Totara House is a magnificent 1896 kauri villa set in beautiful heritage gardens, lived in and faithfully preserved for 117 years by the family of George and Emily Smith. The Smith family owned a timber mill at Matakohe and the house is built of kauri from their mill. Totara House was bequeathed to The Kauri Museum to be preserved and enjoyed by generations to come.
George was the first in the Smith Family to be born in New Zealand. The Smith Clan settled in the Matakohe area and into every facet of pioneering life, from kauri milling to bullock team driving to farming and raising prize Devon cattle.
“Totara House” is so named because the building site was in a very pretty setting of native bush, containing several totara trees. However, the home is constructed of the finest kauri timber with the billiard room panelled in prized mottled kauri.
Totara House, located in Wharf Road, Matakohe, is only open by appointment. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 09 431 7417 for bookings. All proceeds from tour admissions go to the Totara House Preservation Fund.
An absolutely great read about the region and the early settlers’ family lives, is the book ‘Child of the Kauri’. In the book 100 year old Matakohe and Museum matriarch Mavis Smith (9 November 1910- 10 February 2013) tells her story. Mavis’ grandmother Catherine was the first European woman to step ashore at Matakohe as an Albertland settler. New Zealand’s first native born prime minister, Gordon Coates, was a neighbour and family friend.
‘Child of the Kauri’ is also the tale of Totara House, the elegant kauri villa and Mavis’ family home, packed with treasures and memories. The house has been gifted by Mavis, through The Kauri Museum, to the people of New Zealand. This magnificent historical publication, written by Mavis and writer/historian Paul Campbell, is available at The Kauri Museum store. Please contact us at The Kauri Museum, Matakohe for more information.