Streets of gold: Highgate

Welcome to Streets of Gold, a Summer Times series celebrating Dunedin’s rich architectural heritage. Today, in collaboration with Heritage New Zealand researchers Heather Bauchop and Susan Irvine, we take a stroll along Highgate, which has a fascinating and storied collection of prominent dwellings.

Renfrew House
Renfrew House

According to word of mouth, this pretty yet imposing building originated as a single-storey bluestone house with a central front door and double hung windows on each side. A second storey was later added. The exterior walls were built of double stone - more than 70cm thick - and the interior walls of double brick. With its wrought iron lacework, it has been described as one of the ``finest examples of classic Victorian architecture in Dunedin''.

In November 1863 Andrew McFarlane purchased Sections 7 and 8, Block IV, Upper Kaikorai (at the time, the address was District Rd, later High St; today the address is 111 Highgate).

Andrew McFarlane was born in Scotland about 1842. Together with his brother John, he emigrated to Dunedin in 1862 on board the Aboukir. After briefly farming at Wingatui, the brothers set up a grocery business at the top of York Pl in September 1863 before moving to Maclaggan St the following year. The grocery business, A. and J. McFarlane, prospered and in the late 1860s Andrew moved to Oamaru, where the firm was financing the Oamaru breakwater. The business was also involved with financing the Silverstream water race.

Obviously, McFarlane could afford a large residence - fortunate given he and Jane Wilson (1847-1920), whom he married in 1868, had seven children. By the 1890s, the family referred to their home as ``Renfrew House''.

It is likely McFarlane's neighbour, Nathaniel Wales, was involved with the design and construction of the addition and perhaps the original structure. The stone for Renfrew House may also have come from in and around McFarlane's section. Certainly, the families were on familiar terms. In 1894 McFarlane's daughter, Jane, married Nathaniel Wales' son, Robert.

Owners from the 1950s to 1970s modernised the house: a white marble fireplace was replaced with a brick surround, the carved wooden bannisters that graced the staircase were replaced, and leadlights in the front door were replaced with clear glass. Under threat of demolition in the 1970s, the house was sold and its current owners have recently invested considerable time and effort returning the garden and exterior to its gracious best.



Designed in 1900 by well-known Dunedin architect James Louis Salmond for dredging tycoon Alexander McGeorge, this grand residence at 204 Highgate reflects the fortunes made in Otago's gold dredging boom of the late 1890s and early 20th century.

Trained at Dunedin firm Cossens and Black,

McGeorge (1868-1953) held a variety of significant engineering posts: in 1893, he was engineer on a dredge working the Clutha River near Clyde; later, he worked on the Chicago dredge, owned by the Alexander Dredging Company; then, with his brothers, he secured shares in the Chicago Gold Dredging Company and the Manuherikia Gold Dredging Company. He returned to Dunedin in 1894, forming a new partnership to work the Electric and Magnetic claims on the Kawarau River, working near Cromwell. The Electric Gold Dredging Company, of which McGeorge was secretary and treasurer, ran the Lady Ranfurly dredge, which in 1902 set a record for the weekly gold return.

In 1899, McGeorge married Ethel Aldred, whose wedding ring was crafted from the first gold won by McGeorge's dredge. The couple moved to Dunedin in 1900, commissioning an ample residence on their generous section. A dwelling was removed from the prominent site on the corner of High (now Highgate) and Leven streets. When the couple returned from Central Otago to witness progress on the house, they discovered the builder had given the foundations a quarter turn, orienting the house to the view rather than the sun.

Two-storeyed, built of brick, with a slate roof, Kawarau has ornate decorative detailing, featuring Tudor influences in the half timbering and veranda details. A 1920s photograph shows the grand house with its slate roof, decorative finials, pillars, glassed-in sun porch, flagpole and immaculate gardens, and sweeping drive.

Ethel died around 1938. Alexander lived in the house until his death in 1953, after which the house has had a varied history - it was converted to flats at one point before being returned to a single family residence, which it remains.


Former Huxtable Residence
Former Huxtable Residence

This 1907 brick and tile residence at 233 Highgate, designed by Dunedin architect Edward Walden for Anna and Alexander Huxtable, is a beautifully detailed example of an Edwardian villa, one with historic and architectural significance.

Anna Huxtable was granted the land in 1907; a survey on May 15, 1907, indicates the foundations for the new dwelling were already in place at that date; and Dunedin City Council records indicate the house was probably built around that time.

The house is an example of a generous brick and tile bay villa from the early 20th century. Notable features include the stickwork on the gable, brackets supporting the gables, a tile roof with decorative ridge capping and the cast iron lacework. Architect Edward Walden (1870-1944) was born in Dunedin and educated at Otago Boys' High School. He began his architectural career articled to James Hislop. He became a partner in the Dunedin firm of Hislop and Walden, and when Hislop died in 1902, he took over the firm.Walden was responsible for the Hallenstein's Building in the Octagon, a church at Andersons Bay and Levin and Company's Building, Dunedin. His son also practised architecture at Nelson.

Alexander Murray Huxtable described himself as both a commercial agent and patent medicine manufacturer.

He was son of John Huxtable, a well-known businessman in Australia, who later moved to Dunedin and spent his last years at his son's house.

In 1917, Anna Huxtable sold the property to Minnie Begg. After Begg's death in 1951, the property was transferred to Dunedin works manager William Robinson.

In 2016, the house remains a private residence.



Believed to have been designed by Dunedin architect John McGregor for lawyer Arthur Nation around 1876, Melrose stands as a reminder of the quality of gentlemen's residences in the 1870s (and their cost!) .

In October 1876, McGregor advertised for tenders for the construction of a "brick cottage'' in the suburb of Melrose (a private subdivision in what is now known as the suburb of Roslyn).

However, Nation appears to have built more than a cottage: when his property was offered for sale in 1879 it was described as ``a substantially-built and well-finished brick house'', its original features including hand-painted ceilings, timber joinery and stained glass.

Nation (1852-1927), a young lawyer and partner in a legal firm with James Macassey and Charles Kettle, may have spent too much money on his house.

According to Michael Cullen's history of the Otago District Law Society, Nation had the ignominious fortune to be the first lawyer disbarred by the society.

Nation, a founding member of the society and one of those responsible for drafting its rules, crippled by debt, misappropriated client funds.

His legal career over, he sold the chattels to the house and then, forced by the mortgage holder Archibald Hill Jack, put the house on the market.

When it did not sell, Jack leased the property to Edward Mears and other tenants.

It is around this time that the house begins to be referred to as ``Melrose''.

The property was advertised for sale again in 1893 - ``a substantially-built two-storey brick and cement residence''. In 1893, the property was finally sold to Benjamin Throp (1845-1933), a well-known Dunedin dentist.

Stuart Falconer bought Melrose after Throp's death, subdividing the land and converting the substantial home into three flats.

Later occupants returned the house to its original layout. In 2016, it remains a private home.

- Additional research by David Murray, archivist, Hocken Collections; and Alison Breese, archivist, Dunedin City Council.


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