We don’t often run ads for houses on the Arch Centre website, but here’s one that you may be interested in. Indeed, you may have even been to a Thanksgiving dinner there once or twice. The architect who designed it, Ted Wood, created a pole house of interesting forms perched up amongst the fantails. The current owner, Tommy Honey, has written a few words:
19 Blackbridge Road – Tommy’s story
When I first visited the house in 2001 it was empty and I was awestruck. Here was one of the finest examples of 1970s timber pole construction. There were many houses built in this period but none so adept and self-assured. It boldly bridged a stream on six massive macrocarpa piles. The vertical cedar board and batten accentuated the house’
s height. Inside the walls were clad in diagonal cedar boards carefully mitred (in two directions!) at the corners so the endgrain was hidden. The builder had even used the same board to run down one wall and up the next. The construction was simple, elegant and honest. There were distinct spaces on each floor, each with it own character (unlike many open-plan houses of this period suffered from spaces that bled into each other and were poorly defined). Light flooded in and there was a different view from each window, mostly of different aspects of native bush. I completely forgot that I was in the city. I fell in love and I had to have it.
The week before I was due to settle I got a call from the agent:
“That was some storm last night!”
“Yes”, I said.
“You know that big macrocarpa behind the house?”
“Yes”, I said.
“Well… it fell on the house”.
The council land to the west was once covered with macrocarpas. A year earlier, they were removed and replaced with natives. One remained, on the back of the section of 19 Blackbridge Rd. The council offered to remove it but the previous owner declined as he would have had to contribute to the cost. It stood ungainly for a year, until a southerly storm whipped over the hill and wrenched it from the ground sending it crashing over the house. It was 15 metres tall and once fallen, it reached across to the Rewarewas in front of the house. I was homeless before I had even taken up residence.
But State Insurance came through and the house was repaired to a better state. An engineer attested to its structural soundness. Most of the windows were replaced with new aluminium joinery and double-glazing; all the floors were completely sanded and refinished and the house was given a brand new colorsteel roof. After a three month delay I was finally able to move in.
The house was designed by a Wellington architect, Ted Wood, in 1975. Ted was a construction lecturer at the School of Architecture and this was his to be a house for himself, employing the best materials and the latest techniques. He bought the land from a developer for $2000 and paid another $2000 for access from the rear. The developer kept the original bungalow at the top of the site and built two flats. Ted’s site was steep, covered in macrocarpas and inaccessible from Blackbridge Road. He built a cardeck with access from Wilton Rd (the original address was 24 Wilton Rd). Entry was at the rear of the house at the bedroom level. Many architects in Wellington remember fondly evenings at Ted’
s house, which was radical to them.
After a few years Ted sold the house and moved overseas. It sold again and in the late ‘
80s a dispute developed with one of the neighbours in the flats behind. The neighbour checked the titles and discovered that the access arrangement had never been formally put on them. The owner of the house came home from work one day to a fence across the driveway. Attempts were made to find Ted, the original developer or any record in writing of the arrangement, to no avail. The macrocarpas in the front were cleared, stairs built and the house took on a new orientation to the north. Many years and a few owners later the fence still stands. The neighbour has passed on but his widow, Helen, remains and is equally resolute. I have respected her wishes and not approached her about access.
When I bought the house in 2001, the previous owner had cleared the site and prepared drawings for two additional houses. When he couldn’
t get buyers for his development he put it on the market. My approach to the landscaping was simply to encourage the natives to return. I would keep the weeds down and nurture any tiny native that appeared. Consequently almost the entire section is self-sown with the natives that are local to the area. With the bush have come the birds: tuis, kereru and a lone kingfisher that likes to sit on the power line to the house. I swear that one night I heard the call of a Kiwi below the house!
In the summer I would often leave a door open and fall asleep to the sound of the stream. The stream is actually part of the council stormwater system bringing water from the roads on Wilton hill above down under Blackbridge Road to the Ngaio Stream. In a heavy rain the stream thunders and foams and is quite exciting. I have often thought it would be great to put in a mini-hydro system to get some power out of the stream as there is nearly 14 metres of head to utilise.
Inside the house I have refurbished the bathroom and the kitchen. As an architect I have designed many kitchens for others; as a cook I have long dreamed of designing a kitchen for myself. I worked on the design for eighteen months and I was intrigued with making the kitchen light and white. Once I’d finished I realised that I’d made a really big light fitting that you can cook on! I celebrate Thanksgiving, inviting many friends to dinner on the fourth Thursday in November. Over the years the number has grown and at the last Thanksgiving I held at 19 Blackbridge Road there were 100 guests. The house may only be 70 square metres but somehow we all fitted. There were two turkeys, one cooked in the oven and one on the barbecue, two soups and twelve pies –
all of it cooked in the kitchen with ingredients donated by the guests.
It is a great house for entertaining whether it be a dinner party or something noisier. But it is even better when it is quiet. I found it to be a wonderful retreat, a haven, an eyrie where I could escape –
work, the city, the day. It is a very special house and it deserves special people.
The house is marketed by Judy Nicholls of Bayleys, 027 475-1003. Open homes are on Sundays at 1.30pm, going to auction on the 28th of May and you can view it here:
Ted Wood house on Trademe, Bayleys, and on Open2view