246 Rutherford Street
This house, built approximately 1862, is in the early colonial gothic carpenter style, and has a rare, for New Zealand, slate roof.
About the area
The house is situated in an area known locally as ‘Snow's Hill’ - where Waimea Road separates from what is now Rutherford Street. The area likely took its name from the first owners of the house. Rutherford Street was originally called ‘Waimea Street’ and the road to the Waimea Plains led through this valley, so it was natural to call the streets ‘Waimea Street’ and ‘Waimea Road’ however it probably led to some confusion, hence the name change. Waimea Street ran from Ngatitama Street to Halifax Street, as Rutherford Street does today.
History of the house
The house was built for Mary and William Snow, who were early Nelson storekeepers and arrived on the ship The London in April 1842. They gifted the land (and possibly the house) to their daughter Sarah Snow when she was just 16. Sarah Snow married Ambrose E. Moore in November 1869. Ambrose E. Moore was the returning officer for the Nelson City Council and Nelson Harbour Board and an orchestra conductor. In later years, Sarah Moore (publishing under the name Mrs Ambrose E. Moore) wrote a novel for children called ‘New Zealand’s Fairyland A Story of the Caves’.
In 1886 the house was purchased by a Hemingway Firth & his wife Jane. Hemingway Firth was a Trustee of the Nelson Savings Bank, a Justice of the Peace and a devoted Anglican - donating the tubular bells to All Saints Church.
In 1895 the property was transferred to G. A. Macquarie who was the manager of the United Bank of Australia in Hardy Street and well-known as a pigeon fancier, serving for several years as president of the Nelson Poultry Pigeon and Canary Association. Other early owners have included a C.N.N. Clark (1905), Commander Walter Steward (1914), a retired naval officer who volunteered for service at the outbreak of the First World War and was employed on gun boat service at the head of the Persian Gulf, and a Mr Brile (1921).
Style and construction
The house consists of eleven rooms (originally ten) of lath and plaster walls with some replaced by gib-board. The house has two stories with two dormer gables on each of the north and south sides and includes a veranda to the north plus a gable facing west. The exterior is very much in its original condition. A deep stone-lined well still exists beside the house but is no longer in use. The exterior walls are timber (rimu) weatherboards with a slate, zinc and corrugated iron roof, there is a brick chimney and the floorboards are rimu and tōtara.
The Carpenter Gothic style of architecture originated in the United States in the mid 19th century. Much of the work could never have been executed if the scroll saw (also called a fret saw) hadn’t been invented. Carpenter Gothic features an eclectic and naïve use of the most obvious motifs of Gothic decoration – turrets, spires and pointed arches. At their best, Carpenter Gothic houses are lively, charming and original.
This information was prepared for the Nelson Cancer Society’s Heritage Homes Tour 2018 (updated 2021)
Sources used in this story
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Further sources - 246 Rutherford Street
- Bishop, C. (2019) Women mean business. Dunedin, New Zealand : Otago University Press, Te Whare Tā o Te Wānanga o Ōtākou, pp. 230-232
- Nelson Historical Society. (1966). The Nelson Names. Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 2, Issue 1, 1966. Retrieved from:
- Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XXV, Issue 14, 17 January 1891. Retrieved from:
- Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XXXII, Issue 221, 24 September 1898. Retrieved from:
- Colonist, Volume LII, Issue 12744, 12 January 1910, Supplement. Retrieved from:
- The Colonist, Volume LVII, Issue 14128, 17 March 1916 Retrieved from
- The Colonist, Volume LIII, Issue 12975, 14 December 1910, Supplement Retrieved from
- The Colonist, Volume LVII, Issue 14208, 5 October 1916 Retrieved from
- The Colonist, Volume LVI, Issue 13551, 19 August 1914, Supplement Retrieved from
- New Zealand Historic Places Trust. Rutherford Street house, no. 246. [Nelson, N.Z.: N.Z.H.P.T.]. Nelson Provincial Museum: HPT files.
- The Editors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2016, Feb 11). Carpenter Gothic Retrieved from