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Step back in time with a private tour of Totara House.

Totara House is a magnificent 1896 kauri villa set in beautiful heritage gardens, lived in and faithfully preserved for more than 120 years by the family of George and Emily Smith. The Smith family sawmill at Matakohe processed the kauri timber for the house, using the exquisite figured timber for the wall panelling in the formal rooms. Totara House was gifted to The Kauri Museum to ensure it would be preserved and enjoyed by generations to come.

Totara House, has taken on a new life, with garden fundraisers, wedding photos and private tours of this home that captures the unique history of the area.
It is open by appointment only. If you would like to book a visit, please contact us at [email protected] or phone 09 431 7417 for bookings. All proceeds from tour admissions go to the Totara House Preservation Fund.

History of Totara 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 productive farmland by milling first the flax (New Zealand native harakeke) then the kauri trees from around the district. The bullock teams brought the timber to the mill while the pure bred Devon cattle won prizes at the local agricultural shows.

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.

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 Smith was the first European woman to step ashore at Matakohe as an Albertland settler. Mavis Smith was the last of George and Emily’s children to live in Totara House, the home in which she was born.