As WBS celebrates 150 years, we reflect on some of the significant Wairarapa landmarks we’ve been involved in. This story takes us just down the road to South Wairarapa and some beautiful Martinborough landmark buildings.
To think of ‘iconic Wairarapa buildings’, few would go past the Martinborough and Station Hotels. Built between the 1880s and early 1900s, both were synonymous with elegance and style, the Martinborough Hotel once described as one of “the finest hostelries ever erected in any inland town in New Zealand”.
Martinborough boomed through the early 1900s, but by 1970s was in decline. Wine pioneers changed this by the late 1970s, discovering the region’s soils and climate were perfect for grapes. With a growing wine industry and town beginning to flourish again, in the mid 1990s, entrepreneur Mike Laven saw the potential to convert the now ‘slightly’ rundown Martinborough Hotel into a quality accommodation for visitors. WBS also saw this potential, and when approached, wholeheartedly supported Laven’s restoration project plans for a grand hotel.
The upmarket restoration of the Martinborough Hotel was an instant success, and buoyed by this, Laven came up with an even more audacious project, which again was funded by WBS. Similar to the pattern of The White Swan, a run-down private hotel situated near the Masterton Railway Station was cut into pieces and transported south to Martinborough. The trip through back roads of the Wairarapa, documented closely by a raft of photographers and film crew, was even held up at one stage by a flock of errant sheep!
The ‘Station Hotel’ as it was named became one of most notable buildings in Martinborough, today commercially tenanted on the ground floor with lavish apartment style living on the upper storey. In theme with proudly supporting hospitality, WBS have also funded the Petit Hotel and Brackenridge Country Retreat in the Martinborough area.