Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Titirangi Treasure House

Postcard purchased June 2013. At front, left, Peat's gift shop, and his Treasure House. Rear, left, Alec Bishop's house; at right "Quambi/Quamby", F O Peat's house. Information from Titirangi Fringe of Heaven, p. 72.

This card was another recent purchase from the UK. Seeing postcards for West Auckland on the auction market that aren’t to do with the Waitakere falls is unusual, so I went ahead and took the plunge.

The Titirangi Treasure House, a private museum meant to become part of a grand tourist complex, still exists today, but not as it once was. The property on which it sits is a very small part of a vast area of land, Allots 44-46 of the Parish of Waikomiti, the original September 1855 Crown Grant possibly going to John Alfred Langford, an Auckland merchant and shipping agent. In October that year he transferred to the timber firm of Canty & Bishop, (7A.610) and it became the core of the Bishop family’s story in the Titirangi hills.

The main phase of subdivision of this property began during World War I. A quarter acre was transferred to Frank Oscar Peat in October 1925 (oddly, this transfer was re-registered, along with other transfers made by the Bishop family, in mid 1927). (28A.424) This piece appears to have been the site of the Treasure House. Another quarter acre, possibly next to the first and to the west, also facing Brooklyn (now Huia) Road, was transferred to Peat in October 1927. (NA 463/79) Then William Alexander Bishop transferred over 1½ more acres to Peat at the end of 1929, including land fronting Brooklyn Road, and the corner site fronting Brooklyn Road and School (now South Titirangi) Road to Hotel Titirangi Limited. (NA 463/79) In 1936, Peat transferred the land he owned adjacent to the Titirangi Hotel to the company. (NA 604/198)

Frank Oscar Peat was born 1883 to Robert Betts Peat (from Waikato, but born in India) and Elizabeth Euphemia (née Bishop, born in Freemans Bay), so was part of the Bishop extended family. Elizabeth’s parents lived at Dunvegan House, where the first son Robert Joseph Peat was born. Frank was the second son, of a total of seven children, five boys and two girls.

R B Peat worked for the Railways Department. By June 1881 he was stationmaster at Penrose, then was transferred to Frankton Junction in 1889, Kawakawa in 1897 (including Opua), and in 1902 moved from Kawakawa to Dargaville, and put in charge of the Kaihu Valley Railway. He died at Dargaville aged 60 in 1913.

Frank O Peat first went into business in Dargaville as a jeweller by the early 1910s. He made a bit of a splash, becoming involved with a candle-burning promotion for a local movie theatre.

The Dargaville police recently proceeded against Mrs Montgomery, proprietor of a picture show, for having established a candle-burning competition by which prizes were gained; and against F O Peat, for having sold tickets, giving the purchasers of the same an interest in the gaining of such prizes. The police, in outlining the cases, showed that by purchasing a shilling ticket a purchaser was entitled to guess the time it would take a certain candle to burn, the winning prizes being gold watches. Each ticket also admitted the purchaser to a cinematograph entertainment. The police seized the books in connection with the scheme, and found that some hundreds of people had entered the competition. Mr Fraser, S.M., in giving judgment, decided to dismiss the information. The evidence adduced on behalf of the defence showed that several competitors had made elaborate calculations by measurement and computation, on which they based their estimates of time, which eliminated the element of pure chance. He held that if the exercise of skill on the part of the competitors contributed to success the scheme was not a lottery, although chance would have played a part in it. He was certain that an approximate degree of accuracy was attained by careful computation on the part of those whose estimates were the produce of thought and skill rather than guess work.

Press, 9 October 1911

According to Wallie Titchener in Marc Bonny’s 2011 book Titirangi Fringe of Heaven (Titchener is a grandson of Frank Peat), Peat devoted his whole life to collecting Maori artifacts. He also gathered up items of natural history interest (stuffed birds, bats, sea life) and accumulated a celebrated kauri gum collection. Part of this latter fascination Peat exhibited in Auckland in July 1923 at the Winter Exhibition, then again at the Dominion Industrial Exhibition in June the following year.

Four impressive displays, representing the combined wealth production of four important districts of the Auckland Province, attracted much attention at the Dominion Industrial Exhibition yesterday … Next to dairy produce, the northern districts are noted for their export of kauri gum and the collection of gums exhibited by Mr F O Peat, of Dargaville, is a truly beautiful display. Of a unique character, too, is the display of seven varieties of kauri gum oils and the crude gum from which they are derived valued, according to the labels, at from £30 to £350 per ton. Naturally, the mineral waters from the Helensville Hot Springs are represented by attractive samples, Kaipara coal, enamelled tiles, wool, wines, flax, field produce, including an 84lb pumpkin, dressed bullocks and a huge kauri ''flitch," measuring 10ft. by 5ft., are other outstanding displays. Mr. Peat has an exhibit of stuffed birds from his great, collection at Dargaville …

NZ Herald 11 June 1924

Even though Frank Peat, his wife and children had a large home in Dargaville, Titchener recalls, the collection made the home so cluttered that the decision was made to sell up everything in Dargaville and move to Titirangi. I’d say the success of Peat’s two exhibitions, plus the plans being made at the time by William Alexander Bishop and his partners to replace the Bishop family’s store and tea kiosk at Titirangi with a luxurious hotel complex, had a lot to do with the decision as well.

He sold his Dargaville business in August 1925, but at the time told the local papers he wasn’t about to leave the district. However, by July 1926 he had commissioned architect Reginald B Hammond to design the fireproof brick and plaster museum on the property he acquired from his family, and this was completed by December that year. The Auckland Star published the following description – possibly penned by Peat and his partners.

Almost every city in America proudly refers to some one of its possessions which is '"the best in the world.'' And it is not vain boasting, either, but an expression of healthy civic patriotism. Henceforth Aucklanders will be able to make similar claim, for nestled away in the Blue Mountains at Titirangi, along the city's great exhibition drive is, undoubtedly, the finest collection of Kauri gum in the world. It is an amazing exhibition, and Aucklanders will experience a keen sense of delight and appreciation when they see it. More than a '"nine days wonder at Titirangi”, it is so truly an Auckland and a national asset that some day a big effort will be made to secure it for the public for all time.

Occupying two acres in the charming forestry of the hills stands "The Titirangi Treasure House," a sweet building of chaste design, appropriately lending itself to its mission. Tiled roof, cream concrete walls, pillared portico (60 by 40), not unlike a Greek Temple. Architect, Mr. Reg. Hammond, Dominion town planning expert. The fairy dell which it occupies is being rapidly transformed into a botanical garden, crammed with native flora. A most charming place for a day's picnic. In the treasure house is the rarest collection of kauri gum, Maori curios and handicraft. New Zealand birds and beautiful timbers; also an invaluable display of historic photos of Auckland and of wider interest. The whole setting is artistic and delightful. A rare rendezvous of pleasure and profit. Buses run from the G.P.O., Auckland, at 9.45 daily, and also special trips.

 Ref 4-4084, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library
This unique private museum has been established for the enjoyment of the public by a former resident of Dargaville, Mr. F. O. Peat. Its contents are the fruit of more than twenty years' assiduous collecting and the expenditure of a large sum of money.

Mr. Peat's kauri gum collection, consisting of several thousand specimens, occupies four cases each nearly 20ft long and 5ft wide. The pieces were obtained from every gumfield in North Auckland.

Sir Edwin Mitchelson, who is a recognised authority and the donor of a fine collection to the Auckland Museum, went out recently with Mr. F. L. Gribbin to inspect it. Both stated that it was the finest they had ever seen, and the best in the world.

The Maori curios are of great interest. They include a fine carved sternpost from the largest canoe used on the Manukau Harbour in the 'forties, a large waka-huia or feather-box carved and inlaid with paua shell; a kumete or food-box, supported by two human figures: a cylindrical box made to contain food given to a tohunga; several carved posts from houses, and a large number of mats, fish-traps, bone, greenstone and wooden meres, flutes, adzes, tomahawks, canoe-balers and ornaments, among which are a couple of tikis. One fish hook, of copper, is stated on good authority to have been made from metal obtained when Captain Cook's vessel called at Mahia in 1705.

 Ref 4-4075, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library
The most interesting of the historic relics is a half-suit of armour, consisting of a breastplate, back-plate and helmet. This was obtained by Mr. Peat from the Webster family at Opononi. The helmet, which has a high crest and the remains of a red plume, resembles that worn by British cavalry of the early nineteenth century. It bears a brass frontal plate with the Royal arms and the words "Waterloo" and '"Peninsula." Tradition has it that the armour was given by George IV to a Maori chief in 1820. It is known that such a gift was made to the famous Hingi Ika when he visited England, but whether this armour belonged to him is not known at present. Mr. Peat means to make further inquiries on the subject.

The natural history collection includes stuffed and mounted specimens of the huia, tui, pigeon, parakeet, kakapo, long-tailed cuckoo, shining cuckoo, kaka, bellbird, saddleback, blue-mottled crow, weak, bittern, and many other native birds. There are rare seashells, including the paper nautilus, and a fine exhibit of the large native snail found in kauri forests.

Round the walls of the hall are many photographs and prints of early New Zealand scenes and people. Altogether, the museum is a fine example of energy and perseverance on the part of its owner. It will add greatly to the attractions of Titirangi and is surely destined to be one of the chief centres of tourist attractions in Auckland's environs.
Auckland Star 17 December 1926

Peat also built a house there for his family, named "Quambi" (sometimes spelled "Quamby"). According to Wallie Titchener:

"My maternal grandfather, Frank Peat, built the house called Quambi at 1 Huia Road. At the time he was building the house there was a corrupt inspector at the County Council who would not approve the position of septic tanks unless offered money. My grandfather played dumb until, as my grandmother recalled, the inspector said,"For Gods sake, £5 will do it." My grandfather was a personal friend of Gordon Coates, the prime minister, and passed the information to him. Subsequently, the County Council had one less staff member!"

Titirangi: Fringe of Heaven, 2011, p. 211

In October 1928, the new company Hotel Titirangi Ltd had its registration reported in the Mercantile Gazette with capital of 50,000 shares of £1 each, in the business of “Hotel properties etc. and incidental.” (Evening Post, 15 October 1928)

Auckland Star, 8 December 1934

The proposal to erect a modern hotel at Titirangi has assumed definite shape through the flotation of a company, Hotel Titirangi Ltd., with a nominal capital of £50,000. The new company, which has already gone to allotment, has purchased the property and tea room business of Mr W A Bishop, and intends to erect an hotel capable of accommodating 63 guests, and including a tearoom, garden, ballroom, and basement garage. The building is to be fireproof, with central heating and all modern conveniences.

 Lopdell House, formerly Hotel Titirangi, in 2010

Considerable support from residents of the district has already been given to the undertaking, as it is anticipated that the proposed hotel will become the centre of one of the finest and most popular of holiday resorts in the Dominion.
Auckland Star 27 October 1928

The Treasure House was listed among the surrounding attractions in the area around the proposed hotel, along with the nearby golf club and other outdoor recreation sites. (Prospectus, Auckland Star 27 October 1928)

Bishop’s store/post office at Titirangi was pulled down in late 1929 to make way for the new hotel (with stock from the store plus the postal facilities moved to the family’s tea rooms until it was possible to move everything into the new building). (Auckland Star 3 December 1929) William Alexander Bishop was chairman of the Hotel Titirangi company at that time. (Auckland Star 21 December 1929)

Mr F O Peat, writing from the Treasure House, Titirangi, where his well-known museum overlooks the Manukau Harbour, has sent me some interesting bird notes on the birds at Titirangi and the Huia. Mr Peat believes that the pigeon is maintaining its numbers and is fairly plentiful between Titirangi and the Huia …
Auckland Star 5 April 1930

The new hotel opened 20 November 1930. In 1931, however, Hotel Titirangi Ltd went into liquidation, reportedly due to “the present dull times”. (Evening Post 9 March 1931) It did re-open in December 1934, after the company registered with a much-reduced capital of £1220. (Star, 22 November 1934) The Hotel Titirangi, though, finally closed its doors in 1942 when it was sold to the Crown for a school for the deaf. (NA 680/59)

From the time of the first closure, though, Peat obviously saw the writing on the wall for the hoped-for tourist centre concept. He began looking for a new home for his collection,and found one with the assistance of his friend Gordon Coates.
Described as the finest collection of its kind in the world, kauri gum specimens owned by Mr F O Peat of Titirangi, Auckland, are to be acquired by the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum. The trustees of the museum will receive an allocation of £3000 from the proceeds of the Great Easter Art Union, and the money will be devoted to the purchase of the kauri gum and Maori curios. Recently Mr Peat received a tempting offer from an American museum, but he has decided to accept the New Zealand offer, preferring that the collection should remain in this country. The collection is at present housed in Mr Peat's private museum at Titirangi, and it will remain there until the erection of the Dominion Museum building in Wellington is completed.

Evening Post 13 April 1933

Hubert Earle Vaile, however, was less than impressed with such a purchase in the midst of a nationwide economic depression. Not to mention his own keen interest in supporting the Auckland War Memorial Museum, of which he was president 1926-1931. What followed was what was at times an acrimonious exchange in the newspapers between Vaile and Peat.

Many of our readers must have been astounded to read yesterday that in a time of acute national stringency the Government has been able to find £3000 to present the Peat collection of kauri gum and Maori curios to the Dominion Museum in Wellington. We publish a letter to-day from Mr H E Vaile which throws some light on the transaction, but calls for more information. Kauri gum is a substance confined to the Auckland province, and the collection is an Auckland one, so that the proper place for it is the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Indeed, this museum tried to secure it, but could get no help from the Government, yet two Auckland members of the Government go past this institution and buy the collection for the Dominion Museum at a price that is apparently much higher than that for which it could have been bought for Auckland. It is stated that there was a danger of the collection leaving the country, and that Mr Peat was prepared to take less than he was offered from America, in order to keep it in New Zealand. Mr Vaile, however, mentions £2000 as the figure for which the collection could have been bought for Auckland, and the Government gave £3000. Why was the price raised to this extent? It is an extraordinary transaction, especially when the needs of the times are considered. For example, the Cawthron Institute, the most valuable scientific research institution in New Zealand, which is doing most important work for our industries, is feeling the financial pinch so seriously that there is talk of it having to close. Its closing would be an absolute scandal, made all the worse by reason of the provision by the Government of £3000 out of art union profits for a collection largely consisting of kauri gum.

(To the Editor.)
Keen as I am on the acquisition of museum specimens, I do not think public funds should be spent in this direction when part of the public is short of food. It is only fair to say that the Wellington Museum had nothing to do with it, and the purchase is a political one. It is strange, however, that two Auckland Ministers; —the Rt. Hon. J G Coates and the Hon. J A Young—should be so anxious to put the collection past Auckland. It was made in this province of northern material, and the owner was very anxious for it to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, and offered it accordingly. Having no money, some friends of the museum endeavoured to get an art union permit from the Government, with the result that it was bought over our heads for £3000. The Government recently voted no less than £100,000 of public money for the museum building at Wellington, and finds no difficulty in buying collections for it. If we ask for assistance —moral or financial— we invariably meet with a flat refusal, notwithstanding that we pay the whole costs of our own museum and about one-third of Wellington's. I know the Peat collection well. It consists mostly of gum specimens which have been out of demand for many years, and the only price I have previously heard mentioned is £2000, and the story of other buyers is not very convincing. However, I suppose the Government is to be congratulated upon having so much money in these hard times, even if it is spent in Wellington. We certainly do not see much of it here. H. E. VAILE.
Auckland Star 13 April 1933

Mr F O Peat, of Titirangi, whose collection of kauri gum and Maori curios has been purchased by the Government, replies to criticism of the transaction that appeared in the "Auckland Star" on Thursday. Mr Peat writes: "Mr H E Vaile's letter in your paper of the 13th instant, and your editorial founded on his remarks, are misleading to the public and most unfair to the Rt. Hon. J G Coates, the Hon. A Young and myself. Mr Vaile and your editorial state that the Government has paid £3000 from the public funds for this collection. This is contrary to fact. The purchase price is found by means of funds from an art union, subscribed to by participants throughout the whole of New Zealand, and this collection of kauri gum specimens will be housed in the Dominion Museum and National Art Gallery for all time for all the people of New Zealand. Mr Vaile states that 'he knows my collection well; it consists mostly of gum specimens out of demand for many years” (whatever that means) and infers that its value is £2000. If Mr Vaile can prove that the Peat collection of kauri gum specimens is not the best in the world of its kind and is not worth at least £3500, I will give £500 to the Auckland Museum, provided he agrees to give the same amount should he fail to prove this within 12 months from this date.

“My collection has never been offered for the ridiculous price mentioned by Mr Vaile. I offered it to the Government for £5000 some time ago. This offer was not accepted through lack of funds. Subsequently a wealthy American tourist, a patron of American museums, who had made overtures from time to time for the purchase of the kauri gum collection, made a definite offer of £3500 cash to me. My desire has always been to keep this collection in my native land if possible, and when it was suggested that the Dominion Museum authorities might find £3000 by way of an art union, provided I agreed to accept this amount, and so keep the exhibits in New Zealand, I turned down the better offer and agreed to accept £3000 on the distinct understanding that the kauri gum specimens would be housed in the Dominion Museum, which I had lately ascertained had no collection, whilst the Auckland Museum has Sir Edwin Mitchelson's very fine collection of kauri gum specimens.

“Subsequently, I understand, the Auckland Ministers mentioned in Mr Vaile's letter and your editorial took steps to have the valuable Maori and other curios comprised in my collection divided between Auckland and the Dominion Museums and National Art Gallery, when the building now in course of erection is completed. This means that the Auckland Museum will receive a portion of the Maori section of the collection."
Auckland Star 15 April 1933

Mr. Peat entirely misses the point. I have been in business all my life, and would be the last to object to anyone selling his goods to the best advantage. The gum is excellent, but for years past, as any dealer or auctioneer will agree, kauri gum collections have been unsaleable, and Mr Peat is to be congratulated and not blamed for obtaining what seems to me a very handsome price indeed—and I have bought many collections. What I maintain is that in these times the Government has no right whatever to buy any collection with public funds. Surely Mr Peat does not argue that it was bought with private funds. He mentions "an" art union. What art union? The second objection I make is that kauri gum is found in this province only, and the Government should not have competed with us for it and presented it to the Wellington Museum. From a public viewpoint this political purchase is indefensible, especially when the vendor is to retain possession for two or three years, and will presumably be entitled to charge to see it, as heretofore. H E VAILE.
Auckland Star 17 April 1933

The long negotiations which led to the public acquisition of the valuable collection of kauri gum specimens and Maori curios from Mr F O Peat, of Titirangi, were detailed at the request of the "Star” correspondent by the Hon. J A Young, Minister of Internal Affairs, who was able to throw official light on some points which have been the subject of controversy. That the collection is very valuable, and that New Zealand is fortunate in being able to retain it against outside competition was a point which the Minister demonstrated. He spoke enthusiastically of the value of the kauri gum specimens, 1600 in number, and splendidly polished in an effective way, which retains a portion of the natural rough background. Mr Peat, he said, has been a life-long collector, and understood the art of polishing gum in such a way that the finished specimens would not crack. His cases for exhibiting the collection were substantial and dignified. '"There is no doubt whatever about the value of the Peat collection," declared Mr Young. "It has been described as being the best of its kind in the world, and I believe that Sir Edwin Mitchelson's fine collection, now on loan to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, is the next best. That we were in danger of losing the Peat collection altogether is definitely established, for the owner held a permit, granted by some past Government, to export it, and he was definitely offered £3500 in cash on behalf of an American museum, which desired to take it.

The question of the acquisition of Mr Peat's collection had been under consideration for some time, and was first considered by my predecessor in the position of Minister of Internal Affairs, the Hon. A. Hamilton. I was informed of the matter, and the Hon. J G Coates was also aware of the position, but the difficulty was to find the money for so valuable a purchase.

Offer of £3500 Cash.
"The position came to a head when the American offer was so obviously definite that the representative of the proposed purchasers was in New Zealand, prepared to complete the deal, for £3500 cash. It was mainly through my intervention that Mr Peat was induced to sell the collection for retention in the Dominion, and to reduce his price to £3000, which included not only the kauri gum specimens, but the valuable Maori and other curios and the exhibition cases. In accepting the lower price, Mr Peat made certain conditions, and after a good deal of negotiation I was able to finalise the matter. The question involved was not that of placing the collection in Auckland, but of getting it retained in the Dominion. Having reached this position, the problem was to get the money, and a suggestion which had been made to raise funds through one of the alluvial gold art unions was recalled. Under the terms of license for one of these recent art unions, a way to procure the money was found, though it had to be paid to some institution, and not to any individual. The National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum trustees agreed to act as the medium of purchase, and the payment to Mr Peat comes through that source.

The Vendor's Stipulations.
"In Mr Peat's contract with the trustees," continued the Minister, "he makes the condition that the whole of the kauri gum collection must be kept intact, and designated: 'The F O Peat Kauri Gum Collection.' It was only on these terms that I was able to secure the retention of the collection in the country. Mr Peat, realising the national interest and value of his collection, stipulated that it should go to the Dominion as a national exhibit, not as an Auckland exhibit.

"Then there is a further contract executed between myself and the trustees of the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum, which vests in myself the absolute power to decide the distribution of the whole collection, subject to the condition set out in the principal agreement that the gum specimens are to be kept together. The original contract also stipulates that until such time as the trustees are able to house any part of the collection in the new museum, the building contract for which has been let, safe storage will be provided in 'The Treasure House,' a fireproof museum at Titirangi, owned by Mr Peat, who is empowered to make a charge for admission as in the past. He undertakes to insure the collection for £3000, at his own expense. I have undertaken, in due course, to visit the collection and decide its allocation. This decision has to be made by me personally, so that no question could arise at any future time as to the intentions of the original owner and the terms mutually accepted under which the collection became available to the Dominion at a lower price than that offered for sale to an outside buyer.

"I intend to carry out this obligation in conjunction with experts from the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum, and the Auckland War Memorial Museum, subject to Mr Peat's conditions in the original contract of transfer, and the agreement between the trustees of the former institution and myself. I am at once arranging for the whole collection to be scheduled and described, for there is a good deal of interesting history associated with some of the exhibits, and Mr Peat's services in this connection are being employed. Finally, when the national institution is able to house the kauri gum collection, the whole of the exhibits will be distributed according to the allocation which I have to make, and Mr Peat will provide packing materials and give his services without salary to arrange the kauri gum collection in Wellington.
Auckland Star 24 April 1933

The Hon. J A Young tells us nothing new—we have heard all about the American millionaire. In his keen desire for the promotion of science, the honourable gentleman finds no difficulty in writing a cheque for £3000 and presenting a collection of gum to the Wellington Museum. When people are hungry a political transaction of this character is absolutely unjustified. If there is money to give away in the interests of science, why does the Government cancel the grant to the New Zealand Institute, so that it is almost impossible to carry on? This Dominion-wide organisation has always hitherto been able to publish the only scientific research journal of any moment in this Dominion, but the annual grant of £1500 has been wiped out, and a sort of ex-gratia payment of £450 made. The Government should have allowed the American gentleman to have the gum and the money should have been spent on scientific research, which is essential to the farmer's existence. H. E. VAILE.
Auckland Star 27 April 1933

The Minister went ahead and allocated the £3000 from the Great Easter Art Union proceeds towards the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum obtaining the Peat Collection in May 1933.

In June 1936, Peat applied to the Rotorua Borough Council to have the sub-lease for Nuku Te Apiapi, a Maori meeting house built from 1873, and lease from a trust by the Council from 1932. He intended to use it to house his Maori curios. He took over the lease in 1938, according to historian D M Stafford in The New Century in Rotorua (1988), leased the collection to the Rotorua Council 1940 with right of purchase after two years, and that part of his collection is apparently now housed in the Rotorua Museum at the old bathhouse and sanatorium.

The kauri gum did at least initially end up at the Dominion Museum.

Display cases in the Dominion Museum, Buckle Street, Wellington, circa 1936. Photographer unidentified. Reference Number: PAColl-6301-39, National Library.

The display of kauri gum is the largest and probably the most valuable in the world. It comprises 1600 pieces, collected by Mr F O Peat, of Titirangi. The exhibits are displayed in 10 cases, mounted on four tables, and are allotted a gallery to themselves.
Auckland Star 1 August 1936

But, Dargaville claims to have at least part of his gum collection. According to the Kaipara Lifestyler (28 April 2011): “Gained with financial help from Dargaville Rotary in 1978, it totals 400 golden samples, large and small, out of Peat’s collection of 1,600 pieces.”

So ... where are the other 1200 pieces?
The death occurred at his residence, Godley Road, Titirangi, of Mr Frank Oscar Peat, second son of the late Mr R B Peat. He was born in Auckland 63 years ago, and after being apprenticed as a watchmaker and jeweller with Messrs Page and Spencer, of Auckland, established himself in business in Dargaville and subsequently at Rotorua, He was a recognised authority on ancient Maori art and kauri gum specimens, and had one of the finest collections of greenstone, Maori carvings and kauri gum in New Zealand, A portion of his collection is now in the Dominion Museum, Wellington, and a further section in the Town Hall, Rotorua. Through his efforts, many priceless ancient Maori treasures have been preserved for the benefit of the people of the Dominion, His works of art attracted visitors from all parts of the world. Mr Peat, who was appointed a justice of the peace in 1935, had lived in semi-retirement over recent years. He is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter and two grandchildren.
Auckland Star 29 November 1945 

Update, 1 December 2016 -- I received this info today in an email from the Rotorua Museum:
"The remains of Frank Peat’s collection are at Rotorua Museum. We still have a large collection of kauri gum, taonga Maori, artworks, prints and natural history specimens. After the Treasure house at Whakarewarewa was closed, Frank sold his collection to the Rotorua Borough Council who set up a museum in 1940. It contained mainly the Peat collection with a small collection of other objects. We have some photographs of that museum, and are currently linking the objects in those photos with our database records so we can identify them as the Peat collection."

After all the year and varying uses, the Treasure House was reopened this year as a community hall.

The Treasure House, July 2013


  1. Very interesting. Clearly you dashed it off in five minutes, not. I can understand why people leave or sell collections with conditions, but it can make things very difficult in later times.

    PS, I can't recall you showing us the presumably often photographed falls.

  2. Step 1, Andrew -- go to Heritage Images Online.

    Step 2: Enter: Waitakere falls

    Step 3: Enjoy.

    (Also try Nihotupu.)


  3. Literally this post is a real treasure Lisa. Auckland and Northland connections make for very very intriguing and interesting reading. I'll get onto the Dargaville crew and track down how they got part of the collection like you told me. I was thinking about those birds that he had. I still think some of Peats birds are held in the Dargaville and Districts Museum as well. So a digging I will go and see what they have on things.

  4. I lived in Titirangi 1950 - 1966. During this time the Treasure House was part of the School for the Deaf. Fond memories of playing around this building when the Deaf School moved on. Lots of tarmac playgrounds. I remember a Mrs Bishop in Huia Road. My best friend lived in Quambi. I lived in a house my Father built at 8 Huia Rd. Thankyou for the history. Never realised the importance of the place. Paul Lochhead

  5. My partner and I walked past the Treasure House yesterday, he had read your post. I've always wondered about the grand little building, and its history. Now I know! How fascinating and so well researched, thank you.