Cac­cia Birch House a jewel in the city’s crown

The Tribune (NZ) - - FOCUS ON HOKOWHITU -

The mag­nif­i­cent his­toric Cac­cia Birch House sits over­look­ing the Hokowhitu La­goon set in a gar­den oa­sis of 3 acres. Its en­trance is now tucked away off Te Awe Awe St but the huge pro­tected elm and oak trees still stand sen­tinel along the drive­way.

Palmer­ston North City Coun­cil be­came the prop­erty own­ers with a Deed of Trust in 1983 and es­tab­lished the Cac­cia Birch Trust Board in 1989.

The house, known as Hokowhitu, was built in 1895 by Ja­cob Nannes­tad, a part­ner in the saw-milling firm Nannes­tad, Richter and Jensen on 20 acres of land, sub­di­vided from the 300-acre Hokowhitu block they had milled ear­lier.

The third own­ers, Wil­liam and Maud Cac­cia Birch do­nated the prop­erty to the Gov­ern­ment in 1939 ‘‘to be used in the war ef­fort’’ and hence its cur­rent name.

Any­one in­ter­ested can read about the his­tory as it’s dis­played in the CoachHouse on the prop­erty. A small mu­seum was cre­ated to pre­serve this lo­cal his­tory and con­tin­ues to be added to as pic­tures, photos and arte­facts are gifted.

Af­ter years of dere­lic­tion, in 1993 sub­stan­tial re­fur­bish­ments of the main house and grounds were com­pleted and a man­ager em­ployed to start the busi­ness of venue hire.

Many dif­fer­ent op­tions for its use were con­sid­ered at the time. Making the house avail­able for hire for con­fer­ences, wed­dings and func­tions meant it could be well utilised with the aim of pay­ing its way and still re­main­ing pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble for the en­tire com­mu­nity.

Some 23 years on and hav­ing played host to hun­dreds of suc­cess­ful con­fer­ences, fam­ily func­tions and wed­dings, the care­ful bal­ance be­tween com­mer­cial use, public ac­cess, devel­op­ment and preser­va­tion re­mains a very im­por­tant part of the op­er­a­tion.

Lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional tourist vis­its fea­ture reg­u­larly and are on the in­crease such is its at­trac­tion.

The flex­i­bil­ity and va­ri­ety of venue op­tions, its af­ford­abil­ity and the per­sonal ser­vice makes it a favourite with many of its reg­u­lar clients, some us­ing the venue for al­most 20 years. Get­ting the right mar­ket­ing mes­sage out to po­ten­tial clients is a key fac­tor and spread­ing the word is vi­tal!

With a Trust Board in place to pre­serve, pro­tect and pro­mote the prop­erty for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions along with a city coun­cil that recog­nises the im­por­tance of lo­cal his­tory, the fu­ture looks bright for the his­toric prop­erty to con­tinue grow­ing its role as a jewel in this city’s crown.

An early pho­to­graph of Cac­cia Birch House.

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