411-413 Remuera Road Shops

Remuera Library pre 1925

411-413 Remuera Road was first the site of the offices of the Remuera Road Board from 1902 until it merged with Auckland City Council in 1915.

After amalgamation of the Board with the Council on 1 March 1915, the building was refitted to become the Remuera branch of the Auckland Public Library, opening on the 2nd October 1915. The old library building was later relocated to Pt Chevalier in 1926 where it operated as a Library until it was demolished to enable Great North Road to be widened and realigned. The new Remuera Library was opened on its present site on the corner of St Vincent Ave and Remuera Road on July 31st 1926.

In the 1920s it housed Matthew Robinson hairdresser and tobacconist, and then Walter Rountree, Draper, until 2 new brick buildings were erected in 1929.

Mrs Millicent Susan Russell owned a drapery shop at 411 Remuera Road from 1938 to 1971. Known as the old curiosity shop, it was a “Dickens-like jammed-with-goods” shop. Outside there was always the Airedale dog, and inside a cat and a parrot in a cage. Susan, as she was known, opened the shop in 1938 soon after her husband died when she had two small boys age 4 and 9. She retired in 1971 age 73 and her younger son Allan, a civil engineer, came over from Australia to run the shop but it closed in 1975. Her son Jack ran the hardware shop next door at 413 Remuera Road. [1]

Richard Matthews Antiques occupied the site for another 35 years until 2006. The N Z Herald had a story that prior to the visit of U S President Bill Clinton and Chinese Jiang Zemin of China in 2000, Government House in Auckland called him to urgently request provision of two matching chairs which were ‘substantial but not too low”. Richard provided them with two 19th century French walnut chairs from his own house.[2]

411-413 then became Browns cafe and clothing store until bought by Megan Jaffe Real Estate who completely rebuilt it in 2017; Megan Jaffe described the scope of work in Remuera: “I bought the two titles on June 1, 2015 for $5m and spent $7m on the renovation which involved a total re-build,” she said telling how Haydn + Rollett were the head contractors. “Less than 2 per cent of the original building was kept,” she said. Seventeen foundation piles were driven 17m into the ground to create a strong structure, bricks were re-used, double-glazed windows made and installed, ornate exterior window lead lights were retained and an elevator put into the three-level building which dates back to 1928. “It was a very pretty character building in very poor condition. I wanted to restore her to her former glory,” Jaffe said pointing out heritage-style exterior lamps specially made in London, a large ornate wrought iron feature which divides the agency from a neighbouring cafe and big door handles made in Napier.” [3]

411-413 Remuera Rd

“The demolition phase was completed with the substantial propping and steel fixing of the original facade and east wall. Stage one was always going to be the most challenging and time consuming with the preservation of the old kiln fired golden bricks and much of the demolition wheelbarrowed out onto the road. Henderson demolition and their Papakura based team were superb – nothing was too much trouble. For those interested ‘the best’ timber in the old building was the hard wood Oregon pine floor joists and rafters with a small amount of Rimu flooring – no Kauri which is not surprising as after 1910-15 it became scarce and expensive. Many people are asking “what has happened to the magnificent lead lights from above the shop front windows?” with phone enquiries from as far away as Dunedin. Well, they have been carefully removed, packed up and sent away for meticulous restoration. These truly beautiful English made Windsor era glass panels could well be the last piece of this ‘complex’ build. Complex because the owners respect that the end result needs to represent everything good about a restoration/build in a significant heritage precinct.”

We have now moved to the foundation piling which is expected to take another two weeks, then a further two weeks of linking the steel and concrete ground beams to the fourteen piles. It is interesting to note that when the simple two storey brick structure was built over a 7 month period in 1926, the piles consisted of shallow placements of four layers of brick and hand mixed concrete (presumable there were no earth quakes then!). Today we have 14 piles up to 17 metres deep each holding 2.7 tons of steel cages and a truck load of concrete.”

“This is the third building on this site – the first being the Remuera Road Board office in 1902. In 1915 that building became the first Remuera Public Library when Remuera amalgamated with Auckland City. The present building could well be the first significant restoration in the Remuera shopping centre in a generation – soon to become a flagship Ray White office for the business heart of our much loved community.”