Sunday, September 30, 2012

Re-enacting tram history

Auckland Weekly News 27 November 1902, AWNS-19021127-12-2, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library

Mr P M Hansen expects to arrange the ceremonial opening of the electric tram service on Monday, l7th November. The trial runs are expected to be completed by November 10th, but the whole of the ensuing week is rendered unavailable for the formal ceremony for the following reasons: Monday, Nov10, public holiday; Tuesday, engineers’ preparations prevented by the previous day's holiday; Wednesday, race day; Thursday, City Council meeting would clash with the evening function; Friday and Saturday are Agricultural Show days. Therefore Monday, November 17, was chosen. Invitations will be issued early next month. At 12.30 on the Monday His Worship will start the machinery at the power station, and then Sir John Logan Campbell will start the first car from Lower Queen-street. To this will be attached two other cars carrying guests, and the course will be up Queen-street and Wellesley-street and on to the Choral Hall, where lunch will be provided. The regular service to Ponsonby will begin, if all goes well, on the following day.

Auckland Star 22 October 1902

A little over fifteen months ago, on August 1, 1901, the first ground was broken in connection with the laying of the rails for the Auckland Electric Tramways Company—to-day saw the inauguration of the service. During the comparatively short interval the large sum of £120,000 has been spent locally in the laying of rails, the fixing of posts and wires, the erection of the power house and depots, etc. To this must be added the heavy sums spent in England and America for cars rails, posts, engines etc., the total being sufficient to absorb the company's capital of £300,000. The lines laid measure about 20 miles, mostly double track; in single track there being about 34 miles of lines laid, all of this having been done in a little over a year, while the power-house and the depots have been put up in considerably less time.

Several delays, altogether unavoidable by the company, have occurred, preventing the starting of the cars on the date fixed in the Order-in-Council giving authority for the service, June 1. A railway strike in America delayed the arrival of the rails, the machinery for the power station was delayed by lengthened trips of the New York steamers, and the wet weather hindered the work of laying the rails, so that nearly three months of unavoidable delay occurred. The proceedings in connection with the inauguration of the service opened at the power house in Albert-street at half-past twelve, when a. large crowd of invited guests assembled within the building, examining the generator, the three large dynamos, and the switchboard from which the currents are worked …

After the company had inspected the machinery contained within the power house Mr Paul M Hansen, attorney for the company, accompanied by Mr Alfred Kidd (Mayor), Sir John Logan Campbell, Mr H Wilson (town clerk), Mr James Stewart, C.E., Mr Carey, electrical engineer for the company, and Mr Turner, attorney for Messrs J. G. White and Company, ascended the platform from which the switches are worked, and after a selection had been played by Hunter's Garrison Band the generator was started going. A few minutes after Mr Hansen, on behalf of his company, requested Mr Kidd to turn on the electrical current for the line. Mr Kidd then depressed the lever by means of which the current was switched to the line amid loud applause. Addressing the company, Mr Kidd said that nothing during the term of his office had given him greater pleasure than to assist in opening that important work. On August 1st of last year he had the pleasure of turning the first stone in connection with the work, and they would remember that the day being gloomy and rainy. Mr Hansen remarked that he thought it was the angels weeping for gladness because the work had been started. When he (Mr Kidd) awoke this morning and found that it was raining again he could not help thinking that the angels were weeping for joy that the work was finished.

The work was one of the largest undertakings carried out in New Zealand in connection with a private company or a municipality, and would do an immense deal of good to the city and its surroundings. (Applause.) When they remembered the serious troubles which occurred during the execution of the work —bad weather, the winter having been the worst for continuous rain that he remembered, and all the work being outside, the disaster to the power house by the falling of a girder, the fire which destroyed a portion of the materials, and the strikes in America—they would understand that the work had been delayed by no fault of the company. There was a little delay in the formation of the company, but both the company and the contractors had done all in their power to bring the matter to a successful issue in the time that was arranged. They would all agree that the delays which had occurred were unavoidable, because the company could not foresee them and provide against them. The work had not been skipped to save time, but had been done in very satisfactorily…

The work would cost nearly £450,000 and would do an enormous amount of good to the city and suburbs. About £130,000 had been spent locally, and already a large amount of good must have been done to the city by the expenditure of this large amount of money. The good that would issue from the cars would be inestimable. Workmen would be able to leave the crowded parts in the city and living as far away as Onehunga would be able to reach town in almost the same time as from the Three Lamps at present. They would all feel proud to think that Auckland was the first city in New Zealand to undertake that great work and bring it to a successful conclusion throughout the whole of the city and suburbs …

The assembly then left the power house, and proceeded to the foot of Queen-street, opposite the Tramway Company's offices, where six cars were waiting to convey them to the Choral Hall, where luncheon was provided for the guests. Three of the cars were despatched from the Ponsonby depot early in the morning, and remained on the roadway until the party was ready to start. All the morning they were surrounded by crowds of people, and their attractive appearance, comfortable seating accommodation, and general elegance, were the subject of much favourable comment … it is only necessary to add that on the street they look very attractive, the dark red panels contrasting well with the bright yellow sides and tops. The cars are not disfigured externally by advertisements, the number of the car and the monogram of the company being all which appears on the outside. A crowd numbering several thousand people gathered round the cars before the hour at which they were timed to start, 1.15 p.m. When all the cars were filled with guests, Mr Hansen stepped to the front of the first car, and addressing Sir John Logan Campbell, said that on behalf of his company he had the honour to ask Sir John to start the first electric tram car in this city. Knowing that to drive an electric car, or any other passenger vehicle in the city without a license was illegal, and further knowing that Sir John would not do anything against the law, he had taken the liberty to take out a motorman's license for Sir John, which he would ask the town clerk (Mr H. Wilson) to present. Mr Wilson then presented the license, which was handsomely bound in red leather, with silver corners and clasps.

At the call of Mr Hansen three hearty cheers were given for Sir John Campbell, followed by three for Mr Hansen, called for by Sir John, and three for the Electric Tramways Company. Sir John, accompanied by Messrs Hansen, Kidd, Wilson and Carey then stepped aboard the platform of the car, and Sir John turned the lever which made the connection between wire and rail, thus starting the car. As he did so he said: "Success to the Auckland Tramways Company. May its cars never cease to run in Auckland." The car then moved off up Queen-street, amidst the cheers of the crowd, and followed by the other five ran up to the Choral Hall. The cars were insufficient to carry all the invited guests, and had to make a second trip. The passengers were all loud in their praises of the quiet, steady manner in which the cars ran, and of the comfort of the seating accommodation.
Auckland Star 17 November 1902 

I shouldn't be too critical of the re-enactment yesterday of the first electric tram put on by MOTAT, the  Auckland Dockline Trams, Auckland Council and a host of others for this year's Heritage Festival. The emphasis this year is on commemorating the centenary of Sir John Logan Campbell's death, so the focus wasn't so much on the tram history as it was on the chap with the long white beard given the controls to drive the electric tram.

Still, it would have been nice to see the display that the invited dignitaries got to see in the trambarn -- some pictures online at the Facebook page for the Waitemata Local Board. They've referred to Sir JLC as "Mayor of Auckland". Not really accurate for the first tram inauguration -- as seen from the passages quoted above, that was Alfred Kidd by the time November 1902 rolled around.

No. 44 only dates from 1906, as well. It wasn't there at the inauguration, or even in existence. MOTAT do have a tram dating from 1902, and part of the first shipment to come from England where it was built -- No. 11.  But, unfortunately, when it was restored at MOTAT, they brought it back only to its 1912 configuration: the period after the open-cab days. So, it would have been period-correct, but not in looks.

That said, while No. 44 looks the part structurally, it doesn't in terms of livery. Also as seen from the Auckland Star report -- the 1902 livery for the six ceremonial trams was red and yellow. I'm fairly certain the Weekly News image also shows a Stars and Stripes flag (oddly) fluttering from the roof. 

Where, also, was the honorary motorman's license handed to Sir JLC, "handsomely bound in red leather, with silver corners and clasps" ? That would have been a nice touch.

Still, I think it was worth the dash into the city to view the re-enactment at 1.30, listen to the speeches, take photos for the blog, then scurry on to Dominion Road in time for the 3.00 pm video launch of The Making of Albert-Eden. There were a few anxious moments, connecting from Wynyard Quarter to Queen Street via the Red Link Bus, then travelling on via the 267 Lynfield bus from Wellesley Street but -- Auckland public transport of 2012, you didn't let me down. Nice one.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Blessed are the cracks ...

Spotted yesterday on Symonds Street, just outside the Auckland University.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The New Zealand Founders Society

(Here's some information on one of the longest-lasting heritage societies in the country -- New Zealand Founders.)

Updated 6 Feb 2019

 What is New Zealand Founders Society? 

The Society is a heritage society established in 1939 by a group of prominent Wellingtonians to honour the work and achievements of our pioneer ancestors who arrived in New Zealand before December 31st 1865 and whose contribution helped shape our nation and its history. 

We have branches around New Zealand – in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Hawkes Bay, Wanganui, Wairarapa, Wellington and Canterbury. Our specialist reference library includes lists of ships and passengers arriving before 1865, family trees and histories and members records containing valuable genealogical information. 

We also have a Research Award to help with the publication of a work on national or local history.

We take an active interest in our country, which includes making submissions on topics of interest or concern, such as the Foreshore and Seabed Act, the establishment of a republic, a change to our national flag, the re-naming of geographical entities etc., and we assist in preserving historic places, buildings and monuments.

Who can join New Zealand Founders? Those who are descendants of persons who arrived in New Zealand before December 31st 1865.

Interested? For more information contact
New Zealand Founders Society at P.O. Box 14455, Kilburnie, Wellington 6147

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Making of Albert-Eden

Apart from the fact that 29 September to 14 October is Auckland Heritage Festival (and yes, I'm involved, four talks and three other events during the festival) -- recently I was asked by those with the Albert-Eden Local Board to help with a video project called The Making of Albert-Eden. I've seen part of the end result, and I reckon it's definitely worth popping along to the Albert-Eden Local Board office (135 Dominion Road) to take a look during the festival, where it will be screening right through the period.

My thanks to the Board for a really interesting and innovative project -- which I hope other boards in the Super City take up for their areas.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


On 11 August, I attended this year's regional gathering of historical societies in Auckland, hosted by the Mangere Historical Society. Part of the wonderfully-organised proceedings (it was a great day all round, all credit to MHS) was a quick bus tour around Mangere district. I say "quick" only because while it was around two hours in duration, it could have been twice that. Mangere district is worthy of quite detailed exploration.

One of the areas we were shown, and were able to get off the bus on arrival, was the new "Abbeville Estate", off Nixon Road, off what is today George Bolt Drive leading to Auckland Airport.

The airport company took over the property in 1991 (NA 56B/945), from Abbeville Farms Limited, a company incorporated in August 1960 (Companies Office database) until c1993 when it was struck off (Companies Office/Archway). The directors were Phillip and Miriam Collinson. So the new estate gets its name from the company, which in turn probably got the name from the Abbeville jersey cattle stud operated here from c1938 to 1960 by the Roussel-Cossey/de Guise Roussel family. More on them, later.

The Abbeville Estate is marketed as "The Common", with "fabulous heritage buildings" (two of which, the Westney Homestead and Westney Road Methodist Church, were relocated here between July 2010 and March 2012), and "The heritage-listed buildings and landscaped grounds that make up Abbeville Estate are over 150 years old and have been meticulously restored and contemporised for the needs of today."

It's a nice place -- but as soon as I saw they were bringing Lt.-Colonel Marmaduke Nixon into this, associated with the building in the image above -- I got that funny feeling in the back of my head which says, "check things out."

Heritage building number 1: the Westney Homestead, shifted from the other side of George Bolt Drive and up near Ihumatao Road due to proposed airport runway extensions.

Image from interpretive sign outside homestead, showing 1920s addition now removed from the relocated homestead.

There is an archaeological report online by Matthew Campbell and Louise Furey which confirms, through the date of items found around the original site of the house, that dating the homestead back to c1854 is fairly sound. Mind you, comparing what it looked like just before restoration and now -- visitors to the estate are now looking at primarily new materials. It was definitely in a sad state.

Heritage building number 2: the former Westney Road Methodist Church. Westney Road is now George Bolt Drive, and both the church and its cemetery had to go. Again, a very good archaeological report has been done, this time for the cemetery, which fairly well confirms the 1856 date for at least the oldest parts of the church building.

Fellow blogger Writer of the Purple Sage wrote about the church building in March last year, and the estate itself in April this year. The stained glass window above is a restoration.

Historic building number 3: the barn. Here's where the promotional historic narrative starts to come adrift.

In June 2012, Jaden Harris' archaeological report on Abbeville was published. An archaeological study of the area around the barn structure, said by commentators and the Abbeville Estate marketing team to be from Lt.-Colonel Nixon's time (therefore, 1850s) and one of the oldest remaining barns in the region -- found no traces of anything earlier than the 1880s. This despite the story (related by the Mangere Historical Society in their publication Mangere Chronicles (1990): "Part of the old barn (where the cavalry officers are said to have met to discuss defence plans of the area) has survived and is still in use."

This same finding goes for the house as well.

The report casts real doubt that the barn, and the associated house (below) were those built by or for Colonel Nixon not only in terms of the lack of supporting archaeology, but also contemporary documents such as a simplified subdivision map found in the Alexander Turnbull Library which shows no buildings on the site (yet most likely dates from the period just after Nixon's death in 1864) and comparisons between the description and dimensions described by Nixon himself of a kitset house he purchased from Otahuhu for his use on the farm, and the two-room core of the Abbeville Homestead (yes, most of what visitors see are later additions around the original cottage). Harris puts forward the theory that the original small building could well have been simply a farm worker's residence.

Back in 2009, I posted about the saga of Nixon's memorial, a controversy back in the 1860s. It looks like now, there's another controversy around associations with him, for this century. (Image of Nixon from Alexander Turnbull Library.)

From Deeds Index A2.474

In August 1854, Nixon acquired the Crown Grant to Allotments 60 to 63. Allotment 60 he transferred to the Westney family, and the southern part of 63 to Thomas Shipherd immediately.

The "Abbeville Homestead" is marked approximately in red -- but the two sites showing buildings on the farm as at the mid 1860s are in yellow (see page 4 of the Harris report).

While Nixon probably did occupy his Tautauroa farm (yes, that's the name on the 1860s plan -- pity the present day estate didn't follow suit) from c1852, before formal Crown Grant came through, the NZ Herald in reporting his death, noted: 
He arrived in Auckland some time in 1852 or 1853, with the intention of proceeding South, a course from which he was dissuaded by the late Brigade-Major Greenwood, whose property at Mangarei, (in conjunction with Col. Haultain) ho took on lease, proving himself as indefatigable and intelligent as a settler, as he had previously done as a soldier.
(28 May 1864)

Indeed, Nixon's own diary (found down in partial state in Wellington) relates how he leased Greenwood's Ascot farm (further to the north, bounding on Tautauroa) from March 1857 with a right of purchase at the end of the lease -- so was he living at Tautauroa at all from that point, or simply providing some small buildings there for farm workers? The significance of any structures at Tautauroa do seem to be diminished, without documentary or archaeological evidence to back them up.

Southern Cross 25 November 1864

After Nixon, his partner Howard Hutton received the property at Tautauroa in return for 5 shillings. Hutton and remaining mortgagor John Logan Campbell sold Allotment 61 and the "Abbeville" part of 63 to Matthew Fleming of Onehunga in March 1865, then came Albert Robinson, a farmer in Mangere, April 1877 until August 1906. (Harris report, p. 5)

Robinson is the man who I would say more than likely constructed the barn, and enlarged any building already on site to start forming the homestead proper, going by the lack of any archaeological remains earlier than the 1880s. He arrived in 1865 with his brother from Lincolnshire, and settled down to farm at Mangere (while his brother, Edwin, served under Von Tempsky in the Taranaki War and was with the famous soldier when he was killed - Star, 4 December 1902). Robinson ran sheep in the district as at 1879 (Auckland Star 18 October 1879 p1), and unsuccessfully ran for election to the Mangere Road Board in 1897. His wife Betsy died in 1903; soon after this, the Robinson farm was up for sale. The extent of his tools of trade do further point in the direction of Robinson as the originator of the barn at Abbeville.

Auckland Star 25 July 1906

Next came Frederick Mariner of Onehunga (August 1906 to December 1910), then Charles Levet (1910 to February 1918 - Harris report).

One of the Albertland settlers who arrived from England in the ship Hanover with his parents in 1862, Mr. Charles Levet has died, aged 82 years. He was the second son of Mr. Charles Levet, of Wellsford, one of the first party of settlers to go to Albertland. Mr. Levet worked on his father's farm for several years, and when the first block of land was opened at Hoteo North, under the homestead system, he secured the first section in company with his older brother. They worked the farm but some years later Mr. Charles Levet sold his interest in the property to his brother and acquired land at Hairini in the Waikato. Later he was for 20 years farming at Mangere, retiring in 1926. Mr. Levet was an active member of the Church of England, and had been a chorister in Ely Cathedral ...

Obituary, Auckland Star 11 July 1929

After Levet came Mangere farmer James Thomas Paul through to 1922-23, when he started subdividing the farm (NA292/201) . William Joseph Brain of Mokauiti purchased 71 acres (including "Abbeville") in 1923, subdividing again in 1929 (NA 366/75). In that year, he sold the site to Mrs Mavis Hellaby (NA 496/170). By now, the farm was down to 66 acres. In 1939, Mrs Hellaby transferred the property to Mrs Maria Jane Rousell-Cossey.

Aerial image from interpretive panel, Abbeville Estate.

There is quite a bit which could be said about Maria Jane Roussel-Cossey, daughter of farmer Pierre Rousel, who claimed direct descent from the Dukes of Lorraine in France, her husband George Cossey officially changing his own name to Roussel-Cossey in December 1906 soon after marrying her. Maria Jane changed her name to Madame Maria Jane de Guise Roussel by 1940, and her grandson Andrew Hunter in the UK in turn changed his name to Prince Andre de Guise in the mid 1950s (and, at present, sells titles and honorifics).  The main thing is that Mme de Guise Roussel (living in Mt Albert and other places, not, apparently, Mangere) operated the Abbeville Jersey Stud at "The Farm", Nixon Road.

Auckland Star 4 May 1940

Another event worth noting for the "Abbeville" farm -- is that this was where the "Kotare" crashed in 1938.

Evidence of further witnesses concerning the fatal crash of the Union Airways airliner Kotare at Mangere on Tuesday was heard today by Squadron-Leader Olson, Officer Commanding the Royal New Zealand Air Force base at Hobsonville. The preliminary inquiry will be extended over the next two or three days, after which evidence will be collated by Squadron- Leader Olson in the form of a report to the Minister in Charge of the Air Department (the Hon. F. Jones). The wreckage of the Kotare was removed from the scene of the crash on the property of Mrs. Roussel and taken to Union Airways headquarters at Mangere ...
Evening Post 13 May 1938

According to the "New Zealand Herald," the Kotare was seen to be in difficulties from the moment it left the ground until it crashed on the property of Mrs. M. J. Roussel, in Nixon Road ... The horrified spectators watched her heading round towards tall trees on the property of Mrs. Roussel. The port wing struck one of the tallest trees and mapped it cleanly 40ft from the ground, and the monoplane plunged to the earth. Fire followed in an instant. Before they could run to where their motorcars were parked, those watching saw flame and smoke rising from the gully. Young pine trees began to blaze, and in a few seconds there was a dense column of smoke ... Farm labourers working in the vicinity were among the first to reach the wrecked monoplane, but the fierce heat drove them back. The machine was rapidly consumed by the flames, and those who had rushed to the spot had to stand by helplessly. Officials and other helpers who had travelled to the scene of the crash by motor-car from the aerodrome found that the Kotare had ploughed her way through the trees. The nose of the machine was near a creek which runs through the property, and the tail, almost completely intact, was half-suspended from the branches of one of the pine trees that was not burned. Cut cleanly off, the greater part of the port wing lay a short distance from the remainder of the wreckage. The other wing, bent and crumpled, was partly under the machine, and the fuselage, a mass of flames from end to end, was reduced to tangled, charred wreckage. In motor-cars, on foot, and in a lorry, helpers hurried to reinforce those who had first arrived. A fire extinguisher, rushed from the aerodrome, was useless against the fire. It was obvious that nothing could be done for the two occupants. 

Evening Post 11 May 1938

A plane crash, though, is probably not how the airport company would like the site to be remembered, I'd say. Best to stick, probably, with tenuous links with Maori Land War heroes. "Abbeville" as an aerodrome in France was bombed by the Allies during World War II.

Mme de Guise Roussel died in 1960, and the Abbeville Farm Limited later sold the site to the airport.

The changes to the Abbeville homestead were quite dramatic between the above aerial shot from 1959 (Auckland Council website) and below, in 2010, before the Westney Homestead and church were moved on. The homestead is topmost. If there was anything there truly "heritage" in terms of 19th century, little remains today.

But, the punters will believe what is served up to them by the estate's advertising and promotional material. Nothing can really be done about that - history is written these days not just by victors, but by owners. Heritage once again appears to have become blurred for commercial gain, and to create a pretty picture.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Three Lamps by night

"The original Three Lamps at the intersection of Jervois Road, Ponsonby Road, College Hill and St Marys Road ...", c.1910, ref 4-887, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library.
Updated 14 June 2024.

Three Lamps is part of the Auckland landscape, even when you aren't necessarily referring to the heritage side. The lamps were a landmark for much of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Their loss from central position at the busy intersection was mourned. The mock-up replacement attached to the Gluepot pub was tolerated -- barely, by some.

This year, Auckland Council have restored another version to the area:

"A historic Auckland landmark is about to be reinstated after a seven-year project to rebuild three street lamps in Ponsonby. The lamps sat on top of a pole in a Ponsonby intersection after they were installed in 1873, giving the area the name "Three Lamps". Now, after seven years' effort to get them back, the Auckland Council's Waitemata Local Board has given the go-ahead for replica lamps to be made from drawings and photographs and put up on an 11m pole at a cost of about $100,000. The pole will not be on its original site in the middle of the intersection but on the footpath a few metres away." 

It was a project started by the previous Western Bays Community Board, but the project's gestation took it through into the new political era.

Now, the replica, designed by David Gilbert, are up and shining. Tonight, I went looking for them.

Please excuse the quality of the night time shots. I'm a daylight photo amateur ...

Very impressive, I must say -- and apparently going down well with the locals. I do tend to think of them as "George's Lights", though -- George Farrant of both the old Auckland City Council and new Auckland Council was such a fervent supporter of the restoration. Well done to all concerned.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Unitec's Penman House

Auckland Star 1 February 1930

Enquiries that land on my digital desk about the story behind Penman House, Building 55 on the Unitec Campus at Mt Albert, near the corner of Woodward and Carrington Roads are just about as perennial as the grass. Sorry, at the moment I haven't got an up-to-date image of the building handy, but it hasn't changed all that much as far as the exteriort is concerned, the most visible change behing that the double open return verandah seen here in the 1930 image has been covered in over time.

I'll leave this post mainly in note form (Timespanner is, after all, a research lab, and things are added all the time).

At Auckland a new residence has been erected for the Medical Superintendent … 
(AJHR - Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives -  1909 D1 p. xi)

Dr Beattie is now living in the Medical Superintendant’s residence, which has been well and economically built by the staff and patients, with a little outside assistance.
(AJHR 1910 H7, p.10)
It is proposed during the current year to transform the Medical Superintendent's residence into an additional neuropathic unit for female patients, on the lines of the Wolfe Home. This house, which contains fifteen rooms, is too large for its present purpose, and will provide good accommodation for at least twenty patients. A new Superintendent's residence can be built with a view to its saleability when the evacuation of the institution becomes possible.

(AJHR 1929 H7 p2)

The Medical Superintendant’s residence at Auckland is far too large for its present purpose, and it is proposed to convert it into a residential clinic with accommodation for about twenty patients.

(AJHR 1930, H7 p2)

Recently the Mount [Albert] Borough Council passed a resolution protesting against the establishment of a special ward in the present residence of the medical superintendent of the Auckland Mental Hospital at Avondale. The protest was not supported at a meeting of the Mount Albert Ratepayers' Association last evening. "While there are points to be raised against the proposal, there are many factors in its favour," said the chairman, Mr. P. Floyd. "In all the years the hospital has been in existence, there has never to my knowledge been any trouble. A protest would be quite useless, because work has already been commenced on the doctor's new residence." No action was taken.
(Auckland Star 26 February 1930)

Strong objection was taken by the council members to the conversion of the residence of the medical superintendent of the Auckland Mental Hospital into a home for incipient mental patients. Mr. G. C. Munns, M.P., for Roskill, had sent a letter to the Minister of Health (Hon. A. J. Stall worthy) embodying this objection.

"I notice, that the Mount Albert Terminus Ratepayers' Association does not see eye to eye with us in this matter," said Mr. G. E. Carr. This was a great pity, he thought, particularly as one of the prime movers in the association was a former council member. Mr. Carr considered that such an attitude on the part of the association did not accurately represent the considered opinion of the terminus residents.
(Auckland Star 12 March 1930)

1930s, Robin Hyde was an inmate at "The Lodge", as the house was then known. From Young Knowledge, The poems of Robin Hyde: "Hyde's room on the first floor of The Lodge had two sets of windows facing north and west and looking onto the enclosed sleeping porch that extended around those sides of the building now called Penman House on the Unitec campus. Hers was the only private room at The Lodge; other patients slept in dormitory rooms."

A most enjoyable afternoon party was held at the lodge of the Mental Hospital last week. The function was organised by Mrs. A. E. Armitage, one of the official visitors to the institution, to raise funds for the purchase of tools and materials for the arts and crafts classes. A most generous response was made during the afternoon to Mrs. Armitage's appeal.

The guests were received by Miss Mayze, the matron of the Mental Hospital. Songs and musical items were rendered by Mesdames Rattray and G. Crespin, and recitations were given by Miss D. Saunders.

The main hall and drawing room were artistically decorated with autumn-tinted flowers and clusters of green. A dainty afternoon tea, which was arranged by the matron, was served in the dining room. The guests were conveyed to and from the hospital in the cars of Mesdames Clark, F. Wilson, Kirkup and L. Caughey, and the Misses Fleming, Rishworth, Mason and Sumerville. 

(Auckland Star 5 May 1936)

Locked and closed doors are gradually being dispensed with, and the future shows us open, sunny homes like the unit and the lodge, two of the ideal houses at the Auckland institution, where the mentally sick convalesce before going home. 
 (Auckland Star 21 October 1940)

A young nurse is in charge of the Wolfe Home, where between 40 and 50 men and women are convalescent. Fully-trained, with eight years' experience, this nurse has to do all the cooking herself (since domestics and cooks are also hard to get), as well as nursing, housework and supervision of the patients. She has only one nurse to help her, the patients themselves the rest of the domestic work. A third nurse is in charge of the Lodge, where 24 women are on the road to recovery. She is entirely on her own, and here again, as everywhere in the hospital, patients, who are well enough help do the work. These figures are typical of the general position at the hospital.
(Auckland Star 5 August 1944)
"In grounds of Oakley Hospital. Baptist City Mission Board, leased in & transformed the house, formerly a female ward called "the Lodge" into a family type hostel for psychiatric patients on leave."
 (NZ Index card entry, Auckland Scrapbook  December 1973- p.169, Auckland Library)

At some point, "The Lodge" may have become known as "Oakley Lodge". When the Baptists applied to lease it from the Auckland Hospital Board in 1973 as a hostel for ex-psychiatric patients, they proposed to name it "Carrington House" (NZ Card Index). That name seems to have been superceded by "Penman House".
"Penman House has been leased from the Auckland Hospital Board by the Baptist City Mission and is a supervised boarding house for pyschiatric patients on leave. Named after the Penman family."
 (NZ Index card entry, Central Leader 24 October 1973, p.18, Auckland Library)

[This Penman House not to be confused with the "Penman House" named as 65 Lloyd Ave, Mt Albert in the Owairaka/Mt Albert Heritage Walks booklet (page 31). Although the true Penman House at Woodward/Carrington Road corner was so-named after the same family.] 

"Local residents protest at purchase of 145 Carrington Rd by Auckland Area Health Board for use as a halfway house for ex-psychiatric patients."

 (NZ Index card entry, Central Leader 23 January 1991, p.1, Auckland Library)

Last time I was inside Penman House, early last decade, it was administration offices. 

Update 9 September 2012:

The sun shone a bit today, so I took photos of the building.

Penman House dominates the landscape. The top of the roofs of the building are visible from the overbridge at the Mt Albert shops.

From Carrington Road, east elevation.

North elevation, main entrance.

View from the north-west corner.

West elevation. Taken from down a slight slope.

Storage building at the rear.

Southern elevation.

Eastern elevation.

All in all, for around 103 years old -- not a bad looking old lady.