Written by John Williams
As a six-year-old, Aniva remembers Castle Street as a wide, tree-lined street with open-front gardens that had lots of fruit trees. “We had a mandarin tree in the front, where that big palm tree is standing now, and Chinese gooseberries at the back, which we now call Kiwifruit. There were peaches, feijoas, Granny Smiths… heaps of fruit trees. And my father added the Polynesian touch by planting bananas and taro,” she says.
“It was a lovely family home. There were five of us there… me and my brother, my mum and dad, and we had a cousin staying with us, but we called her ‘auntie’, because she was older than us,” Aniva giggles.
In the late 1960’s when their family moved into the area, Grey Lynn was a melting pot of creeds and cultures, and 4 Castle Street was very typical of many homes in the area. Aniva says her parents would invite families from their native Samoa to stay, and they would live with them for a while before moving on to their own places.
“Back in the day most the Polynesians came here on a boat called The Taufua, which docked at Fergusson Wharf,” remembers Ness.
He goes on to say that most of the families moved up into Ponsonby, which is where his family first lived, before buying in Castle Street.
The house, a large single-bay villa, sits in a commanding position on the elevated side of the street, and was built in 1909. According to their next-door neighbour, it was originally used as lodgings by the servants and staff from the masters’ house next door, says Ness.
“I think they must have been English, because the house was full of old furniture. Being young at the time, I didn’t realise that my dad must have thrown out some real valuable antiques when we first moved in – being an islander he probably didn’t know what he was throwing out. Oh well…” he laughs.
As it remains to this today, Castle Street was a real family street, with a true feel of being a neighbourhood. Ness remembers the community police house was a state house at number 12 Castle St, and there was a big hall on the corner of Richmond Road that was used as a Scout hall, a darts club, a dance hall, and a church at the weekends.
“On a still summer night, you’d have your window open in the evening and as you were drifting off to sleep, you could hear the lions roar at the zoo. It was an amazing sound,” says Ness.
“And of course, on a Saturday, you’d hear speedway humming in the background from Western Springs, and when there was a concert on, you’d here that, too. They were great days.”
Today, many of those old landmarks have been replaced by latter-day amenities and gathering places, like the Grey Lynn Community Centre and Farmer’s Market that sits at the end of the street, and the collection of boutique shops, cafés and bars along the village-like West Lynn strip, which is just a few hundred metres from their front door. Nearby, there’s also Western Springs Stadium and Park and Auckland Zoo.
In 2000, the house was partially renovated. All the character and original features were retained and a new kitchen and bathroom installed. The living, dining and kitchen areas were also completely opened up, creating a huge living space down one entire side of the house.
Three years ago, Ness maximised the elevated, space at the back of house by having a separate, one-bedroom unit designed and built. This has not only provided an opportunity for an added income stream, but also possibilities for multi-generational living, or for extended family to stay. Looking into the future, it could also allow the new owners to live on site, should they decide to put their own mark on this beautiful heritage-listed house.
A quality home on such an open site, and so close to all the amenities Grey Lynn has to offer is rare these days – especially given the potential for the new owners to add their own personality. You only have to look at the major renovation just finishing up right next door to see the long-term value in purchasing on this street.
“We have so many lovely memories about this house, I just don’t know where to start. Our parents looked after us well, here, but they’ve come and gone now and we have to move on, too,” Aniva says.
Asked who they’d like to see living in their house, Aniva says she hopes whoever buys it looks after it as their family has done.
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