Closure of Dransfield House: end of era for the house of the first mayor, place of celebration

It’s been the scene of fires, photo ops, zombie attacks, gourmet restaurants and wild parties, but now one of Wellington’s most iconic buildings is shutting down to the public.

Dransfield House, opposite the entrance to the Aro Valley at the top of Willis St, will no longer function as a rental location, tenant and lawyer Kevin Smith said as he only gets reservations once every six to eight weeks and is “not more profitable”; the termination of the lease is a “purely commercial decision”.

“We are to a certain extent off the beaten track, we are not making a lot of money and we have decided to give it away.

The Dransfield House wedding and event venue on Willis Street, Wellington, is closing.

Kevin’s Stent / Stuff

The Dransfield House wedding and event venue on Willis Street, Wellington, is closing.

“By the time you have casual staff, have your liquor license paid, have all your supplies, your booze, and you counting change, it’s just not profitable.”

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JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON / STUFF.CO.NZ

Martin Holland’s historic home in Richmond was destroyed by the earthquake. It is being rebuilt as a replica except hotter.

Originally built around 1876, it was virtually destroyed by fire in the mid-1990s. Smith bought the council wreck in 1996 and set out to restore it.

Lease holder lawyer Kevin Smith with railings he replaced when he restored the house after a fire in the 90s.

Kevin’s Stent / Stuff

Lease holder lawyer Kevin Smith with railings he replaced when he restored the house after a fire in the 90s.

By adding classic balustrades to the exterior balcony and replacing the period fireplaces and over 40 doors inside, he sold the building to its current owner and rented it out for use as an office and meeting place. -you.

Despite the fire that ravaged the upper floor, many period features of the building have survived, including spectacular lead lights and stained glass in the entryway and moldings in the “ballroom”.

Leaded light and restored stained glass in the Dransfield House.

Dominion-Post

Leaded light and restored stained glass in the Dransfield House.

The exterior of the two-story Italian-style villa, originally built by Wellington’s first mayor, Joseph Dransfield, has been largely left untouched, including the wrap-around balcony.

“We rebuilt it and it is what it is now. It is a beautiful old mansion for sure.”

The entrance to the Dransfield House will be familiar to many Wellingtonians who love to party.

Kevin Stent / Dominion-Post

The entrance to the Dransfield House will be familiar to many Wellingtonians who love to party.

Many Wellington residents will know the building as a venue for weddings, events, balls and extravagant costume parties, including “hundreds” of weekly wine clubs, Venetian balls and Halloween parties hosted by the Wellington Eddy Kennedy’s Identity.

“Dransfield was a wonderful place. Just so beautiful, so easy. A beautiful space.

“Working with Kevin was great because he was so excited for it to be used and promoted. I was able to have free rein to do whatever I wanted.”

While Kennedy says he won’t be missing the holidays (and the whole organization), there were “a lot of great times.”

Costumed guests dance at a Dransfield House Venetian Ball.

EDDY KENNEDY

Costumed guests dance at a Dransfield House Venetian Ball.

“One Halloween party there, a guy introduced himself as a zombie. He was so genuine and scary, and to this day I still have no idea who he was.

“He spent the whole evening tripping and everyone was like, ‘Who is this?’ No one knew, because he never spoke… Imagine what he heard! He was terrifying. “

With separate rooms for different atmospheres at events, the house has a “nice and easy flow” for functions; and being so beautiful, much of the dressing was already done for you too.

Revelers (including the author, left in furs) at a Halloween party at Dransfield House.

Stuff-co-nz

Revelers (including the author, left in furs) at a Halloween party at Dransfield House.

Photographer Matt Barnes used Dransfield as a backdrop for several glamor and cosplay shoots, “because it was like stepping on a set designed by the production.”

“I loved photographing there … The details from all angles made it easy to get great images.”

Kennedy agreed, you “never had to decorate at all, really”.

“On Halloween we got spider webs and we threw them away.

“The back room with the bar was really cool too, because you could just put small tables there and be quite private.”

The back salon of Dransfield House.

Kevin Stent / Dominion-Post

The back salon of Dransfield House.

With a full commercial kitchen on site, catering was also “extremely easy” – at one point the house was a restaurant.

“I think the good thing about Wellington is that there are a lot of places to have a beautiful wedding, we are very lucky to have so many different venue options; however, Dransfield was special, ”Kennedy said.

As a wedding and event location, “it ticked all the boxes”, although being so central, the outdoor photos for the wedding “had to have the right angle” so you don’t have overhanging construction. the building in the background.

Guests at the Aether Con Steam Punk convention in 2014 at Dransfield House.  The period house was the perfect backdrop for cosplay and geek culture events.

JAMES CARROLL

Guests at the Aether Con Steam Punk convention in 2014 at Dransfield House. The period house was the perfect backdrop for cosplay and geek culture events.

“It was central, it was a real plus. It was easy to get to, lots of accommodation, and it was beautiful, absolutely beautiful.”

Smith said he believed the owners would live in the great old lady of Upper Willis St, returning it to its original function as a family home.

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This heritage Takapuna home had been in the same family for five generations, but there was no one left to inherit.

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