DIY Real Estate: The First Housing Shortage in the Wakatipu
Image 1: Caption: Lithograph of the Arrow gold rush, from the Illustrated London News. (Lakes District Museum EL4662)
There was not just a shortage but a non-existence of housing when the first colonial farmers arrived here to settle.
Maori had for hundreds of years travelled from the coast during in the warmer months, staying in temporary campsites with huts made of thatch huts while they gathered food and pounamu (greenstone).
1860: The first pakeha settlers at Queenstown put up tents, then a two-roomed house for the workers. A more substantial house of wattle and daub was then built for the run-holder, William Rees, and his family, probably similar to this one which was across the lake at Halfway Bay.
Image 2: Caption: Lakeside! Well-insulated home of wattle-and- daub with thick thatch and welcoming porch. Established native garden. (Lakes District Museum EL1392)
1862: The gold-rush caused a population explosion from about 20 to 4000 in just three months. Activity was greatest in the Arrow Gorge and Queenstown, and diggers were scattered along the rivers and gorges throughout the district. Their readily portable dwellings were canvas tents. The illustration at the top of the page is somewhat fanciful in its landscape, but accurate in showing the predominance of canvas.The following snapshots reveal the DIY skills of those who stayed after the first rush and built more permanent homes, mainly from local materials.
Image 3: Oriental flair! Innovative stone house with versatile sacking roof, near Macetown (LDM EL1900)
Image 4: Rural retreat. Neat dwelling of wood and canvas with additional fly cover, near Macetown (LDM1069)
The landscape itself provided opportunities when overhanging rocks and caves offered shelter, and sometimes formed part of a house.
Image 5: Tidy family home of schist and canvas, nestled against an over-hanging rock, at Brackens Gully, Arrow Gorge. Photo shows Thomas Lister and his son. (LDM EP0556)
Image 6: Sustainable design. Enlarged cave with wattle-and- daub extension, in sheltered location handy to highway (LDM EL2291)
Image 7: A model of mixed materials with readily-available brushwood thatch, wooden floor, and chimney of imported corrugated iron, near Macetown (LDM EL4464)
Early Queenstown houses were mainly built of wood, corrugated iron or stone. The following two houses have stood the test of time and adaptation to new uses.
Images 8 and 9: Absolute lakefront! Stylish town cottage with high-pitched roof and veranda, built of native beech from the Head of the Lake, originally with shingled roof. (Drawing by Audrey Bascand 1971; photo of 1999 flood LDM EL4781)
Williams Cottage, Marine Parade : This is the oldest remaining house in Queenstown, built in 1864. It has endured several floods over the years.In 1996 it was meticulously restored and is now an art and gift shop.
Image 10: Built to last! Stonemason’s own house demonstrating renowned Scottish craftsmanship. (Drawing by Audrey Bascand 1971)
McNeill Cottage, Church St, built in about 1885.It was extended in the 1980s and converted into a bar and restaurant.
For more much local history including housing, see our heritage app for android phones: http://qur.io/androidapp
For more information visit: www.queenstownhistoricalsociety.org.nz