Keeping the past alive

7 December 2018

Clark Cottage, also known as Duke House, was built in the early 1900s on land that is now Summerset at Monterey Park in Hobsonville, Auckland. Looking out to the Waitemata Harbour, the Italianate villa remains mostly unchanged, with many of its original fittings in place, including elaborate moulded timber finishes and ceilings patterned with art nouveau pressed steel.

IMG 0470bbAs part of a nine-month project, Summerset is restoring the home to its former glory, and will be reopening the classic cottage for residents’ use. Senior Design Manager of the project, Esme Mulligan, says a full restructure is needed to make the old home comply with new building code standards. “We’re giving it a whole new foundation, floor and roof space – all while maintaining its heritage.” This includes removing each of the unique large bricks that form the building to complete the structural work, then putting each brick back in its original place. “History tells us the bricks were made from clay on the land, then pressed and fired on site. The bricks are huge; a normal brick might be around 230mm by 70mm, but these bricks are 650mm by 200mm – they’re more like stone blocks,” says Esme. The home was made entirely from the bricks, and no two bricks are exactly the same colour or shape. “This means we can’t just put the bricks back anywhere – they all belong in a specific place.”

IMG 0230bbbEsme says the cottage has had very few alterations since it was built, and Summerset is aiming to keep its original stained-glass windows, timber architraves, ornate skirting boards, moulded timber dado rails and window crowns – among other heritage detailing. “We have to carefully remove most fittings to do structural work and replace the floors, then carefully restore and replace them,” says Esme. Minor changes to the floorplan are being made to ensure the home has a working kitchen, as well as accessible bathrooms.

Once the restorations are complete, residents will be able to use the home as a meeting space.

Esme says, “I hope it will become popular, and residents will come by every day and bring life back to it again. I’m looking forward to it being a place where residents, their friends and family can meet, catch up and sit to enjoy the view.”

A house with history

In the mid-1800s, Rice Owen Clark purchased the land and established his pottery-making business after discovering extensive clay deposits in the area. After Mr Clark’s death, his son, R. O. Clark II, built a two-storey house on the land, as well as Clark Cottage. R. O. Clark’s wife inherited the estate when he passed away in the early 1900s. She gifted the cottage to her son, Thomas Edwin Clark, and his wife, Margaret. For this reason, it became known as Love Cottage. The property was subdivided in 1919 and changed ownership a few times before being purchased by James Stirling Duke in 1971. James named the land surrounding the property Monterey Park, after the Monterey pines in the area. He owned the cottage for 15 years.

Brick by brick

Rice Owen Clark established his pottery business in the 1860s, a decade after purchasing the land that would later become Monterey Park. Competition in the ceramic industry became fierce in the 1890s, and manufacturers started looking for ways to beat their rivals. The Clarks invented and began to produce large ceramic building blocks that were hollow with a vertical divider. Although they weren’t popular at the time and the company went into liquidation, the brick became the precursor to modern concrete-block technology. A number of buildings were constructed using Clarks Patent Blocks, including the family’s homestead and cottage. The dwellings were built entirely out of the bricks, with no timber internal walls.