The Old Oak's History
The History of The Old Oak
Enjoy the comfort of your stay at The Old Oak knowing that the building itself is steeped in history in this fascinating area of The Far North. The Old Oak was built in 1861. The original owner and builder was a Scotsman, John McIntosh. Originally from Skipness, McIntosh had settled in nearby Whangaroa on property that provided the kauri timber that would be used for the construction of the hotel.
Census records at the time list McIntosh as a landowner and a boat builder and the enduring survival of the building is no doubt attributal in part to the craftsmanship those boatbuiding skills brought to it’s construction. But McIntosh was also a businessman, and The Old Oak was built at a time when several industries were in full swing.
Even though whaling was beginning to decline by the 1870s in Mangonui, the flax and kauri milling taking off at the time brought lots of thirsty patrons through the doors. Cargo vessels, such as the S.S Clansman, regularly ran liner routes from Auckland up through Russell in the Bay of Islands, with their final destination being Mangonui. Here they would unload cargo and passengers before reloading and heading back down the coast. This brought lots of crew and passengers ashore where they would eat and water at the Oak.
Restoration of the Old Oak
In April 2009 construction began on the restoration and remodel of The Old Oak. The first and major responsibility was the re-piling. The building was tilting, as you can see in the first photograph. Smart engineering of the process was essential so as to avoid any damage to the building. Wayne Brown and his builders from WaahiParaone guided the work through four weeks of particularly cold weather. Once level, the work began on the interior where all new units in the back section of the building were constructed and in the front section, rooms were remodelled. New plumbing, electrical, and insulation was added throughout. In late November the construction was complete. It was a monumental project! These efforts have ensured the preservation of this beautiful building for another 100 years. Be sure to check out the totem poles in the main garden that are made up from the original totara footings that the hotel sat on for nearly 150 years!
The design for the gardens at The Old Oak was inspired by local heritage gardens and our hillside of native bush. Inspiration was taken from the beautiful gardens at the Pompallier Mission in Russell, the Waitangi Treaty House gardens, and the charming colonial garden at the Kemp house in Kerikeri, among others. These gardens were all working gardens – generally formal in design and planted to provide food and flowers for the occupants.
Similarly, The Old Oak gardens are designed in a formal layout with raised beds for the vegetables and citrus orchard, gravel paths, and flower borders. There is a shell petanque court in the center of the formal gardens and at its end there’s a native nikau palm. At the back of the formal gardens, a hillside of native bush encloses and shelters the garden with pongas (native tree ferns), palms, and shrubs that cascade down the hill creating a wall of green and a haven for birds. At the front of the formal gardens, the views are clear to the harbour and the beautiful green rolling hills across the water. Although there are many native plants throughout the gardens,like our colonial ancestors we have also planted non- native cottage garden flowers including foxglove, hyacinths, delphiniums, hydrangeas, camellias, and of course, roses. Our rose garden features ‘Iceburg’, ‘Superbowl’, ‘Sharifa Asma’, ‘Aotearoa’, ‘Peace’, ‘Alexander’, and ‘Dublin Bay’. All our flowers, and in particular the roses, are cut for use in the hotel.
In addition to the hotel verandas, there are many patios around the property and chairs, benches, tables, and barbeque are provided. A viewing bench sits behind the petanque court with views across the harbour. Behind the building, the back patios and gardens are surrounded by the native bush hillside. There is a natural cave there that is reputed to have once been a hiding place for whalers who jumped ship.
The Old Oak gardens were installed by local tradesmen and planted with the help of friends and neighbours. We use natural pesticides and our weeding is by hand. These are functional gardens that provide food, flowers, and outdoors rooms. We love sharing them with our guests and community. We hope that you will enjoy them.