his favourite pet Alsatian dogs sitting beside him.
(f) The potential of the place for public education
The home is currently visited on historic house tours during Art Deco Weekend and is available to visiting architects and historians who wish to study its treasures. It also includes a museum of historical artefacts from the tobacco magnate's days, and a photographic history of the family.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place
The value of the design is in the ability of the architect, physically isolated from the development of design in the rest of the world, to reach out and study notable developments elsewhere in the world by the likes of Louis Comfort Tiffany, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, and then to make it his own native design that speaks of the knowledge and integrity of the national spirit.The work represents a high level of creative accomplishment in the leadlights, masonry and joinery of the home. It possesses a relatively complete range of characteristics from the period. It also contains a greater number of distinguishing features than is found in other examples from the period.
(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places
While there are numerous examples of the Art Deco style incorporated in commercial buildings in Napier dating from 1931, there are few examples of Prairie style architecture that exhibit the opulence and style of the era, especially in their interiors influenced by the arts & crafts, art nouveau and art deco movements.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape
The house is one of three adjacent houses owned by Gerhard Husheer. It has strong stylistic links with the National Tobacco Company Building at Ahuriri, the most important of Napier's reconstruction buildings.
Photographs of Bluff Hill indicate that a house was constructed on the site between 1890 and 1896. The house appears to be that of an Australian villa, with a low-pitched, hipped roof, and continuous verandah, dispensing with the then popular style of English steep pitched roofs. It was a one-storey house built from rimu, matai and kauri, and had an out-house, garden shed, wood cooking stove, and a very rough path that provided access to and from the township and port of Napier. The house was to become, in 1924, the abode of Johann Gerhard Husheer (1864-1954).
The view from Bluff Hill, which looks out over Hawke Bay, captivated Husheer during his first visit to Napier in 1891. Born in Germany, Husheer was employed at the time by Rotterdam tobacco company Hartlaub and Company. In 1911, ten years after his initial visit, Husheer and his family emigrated to New Zealand to establish a tobacco industry in the Hawkes Bay. Two years later he formed the New Zealand Tobacco Company. By 1915 Husheer's company had constructed a processing factory in Napier, and was becoming increasingly profitable. Despite this, Husheer's German origins caused his ejection from his position as Director after the end of the First World War. Husheer then moved to Auckland, and established the National Tobacco Company there in 1921. His new company thrived and was able to purchase the New Zealand Tobacco Company factory in Napier. In 1924 Husheer and his family relocated to Napier, and moved into the villa constructed on Bluff Hill in the 1890s.
Husheer's financial circumstances continued to improve, and he soon constructed a new brick factory in Napier, and improved his position on Bluff Hill. In addition to the villa, Husheer purchased the adjacent Cliff House as servants' quarters, and acquired additional pieces of land. Finding these too steep and inaccessible for building, Husheer laid them out in terraces and paths, planting shrubs, trees and flowers. In sunny, sheltered parts he even managed to grow bananas. Many beautiful and noble trees eventually graced his "Plantation" as he called the park-like vista enjoyed from his spacious verandah. Husheer's son, Torvald Husheer, recalled that '[a]s father's financial position kept rising so did his ideas and he thought it was now time to have his home remodelled and enlarged'.
In 1930, Husheer engaged architect James Augustus Louis Hay (1881-1948), to redesign the Bluff Hill villa. Hay had established an architectural practice in Napier by 1909. His work was known for its quality and he had designed a number of grand villas for wealthy Hawkes Bay landowners. Tovald Husheer recalled that: 'after a month's consultation with Louis Hay our architect, plans for the rearrangement and the addition of a second story were completed and construction started as soon as mother and father had shifted temporarily into Cliff House next door'. The addition was to include three bedrooms, balconies overlooking the bay, a solarium, a sitting room, and a dining room.
The lavish budget enabled Hay to make the residence 'a stunner'. He decorated the house with his trademark leadlight windows in elaborate designs of fruit and flowers. Hay also added Art Deco doors, Art Nouveau bronze door handles and plates, Arts and Crafts fireplaces, and Louis Comfort Tiffany influenced rose-motif carvings and appliqués. Tovald Husheer noted that: 'Two months later they were able to return to the new totally transformed home and were happily engaged for sometime choosing carpets, curtains and furniture more in keeping with the new lay-out'. In addition to the home improvements, Husheer's property was landscaped and planted with trees, predominantly the New Zealand natives that he so admired, and these in time created a unique park over which his house commanded stunning views of Cape Kidnappers, the Pacific Ocean, Napier's Marine Parade and the Heretaunga Plains.
On 3 February 1931, shortly after the addition was completed, the Hawkes Bay was struck by earthquake. At the time, Husheer was in a private hospital recuperating from a minor operation, and was trapped inside the third floor of the building for several hours. The earthquake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, destroyed much of Napier's central business district and caused the deaths of 256 people. The New Zealand Tobacco Company building and machinery were not badly damaged and production was quickly resumed. However, earthquake damage caused the partial collapse of Bluff Hill. Part of Husheer's property was lost, and his house was rendered uninhabitable. Tovald Husheer wrote that:'as best she could, mother closed up the Elizabeth Road house, which was in a devil of a mess internally but had withstood the quake remarkably well...'. While repairs were effected, Husheer purchased and lived in a large house in Havelock North, which he would later keep staffed and maintained as a destination for Sunday drives. Husheer later purchased an additional property on Bluff Hill, across the road from the main house. Named 'Waimarie', the building was used as a guesthouse, and common fencing and gates unified the properties as one.
Despite the Depression of the 1930s, Husheer's company continued to prosper, and, between 1933 and 1934 Husheer employed Hay to design a new factory office in Bridge Street, Napier. (Category I historic place, Record Number 1170). Hay's Chicago-style design for the building was superbly handled. The opulent decoration was regarded locally with awe, and might have drawn criticism during the Depression, had it not been for Husheer's generosity as a local benefactor. He supplied free milk, cocoa and biscuits to Napier schoolchildren, distributed free meat, assisted families in need, and gave away as much as £8,000 per annum for many years. During the 1930s, Husheer became a local legend in Hawke's Bay. Immensely wealthy by the standards of a provincial city, he was a remote figure, personally known to few. The succession of enormous chauffeur-driven Studebaker and Pierce-Arrow limousines with their melodious wind horns, his four houses, and his Alsatian dogs set him apart and encouraged local stories about him. He was known as a model employer, his staff being well paid and provided with enviable working conditions. He loved art and classical music and was described by the grandchild who knew him best as having a good sense of humour.
Husheer died in Napier on 30 November 1954 at the age of 90, survived by his wife and three of their sons. His experience and expertise, combined with hard work, a supportive family and progressive marketing and promotion, made him one of New Zealand's foremost industrialists. In 1968 following the death of Mrs Husheer, the house was purchased by a young couple, Margaret and Anthony Dick, and used as their family home for nearly 30 years. In January 1996, Swiss immigrants, Doris and Urs Blum, acquired the property with the intent to renovate it and open an exclusive lodge. After careful planning and extensive renovations, the residence became 'The Master's Lodge'. It was officially opened on 11 January 1997. The Master's Lodge has since received international acclaim as one of the most outstanding travel residences in the world.
Built to a very attractive and spacious bungalow styling over two levels, the residence is of a functional layout. Extensive verandahs adjoin to the southern and western side, and to the east and the northern side is a small covered walkway and three outbuildings. The lower level of the house is subdivided to provide a connecting hallway, formal living room, formal dining room with adjoining drawing room, a large billiard/games room, bedroom with adjoining ensuite, office, kitchen with adjoining pantry and storeroom, and laundry. The first floor includes a master bedroom, a master bathroom and separate water closet, a second bedroom with enclosed balcony that also has access to a separate ensuite, and a solarium with connecting landing area to Elizabeth Road. A small balcony area adjoins the solarium. Also on the property is an elevated, two-storey garage built to accommodate a limousine, and a garden shed. The distinctive design of the garage is similar to the one opposite the property at Waimarie, and to one at Duart House, Havelock North, which has since been demolished. The fence and gates are also compatible with those of the other two Bluff Hill homes originally owned by Husheer, and serve and unify them as his 'plantation'.
Leadlighting of fruit and floral motifs by Douglas Pirie, including the rose motif windows based on the design of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1884-1933)
Carved wooden screen over staircase based on a design by Italian architect Raimondo D'Aronco (1857-1932) for the Administration Building of the Prima Esposizionale d'Arte Decorativa Moderna, Torino, (First Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art, Turin) 1902. ·
Elevated, two-storey garage built to accommodate a limousine, and a garden shed. (The distinctive design of the garage is similar to the one opposite the property at Waimarie, and to one at Duart House, Havelock North, which has been demolished.)·
The fence and gates, which are compatible with those of the other two homes owned by Husheer on Bluff Hill.
1890 - 1896
Construction date of original house not confirmed.
Reconstruction of house to design by Louis Hay.
House repaired following 1931 earthquake.
1995 - 1996
Alterations to kitchen and maid's bedroom.
The house has concrete and timber pile foundations. The external walls are clad in timber weatherboards. The roof is galvanised and corrugated iron. The verandah and joinery are timber.
The interior features: rimu, matai and kauri wood flooring, panelling & ceilings; plasterboard and plaster walls & ceilings.
1st December 2004
Report Written By
Lawrence and Joan Blume
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Robert McGregor, 'Johann Gerhard Husheer (1864-1954)', Volume Five, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, 2000
Peter Shaw, Louis Hay Architect, Napier, 1999
Hawke's Bay Museum
Hawke's Bay Museum
T. P. Husheer, Husheer Family History, MS NAMU.
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central 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.