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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 5 (September 1, 1929)

A Georgian Mansion in the Wilds

A Georgian Mansion in the Wilds.

There has been a wonderful transformation at the old Whakapapa hut site. The groups of huts and the central Lodge now fall into the background, for the dominating feature to-day is a magnificent building resembling a Georgian mansion. The site has been well picked, for it commands views of the wide plains with forest on the horizon, Ngauruhoe standing out clear from base to summit, and Ruapehu with its permanent snow-caps in the background. Chateau Tongariro, which is almost ready for guests, is an immense stride from the humble wooden huts, but it stands as a monument to the faith of the National Park Board and the lessees, in the possibilities of the Park when New Zealanders realise that they can live luxuriously in the wilds. There is nothing suggestive of the hotel type about the new Chateau. It stands just clear of the beautiful beech forest, and is so well designed that when the grounds are cleared of the present jumble of building material, Chateau Tongariro will fit nicely into the whole picture.

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When it is formally opened, readers will learn from the newspapers a large number of facts about its structure—how many bricks and tons of cement it represents. Here may be given a few rapid impressions which come of a tour through the nearly completed building. First, the setting up of the main floor above the general level of the ground enables glorious views to be enjoyed without distractions of foreground detail. Whether this was a brilliant inspiration of the architect, Mr. H. Hall, of Timaru, or planned for the convenience of placing a boiler-house, a cafeteria, and many other useful appendages to a large establishment away from the main floor does not matter—the idea is a happy one. It has led to another notable feature, an inclined carriage-way to the main entrance, which is provided with an extensive colonnaded portico. When future guests reach the Chateau entrance they will discover, without leaving their cars, that the portico frames one of the most remarkable views to be obtained from any hotel entrance in the world, for it is set exactly in line with a vista of an active volcano. Framed by the pillars of the portico is a perfect view of Ngauruhoe, from base to smoking crater.

Ruapehu'S Hot Lake. (Photo by Mrs. D. Christie.) The famous crater lake on Mt. Ruapehu, in the Tongariro National Park, North Island.

Ruapehu'S Hot Lake.
(Photo by Mrs. D. Christie.)
The famous crater lake on Mt. Ruapehu, in the Tongariro National Park, North Island.

In A Unique Setting. Chateau Tongariro, with Mt. Ruapehu (9,175ft.) in the background.

In A Unique Setting.
Chateau Tongariro, with Mt. Ruapehu (9,175ft.) in the background.

The public rooms are all planned on extremely spacious lines, and will enable the Chateau to cater easily for considerably more guests than will find accommodation in its ninety bedrooms. The main lounge, its plate-glass windows providing glorious views of the mountains and plains, has a floor area of 3,000 sq. feet, the centre finished in beautiful parquetry and “sprung” for dancing. Leading from the lounge is an equally spacious dining room, again providing wonderful views. Decorative effects are chaste, and not overdone. The walls of the lounge and dining-room are finished in old ivory, delicately gilded. There is a strong but effective note of colour contrast in the jade green patterned carpet of the dining room.

There are three storeys above the main floor, each having as the central feature a large writing lounge. The bedrooms have been planned to give a wide variety of accommodation, and the affluent tourist who desires a high degree of luxury will find his wishes have been anticipated. However, the Chateau has not by any means been built exclusively for rich patrons, but so cleverly has the plan been designed that there is not a “back bedroom” in the building. All rooms have a pleasant aspect, and all corridors are lighted from outside. There is electric light, of course, and one excellent lighting idea, which could only occur to people thoroughly experienced in hotel practice, is that ground lights, about a foot from the floor, illuminate the passages, so that the staff may carry out duties late or early without bright lights shining to the bedrooms through the fanlights. As there are 43 bathrooms, there should be no dressing-gown queues at the Chateau.

Every bedroom has a lavatory basin with hot and cold water, and the whole building is heated by a system of low-pressure steam radiators—at least one in every room. Again, an intimate knowledge of hotel conditions is displayed in the building of partitions solidly in hollow tiles, and floors of concrete, making for completely soundproof rooms.