24 Richardson Street

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Te Whare Rangi, formerly Te Puna Wai Lodge, at 24 Richardson Street, Nelson is a Victorian villa showing European influence, built approximately 1858. It has a Category 2 Heritage listing. 

24 Richardson st 1

24 Richardson Street. Image supplied by Nelson Cancer Society

About the area

Richardson Street was once known as Mary Ann Street, after one of the first settler ships. The street name change was confirmed by a Special Order of Nelson City Council on 3 February 1911, when Mary Ann Street was altered to Richardson Street after the Richardson family, who originally owned The Beacons at the foot of Mary Ann Street and later Muritai, on the corner of today’s Richardson Street and Princes Drive. The foot of Richardson Street was once the beginning of the only route into Nelson. In the early days the settlers had to walk up Stafford Walk over the hill and into Washington Valley to get to Nelson.

24 Richardson st 2

24 Richardson Street. Image supplied by Nelson Cancer Society

History of the house

In 1851 Bernard Gapper was given a crown grant to buy section number six of the first town acres. Seven years later John Shepherd bought the land from Mr Gapper and built a six room property on the site. Although the house is sometimes referred to as ‘Captain Cross’s House,’ Nelson’s first harbourmaster Captain J. S. Cross does not seem to have lived here and Captain Kraft who leased it from John Shepherd was its first known occupant. In 1863 John McKay bought the house and lived in it until selling to James Johnson in 1866. Johnson extended the house to ten rooms and later leased it to Edward Everett, Mayor of Nelson and to Mr J Thornton, a saddler in Bridge Street.

24 Richardson st maids quarters cropped

24 Richardson Street. Maids quarters. Image supplied by Nelson Cancer Society

William Tyree

The property was owned by Nelson photographer William Tyree between 1887 and 1906. William Tyree was the son of a shoemaker from England who came to New Zealand in 1871. William’s uncle James owned a photographic studio in Dunedin. William started a photographic business in Nelson in 1878, taking portraits. His brother, Fred, a pharmacist from Dunedin, soon joined him, and he was also a skilled photographer. The Tyree brothers travelled around the region photographing people, events, landscapes and buildings. An assistant, Rose Frank, joined the business in 1886. Later that year William moved to Australia where he continued with photography, although his real interest lay in inventing gadgets. William returned to Nelson in 1897 and stayed there until 1910 when he returned to Sydney.

24 Richardson st maids

24 Richardson Street maids. Image supplied by Nelson Cancer Society

Rose Frank took over managing the Tyree studio in 1895 and bought it from the Tyree brothers in 1914. She continued managing the studio, keeping its name until 1947. William and Fred Tyree both died in the same year, 1924, William in Sydney and Fred in Takaka. The Tyree photographic collection of approximately 105,000 images has been in the care of the Nelson Provincial Museum since 1974 and is an important historical legacy for the region and for New Zealand.

Later owners

Later owners of the property included land agent Charles Langley Bell who leased then bought the house before selling it to William McKay in 1925. The property changed hands again in 1940 when it was bought by Walter Black.  The property was subdivided in 1957 and the house converted into two flats. 

Joy and Nan Anderson, former owners of the Bamboo Bazaar shop in Trafalgar Street, owned the property from the 1960 until the 1980s. According to a newspaper article in 1982, an opposing bidder had plans of bulldozing the house to rebuild on the site.  The Andersons spent many years restoring and renovating the property.

Richard Hewetson and James Taylor who ran Te Puna Wai Lodge also completed many years of extensive and painstaking renovation work on the property. 

Style and Construction

Commanding a beautiful view over Tasman Bay, this stunning three storied Victorian villa at 24 Richardson Street is sometimes called The Dolls House by locals. Architecturally it is high and narrow, showing a European influence. The property was built as a six room house c1858 and extended c1870. The walls are matai, totara and kauri and the original roof was slate. A brick chimney was removed following an earthquake and the stables were demolished in 1962.

In more recent years the house has been totally gutted and re-clad with new weatherboards, insulated and re-glazed. New matai flooring has been added and French doors and sash windows replaced. The renovations are sympathetic to the original character while adding modern conveniences such as radiators to ensure warmth. Kitchens and bathrooms have been modernised but the fittings and hardware are in keeping with the style of the house.

This information was prepared for the Nelson Cancer Society Heritage Homes Tour 2019. 

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