Riverside Gothic villa still loved by first owners' descendants

Last updated 05:00 11/08/2012

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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A modest Christchurch villa overlooking the Avon River could be the oldest house in the residential red zone.

The former Richmond farmhouse dates back to the 1870s but will be demolished as part of the clearance of the suburban red zone.

The building has changed very little over more than a century, but the neighbourhood has changed beyond recognition.

The house was once part of a 40-hectare farm that was accessed from Stanmore Rd but is now surrounded by houses.

The title for the plot was first sold in 1851. It is unclear exactly when the house was built, but it was bought by the Templer family in 1876, and photographs from the period show them using the home.

A nearby street was named after the early settler family.

John Walter bought the house in 1985. He was home when the September 4, 2010, earthquake hit.

An engineer, he had anticipated his historic home would not perform well in a quake.

He leapt into a bay window a matter of seconds after the quake struck at 4.35am. Moments later, about 20 kilograms of plaster fell on the pillow where he had been lying.

Walter said the house was beyond repair.

"Some of the brick walls collapsed. It is fairly shattered. The house is a writeoff," he said.

"There is damage on damage. It used to be beautiful."

The building looks simple from River Rd, but the back of the house, which was formerly the arrival point, features neo-Gothic windows and a long veranda.

The house has a set of elaborate folding panel doors in a curving archway that still worked before the quakes.

Walter said they were a remnant of the home's past.

"I think they used to do a lot of entertaining here. The doors could fold back so you could create a large dance space," he said.

Templer family members would occasionally visit, he said.

"Templer descendants would call in from time to time. I think they thought of it as the family home."

Walter hopes a large tree on the property remains to mark where the historic home stood.

"I hope the totara tree will stay so I can find the place in the future," he said.

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