Olveston House in Dunedin. © DunedinNZ

Tohu Whenua: Olveston


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Located in a leafy inner city suburb just a stone’s throw from the heart of Dunedin, Olveston is one of New Zealand’s most opulent heritage homes to visit.

Designed by acclaimed London architect Sir Ernest George and built in 1904-06, the 35 rooms of this lavishly-decorated Edwardian mansion are all exactly as they were left decades ago. The level of detail is stunning. 

From the great hall to the billiards room, the entire house was designed to the highest standards, fitted with modern features such as an electric generator for lighting and full central heating. 

Olveston was built for the wealthy Theomin family, who were actively involved in the Jewish congregation and Dunedin society, were patrons of music and the arts and successful business people, especially importing and selling pianos. 

In the absence of an heir, the house and all its contents were gifted by the last member of the family to the city of Dunedin in 1966. The one-hour guided tour gives you a taste of how the Theomin family lived surrounded by their fine furnishings, significant artworks and exotic artefacts from all around the world. The tour also leads you through the service areas of the house which were fitted with many modern conveniences that were luxuries at the time. These include an internal telephone system and service lift, as well as a food mixer and electric toaster in the kitchen.

Olveston is set on an acre of garden where you can relax surrounded by mature trees, play croquet on the lawn by request, meander through the winter garden with its tropical plants and view the family motor car – a 1921 Fiat 510 Tourer.

Throughout the year Olveston offers special tours as well as a programme of events including music events, high tea and formal dinners.

Olveston is recognised as a Tohu Whenua, one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s best heritage experiences. The historic home is proudly cared for and operated by the Dunedin City Council and the Theomin Gallery Management Committee.

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