New home for old Dewes homestead
Another of Hamilton’s grand old ladies was moved off its site last week in preparation for new apartments.
Until recently sold for removal, the graceful Edwardian villa at 150 Te Rapa Rd had been partially hidden behind the tennis court fence opposite the Beerescourt intersection, and had only two owners over the past 115 years.
Believed to have been designed by architect Fred Smith – Hamilton’s first fulltime resident architect – the house was built in 1905-06 for local barrister and solicitor Campbell MacDiarmid and his wife Olive Graham. On Olive’s death in 1920, MacDiarmid married Beryl Churton.
The house once stood on a significant block of land that was in Waipa District until the mid 20th century when it was incorporated into Hamilton.
Parts of the property were sold off and taken for roading purposes. Following MacDiarmid’s death the residue of the property was transferred to his wife Beryl. It was then sold to local veterinarian Harry Dewes and wife Peg in 1963 and became their family home.
In 2013, an application to have the home deemed a heritage building, due to its architectural and historic importance, was rejected by the Hamilton City Council and the property was sold at auction in spring 2019.
Sarah Dewes, one of the eight children of Harry and Peg, said the condition of sale was that the house was not to be demolished.
‘‘It was an amazing place to grow up. There was no TV, it was a gathering place to make music together. We had three pianos. There were Christmas carol evening singalongs with instruments for neighbours and friends for many years and big Christmas parties. It wasn’t uncommon to have 17 people sitting around the table for dinner. It was a very special place.’’
Dewes said the house included a large sitting room which had originally been a ballroom, complete with chandeliers, which served many community gatherings.
The dining room came complete with a table built for the room. ‘‘There were 10 of us, so if the tennis players stayed, it was a tight fit. After the original maid’s
room was converted into a bedroom, the house totalled five bedrooms and could easily sleep 15 visitors together. It had four open fireplaces – but only one bathroom. The dining room and main bedroom had beautiful pressed metal ceilings.’’
The Assured Property Investments’ project on the 2464 sqm site will include six twobedroom apartments on the roadside with six three and four-bed duplex houses on the rear of the property. These were all sold off the plans in May and June 2020 with the two-bed apartments going under contract within a week of release to the market.
Director John Kenel said he always aimed to relocate significant homes rather than demolish them.
‘‘We put a lot of energy into the design on this high-visibility site and worked with the Hamilton City Council’s Urban Design Panel to create a better arrangement of apartments to suit the location.’’
Kenel said the 150 Te Rapa Rd project should begin in late March and take about nine months to complete. K2 Construction is the lead contractor.
Jason Barnes, director of Prestige Building Removals, said the house was moved in two pieces in a night-long job that started around 10.30pm on Wednesday February 11. It had been planned a day earlier but was postponed due to the weather.
Barnes, whose company also moved the St Paul’s Methodist church from London St in 2018, said the roof had to be craned off the house to reduce the height of the structure, and a lot of logistics and planning went into moving it through city streets.
The company set the building back on piles at Tamahere, put the two sections back together and re-installed the roof.
‘‘The house is all native timbers and it’s good to see it stay near Hamilton,’’ Barnes said.