Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1899

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Another party is planned to celebrate Arrow­town’s historic miners’ cottages – this time for the completion of their $2.6 million restoration. 

Almost five years after a euphoric impromptu street party in Arrowtown heralded a deal saving them from disrepair, the people behind the rebirth of the iconic cottages want to acknowledge a job well done. 

The picture postcard cottages have stood on the town’s main street for more than 130 years – a poignant reminder of the goldrush and pioneering spirit that shaped the area. 

The three buildings had fallen into disrepair over several years while owned by property billionaire Eamon Cleary and their future looked bleak. Now they have been reborn, saved for future generations through a $2.6m restoration project. 

David Clarke, Lakes District Museum director, and other Arrowtown Trust trustees have now fulfilled their original brief. 

“There were a few sleepless nights over the funding because it is always difficult to obtain,” Clarke says. “The trustees said it was like receiving a hospital pass really, but we’ve met the challenge with great enthusiasm. 

“It’s been worth it.” 

The three-year project saw experts Bagley Builders Ltd rebuild the three iconic cottages – 59, 61 and 65 Buckingham Street. 

The firm raised two cottages by a metre to replace rotting totara wood piles underneath. 

It added a concrete base to Romans Cottage, number 65, which was ravaged by elm trees growing through the walls and floor. 

Weatherboards, windows, roofs, wiring and plumbing had to be restored or replaced. 

The entire site has been sympathetically redesigned. 

A wooden church, dating from 1871, was craned in last winter and restored. 

Originally on Millers Flat, it was grafted on to Arrowtown Presbyterian Church in the 1950s. 

“It’s a beautiful building,” Clarke adds. “This can be its last resting place.” 

It cost $150,000 to restore the church, which is now design studio and gallery Somebody’s Darling. 

The cottages, listed as Category II buildings by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, cost $1.9m to buy and about $700,000 to restore. 

Two are occupied by architect firms, the other is Provisions store and cafe. 

Builder Roy Bagley says: “It’s nice to bring a building back to life and know future generations can enjoy them and understand their heritage. 

“We learnt a lot about the buildings during the project. It was a little like being an archaeologist.” 

Developer John Martin brokered the original deal. 

“It’s wonderful what they’ve done,” Martin says. 

“It has all been the work of the committee, the builders and the community.”