A historic house once home to ''the man who tried to burn
down Queenstown'' in the great fire of 1882 is on the market.
Waldmann Cottage, at 2 York St, was owned by arsonist Philip
Waldmann, who tried to burn both his sweet shop on
Queenstown's Mall and his home in the same day on January 23,
1882 to claim insurance.
As a result, half the buildings on the Ballarat St mall,
where his store was located, were destroyed. Waldmann tried
to flee to Dunedin.
Now 131 years later, following a $1.4 million refurbishment,
the 250sq m house has gone on the market, priced at $2.7
Central Otago historians refer to Waldmann as ''the man who
tried to burn down Queenstown''.
Local publications of the time wrote the fire brigade's
engine was non-operational when fire broke out and all
efforts of owners and townspeople, including women and
children who brought water by bucket chain, could not hold
back the flames.
An investigation by police and fire authorities traced the
source of the fire to a small room at the back of Waldmann's
home on the edge of town, where a candle was found surrounded
by a mass of what crown prosecutors later termed ''plenty of
Bayleys Queenstown salesman Buzz Scown said the refurbishment
of Waldmann Cottage had been undertaken over the past year by
the Auckland owner, to preserve as much of the heritage
dwelling as possible.
Lakes District Museum director David Clarke said Waldmann's
house failed to burn down, scuttling his attempted
''insurance scam''. Documents at the museum say Waldmann was
going through financial difficulties at the time and decided
on the arsons after adjusting his insurance and sending his
wife Rebecca Meadon and children to Dunedin.
Waldmann was arrested and committed for trial in the Supreme
Court at Dunedin, where he was found guilty of trying to burn
down his house. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Waldmann's wife sold the dwelling to support her five
children while he served the jail sentence.
On his release, Waldmann lived in Wellington for a short time
and then moved to the Hawkes Bay, where he and his wife had
three more children.
Waldmann died, aged 80, in June 1924.