Orongo Homestead before renovations in the 1980s

It’s hard to recognise Orongo Homestead in this plain, unpainted two storey house, photographed in the 1960s. Today it is a luxury tourist destination set in landscaped gardens.

The L shaped house with a shingle roof was built in 1870 for James White who had been appointed an American consular agent to look after the commercial interests of American whaling ships in the Bay.

The house has had many owners and users over the next one hundred years – as a farmhouse, a home for the manager of the Tikitikioure manganese mine, as a store, a hotel and a part time school. Later it was used for church services, as a dairy, and a motor camp, even a hay store. It was Harm and Ottalien Muller who saw its potential in the 1980s and restored it, replacing a demolished wing and building another house on the hill nearby.