A love for heritage brought Herbert and Marise Martin together 21 years ago.
And that shared passion is also at heart of their business, the Criterion Hotel.
Over the years, the Criterion Hotel has lived many lives and had many different owners.
Mr and Mrs Martin took over the business after the hotel had been closed for a year, and reopened it on November 9, last year.
As first-time hotel and business owners, the couple had plenty on their plate — but they were deadset on offering the public a slice of history
They worked tirelessly through ‘‘cold stormy nights’’ to restore the hotel to its former glory, paying homage to its heritage and keeping with its history.
The Victorian precinct ‘‘cornerstone’’ sourced as much as possible from local businesses — from pies and beer, to ice cream, cheese and meat, and filled its walls and rooms with Victorian decor.
‘‘I think because we are doing it as authentically as we can, right down to the menu, we have established our own brand for the hotel,’’ Mrs Martin said.
‘‘Now we are attracting people who actually want to see how it looks.’’
The Criterion was particularly enticing to visitors from the North Island, who stated how lucky Oamaru was to have preserved its heritage. ‘‘In so many places [across] the country, so many heritage buildings are being lost, and great pieces of history are going with [them],’’ Mrs Martin said.
‘‘We love sharing the history and sharing the stories with people who come.’’
They were the perfect people for it, both having been involved with the Herbert Heritage Group, Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust, Heritage New Zealand and the Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebrations.
Since opening, the couple had been ‘‘quietly researching’’ previous owners and proprietors, and any historic events associated with the building.
As its ‘‘current caretakers’’, they were paying further homage to the building’s heritage by installing bronze plaques in honour of the first six owners of the hotel.
The Martins had met three descendants of former owners — including a descendant of William Manning, who wandered into the hotel earlier this week.
The late Mr Manning lay in an unmarked grave in the North Island, so the Criterion’s plaque inadvertently acted as a stand-in memorial, Mrs Martin said
The challenges of Covid-19 were continuing for the couple — Alert Level 2 restrictions forced them to limit capacity, and therefore their income — but they were still having a lot of fun, Mr Martin said.
Restrictions also meant the couple could not celebrate one year in business next month.
But the Criterion was not going without celebration.
Despite the cancellation of this year’s Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebrations, the Criterion would still host some heritage-themed events next month.