Reyburn House

Historic Reyburn House

Reyburn House is the home of the Northland Society of Arts and its art collection, as well as being a New Zealand Historic Places Trust Category 2 listing. It is Whangarei’s oldest house and lies beside the Hatea River in the heart of Whangarei and is a gracious, lovingly preserved colonial building.

We are very fortunate to have this as the home of Northland Society of Arts, with just under 300 members, we offer a variety of exhibitions every month of the year and a gift shop with work constantly changing. Be sure and make Reyburn House a destination on your travels. Go on a journey with us now and read about our history below.


    Reyburn House Circa 1875; Reyburn House in its earliest form. Robert Reyburn Jnr’s cottage sits to the right of his father’s three gabled house in the centre of the photo, with small porch entry at the left plus out-house to the right.

    Reyburn house is the oldest existing settlers home on Whangarei’s Hatea River. Originally built as a home for Robert Reyburn junior, who arrived in Whangarei in May 1859 from Glasgow, the first part of the house was built between 1865 and 1875. It began as a small cottage that was later expanded into a villa with verandas.

    Reyburn House was constructed from lapped kauri weatherboards topped by a corrugated galvanized iron roof, internal walls were framed using rough sawn kauri scrim board, tongue and groove kauri and ceilings of board and batten. The attic space was originally used for bedrooms and finished with tongue and groove match lining. Additions were made on the western side of the house in about 1894. A new gable – ended roof was erected over part of the building at that time.

    In about 1895, a veranda with a concave roof was added to the north side of the house to give protection form the sun. This was painted (in the fashion of the day) with red and white stripes.


    Reyburn House circa 1900; the verandah now extends around two sides.

    The final major addition to the house was built in 1900 when the house was extended on the eastern side with two more rooms and a central hall with an ornate arch. The veranda was also extended at the same time. The rooms became formal spaces with coffered ceilings.


    Reyburn House 1966; This photo from an article in the Advocate prior to the decision being made as to which of the Reyburn brother’s houses would be saved. Looking much the worse for wear, it was at this point that the house was lent to the NSA.

    The house was originally sited between the Hatea River overbridge which brings traffic from Riverside Drive into the city, and the present Regional Council building, A large pohutukawa beside the busy intersection stands near the house’s original site.

    When the Reyburns moved to Auckland in 1910, the life of the house changed, In the early 1900s, the area around Reyburn House evolved from residential to light industrial, and a street along the waterfront immediately in front of the house became a principal traffic route. In September 1932, a building line condition on the frontage of the water was imposed and in 1950, the property lost still more land to road widening.

    In the period from 1910 to the early 1960s, the house had a chequered history, it was divided into two flats and rented by a variety of tenants over many years. The Harbour Board acquired the property under the Public Works Act in the early 1960s, and in December 1964, stated that the site was needed for harbour improvements.

    In 1966 after negotiations with the Northland Society of Arts, the Harbour Board agreed to lend Reyburn House to the Society as a place for its activities. Widening of the traffic route in 1976 resulted in the first relocation some 10 meters back on its site. In 1984, the Society was asked to buy the house from the Harbour Board for the nominal sum of $10.00. It was moved to its present site in 1986 – its third and final resting –place.

    Reyburn House 1987

    Reyburn House 1987; Some of the original NSA members preparing to re-open the house as an art gallery.

    In 1985, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust declared Reyburn House a Category II historic building.

    In 1998, an extensive restoration and renovation project was begun with funding from the lotteries Commission. Extensive work on the gardens surrounding Reyburn House, including many planting in keeping with the era in which the house was built, was also done at this time.

    Grants received in 1999 from the Whangarei District Council and in May 2000 from the ASB Charitable Trust have enabled the completion of the major restoration of Reyburn House, Approximately $400,000 and hundreds of volunteer hours have been spent restoring Reyburn House and its surrounds.

    Recently the Society has put in sprinklers into the building, the original bedrooms upstairs will become a museum housing memorabilia and photographs of the development of Whangarei’s Town Basin, Reyburn House and the many people who have lived and worked in the area.


    Reyburn House present day; the old house is now fully restored and one of the most beautiful art galleries in the country…


    Reyburn House present day; the old house is now fully restored and one of the most beautiful art galleries in the country…

    All images contained within this site are the property of the Northland Society of Arts or the original artist and as such are protected by copyright laws.

    Reproduction without the written permission of the Society or the artist is illegal.

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