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A historic jigsaw: Mayor’s mansion chopped up and pieced back together

The house built in 1905 for the old Palmerston North Mayor James Alfred Nash has been relocated to rural Carterton in pieces. PHOTOS/HAYLEY GASTMEIER



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Not many people can say they live in a century-old mansion that was built for a mayor.

But that’s the case for a Carterton couple, who will soon be living in an elaborate historic homestead framed by the Tararua Ranges.

Barry Rose and Bernie Lewis’ newly purchased house was trucked into the region in eight loads from Bulls, where it had been sitting in about 20 pieces in a yard for a year.

The house was designed and built in 1905 for James Alfred Nash, who served as mayor of Palmerston North from 1908 to 1923, and his wife, Elizabeth Nash, who was made a MBE for her war and community work.

It sat on Alfred St in Palmerston North until last year, when the 112-year-old building was removed from the section to make way for a new housing development.

Its fate was in doubt until Mike O’Byrne, owner of Bulls-based business Central House Movers, came along.

An old photograph of Mr and Mrs Nash at their home in the early 1900s.
An old photograph of Mr and Mrs Nash at their home in the early 1900s. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

“Pretty much if we hadn’t gone to an immense amount of trouble to get it out of the property where it was sitting, it was doomed for demolition,” he said.

“To see a house of this significance get demolished would just be a disaster . . . it’s pretty much as good as the day it was built, the timber is just immaculate.”

Mr O’Byrne and his team sectioned the house up so it could be moved via roads.

He sold it to the Carterton couple after they purchased their section on Norfolk Rd.

Mr O’Byrne and his staff worked all week moving and fitting back the pieces of the house like a jigsaw puzzle.

“This is a real one off,” he said on-site last Thursday.

“Once you see it put back together it’s an absolutely fantastic house.

“It would have been huge money when they built it back in the day.”

Despite its rich history, the couple say they picked up the house for “a bargain”.

Mr Rose said what was Manawatu’s loss, was Wairarapa’s gain.

The building had not been protected in Palmerston North City Council’s district plan since the 1990s, when it was removed at its owners’ request.

“It’s a mansion,” Mr Rose said, standing in the disconnected billiard room.

“Everything in it is antique.”

It was relocated to Carterton  on eight truckloads from Bulls, where it was being stored.
It was relocated last week to Norfolk Rd, Carterton, from Bulls, where it was being stored.

Original pool cues and a score board believed to be from the early 1900s lined the 14-foot wall, with vintage wallpaper.

“It’s got a full-size snooker table which comes with the house so that’s a bonus.”

In the 14 rooms, the high ceilings were of original pressed tin with copper detail and the floorboards were matai.

The intricate rimu wall panelling, fire place surrounds, and door archways were hand-carved by an Englishman who was brought over to New Zealand specifically to craft woodwork for the house, Mr Rose said.

“It’s in beautiful condition . . . this house was built in 1905 and it’s just incredible.”

The kitchen had been remodelled, unsurprisingly, but it still featured the old servant’s call box.

The farmhouse picket fence and gate had also been packed up and moved along with the house, as were many historic photographs and the 1905 floor plan.

Mr Rose, an engineer, said he and his partner had Mr O’Byrne and his dedicated team to thank for their dream home.

“He spent a lot of sleepless nights and energy trying to figure out how to move it.

“If it wasn’t for him, it wouldn’t be here.”

Mr Rose said it was an embarrassment that the Manawatu would let a house of its calibre be taken from the region.

The couple had been living on their Norfolk Rd section in a single room that fitted little more than their bed.

“We’ve been living in a shack for two months, and now we’re going to be living in this.”

Central House Movers worked all week piecing Barry Rose and Bernie Lewis’ newly purchased house back together.
Central House Movers worked all week piecing Barry Rose and Bernie Lewis’ newly purchased house back together.




  1. Wonderful feel good story . I despair at what has been lost over time. I agree that it is an embarrassment
    losing such a building from our region. Well done all those who saw the beauty and saved it .

  2. We have lived in James Nash’s house at 26 Margaret Street home for 30 years now and appreciate all the work that went into it. Natusch was the architect and the house plan says it was built at least 100 years ago. He was the beloved mayor (25 years) and member of parliament. I look after their gravestones (remove lichen) in Terrace end on Main Street.
    He was from Foxton Beach originally and built the other house on Weston Avenue, right beside ours. He died in that house. His brother was a newspaper man who lived across the road on 31 Margaret Street which was named after his sister. We had heard that his father owned Waimarama. We saw it in 1990 when it was for sale. The billiard room was its finest feature but the other rooms were poky and garishly wallpapered in every colour (purple etc,) yet the same pattern. with original heaters in each room. It had a lovely exterior on a garden with a cement pool and lots of other concreted sections. I was surprised that PNCC had protected it for as long as they did. Heritage is one thing but land costs is another,

  3. That’s awesome!! We have a villa relocated to Hastings from Palmy nth. Central House movers do a great job. All the best for the restoration, it’s a labour of love

  4. Wow this is cool to see. The Central house move guys have just put our new build on a section at Ohope Beach and we’re telling us about their next project – great to see it

  5. I visited this house a couple of times and with Mike before it was removed from Alfred St. A real beauty! Great to hear where it’s gone. We shifted a villa mansion with Mike from Palmerston North to Auckland a year ago in 6 loads. I can appreciate what the new owners are getting themselves into! Well done team, exciting times ahead.

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