We joined our 60s Up group aboard the big white bus for a visit to Caccia Birch House, a Palmerston North icon, catching our first glimpse of this historic house as we drove into the property along the tree lined driveway.
First glimpse of Caccia Birch House
Ushered inside by the Manager, we started our visit with morning tea – freshly baked scones with tea or coffee. And what whoppas those scones were, they were twice the size of a “normal” scone and certainly took some eating. Some of the ladies on our table wrapped up half of their scone to take home for later.
Enjoying our morning tea
Fully sated, we were then told the history of house, one of the first large houses to be erected in the city, and was built for Norwegian immigrant Jacob Nannestad and his family in 1895. Jacob was a partner in a saw milling firm, engaged in clearing the bush in the surrounding area. This is the only known photo of the family, taken a year later in front of their home. They are clad in valuable Maori cloaks, thought to have been loaned to them by the local Rangitane people.
Jacob Nannestad and his family
The fortunes of the saw millers declined and the house changed hands several times. Over the years the house was extended with conservatories, nurseries, and servants quarters to make it the very elegant building of today. Stables were added to house polo ponies, then later, the first motor car of the region.
Caccia Birch House entrance
William Charles Caccia Birch was bequeathed the house by his uncle in 1921, who had died childless, and lived there until his death in 1938. Unable to sell the declining property, the family decided to donate it to the Government to help in the War effort, becoming military staff accommodation, and later as a convalescent home for war veteran nurses. It was then used by Massey University for some years and later stood empty and neglected for quite some time, with calls made for it to be demolished. Help finally arrived when a Trust was established 20 years ago to manage the property and commence to slowly refurbishing the house. Caccia Birch moved with the changes and now earns it’s keep as a conference centre and wedding venue, helping to generate funds for restoration.
We were then invited to look around the house, and climbed the lovely staircase to the upper floor admiring the rimu panelling and the chandeliers.
Rimu paneled foyer
Stepping onto the balcony, we had a lovely view over the lagoon, edged with rather posh houses. The lagoon was originally part of the property, but later sold to the city to be a civic amenity. The garden contains many notable exotic trees, planted with seeds brought back by various family members as they returned from overseas trips.
View from the balcony
The Coach House
Peter the bus driver chatting to Robin
It was “all aboard” and Peter drove us through the picturesque Victoria Esplanade Gardens on the way to our lunch stop at ChinaTown Restaurant. Who doesn’t like a Chinese buffet? Plenty of choice, plenty of room for our bus load of passengers, nice friendly staff, and very reasonable prices too.
Our lunch stop
Another great 60s Up trip taking us to somewhere we hadn’t been before, great weather, and a nice relaxing day out with friends.