Historic homestead open to public, and looking for a new tenant

25 October 2017

Wellington City Council is looking for a potential tenant to lease the historic Halfway House – and the public can get a sneak peek of it this weekend.

Halfway house exterior

The historic house, located on the Glenside Reserve, has a rich history spanning over 130 years, including being a family homestead, golf course club house, and meeting venue for the local tennis club.

Alexander and Margaret Brown built the house around 1885, which became known as the Halfway House due to its location midway on the main route between Wellington and Porirua.

In 1951, the Council bought the house and associated land and created a reserve, then leased the house until about 1997 – it has been unoccupied since.

The Halfway House has recently been restored to its former glory. It has new piles, a new roof, replaced weatherboards and two cast iron fireplaces. It even has an early settler Victorian farm garden created by the Halfway House Heritage Gardeners.

“The Council are looking for a long term sustainable use for the building, and it’s an ideal opportunity for the right person. They will need to appreciate the unique heritage character of the building and should be community minded,” says Myfanwy Emeny, Open Space and Parks Manager.

“Finding a long term tenant with a focus on the preservation and sustainable use of the house and surrounding gardens is a priority,” Claire Bibby from the Glenside Progressive Association adds. “It really needs a new tenant to continue its legacy.”

The Halfway House is having a koha open day officially launched by Deputy Mayor Jill Day on Sunday 29 October from 10am, so members of the public can experience the history and cultural heritage of the site up close and personal.

Brief History of the Halfway House

  • c1872 – Alexander “Sandy” Brown and wife Margaret arrive from Dunedin and manage an accommodation house and stables. Brown’s descendants report that Alexander operated a hostelry and way station.
  • c1885 – Brown built and operated the house now known as the Halfway House (then known as “Gowan Bank” which in Gaelic means ‘iron worker’).
  • 1890 – Brown leaves for Hawera, dies at age 67 in 1900 and is buried in Johnsonville.
  • After 1890 – The land is used for holding stock and two families share the house, the Penders who lived downstairs and the Slaters who lived upstairs.
  • cWWI – At the end of WWI, Mr P.C Watt owned the house and settled his two nephews, Jock and Charles Fisher, on the farm.
  • 1917 – The Crown purchases roughly half the area.
  • 1928 – Mrs P.C Watt wins a competition to rename the Halfway House, and chooses ‘Glenside’ as the area is reminiscent of a Scottish glen.
  • 1936 – The Fisher boys develop Glenside Golf course on the land. The front rooms are used as clubhouse meeting rooms and the Glenside Tennis Club share the facilities.
  • WWII – The land now known as Glenside Reserve, adjacent to Halfway House, is used for NZ Army Camp.
  • 1951 – Wellington City Council purchased The Halfway House and associated land.
  • 1997 – Last tenant of The Halfway House dies and since then the house has been vacant.
  • 2012 – Renovations on the house begin.
  • 2015 – A heritage orchard is agreed upon by the Heritage Garden Group and Wellington City Council. Archaeologists find artefacts that can uncover more about the landscape and life in the late 1880s.