The opening of historic Totara House to the public was celebrated in the villa’s heritage rose gardens, complete with tea and pikelets provided by the Friends of the Museum Committee. Guests and visitors were picked up outside The Kauri Museum in a selection of vintage cars and delivered to the venue.
Built by Edward Cooksey in 1896 when George Smith married Emily Sheppard, Totara House became the home of eight children – George, Richard, Gordon, Brian, Clarice, twins Kenneth and Mavis, and Tatty.
After the death of Claris, Mavis, with the blessing of her family, bequeathed Totara House to The Kauri Museum Trust. Mavis continued to live in the house for the next 10 years and in this time was an extended member of the museum staff and family. Mavis was born in the house and lived there until her death this year. She was 102.
In her own words Mavis gifted the house to the museum “so that it may remain a treasure to share with all those people from whatever corner of the world, who may pass by this way.”
“She became the matriarch of our museum and was always great fun,” said Kauri Museum CEO Betty Nelley.
The property and farmlands have been surveyed, fenced, the large ancient macrocarpas disposed of. Smoke alarms and burglar alarms have been installed. Funding has been arranged to have professional housekeeping plans prepared. The dam has been cleaned and water has been connected to the gardens.
Kauri trees, a national heritage kete flax collection, and part of the museum heritage rose collection, have been planted.
Says Ms Nelley: “We have a very positive direction for the future of this property. The vision adopted by the Trust Board is ‘To preserve and enhance the historical attributes of Totara House, and its contents, for the benefit and enlightenment of all visitors.’”
Totara House is now opening its doors to visitors. Tours of the villa and its heritage gardens, which include the Heritage Rose collection, are available by appointment at The Kauri Museum.