Topic: Athenree Homestead Trust by Ellen McCormack

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Since the Athenree Homestead Trust was formed in 1995 the Homestead at Athenree has undergone extensive rennovation.

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The Athenree Homestead Trust was officially formed in 1995. Many years both before and after that date were followed by meetings, documentation, legalities and frustration with all the various authorities that required so much detail regarding our intention to restore the homestead to its original glory.

The real story of the possibility of the Homestead restoration began back in 1986 when John Rapley and his wife Colleen purchased the property. John's family had previously owned the property from 1921-1946 and he had many happy memories of the days when the Homestead was a wonderful well kept family home.

The house was still lived in and in good order until 1952 when new owners unfortunately allowed it to fall in to disrepair. It was later used as a hay shed. The building slowly deteriorated to a state where, according to most people, it was well beyond repair.

Back in the 1940's John and his friend Snow Browne were students at the Katikati District High School, and every day they walked past the house on their way to catch the train at the Athenree Railway Station. Even though they had watched the house deteriorate, they still held a dream that it could be restored, so in May 1986 John and Colleen purchased the property and it was back in the Rapley family name once again.

Athenree Homestead, March 1899

Athenree Homestead (March, 1899).

During the next few years John and Snow slowly worked on ideas to restore the Homestead to its former glory. A small group of other like minded people with a sense of history shared their dream but it was a huge project to contemplate and the years slipped by. In 1994 a further title was issued to the Rapley's dividing the property into 3 lots. On one lot of 2.5 hectares stood the Athenree Homestead.

Slowly during the past decades all the lovely old homes in the district had either been pulled or burnt down. The restoration of the Homestead became even more important, meetings were held and the possibility of saving Athenree became a crusade.

The first step was to convince the Western Bay District Council of the importance of the Homestead, not only as an historic house, but also because Captain Hugh and Adela Stewart had built the house and were its original owners. Captain Hugh Stewart was a brother to George Vesey Stewart who was the founder of the Katikati Settlement and Adela Stewart had written a book called 'My Simple Life In New Zealand.' The book detailed the Stewart's daily life for the 28 years that they lived at Athenree, from their arrival on the 'Lady Jocelyn' in 1878 until they returned to England in 1906. The book was an incredibly valuable social history for the whole district.

In May 1995 and after much persuasion the Western Bay District Council purchased the property as a Local Purpose Reserve (Historic Homestead). The Athenree Homestead Trust was formed. The feasibility of restoration was subjected to intense scrutiny with many voices against the idea; the reason being that it may became a liability upon the ratepayers.

Even though the Trust was now a legal entity there were still many obstacles to overcome with numerous documents and plans to be completed, let alone fund raising activities. In 1999 after many years of applications to various sources we were absolutely thrilled to receive $65,000 from the Waikato Community Trust. This money gave us the boost that we needed and enabled the house to be re-piled and along with a new roof it gave the building a very long overdue sense of revival. This made the whole project a much more viable proposition and awakened a new enthusiasm from the community.

During the past ten years many successful fund raising events have been held enabling the house to have renovations on a continual basis to the many rooms in the building.

by Ellen McCormack (2011).

This page was archived at Perma cc April 2017

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