In 2012 Highwic, probably Auckland’s best-known house museum, celebrated its 150th anniversary. Originally home of Alfred Buckland, local businessman and landowner, it was built in the “carpenter gothic” style, then popular in North America. This style replicates in timber, the details found in stone gothic buildings, such as ornamental filagrees,diamond pane windows and pointed arch detailing over the doors. Highwic is probably New Zealand’s leading example of a house in this style and its significance is recognised in its NZHPT Category 1 listing and Category A Heritage Place [interior and surrounds] with Auckland Council, both of which recognise it as a property worthy of highest protection.
To ready Highwic for its upcoming anniversary, a programme of repair and restoration work was undertaken in 2011. Salmond Reed Architects was engaged to advise, specify and oversee the repair works, which involved many complex specialist trades relating to the repair of traditional materials. This was particularly so in regard to the roof coverings, where extensive work was required to render the house and its outbuilding additions weathertight and protect them into the future.
Lead, copper, zinc and galvanised steel were among the materials requiring repair, while the main House roof itself was re-clad using welsh slates hand-shaped to match the originals. At the same time seismic strengthening was added to the chimneys and roof structures.
Exterior and interior redecoration offered the opportunity to consider not just the selection of new colours, but also the use of traditional paint products and formulations such as distemper and products appropriate to the age and heritage values of the property. In liaison with Dr Donald Ellsmore, a leading Australian conservation specialist, an intensive study of historic paint layers present in Highwic was carried out. This study reinforced the evidence apparent in historic documents and images, that a variety of colours had been used to emphasise the hierarchy of decorative detailing peculiar to the carpenter gothic style. This definition had been subsequently lost in bland paint schemes imposed during renovations carried out in the 1960s and 1980s.
At completion of the restoration works the house is not only weathertight, but also restored and redecorated in a manner which more accurately reflects how it would have appeared in the the Buckland era, thus enhancing the authenticity of the overall museum experience for visitors to the house.
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