Not-so-noble 1860s bachelor pad
The historic Casa Nova House, at 1 Alternate St, Oamaru North. Photo / Supplied
A pioneering farmer’s rural ‘bachelor party pad’ has been placed on the market for sale.
Wealthy Englishman Mark Noble built Oamaru’s Casa Nova House in 1861 — naming it for 18th-Century lothario Giacomo Casanova.
Bachelor-boy Noble had the manor designed to replicate his family home Danets Hall, in the English county of Leicester.
Now it has fallen to Bayleys Canterbury salesperson Sue Morton to sell the magnificent 570sq m period home, which is set upon 4125sq m of flat land.
It will be sold by deadline negotiations, with offers closing at 4pm on Thursday May 10 — but what of the property’s rollicking past?
Morton explains that in pioneering years, a ‘gentleman’s standing’ in the community — and his consequential appeal as a potential husband — was linked to how many acres of land they owned, and how many cattle they farmed.
“Over the space of four years, Noble hosted numerous ‘soirees’ at the impressive Casa Nova House — where the daughters of fellow farmers and affluent property owners in North Otago and South Canterbury provinces were invited for salubrious nights of dining, drinking, dancing and intimate encounters with the sociable host.
“None could capture Noble’s heart though, and the handsome young self-titled lord left New Zealand to spend the latter part of his life in Malta, before eventually dying and being buried in the Italian region of Tuscany.”
Morton says the stately Oamaru mansion remained as the Noble farm homestead until the 1950s, when much of the rambling sheep and beef block was sold to the Crown for conversion into state housing sections.
During that time, Casa Nova House was occupied by the McMullan family. Gold miner James McMullan never lived in the home as he worked in Queenstown’s goldfields. Leaving wife, Helen, to raise their eight children on her own.
Oamaru’s Casa Nova House is surrounded by 4125sq m of flat land. Photo / Supplied
In the 1970s, Casa Nova House was converted into a wedding and function venue — hosting parties and celebrations of a more mainstream nature compared to the frivolities of nearly a century earlier.
Morton says in 1999, entrepreneurial hospitality operators David and Dianne Taylor tweaked the venue slightly and opened one of the South Island’s few true fine-dining restaurants. The venue became famous for its waitering staff who wore white gloves, and meals served on bone-china dishes along with polished silver cutlery arranged on starched table cloths.
The upmarket restaurant traded for three years, until Casa Nova House was sold to American owners. It then remained empty for five years, eventually reopening as a function venue, which had eight years of catering success.
Morton says the room configuration within Casa Nova House, combined with its immaculately maintained European-designed gardens and courtyards, means its future is delicately poised.
“The property could either be bought as a regal home, or with minor modifications could re-open as a function venue. An additional option is adding accommodation facilities and becoming a commercially run lodge,” she says.
“Sitting on the northern boundary of Oamaru’s urban fringe, the property could easily be a hospitality destination again for the region’s social functions.”
The two-storey Oamaru stone dwelling contains five large bedrooms, two colonial period decor bathrooms, and multiple stately dining rooms, which catered for guests when the property was used for its former function venue and restaurant operations.
“The kitchen could easily be reconfigured into a commercial-standard foodservice unit; the dining room still has seating capacity for up to 40 diners or guests; and outside there is car parking on site for 20 vehicles on the elegant meandering driveway,” she says.
Morton believes that the original owner’s eating, drinking, partying and womanising more than 150 years ago has always somehow flavoured its subsequent occupation.
“Sometimes you just walk around a house and you can feel what went on there. At Casa Nova House, there is a definite element of something risque in the walls, as well as a feeling of being in a good mood,” she says.
“For example, there are two small rooms downstairs, now toilets, but which were once the male servants’ quarters. Upstairs are two small rooms, which were once the female servants’ quarters. You can still see the ladder marks on the lower wall from the men climbing up to the ladies quarters for ‘socialising’ activities.”