"Owners of a Bay of Islands tourism icon will soon undertake work that will see existing facilities upgraded, and its heritage character celebrated."
“We met with Heritage New Zealand staff in the Northland office and talked about our plans. They were very positive about the design idea for the sea-facing side of the building, but also drew our attention to the rather hum-drum look of the building at the rear, which actually faces onto Russell’s main street,” says Anton (Haagh).
The Media Release is as follows:
New look for historic hotel
Owners of a Bay of Islands tourism icon will soon undertake work that will see existing facilities upgraded, and its heritage character celebrated.
The Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell will be extended to include balconies on its sea-facing side as well as the rear of the hotel in keeping with its style of architecture.
The elegantly designed balconies will enhance the iconic nature of the building according to the ‘Governor’ of the Duke of Marlborough, Anton Haagh, who bought the historic hotel and restaurant with his wife Bridget and two other business partners in 2010.
“The work on the hotel building represents a sizeable investment – but the building deserves it,” says Anton.
“The interesting thing is that when we ask people to give their impressions of what the Duke of Marlborough looks like to them, they generally describe exactly what it will look like when we have finished the work we want to do – which suggests we’re on the right track.”
Meeting with Heritage New Zealand early on in the project provided the clarity needed to drive the project in the right direction according to Anton.
“We met with Heritage New Zealand staff in the Northland office and talked about our plans. They were very positive about the design idea for the sea-facing side of the building, but also drew our attention to the rather hum-drum look of the building at the rear, which actually faces onto Russell’s main street,” says Anton.
“Heritage New Zealand confirmed what we already believed – that the rear of the building is still an important street face, and that the hotel should reflect that. That really gave us the confidence to pursue that idea further with our architects. The result will be great.”
The Duke boasts New Zealand’s first liquor license which now hangs proudly in a gold frame in the bar. The licence was awarded to Johnny Johnston by the Colonial Treasurer who happened to be his close friend – not bad for a reformed convict. The Duke is the latest incarnation of a series of watering holes on the site that make up a fine 189-year tradition of ‘refreshing rascals and reprobates since 1827’.
Originally named ‘Johnny Johnston’s Grog Shop’, the Russell institution has come a long way since it first opened its doors. Recent patrons at the Duke of Marlborough have included Sir Mick Jagger and Cate Winslett who have both enjoyed the delights of fine dining by the Bay.
Sadly, Johnny Johnstone’s colourful establishment burnt to the ground in 1845 during the battle of Kororareka. Johnny – who had earlier renamed his pub the Duke of Marlborough – rebuilt onsite, however, and the Duke stayed within the family until 1878.
In 1931 the second Duke building burned to the ground and was replaced by a hostel that housed telegraph workers at Cable Bay. The Cable Bay building – which was itself built in 1875 – is the current ‘Duke’ building, and was shipped down the coast to Russell, and relocated on-site in 1932.
The Duke – which serves an impressive 100,000 meals a year – revels in its colonial past, and values the commercial value that its heritage provides.
“The Duke of Marlborough is a bit like the Chateau – it’s iconic. The heritage value of this place gives us a marketing point of difference, and makes this place very special,” says Anton.