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A prominently-located, lavishly done-up Queenstown home with a notorious early history is on the market. 

The York Street home – overlooking central Queens­town – was built in the goldrush era, extended last century and last year exper­ienced a $1.2 million makeover. 

A local historical society plaque at its entrance states: “‘Nil Desperandum’ [‘never despair’] Built in 1874 for local grocer and arsonist Philip Waldemann.” 

Waldemann – a German stonemason – opened a grocery and confectionery shop in what’s now The Mall in 1880. 

Suffering financial difficulties, he allegedly set fire to his shop and much of the CBD in January 1882 before fleeing town. 

Waldemann also set light to his house but the fire was discovered early – along with incriminating combustible material. 

At the time, in the Dunedin Supreme Court he was sentenced to seven years’ jail for attempting to burn down his house – the charge relating to the down­town fire was dropped. 

Waldemann unsuccessfully appealed for mercy on behalf of his wife and five young children and tried to implicate another party. 

An extension to the house, designed by local architect Michael Wyatt, was built in about 1980. The four-bedroom 250sq m house was bought by an Aucklander a year ago for $1.2m. 

The owner embarked on a major makeover, aided by local interior designer Jewell Cassells, and local land­scape architect Paddy Baxter. 

Beautiful furnishings were added and interior stonework was exposed. 

Patios and decks were added for outdoor entertaining. 

The renovation was carried out to the highest degree, local Bayleys real estate agent Buzz Scown says. 

“Inside it’s magnificent.” 

Scown says the owner’s put the property on the market because he’s also bought an expensive holiday home up north that he’s getting more use out of. 

“He wants to reduce his investment in Queenstown – he’d be quite happy to sell a half or a third share.” 

Scown adds: “The view just heaves up there.” 

As the 1369sq m property is zoned high-density, there’s also scope for further building extensions, he notes.