Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Eden Vine on the hill

As I grew up and passed this building going back and forth in buses, indeed from when I was knee-high to the proverbial grasshopper, this was where funeral directors W H Tongue & Son were. Right on the ground floor, corner doorway, leading to a tasteful showroom, until fairly recently.

But this site goes back further than that, of course.

To the left is Mt Eden Road, and to the right is New North Road, the road in the 19th century to the Cabbage Tree swamp, so folks knew the first building here, the Eden Vine Hotel, as being at the Mt Eden - Cabbage Tree Swamp Road corner. 

That original Eden Vine Hotel was a 13-room more-or-less square wooden building, built for William Galbraith in April 1866. He finally obtained his license for the premises in June that year. The Eden Vine was Mt Eden's only pub, and also the largest building for meetings of the ratepayers who formed a highway district within the walls there, argued about the nearby toll-gate, and in general forged together the start of one of Auckland's central suburbs (and later, in the 1870s, the Eden Terrace District). Galbraith suffered an injury in 1873 -- and nothing really to do with the demon drink.

Mr W. Galbraith, of the Eden Vine Hotel, is suffering severely from the effects of a blow inflicted by the cork of a lemonade bottle upon his eye. Both eyes are so much swollen that the sufferer is at present almost blind.
Auckland Star, 4 January 1873

A later article said the culprit had been ginger beer.

By April 1874, the licensee was James Poppleton, who went trout fishing one day later that year.

A very fine trout fish has been drawn up in a bucket from the well of Mr Popplcton, of the Eden Vine Hotel, measuring fifteen inches in length This species of river fish is rare in this part of tho province, and Mr Poppleton thinks that, as his well is very deep, the fish must have come into the well from some stream far below the surface of the water.
Waikato Times 20 October 1874

The infant son of Poppleton died there aged only 3 days in January 1875.

Samuel Evinson was proprietor from 1879, and advertised his new billiard saloon opened on the premises in September that year.
Mr Samuel Evinson, proprietor of the Eden Vine Hotel, opens his new billiard room at seven o'clock this evening. He has succeeded in securing a splendid billiard table from the best maker. This proves a great attraction to his customers.
Auckland Star 22 September 1879

Auckland Star 24 March 1880

By 1883, the hotel's proprietor was James Taylor, who transferred to John Morrison in December (Auckland Star, 3 December 1883).  By March 1885 Morrison had headed off to the Rising Sun Hotel, and John Jessie Olum applied for the license in May. By June, though, the licensee was W W Warnock.

Mr Tole presented a petition from W. W. Warnock, licensee of the Eden Vine Hotel, Auckland, against which the Licensing Bench of Arch Hill district admitted they had nothing to say. Nevertheless, in granting a license for this year, the Commissioners announced from the Bench that they wished to give notice that next year, if elected, they would grant no license, but would close every house in the district. The petitioner therefore was left to the mercy of a small number of people on the ratepayers' roll, and asks redress by the granting of power to all residents to vote at the election.
 Auckland Star 18 June 1885

The Eden Vine soon found itself to be another jurisdiction entirely, though.
It will be seen by the last Gazette that the Eden Terrace Highway District has been separated from the Arch Hill Highway District, and formed into a licensing district within itself. This will give the ratepayers of Eden Terrace complete control of the Eden Vine Hotel. 
 Auckland Star 1 February 1886

Along with a new owner -- Louis Ehrenfried, a Hamburg-born wine and spirit merchant who was by that time well-known in Auckland as one of the four main hoteliers and alcohol merchants (the others were Hancock & Co, John Logan Campbell, and Richard Seccombe.)
Mr Ehrenfried intends removing tho building at present known as the Eden Vine Hotel, and replacing it by a handsome brick structure, at a cost of between two and three thousand pounds. The present licensee, Mr Warnock, will be in possession of the new hotel when completed.
But, the Eden Vine was in the cross hairs of the prohibition movement. The shift in the boundaries placing the hotel with the Eden Terrace voters meant that three gentlemen of both that area and the "dry" brigade pledged that, once elected, they'd shut the hotel down.

Auckland Star 25 February 1886

The opponents at that stage didn't get their way. The brief architectural partnership of Robert Mackay Fripp and Carrick Paul, which lasted only from 1885 until 1887, advertised tenders for the removal of Galbraith's wooden hotel, and the building of Ehrenfried's new brick replacement in late 1886. (Auckland Star, 17 December 1886) The actual construction of the building, though, was not without its drama.
A man named Watkins, a plasterer, dropped dead while working on the Eden Vine Hotel. He fell a year ago from the top storey of Freeman's Bay Hotel, and has been ailing since.
 Christchurch Star 12 March 1887

Eden Vine Hotel, c.1890s, unknown photographer. 
Ref 7-A4507, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Council Libraries.

And within weeks of completion, the billiard tables were in use. The Eden Vine's new publican, Louis Ballin, was busy and had rebranded it as Ye Eden Vine Hotel. Like Galbraith, he was to become closely associated with the hotel at the top of the hill through his longevity with the building.
Public Notices- BILLIARDS.— The sum of £1 will be given for the highest break made in a hundred up by an amateur on the Eden Vine Hotel Table within a month of this date, July 4, 1887.—LOUIS BALLIN.
Auckland Star 4 July 1887

The Eden Vine Hotel, Auckland, occupies (a) position which specially suits the convenience of travellers, visitors, &c. Standing on a prominent corner, close to tram and rail, it is on the confines of two Prohibition districts, commanding two main thoroughfares, and while removed from the city's din and bustle, it is so near as to make it virtually in the city. Under Mr L. Ballin's management this hotel has advanced very rapidly.
 Observer 28 September 1889

Mr L Ballin, proprietor of the Eden Vine Hotel, will be glad to see any of his old friends. The hotel has every convenience, and Whitson's best ale is always kept on draught, so that visitors to the top of Mt. Eden can get a refresher en route.

Observer 1 January 1890

Observer 12 September 1891

Strong winds today often grace our headlines when destruction is involved. When part of a landmark hotel was damaged in the 1890s, especially the Eden Vine, that was definitely noted.
The strong wind blowing last night proved disastrous to the lamp at the Eden Vine Hotel. The licensee, Mr Louis Ballin had just put out the light at ten o'clock, when all the fixings were blown away and the lamp smashed down on the pavement. Fortunately, Mr Ballin was not struck, though he had only just moved out of the way.
Auckland Star 11 July 1892

And then, in 1897, Louis Ballin died.

We have to record the death of another old colonist in the person of Mr Louis Ballin, licensee of Ye Eden Vine Hotel, who died early this morning. Mr Ballin had been suffering for the past two years from an acute attack of dropsy, and succumbed peacefully at ten minutes to one this morning in the presence of his family. The deceased gentleman came out to New Zealand in 1862 in the ship Victoria, and after trying his luck for a time on the gold fields at Hokitika, he went to the Thames, where in conjunction with his two brothers he ran a lemonade factory. Later Mr Ballin went to Coromandel and started a brewery, but for the last twelve years he has been hotel-keeping. Mr Ballin was a prominent member of the United Order of' Druids and also of the Masonic fraternity. He leaves a wife, three sons and three daughters. The funeral takes place at Waikomiti next Sunday, leaving his late residence at 2.30 p.m.
Auckland Star 26 November 1897

The remains of the late Mr Louis Ballin, licensee of the Eden Vine Hotel, were interred at Waikomiti on November 28th. The coffin was carried from the residence to the hearse by members of the Lodge Auckland of Freemasons, while the Lodge itself, tbe Victoria Hall, was opened and closed in accordance with Masonic custom. A number of the Druids headed the funeral cortege, while members of Masonic lodges also marched in front of the hearse. About 70 carriages followed the remains to the burial ground, the chief mourners being the deceased's three sons, the committee of the Synagogue and the Jewish Burial Committee. The burial service was conducted by the Rabbi (Rev. Mr Goldstein), and a Masonic hymn was also sung at the grave.
 Auckland Star 23 December 1897

This was the start of the last years of the Eden Vine. Ballin's widow, Maria, held the licence and applied to keep it early the following year in what was now the Parnell Licensing District (she succeeded). Around the same time, Louis Ehrenfried, the hotel's owner, had predeceased Louis Ballin, dying in February 1897. His business was inherited by his nephew Arthur Myers (who went on to be one of Auckland's mayors, and closely associated with Myers Park and the kindergarten there) and in December 1897 amalgamated with John Logan Campbell's brewing enterprise to form Campbell & Ehrenfried.

But, in the local option (prohibition/continuance) poll during the 1905 election, the Eden Vine's luck had finally run out. By then, it was in the Grey Lynn licensing area -- and the electors had chosen no license. So, the sole hotel in the Grey Lynn area, the Eden Vine, shut its doors as a hotel in June 1906.

The No-license poll in Auckland showed an increase all round, but in actual results the hotels will suffer very little. Grey Lynn is the only No-license district, and in it there is only one hotel, a fact which no doubt accounted for tho apathy of the trade in the district. The one hotel which will lose its license is on the boundary of the district, where it joins City East, and within a stone's throw of it there are two licensed houses which come under the city vote. The trade, therefore, had little to lose, and probably they regarded the hotel (the Eden Vine) as not worth the expense of an election.

Marlborough Express 12 December 1905

And, that was it. End of the hotel, and the start of the building's new life as a retail block.

Eden Vine Hotel, 10 January 1928, photographer James D Richardson. 
Ref 4-2188, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Council Libraries.

At some point, probably from the 1930s, the exterior was modernised. Darryl Godfrey (see comment below, 7 July 2011) advises "The exterior of the building had its ornamentation removed and window boxes added between 1956 and 1961." Fripp & Paul's pediments were removed, and only the old chimneys left to show the block had a past life as an old hotel on the hill.

Updated: 16 July 2011


  1. No doubt in my mind that the original building was the best. Verandahs can really spoil a nice building, however practical they are.

  2. Have to agree. A pity that Fripp & Paul's design is now out of sight, as well.

  3. I lived upstairs on the corner of this building from 1991 to 2002. While there, I found blueprints for the interior modifications by the funeral directors to build the chapel (now a restaurant) and enlarging the upstairs half of the building. These were dated 1937. Also, when replacing carpet upstairs in 1994, we uncovered a sealed off former stairwell and old copies of the catholic newspaper, 'Zealandia' dated 1941. The exterior of the building had its ornamentation removed and window boxes added between 1956 and 1961. I was unable to find any earlier blueprints for the building as it was when originally a hotel. The earliest records are 1937 at the Auckland Council buildings. It helps to know Fripp & Paul were the original architects.

  4. Thank you so much for that information, Darryl! I'll amend/update the post. Cheers!

  5. Fascinating. I wonder if Keith Galbraith, founder of the alehouse at the old Grafton library almost opposite, is related?

  6. Wouldn't it be something if he was?