The Northern Wairoa Hotel (1878) (renovation 1922-April 1924)

Northern Wairoa Hotel 1911
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19110706-5-4

The Northern Wairoa Hotel is a prominent feature in the township of Dargaville dominating a corner site since 1878 its story covers 140 years. It was built as a grand design, as part of Irish-born Joseph McMullen Dargaville's aspiration to create a township and in the process make a fortune in the doing. The hotel is a Category 2 Historic Place List No: 3861 on the Heritage New Zealand list. It's interesting to note its construction date of 1924: however, investigations into its past reveal a very different story.

Its story begins in mid-1878 as noted by a visitor of the time period:
Not more than four years ago Dargaville, or, as it was then called, Kaihu, was represented by a kauri gum store, and one or two Maori whares. The enterprise of the gentleman whose name it has taken, it now boasts one of the best of Auckland ... a public hall, one first-class hotel in operation, and another commenced, a the Bank of New Zealand, a library and Masonic Hall, two excellent wharves, both constructed without subsidy from the government; and several substantial stores and shops, prominent among which is the spacious and thriving general establishment of Messrs B Mitchelson and Co. Recreation is represented in the shape of a billiard-room and bowling alley.
New Zealand Herald, 1 July 1878, Page 3

By September 1878, the building was nearing completion, by December 12 the Northern Wairoa Hotel was opened for business.

A visitor in March 1879 described the new building in detail:

The Northern Wairoa Hotel is situated in the best position of the Dargaville township immediately facing the landing place. The building is of gigantic proportions and has several feet frontage to the main streets. The internal arrangements are good and very extensive. The dining room is about 80 feet long. On Friday last 300 people breakfasted therein. Mr Gleeson has spent over £2,000 in furnishing the house which has been done regardless of cost. The bedrooms are furnished in a style surpassing those of the Northern Club, are lofty and well ventilated. The district of Wairoa offers a fine field for the excursionist.
Auckland Star, 17 March 1879, Page 2

The hotel continued on during the next few decades when by 1919 the building was starting to show its age. In 1920, the licensing committee refused to renew the hotel's licence and postponed it for three.
Motion to refuse license TENTATIVE POSTPONEMENT DARGAVILLE, June 11. There was some excitement at the Dargaville Court sitting of the Kaipara licensing Bench, when Mr G. N. Hayes moved that the license of the Northern Wairoa Hotel, the principal hotel of Dargaville, be refused on the grounds of non-compliance with the demands of the Licensing Committee with reference to putting the premises in a satisfactory condition and the alleged failure of the owners to keep their promises in reference to rebuilding. Mr McLean seconded the motion. Mr Bassett moved an amendment that consideration of the application for a licence be deferred for three months to allow of the premises being rebuilt. Mr Trounson seconded. After some warm argument, the amendment was carried.
Northern Advocate, 12 June 1920, Page 4

The licence was tentatively renewed on the understanding the renovations would be undertaken. During 1922 renovations were underway with a partial reconstruction in brick. 

Northern Wairoa Hotel, Dargaville,Unknown, photographer,PH-NEG-C2530: Auckland Museum Collections

It's clear by April 1924, the hotel had received a complete renovation when it was described as 'the fine new Northern Wairoa Hotel of the best in North Auckland' (Auckland Star, 15 April 1924, p3). Its original framework and interiors still exist in one form or another. Persistent rumours over the years made claim to the hotel being burned down completely; however other than a burning mattress in 1922 during the rebuild/renovations by (possibly) the Rope brothers, there is no record at all of a major fire destroying the hotel.  Over the decades since its renovation, the hotel has been altered as needs required - its original 1878 fabric still in part remains to this day.

Showing the Northern Wairoa Hotel in Dargaville: Date: 14 Mar 2015: Matt Elliot
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1385-20


Evi Erlinda said…
such an amazing old building.
greeting- evi erlinda
betty-NZ said…
What a wonderfully historic place!
Amy said…
So, it travelled between the Hauraki region and Northland? I wonder if that's the Mangawhai tavern in the background.
Liz said…
If you're meaning the SS Ruby Amy pic of it is taken at Mangawhai and yes it is the hotel in the background.

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