Eichardt’s Private Hotel - one of Rees' Legacies
The beautiful building of Eichardt's Private Hotel on Marine Parade is much more than just an expensive place to stay. It has a prime place in Queenstown’s history. It sits at the site of a woolshed, built by William Gilbert Rees, Queenstown’s first settler, near his homestead on the lakeshore.
When his homestead run was declared an official goldfield at the end of 1862 and the main business area developed around his homestead, Rees turned the woolshed into a hotel. He managed it in a partnership with Sergeant-Major Hugh William Bracken who gave up his position with the police. The hotel was named Queen’s Arms, later – as Bracken did most of the work – it became known as “Bracken’s”.
Soon it got a major overhaul and became Queenstown’s leading hotel. In 1866 Rees entered into a partnership with Albert Eichardt, a former Prussian guard, and at the end of 1867 sold it to Eichardt and CC Boyes for £ 150 cash over and above the mortgage. A year later Eichardt was sole proprietor. When tourism developed significantly in the 1870’s and 80’s, thanks to the railway line, Eichardt’s became the first choice of visitors, including important people. In those years a wing was added and a two-storey block built of brick and stone, in Italian design, including a Roman Doric portico. The hotel became an ornate and much photographed landmark of the town.
After Albert's sudden death in 1882, his widow Julia took over the hotel, and had the remaining wooden part of the hotel replaced by stone, and a further wing was added. So the splendid look of the building was perfect. 30 years before the town got electric power, Eichardt’s rooms were lit by electricity in 1890. Also the hotel provided transportation to Wanaka via the Crown Range.
After Julia Eichardt's death in 1892, the hotel, together with the gardens in the Shotover district, personal property and effects were sold to William Lochtie Philp for £5500. In the following decades owners were changing rather often. Then, in 1936, the Mount Cook and Southern Lakes Tourist Company bought the hotel. In 1951 it was sold to the Buckham brothers, local cordial manufacturers and brewers. It was in Government ownership from 1957 to 1977. The original plan was to replace the current building by a five-storey construction but those plans were never realised. In 1970 it ceased to operate as a hotel but carried on as a tavern. At the end it was so run down that it lost its status as a hotel and was only a motor-inn and tavern. Then it went into the ownership of a trust and was saved from demolition.
Today Eichardt’s is a luxurious boutique hotel with five hotel suites and four two-bedroom cottage suites with stunning lake and mountain views. The rates reflect this exclusive description. A suite (double occupancy) sets you back NZ$ 1645 (lake view; mountain view NZ$ 200 less), a cottage lakefront suite comes to NZ$ 985. Breakfast is included in the rates ;-)
If you cannot afford this but are interested in the history (which is fascinating) you can read all about it on the hotel’s website: