Catholic girls home gets princely listing

JOEL MAXWELL
Last updated 15:01 17/07/2014
Marycrest

FOR SALE: Part of the defunct Marycrest facility, as seen from State Highway 1.

Victor Greenwich
PROUD GEORGIAN: Victor Greenwich, in traditional Georgian garb.

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A Catholic girl's rehabilitation unit has been listed on Trade Me by a man who says he's Georgian royalty.

Kapiti's Marycrest was listed for a minimum $2 million by Victor Greenwich, now living in Sydney, who says he is a descendent of a princely Georgian house.

Greenwich said he listed the site on Trade Me on June 26, and it had been viewed more than 1400 times.

The formerly grand Marycrest, visible in hills beside State Highway 1 near Otaki, has been unused since it shut in the early 1980s.

Greenwich said he bought Marycrest in 1988 after building a home in nearby Peka Peka in 1981.

"I had heard that the government was going to put in a ...prison [at Marycrest], which is the reason I bought it, to maintain its tranquility."

Marycrest - researcher Roscoe Turner says in his 2008 history - was founded by a French sisterhood in 1953.

Sister Mary Teresa Kennedy and Mary St Finton arrived from Upper Hutt with "three founding girls", Turner said.

"The girls who came into the care of the sisters often had problems that could not be resolved in their normal environment and needed the loving care of others to restore their sense of self-worth."

The first residents stayed in the 13-room manor already on the property, built by its previous owner.

Over the years the Catholic order embarked on a building programme that included a 25-girl dormitory, and later a two-storey working and training block.

Another dormitory, visitor accommodation, and sports facilities was built in the 1960s, and at its peak Marycrest was home to 70 girls, Turner said.

The last building built at Marycrest was an expanded convent for the growing number of sisters at the facility - eventually reaching 50.

Meanwhile, its current owner Greenwich gained national media attention during the 2011 Rugby World Cup when he said he was snubbed as an official representative of Georgia, competing in the tournament.

Greenwich, a rugby and All Blacks fan, said he was Georgian honorary consul to Australia at the time but was not invited to the event.

Yesterday he said the public attention came after a lifetime in New Zealand where he had successfully kept his Georgian heritage under wraps.

"My mother and I came to New Zealand as war-torn refugees, without my father, in 1949, and arrived with other refugees at Pahiatua."

Their family name was Dadianov, in its Russian version or Dadiani in Georgian - descendants of the Dadianov princely family, he said.

However his family quickly chose an English name, he said

"Growing up in New Zealand at that time, I and my mother and other refugees were called 'bloody foreign bastards' hence most of my time in New Zealand I stuck to the name Greenwich, and never told anyone of our Dadianov princely heritage."

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Marycrest's Catholic heritage ended in about 1983, Turner said, when it closed with a declining number of sisters, and changes to institutional care and counselling.

The property changed hands over the years, bought by Newmans bus company, who wanted to turn it into a country club and golf course.

Former Wellington mayor Sir Michael Fowler later bought Marycrest with hopes of developing a tourist resort, Turner said.

Latest owner, Greenwich said making his sale more complex is the potential need for part of the property for the northern section of the Kapiti expressway, which had been "on again, off again" over the years.

Marycrest is listed on Trade Me as a 23.6 hectare property, with Greenwich taking offers above $2 m.

"This property is ideally suited for redevelopment or coastal acreage sub-division. It is currently located alongside State Highway 1 with excellent potential for commercial business, and is now planned to be serviced by a local road and the new expressway."

Greenwich stood by his family history but said there would be people out there who say "he's making it up" about his heritage.

Despite now living in Sydney fulltime, Greenwich is hopeful that Marycrest will stay in local hands with any sale.

"I will be saddened if the new ownership is from outside the region."

- Kapiti Observer

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