The magnificent Totara House is a few minutes from our main buildings, and was gifted to the Museum to ensure it would be preserved and enjoyed by generations to come.
Built by the Smith family, using kauri timber processed at their Matakohe sawmill, Totara House is so named because the building site was in a very pretty setting of native bush, containing several totara trees. The house has now taken on a new life with garden fundraisers, wedding photos and private tours of this home, capturing the unique history of the area.
History of the house
George was the first in the Smith family to be born in New Zealand. The Smith clan, who arrived in Matakohe in 1862, settled into every facet of pioneering life. They worked to turn forest covered land into farmland by milling first the flax (New Zealand native harakeke) then the kauri trees from around the district. Bullock teams brought the timber to the mill while the pure bred Devon cattle won prizes at the local agricultural shows.
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 Kauri Museum matriarch, Mavis Smith (9 November 1910 – 10 February 2013) tells her story. Mavis’ grandmother Catherine Smith was the first European woman to step ashore at Matakohe as an Albertland settler. Mavis was the last of George and Emily’s children to live in Totara House, the home in which she was born.
Totara House can be visited by prior arrangement. An additional charge may apply - please contact us for more information.