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Inside a 1906 state-built home once considered ‘too flash’ for workers

Petone’s Patrick Street has such a key place in Aotearoa-NZ’s architectural history it gets its own walking tour during NZ Heritage week.

On the tour is number 26, a two-storey picture-book house, with shingle awnings, a wild cottage garden and a deep, welcoming porch. Purpose-built for workers in 1906, what makes number 26 and other notable homes on the street important is that they were the forerunners of state houses.

Sylvia Allan didn’t know any of this when she moved in 45 years ago. At that time, many of the homes on the street were run down and in need of TLC. It wasn’t until Heritage New Zealand employed a conservationist to research the street and write a booklet about the housing project that locals found out how important the homes were.

A slice of architectural history in the heart of Petone.

Ray White/Supplied

A slice of architectural history in the heart of Petone.

“Ours was possibly one of the first [built], but the whole street opened by the Prime Minister Joseph Ward after [former PM Richard] Seddon died in 1906,” says Allan, who now leads the Patrick St walking tour.

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In the early 1900s, the government had held a competition to find designs of homes that would improve the living conditions of working families. Seven designs were chosen from submissions and “pepper potted” along the street, so no two neighbouring houses would be the same.

A welcome entrance to a warm, cosy home.

Ray White/Supplied

A welcome entrance to a warm, cosy home.

They were offered as rentals, or rent-to-own.

Built from native timbers dressed at the nearby Petone lumber mill, the homes were so beautifully made, working class families thought them “too flash”. Some stood empty for months after they were built.

The idea, however, was to foster a sense of community and stability for local workers. The homes represent the first time the New Zealand government made a real effort to raise living standards for working-class people.

One of the two reception rooms in the home.

Ray White/Supplied

One of the two reception rooms in the home.

The Allans are the home’s third private owners. With their family grown up, the plan is to downsize, so they have reluctantly put the home on the market.

Allan feels a sense of responsibility to the history of her home.

“It’s definitely a special place, and we want to pass it on to a good future owner. Since we moved here people have really taken care of their houses and restored them.”

With two reception rooms – a boon when Allan’s children were teens as they could “close the door on them” – and three bedrooms, although the home has cosy, intimate proportions, it also has plenty of space.

The home has three good-sized bedrooms.

Ray White/Supplied

The home has three good-sized bedrooms.

Upstairs, the master bedroom has its own sun porch/study.

Downstairs, large lead light-topped windows let the sun in; a wood burner in the sitting room is surrounded by a brick fireplace; an open-plan kitchen diner leads out to the private patio and covered spa area.

Allan’s property was first updated in 1929, when the first owner “modernised” it – Patrick was the only street in Petone where chimneys stayed up during the 1930s earthquake. There are early deco, as well as 1906, features in the home.

A private courtyard that is low maintenance.

Ray White/Supplied

A private courtyard that is low maintenance.

When they moved into the home in the 70s, the Allans opened up the kitchen diner, and put in French doors to the garden – a private, green oasis, which includes entertaining areas and a pond.

“I’ve always worked to create a garden that needs very little maintenance. We’ve got lots of mature trees now, and it pretty much takes care of itself. It’s been a real pleasure to live in, and we’re sad to be leaving it.”

The home is just two minutes from the beach, and a 15-minute walk to the heart of Jackson St, with all its cafés and restaurants and shopping. Petone Station is a short car or bike ride away.

Only small changes have been made to the home to modernise it. It retains much of its period style and charm.

Ray White/Supplied

Only small changes have been made to the home to modernise it. It retains much of its period style and charm.

Although the home is historic, and the street is a historic area, new owners are able to make changes to the inside of the home. The only limits on alterations are on what can be seen from the street – you can’t modernise, but you can restore what would have been there when the home was built.

The last CV for the property was $900,000 in 2019.

Listed with Janine Ambler for Ray White, the sale of 26 Patrick St is by negotiation.



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