Nathan family returns for Homestead's swansong before it closes for renewal work

Publish Date : 30 Apr 2024
Haare Jeremy
Sir Haare Williams chats with Jeremy Nathan, the grandson of Nathan Homestead's builders David and Simone Nathan.

A crowd that included founding family members has gathered at Nathan Homestead, ahead of renewal and seismic-strengthening work, to celebrate its place at the heart of Manurewa. 

The original home, ‘The Hill’, was built in 1910 as the summer residence of David Nathan and his wife Simone, but the wooden villa was destroyed by fire in 1923. 

David and Simone’s grandson Jeremy told guests he remembered Nathan Homestead well from his childhood in the 1940s, the new residence having been built in 1925. 

“We would cross the cattle grid at the gate and my grandfather, in his plus four golfing trousers, would greet us. It was always a house of laughter, fun, music and love. 
“The hall we are in tonight, and the dining room next door, were the heart of the house. Like all grandparents, ours were happiest when their children and grandchildren were about.” 
Nathan family members return to the dining room, overlooked by photographs of their ancestors David and Simone.

Nathan family members return to the dining room, overlooked by photographs of their ancestors David and Simone.

He says in those days the property included a working farm, gardens, native bush, ponds and the Norman-style water tower – built because of the 1923 fire. 

But he also recalled his own father returning from war service for his grandfather’s death. “I remember the sons singing Kaddish (showing that despite the loss, a family still praises God). After my grandfather’s death, it was if much of the life of the house was gone.” 

The Nathan family was influential in the establishment of New Zealand’s Jewish community. David started L.D. Nathan at Kororāreka in 1840 before reaching Auckland in 1841, where he married and developed a trading and textile business. 

After years of balls, fetes and garden parties, in 1964 the coming of the Southern Motorway saw the estate sold and developed as the Hillpark subdivision, with David Nathan Park and Homestead held as public assets at the family’s request. 

Nathan House became the mayor’s office and additional buildings were added for staff and visitor services until in 1978, when Nathan Homestead was handed over as a council-run arts and culture centre.  

Guests were invited to don their best clothes circa 1920.

Guests were invited to don their best clothes circa 1920.

In 2015 renovation work safeguarded heritage features and two years later Te Akitai Waiohua gifted the name Pukepuke (hilly) to David Nathan Park and the homestead, recognising their ancestor Ihaka Takaanini describing the land that way when it was sold to the Crown in 1842.  

Today Nathan Homestead is home to events, school holiday programmes, arts projects, an artist in residence programme, and hosts community groups involved in everything from pottery to yoga, and ukele to quilting. 

It also has a unique place in Manurewa family histories as the site of weddings and celebrations, and its two exhibition spaces have played host to many artists. 

As part of the night, Kaumatua Sir Haare Williams (TuhoeRongowhakāta, Ngāti Porou) placed a tapu on the building covering renewal work that will see it close from 30 June for about a year. It will be lifted for centenary celebrations when it reopens in 2025.

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