Cobb and Co coaches delivered customers to the front door
almost 150 years ago, but these days it is bikes that bring
most visitors to Dunstan House in Clyde's main street.
Maree and John Davidson have called the building home for the
past six years and the property doubles as a boutique guest
Their main trade is from cyclists on the Otago Central Rail
Trail, which stretches from Clyde to Middlemarch.
''The rail trail has given this part of Central an identity
and something to feel proud of. The trail is so
professionally done and it's good to be able to add some
local flavour,'' Mr Davidson said.
''The feedback we get from people who are doing the trail is
that it's world-class.''
The couple, both in their 50s, are ''born and bred'' in the
John was born in Poolburn and Maree (nee Small) was raised in
Moa Creek, and they are proud to be descended from several
generations of Central Otago residents.
Clyde is one of the gems of the district, along with the
Dunstan House building, which is ''an absolute star'' , they
''We never get sick of showing people around and sharing its
colourful history,'' Mr Davidson said.
The building goes back to 1863, when the original Dunstan
Hotel, ''The Dunstan'', was built on the site.
It was constructed from weatherboard and included a dining,
drawing and smoking rooms, as well as a theatre. The hotel
even boasted its own brass band and team of dancing girls.
There is still a trapdoor from the current dining room into
the cellar, which dates back to 1863 and was part of the
In the early days of the hotel, the cellar also opened on to
the street outside, so kegs of alcohol could be easily rolled
into the cellar to be stored.
''Apparently, the dancing girls would also emerge through the
cellar trapdoor into the hotel, and you can imagine the
impact that had on the patrons,'' he said.
The stone-lined cellar, 6m by 2.5m, remains in its original
condition and is used today as a wine cellar.
''It stays at a pretty constant 8 degrees, winter or summer,
and only changes by a few degrees.''
The hotel catered for gold miners, as well as passengers on
the Cobb and Co coaches making the three-day trek from
Dunedin to Arrowtown and Queenstown. It was also a booking
office for Cobb and Co.
It was rebuilt in 1900 in schist from the rock face at the
gorge end of the town, and the stables at the back of the
building were also rebuilt in stone.
The Georgian-style double-storey building, believed to be the
first of its kind in Central Otago, was built for a Mr
Alderdice, of Dunedin, by Thomas Wilkinson, a St Bathans
builder who worked on the restoration of Edinburgh Cathedral
before coming to New Zealand in search of gold.
He was assisted by Clyde stonemason John Holloway.
Albert Fountain was responsible for the joinery and the
spectacular central staircase.
''People come here and they rave about the workmanship on the
staircase in particular, as an example of Albert Fountain's
work, '' Mr Davidson said.
A triangle of brass features on the inner corner of the stair
treads, to save maids having to clear the dust that would
otherwise gather there.
A lamp from the building's early days hangs at the top of the
stairs, below a stained-glass skylight.
The warm-toned wooden floors and ceilings are another special
feature of the property, with rimu used for the ceilings and
matai for the floorboards.
''There's no way you could rebuild something with the
character this has, with its wooden floors, the odd squeaky
floorboard and the tales from its past,'' Mr Davidson said.
''You can't build 'new' old.''
The original fireplaces add the finishing touches to the
rooms, with a kauri one in the downstairs living room and
stunning tiles surrounding them in the bedrooms.
Dunstan House has 13 rooms, including the stables, which the
Davidsons converted to accommodation.
They adjoin the main property and Maree and John live in that
part of the house, shifting to a rental property when the
demand for accommodation
The stables open out on to the back garden of the property
and a schist wall on the section boundary features horse
hitch rings dating back to the early days of the hotel.
The sign painted on the side of the building offering ''Good
Stabling'' is another memento from that era.
The property has changed hands many times.
As the gold rush finished and the number of patrons declined,
the hotel closed in the 1930s, surrendering its licence to
the former Commercial Hotel, several doors along.
The building was used as accommodation for a while and then
only for storage.
In 1968, Fleur Sullivan bought and restored the building and
gave it a new lease of life as a bed and breakfast business.
After selling it in 1974, she developed Olivers restaurant
across the road.
''Fleur says she had to replace one of the treads in the
staircase when she took over Dunstan House, as apparently a
horse was taken up the stairs on the night the hotel closed,
and it put its hoof through the tread,'' John said.
Since that time, the property has had several owners and been
used as a restaurant and a guest house.
The Davidsons have installed central heating throughout and
''endless hot water'' for the comfort of residents, but have
kept the history and original character of the building
Photos of several former owners of the hotel are dotted
around the walls and new generations of those families are
thrilled to find the links with Clyde remain.
Maree and John say they have been won over by Clyde, as well
as by their gem of a home.
''What's special about Clyde? The people, the house and the
village,'' Mrs Davidson said.
''It's got such a buzzy feel about it. We love living in
Clyde and you can be yourself here.''