Historic Dunedin house Olveston was this week named New
Zealand's top attraction by TripAdvisor. Reporter John Lewis
went along to see what all the fuss was about.
A flick through the visitors book at Olveston's front door
reveals a remarkable number of people visit the historic
house each year.
About 30,000 people, from Europe, North America, Australia,
even the Antarctic. All say it is one of the finest examples
of the good life in the early 1900s.
But what is more surprising is that only 4% of the visitors
come from Dunedin.
Olveston recently claimed the title of New Zealand's top
landmark after winning TripAdvisor's Choice Attraction
So why aren't more Dunedin residents coming for a look?
A quick survey of about 30 Dunedin residents of all ages in
the Octagon this week found more than three-quarters of them
had never visited Olveston.
Sadly, when asked if they had visited Olveston, some said,
''Who?''And of the six people who had visited, most said it
was decades ago.
The house was designed by English architect Sir Ernest
George, and built between 1904 and 1907 for wealthy
businessman David Theomin and his family.
To sum up the house in one sentence is impossible.
Perhaps the greatest thing about Olveston is each person who
visits experiences something different.
That's because throughout their lives the Theomins travelled
extensively and lavished their home with prized artefacts,
priceless works of art and object d'art from around the
For instance, a cabinetmaker might revel in the extensive
woodwork in the house, while an art lover would enjoy getting
up close to original Goldie or Frances Hodgkins works which
are on display.
''You can travel all over the world and there will be very
few places that you visit that will give you that feeling,''
Olveston manager Jeremy Smith said.
''These things would normally be in glass cases or behind
security beams in museums.
''And the fact that it is on your doorstep makes it very easy
''You need to come and see this.''
With a world-class collection, Olveston presents fine
Edwardian living with authenticity, originality and
The property was given to the city by Mr Theomin's daughter
Dorothy when she died in 1966 - leaving the house pretty much
as it was when it was built.
A visitor commenting on the TripAdvisor website said it was a
''Owned for many years by just one family, the house is
virtually untouched by the modern world.''
Others called it ''history at its best'', ''a hidden gem'',
''an undersold highlight'' and ''a fantastic time capsule''.
While the house appeared to be one of Dunedin's best kept
secrets, Mr Smith said that was not the case.
Tight budgets meant most of the marketing was done to attract
international visitors because they paid full fares for each
visit. Dunedin residents pay for their first visit and then,
with an Olveston Host card, have free admission when visiting
with paying guests on a one-hour house tour.
But a lot of marketing was still done in Dunedin, he said.
''It's always been here.
''People know it is here.
''It's part of what makes Dunedin an amazing place to live
and play and work - it's part of the heartbeat of the city.''
He said it would be nice to think that over a lifetime,
everyone would visit Larnach Castle, the gasworks, the
museum, ID fashion show, rugby at Forsyth Barr Stadium, and
the Santa Parade.
''These are all the things that make Dunedin an amazing place
''We [Olveston] are a very small part of that.
''You should do all of those things.''