Sometimes it is easy to forget that the leafy suburb of Freemans Bay was once home to dock workers. The Foresters’ Hall (Railway Lodge) on Renall Street is a good reminder of the area’s past.
Towering above its turn-of-the-century neighbours, this two-storey concrete building has a wealth of original features and a fascinating history.
First purchased by the International Order of Odd Fellows in 1907, it has also played host to the Druids, Freemasons, Foresters and Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffalos (whose notice is still on the door).
In a further nod to its working class roots, Foresters’ Hall was where New Zealand’s first Labour Prime Minister, Michael Joseph Savage, held meetings. As such, the Renall Sreet houses are scheduled in the Auckland Unitary Plan (Operative in Part) as a Category A historic heritage place. Heritage New Zealand has also identified Renall Street as a historic area.
It was the sense of history that first attracted Jessica Britten and Warren Durling to the building, which they bought in 2015. “We got a special feeling as soon as we stepped inside the hall, there was a sense of yesteryear that we wanted to preserve,” says Jessica.
While living in Foresters’ Hall they are restoring the building in a way that strikes a balance between family home refurbishment and ensuring the heritage of the building can be appreciated by future generations.
Keen for the challenge but wanting advice, the pair sought the technical expertise of Auckland Council’s heritage team. Given the magnitude of the undertaking, Jessica and Warren were told of the Regional Historic Heritage Grants Programme, which they were awarded.
The grant aims to increase understanding and encourage community involvement and best practice in the care of regionally significant heritage places.
“Restoring a heritage building has been so rewarding, and not a day goes by where we’re not pushing ourselves to research or upskill, it's wonderfully challenging,” enthuses Jessica.
Apply for a grant
The 2017 Regional Historic Heritage Grants Programme (PDF) round opens 6 March and closes 7 April 2017, with more opportunities for heritage grants available through local board programmes.