Heritage home stays safe


Dad’s dream preserved, pledges family.

The family of a Queenstowner who restored one of the resort’s most historic and prominent homesteads will maintain his legacy.

Ted Sturt, who died two weeks ago, aged 79, spent three years restoring Hulbert House – on a giant site bordered by Ballarat, Hallenstein and Malaghan Streets – and ran it for the last quarter-century as a five-room guesthouse.

Sturt’s four out-of-town children say they’ll hold onto the $3 million property and after more refurbishment will lease it out as a guesthouse again.

A former British Army captain, Sturt served in the 1956 Suez conflict, then came to New Zealand two years afterwards to marry his Kiwi wife – they later separated.

He lived in Christchurch, Dunedin, then Auckland, but skied in Queenstown annually – he was the first president of the New Zealand Ski Instructors Alliance – and settled here after buying Hulbert House in 1981.

Built in 1888 as a grand home for “receiver of gold” and court official Horatio Nelson Firth, Hulbert House was first used as a guesthouse in 1900 but last century also had stints as a private nursing home, a Second World War refuge for a Dunedin girls’ boarding school, a maternity 
home, then hotel staff accommodation.

It was terribly run-down when Sturt bought it.

According to son Hugo’s eulogy last week, his dad “almost singlehandedly stripped timber and restored the house to near-original condition without large financial resources but by way of recycling, reusing and restoring the fabric of this beautiful home.

“With tenacity he tracked down various original artefacts that came from the home and gradually pieced together its history.”

Features included imported Italian fireplaces, plaster cornices and ceiling roses.

Sturt – highly commended in the 1986 Historic Building Restoration Awards – drew up a covenant with the NZ Historic Places Trust to ensure the preservation of Hulbert House should he ever sell it.

Family say in recent years they tried in vain to shift their dad, who suffered heart problems, to more comfortable accommodation.

Hugo says two of his siblings last year suggested retirement to their father: “His answer was a definitive ‘no, retirement homes were for old people’.”

A week before he died, Ted still had guests and was working on two furniture pieces.

As Hugo said in his eulogy: “In many ways it became hard for us to separate the man from the house.”