Refurbishment of historical Myers Park kauri caretaker’s cottage

23 Sep 2022

Built in the 1850s by early French settler Charles de Thierry, what is now known as the caretaker’s cottage in Myers Park, has had a relatively chequered past before recently undergoing refurbishment allowing it to once again be occupied.

One of only two kauri buildings of this era remaining on Queen Street, the house was retained and modernised when the land it sits on was incorporated into Myers Park during 1913–1916. However, in modernising the cottage to complement the nearby, newly constructed kindergarten, all of its exterior Victorian-era touches were removed. 

For much of the 20th century, the cottage was occupied by council staff but it was also rented out to private tenants for a period of time up until the late 1990s, after which it remained empty. In 2005, vandals broke into the cottage and lit two fires, damaging the interior and resulting in the building being boarded up.

After a 12-month restoration project, the caretaker’s cottage in Auckland’s Myers Park is now ready to be occupied again.

Giving our social infrastructure a new lease of life

In late 2021, the Citycare Property Minor Capital Works team was awarded the project management contract to refurbish and renew the building. The programme of works — previously determined by council in conjunction with engineer and architect, Antony Matthews — included lifting the building with jacks to re-stabilise it for earthquakes; removing nearly every piece of the interior and salvaging any pieces not too rotted or burnt; insulating, lining, stopping and painting interior walls; removing and replacing the floors; and re-roofing and repainting the exterior — ensuring all existing pieces that could be salvaged were reinstated into their original places.

“Having sustained extensive damage due to the fires, the cottage was in a very poor state when it was entrusted to us,” says Project Manager, Jaffer Syed. “Based on council’s directive to save and restore as much of the original materials as was possible, we came up with a building maintenance strategy that included the removal, numbering, restoration and reinstallation of as much of the original timber, mouldings and internal doors as was possible.”

Damaged by fire in 2005, this casement window was been repaired and refurbished and returned to its original position.

In those instances where the team was unable to salvage materials or fixtures, every effort was made to source period replacements. The team was also able to reuse some of the bricks and flooring from one part of the cottage in others, as in order to bring the cottage up to code, certain changes needed to be made that required the use of modern materials.

Citycare Property Construction Manager, Graham Forrester adds: “We’ve tried, where possible, to retain the original fabric in the condition it was. Elements such as the fireplaces had to be seismically strengthened and upgraded to be within code, and while 80 per cent of the flooring is original, we had to replace the flooring in the kitchen with vinyl, as it was damaged beyond repair.”

Uncovered and refurbished, the verandah has been restored to its former glory.

Ready for the next 150 years

Similarly, fixtures such as the lighting throughout, along with the insulation, have all been brought up to code in keeping with the requirements for a modern commercial premises. The team also had to construct a fire wall within the building’s east-facing façade, which they did using original materials and studs in combination with new studs.

As a further nod to the cottage’s original features, the team has installed a number of design elements, such as ceiling beams, to denote where walls had originally been, and a painted representation of a former staircase.

Aside from licensed electricians, plumbers and roofers, this job has been project managed and delivered onsite by the Citycare Property Minor Capital Works team.