26 June 2015

Auckland walks: Monte Cecelia Park and Pah Homestead

Earlier this week, after a stroll around Cornwall Park and a hike up One Tree Hill, I decided to walk a little further (only 20 minutes or so) and paid my first visit to Monte Cecelia Park and the Pah Homestead. Why had I never been to this delightful oasis of green before?

Rather than prattle on about the things I enjoyed about this lovely place, let me pass on some of the history and features from the park signboard:

The 15ha Monte Cecelia park surrounds the Pah Homestead, built 1877-79 by James Williamson, a ‘self-made merchant prince’.
      This park is what remains of an initial 161ha purchase from Maori, by William Hart in 1844.
      Hart developed the farm to become a beef and dairy cattle-rearing operation. After he defaulted on the mortgage, the farm was sold in 1851 to William Brown and John Logan Campbell. The next owner was Thomas Russell, a lawyer, land speculator, businessman and strong character. ‘He never lacked enemies’ [from Monte Cecelia Our History by Graham Murdoch]. Cyrus Hailey, a dissatisfied gold-mine investor, tried to shoot Russell in the homestead in 1871.
      James Williamson bought the farm in 1877, and had a 250ha farm here, surrounding the grand Pah Homestead and its park-like grounds. Williamson had beef cattle, a dairy herd, and fields of oats. Chinese market gardeners grew vegetables for Pah Homestead and the Auckland market.
      There were two houses and several cottages for farm staff. Brick stables housed four pairs of carriage horses, teams of working horses, riding hacks, and horse-drawn vehicles. This was more than an ordinary farm – it was a living example of the colonial vision of an ideal country estate.
      Williamson went bust and lost the property. Between 1891 and 1902, it was leased to a succession of wealthy tenants. The Catholic Church then began a long association with the property in 1913.…


More from the signboard:

Monte Cecelia became an Auckland Council park in 2004. A leisurely stroll around Monte Cecelia now is to re-live the elegance of the high Victorian colonial era in Auckland, and to appreciate the landscaping vision that created this extra-ordinary ‘artwork of the land’.
      The park is a living collection of significant historic exotic trees, some of the oldest and biggest of their species in New Zealand.
      Among them are Atlantic blue cedar, blue lillypilly, bunya bunya, camphor laurel, Chilean wine palm, Dutch elm, holm oak and hoop pine.
      The oldest trees were planted by William Hart 1847-55, and James Farmer 1855-66.


Since 2010, Pah Homestead has been home to the TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, where you can view contemporary art exhibitions from the James Wallace Arts Trust Collection and from regional touring exhibitions. The homestead also includes a cafĂ© and shop, so you can enjoy the art, indulge in coffee and cake, shake the moths out of your purse, then work off that cake with a stroll around the grounds and marvel at the magnificent trees, all in one action-packed afternoon. Highly recommended!

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