The new owners of Western House are recent arrivals to Kurow, but they are already well versed in its history.
Linda Scott Araya and John Robinson moved in to the historic house at the start of the year and learning the stories of its history has been part of the journey.
They want preserve its feel and authenticity.
“It is like a vintage car, we have to be careful that we keep the style right,” Mr Robinson said.
They operate a bed and breakfast from the house – a new experience for the couple, who met as teachers at Waitaki Boys’ High School.
“We wanted to have a lifestyle change and try something different,” Ms Scott Araya said.
“We came up here to have a look at the house and fell in love with it.”
Most of the bed and breakfast guests are Alps 2 Ocean cyclists – and it had been a very busy summer season.
The couple said it was exciting having people turn up and not knowing what to expect.
Occupations of guests have ranged from oceanographers from Louisiana to a retired German fighter pilot.
The house had one visitor with a bit more of an idea than most, though, the 90-year-old great-granddaughter of the home’s original owner Christian Hille.
“She loved it, it is important to us that people with connections to the place tell their story,” Ms Scott Araya said.
“The climate is great here, Kurow people are friendly and welcoming.
“It is a different lifestyle, but a good progression to life after teaching.”
The off-season has given them the chance to work on the section and they have uncovered plenty of relics while doing so.
Many of those provide an interesting talking point for the guests, who have plenty of theories about what purpose the objects may have served.
At a glance
- One of the first accommodation houses to provide a place of rest for footsore and weary travellers making their way up the Waitaki Valley towards Kurow in North Otago, the Western Hotel (now known as Western House) still stands as a reminder of the importance of accommodation to 19th century travellers.
- Standing on the site of an outstation for the vast Otekaieke Station, the first accommodation house built on the site opened in the early 1860s.
- German-born Christian Hille, who worked as a shepherd on Otekaieke Station opened the Western Hotel which he ran in conjunction with a ferry service which provided a punt across the Waitaki River.
- When Mr Hille arrived in New Zealand, he bought 1000 sheep and drove them down to Kurow from Blenheim.
- The journey took a year, during which time the herd lambed. Mr Hille arrived in Kurow with closer to 1500 sheep.
- Mr Hille ran Western Hotel until the 1880s, when the bridging of the Waitaki River at Kurow focused business and services at the township, and with the punt service no longer required, led to a decline in traffic and ultimately closure. After this time the former hotel became a private home known as Westmere, part of Mr Hille’s estate.
- Set alongside the Kurow-Duntroon Highway, the house has architectural significance as a gold rush era accommodation house and social significance as a relic of the coaching days when such houses were vital stops on long coaching routes between distant communities.
- In 2019 as the Western House, it continues to provide accommodation for the travelling public as a bed and breakfast.
Source: Heritage New Zealand