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Waiatarua Boarding House

Frederick Judson was an interesting character who originally purchased land at Nihotupu, on the right side of Piha Road off the area of Ian Wells Track, though he built a house on land owned by William Evans near the Nihotupu Falls which were on the south side of today’s Piha Road, below the carpark. Judson was part of a family which emigrated to the failed settlement of Albertland, on the south side of the Kaipara. Frederick married his cousin Marian Edger, the eldest daughter of Samuel Edger who was the religious leader at Albertland. The Edgers and Judsons were musical, intellectual and progressive in many matters including equality of the sexes. Marian’s sister, Kate, was the first woman in the British Empire to gain a Bachelor of Arts at a university.

When they moved to Auckland from Albertland, Fred was a pharmacist and Marian Judson ran a school for girls. Both were involved in temperance and the Anti-Poverty League. Both were also theosophists, a system of spiritual beliefs based on the occult and eastern and western religions, believing in reincarnation and universal brotherhood. At first the Judsons farmed at Nihotupu, with Fred helped by his nephew, Stanley Judson, later to become famous for earning a VC for bravery during WW1. The locals referred to Fred as “The Grey Fox” for his habit for digging cool holes in banks and sitting in them and one local described him as having “long grey hair and a faraway look in his eyes.”

In 1905 Fred had his house and land of 361 acres taken off him by act of parliament as it was needed for Auckland’s water supply. He moved up to land at the junction of today’s Scenic Drive and Piha Road, and built the Waiatarua Boarding House. In fact, it was Fred who gave the area the name “Waiatarua” – “Song of two waters” which referenced the views of both harbours. It is said this name was bestowed by a Maori workman building the boarding house. (The name was gazetted in 1967). The boarding house was large, with 30 rooms and a dining room where the fire was kept burning day and night. Down in the bush was secondary accommodation called “The Bungalow” and a night-time attraction was glow-worms in the bush. It was popular as a stopping off place for people on their way to the coast and also a health resort for Aucklanders who wanted to enjoy the clean, mountain air.

Marian was away much of the time, with their daughter Dora, who was studying music, or in India with her sister Lilian, who led the theosophy centre at Adyar, India. Stan Judson and his wife Ethel ran the boarding house, while their children attended Oratia School, as Stan had as a boy. Ethel kept this up while Stan was away serving in the war. Fred retired to a house he built next door, which in recent years was a derelict landmark at the intersection before being pulled down.

After the Judsons gave up running the boarding house it was managed by the Gascoignes, then the Wises, he being a returned serviceman who started a branch of the RSA at Waiatarua. Fred Judson died in 1931 and his daughter Dora inherited the property. In 1938 the land and boarding house were sold and developed into flats. Finally, the Judsons’ boarding house was converted into the Dutch Kiwi Inn which was a go-to night-club and reception lounge for Westies in the 1960s. In 1970 it burned down, bringing to an end the era of the Judsons’ connection to Waiatarua, although perhaps that didn’t finally end till Fred’s house was demolished a couple of years ago.
– Sandra Coney


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