Biltmore, 251 Remuera Road, Remuera

The home beautiful, JA Tole Remuera, cropped (8 Jan 1914 Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, Auckland Weekly News_19140108).

The home beautiful, J A Tole Remuera, top left, 8 Jan 1914 (Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, Auckland Weekly News_19140108)

251 Remuera Road (Wall Real Estate)

251 Remuera Road, 2014 (L Galbraith Real Estate)

251 Remuera Road (Remuera Real Estate Register)

Hon Joseph Augustus Tole, Mother-in-law Mrs Barbara Lewis (nee Simpson), Master Edward-Jack & two girls (Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections).

Norman K Brett, Sgt NZ Rifle Brigade 1917 (H Schmidt, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 31-B3022).

Major Edwin Gordon Fraser, with Prince Edward VII, inspecting troops c.1916-1919. (Image provided by Warren Viscoe).

Flight-Sgt Miles Frederick Gordon Fraser. (Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS 19420617-22-12).

Lakehouse Hotel taken in the early 1900s. (Rotorua Daily Post 20 Mar 2018).

The house known as Biltmore at 251 Remuera Road, (was number 69 until 1945) on the corner with Omahu Road, was built in 1910 for the Hon. Joseph Augustus Tole K.C., lawyer and barrister (1846 – 1920).

He represented the Auckland electorate of Eden from the 1876 general election until 1887. Following the 1884 general election, he became Minister of Justice in the Stout–Vogel Ministry till 1887. In 1893, he became Crown Solicitor and Crown Prosecutor at Auckland. He was among the inaugural New Zealand King’s Counsel appointed in 1907. [1] He died at his home in Remuera from heart failure on 13 December 1920.

Tole held many important public offices. His obituary listed being a member of the New Zealand University Senate, the Auckland University College Council, and the University Senate’s representative on the Auckland Grammar School Board. Tole was a trustee of the Jubilee Institute for the Blind Parnell, and was also a director of the Taupiri Coal Mines. Ltd. At one time he was chairman of the Ponsonby Highway Board and sat on the Auckland Harbour Board. He formerly held the offices of patron to the Auckland Catholic Literary Society, speaker of the Auckland Parliamentary Union and president of the Irish National Federation. For many years he was connected with various musical societies, including the Choral Society and Royal Male Choir (once called the Liedertafel), of which he was a vice president. He also found time to be a performing member of the Choral Society and to sing tenor solos in oratorios, and was an accomplished violinist and amateur actor. [2]

Joseph Tole was survived by his wife Eleanor, a son Edwin and three daughters, Margaret, Eileen and Nellie.

Set on 1,993m² of park-like grounds, opposite Kings School, with 6 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms, plus 4 living areas, the house is very much as it was originally designed and is a classic example of English Arts and Crafts architecture. The authors of the book, ‘Coolangatta’ believed the house was designed by Bamford & Pierce, the architects of many cherished Auckland landmarks, although no firm evidence has been found. [3]

Other architectural works attributed to Bamford and Pierce (circa 1908-1916) are:

  • Bishopscourt, now Neligan House, 12 St Stephens Avenue, Parnell, Auckland
  • Kiosk in Auckland Domain
  • Boscobel, 8 Brightside Road, Epsom, Auckland
  • Coolangatta, 464 Remuera Road, Remuera, Auckland
  • Laidlaw Leeds Warehouse, Fort Street, Auckland CBD
  • Ngahere, 74 Mountain Road, Epsom, Auckland
  • Pakaraka, Russell Street, Gisborne
  • Shops, 411 Remuera Road, Remuera, Auckland
  • 15 Arney Road, Remuera, Auckland
  • Stansfield House, 30 Arney Road, Remuera, Auckland
  • Waione, 22 Domett Avenue, Epsom, Auckland
  • Woodend, 18 Gilgit Road, Epsom, Auckland
  • 13-15 Dilworth Avenue, Remuera, Auckland
  • 8 Pencarrow Avenue, Mount Eden, Auckland
  • 1 St Georges Bay Road, Parnell, Auckland
  • 30 Whitaker Place, Grafton, Auckland. [4]

A number of these works are described and illustrated in Macky, Peter, Waite, Paul and Akkirman, Sait.  Coolangatta: a homage.  Auckland, Livadia Publishers, 2010, p. 78-99.

After Tole’s death in 1920, the house was owned by Alfred E Kernot, general manager for New Zealand of the Norwich Union Life Insurance Society, and Consul for Paraguay, till at least 1928. [5]

From 1929 to 1939 the house was occupied by Norman Kaharoa Brett, manager for the Auckland Star. Norman was the grandson of Sir Henry Brett, owner and proprietor of the Auckland Star since 1970.[6] Norman served as a Sergeant, with the 30th Reinforcements, Auckland Infantry Regiment, A Company, New Zealand Expeditionary Force during WW1. Upon his return to Auckland, Norman became a journalist and then manager at the Auckland Star with his grandfather Sir Henry who died in 1927. [7] Norman Brett remained at 69/251 Remuera Road until sometime during WW2. [8]

There appeared to be a family called Whyte also living there from about 1928-1938.

WHYTE. — On September 23, 1928 (suddenly), David, relict of the late Agnes Main Whyte and beloved father of Andrew and Mary, of Glasgow, Scotland, and David, Jessie and Agnes of Auckland; aged 74 years. The funeral will leave his late residence. 251, Remuera Road. Tuesday. September 25, at 2 p.m., for Purewa Cemetery. Friends please accept this intimation. [9]

The engagement is announced of Jessie Oamaru Yates, younger daughter of Mr. and Mrs. D. Whyte, of 251, Remuera Road, Remuera, to Cecil Edwin, younger son of Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Fleet, of 16, Lillington Road, Remuera. [10]

After WW2 the house at 251 Remuera Road was a private hotel with the name Biltmore House. In the USA Biltmore was the largest residential house in America built by George Vanderbilt in 1889, covering over four acres of floor space, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. [11]

Biltmore House was owned by Rachel Theresa Fraser who was the widow of Colonel Edwin Gordon Fraser (1882-1935). Colonel Fraser had had a long and distinguished career in the military, starting in 1897 in the volunteer forces. He was in the South African War as a quartermaster, being awarded the Queen’s Medal with 3 clasps. In 1914 he left with the Main Body of the Expeditionary Force with the rank of captain, on the troopship Waimana. He was three times seriously wounded at Gallipoli. On his return to New Zealand, after discharge from hospital at Malta, he was appointed chief machine-gun instructor at Featherston Camp. After the war he was appointed commandant of the First Battalion, Auckland Regiment.  At the time of his death Gordon Fraser had been the licensee of the Lake House Hotel at Ohinemutu for five years. The Lake House Hotel was built in 1872 and was known as a health resort due to the nearby hot springs which travellers and tourists valued for their medicinal qualities.[12, 13] The Lake House was demolished in 2018 when earthquake remediation became too expensive. [14]

Mrs Rachel T Fraser, presumably building on her experience with the Lake House, is recorded as being the proprietor of Biltmore House in 1939, [15] 1946 and 1950.[16] She advertised regularly for staff.

CHEF MALE OR FEMALE. FOR “BILTMORE HOUSE,” 251 REMUERA ROAD. Refinement and refs. necessary. PHONE 16-321. NZ Herald Classified Ads 17 January 1939.

Biltmore House featured regularly in the N Z Herald’s social pages, for example:

Mrs. A. Grenier, who has been spending four months at Biltmore House, Remuera Road, is now visiting her sister, Mrs. P. R. Skeates, of Pihiri Road, Mount Eden. [17]

Miss Mary Wrightson, of ‘Biltmore House’ Remuera, is returning from Whangarei on Friday. [18]

Mrs. N. Patrick, who has been staying with her father, Mr. A. R. Brett, of Market Road, Remuera, will take up her residence at Biltmore House, Remuera Road, next week. [19]

In 1942 the Frasers’ son Flight-Sergeant Miles Frederick Gordon Fraser, age 22, was killed in air operations over Germany while in the RNZAF. [20] It was noted that his brother Wing Commander Joffre Fraser of the RAF was the O.C. of an R.N.Z.A.F. station in the North Island. Also living at 251 Remuera Rd was Nina Lillian Gibson, Rachel Fraser’s cousin, who was a nursing sister in the N Z Army Nursing Service of the 2nd NZ Expeditionary Force.[21]

In 1956 Joffre Fraser (1915-1969) is recorded as living at 251 Remuera Road and in 1960 James G Fraser.[22]

Further residents were Mrs U J Sutherland and J Jull in 1970/71 and Kenneth C Curtis in 1975. [23]

251 Remuera Road is zoned Single House with the following overlays:[24]

  • Natural Heritage: Regionally Significant Volcanic Viewshafts and Height Sensitive Areas Overlay [rcp/dp] – W26, Mount Wellington, Viewshafts.
  • Historic Heritage and Special Character: Special Character Areas Overlay Residential and Business – Remuera, Residential Isthmus B.