Lawyer steps in to rescue mansion from demolition

Another piece of Dunedin’s heritage has been saved from demolition and is set to be restored to its former glory above Speight’s Brewery.

The residence at 30 Tennyson St, built in 1887 for one of the three founders of Speight’s, Charles Frederick Greenslade, has been bought by lawyer Michael van Aart, who was recently involved in the refurbishment of the former BNZ building in Princes St.

The building was to have been demolished by its former owner, Otago Girls’ High School.

That decision sparked anger in 2014 from a neighbour, who told the Otago Daily Times if the school did not intend to restore the mansion it should sell it for the sake of Dunedin’s heritage and to set an example.

After discussions with the Dunedin City Council and Heritage New Zealand, the school’s board of trustees agreed to sell the building, council heritage planner Glen Hazelton said.

Mr van Aart yesterday said the building was beautiful, despite having been  split into flats and run down since its last refurbishment in the 1980s.‘‘If somebody doesn’t step up and purchase these properties they will be lost to Dunedin.

"We see it as an opportunity to add some value."

The facade of the Tennyson St  home, which was originally called Kippiehoe.
The facade of the Tennyson St home, which was originally called Kippiehoe.
Dr Hazelton said the sale of the house  to Mr van Aart was "pretty significant"  because the building was not scheduled in the district plan, so the council had no way of halting its demolition.

"Because it is a pretty cool building with a lot of original elements, it would have been a huge loss to the city."

Mr van Aart showed the Otago Daily Times around the property yesterday, revealing a building with some stunning touches, including remarkable etched windows, tiled floors and marble and stone fireplaces.

But once-magnificent rooms have  been walled off to make flats and staircases stop halfway, where they had been crudely blocked.

Mr van Aart said he would try to remove as many of the more recent modifications as possible.

A 1938 photograph of 30 Tennyson St (centre) taken from the Speight’s chimney. Photo: supplied.
A 1938 photograph of 30 Tennyson St (centre) taken from the Speight’s chimney. Photo: supplied.
He hoped to find some interesting artefacts when  partition walls were ripped away.

"Who knows what we will uncover?"

Mr van Aart said there was once a garden and fountain at the front of the residence, which is now just a car park.

"We saw that it was advertised. We’ve always had an interest in heritage properties and clearly it’s a property in need of some repair," he said.

"We saw it as an opportunity to do up a piece of Dunedin’s heritage."

Mr van Aart said Dr Hazelton had helped him find information on the building, told him its history, and put him in touch with potential tenants.

There were two options for its future —  to renovate the building for  a commercial tenant who would take the whole space or to  renovate it for residential accommodation, though with two flats rather than four.

"It is still a beautiful property ...  it hasn’t had any real care since the last major renovation in 1980s.

"I think these properties still can be relevant and become part of what makes Dunedin Dunedin.

"You can’t go to Auckland and buy a mansion or a large house like this," he said.

"In Dunedin it’s a realistic opportunity."

Dr Hazelton said having someone buy it and restore it would bring  "a great benefit."


30 Tennyson St

Original owner: Charles Frederick Greenslade.

In 1876 established James Speight and Co with James Speight and  William Dawson.

• Was involved in other business ventures, including mining.

• Founding member of the Industrial & Industrial Insurance Co, an instigator of the Waipori power scheme, director of the Yorkshire Fire Insurance Co. and  member of the Caledonian Bowling Club.

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