Queen’s Gisborne apartment to be sold

Not many New Zealanders can boast that the Queen has visited their home, sat in their lounge, used their bathroom and dined in their dining room. But for the last two decades the owners of the Masonic Hotel Building in Gisborne, Bruce and Janet Johnstone, have entertained friends and family in a dining room that was used by the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 1954. With views along the palm-tree-lined Gladstone Road, the classically proportioned dining room, with large casement windows on two sides, still features a beautiful chandelier and a gilt-framed mirror over the original tiled fireplace.

The standard hotel furniture of the day was deemed not good enough for royal use, and the new dining suite used by the Queen was loaned to the hotel by local Gisborne furniture retailers, Christies, and spirited away afterwards. However the dining room still contains a silver tea pot inscribed with “The Masonic Hotel” that is said to have been used to provide the touring Queen and Prince Philip with a refreshing brew during their time in Gisborne.

The royal couple were not only entertained in the dining room. Photos from the 1953-1954 Coronation Tour show that they stepped onto the apartment’s Gladstone Road balcony to greet the thousands of local people who crowded into the streets below to catch a glimpse of the newly-crowned monarch. Elizabeth and Philip were also provided with the apartment’s lounge and a bathroom in which to change and freshen up after their travels.

The Johnstone’s have used the royal apartment, known simply as Apartment 101, as their Gisborne residence ever since purchasing the building in 1990. The Queen’s dining room, lounge, bathroom and the balcony, on which she stood, have all been part of their family home. In addition to the royal dining room, the spacious apartment has two lounges, a modern kitchen, large master bedroom and bathroom, and each of the Johnstone’s three children (Brian, Mark and Sarah) also had their own bedroom and bathroom.

However Gisborne’s royal apartment is soon to have new owners as the Masonic Hotel Building has been put up for sale with an auction date set for 10 June 2010. The new owners will take delivery of over 5000 square meters of four storey heritage building that features solid native timber floors and doors and numerous ornate antique ceilings. The building’s majestic imperial style façade, designed by architects Burr and Mirfield, includes a pair of grand columns and balconies on the Lowe Street frontage and ornate features that make it a fine example of the Imperial architectural style.

Apartment 101 is the largest of fifteen character apartments on the building’s three upper floors. The ground floor is home for seven commercial premises, including a Subway restaurant, shop and hair salon on Gladstone Road and there are another five shop and office spaces in Lowe Street. This heritage landmark building occupies a prominent sun-drenched corner site at the very heart of Gisborne’s retail and entertainment precinct, a stone’s throw from grassy river banks and the marina.

Earthquake repairs on the building have been completed over the last two years and detailed structural surveys and tests of brickwork strength have been carried out recently to identify the further strengthening work needed to meet council requirements. This work has been completely specified, costed and permitted so that the new owners can be assured of securing a building that will not be on the list of Gisborne buildings that require strengthening.

Current owners, Bruce and Janet Johnstone, pioneered FM radio in Gisborne in 1987 and owned and operated commercial radio stations there until selling them to CanWest RadioWorks in 2005. Bruce Johnstone then went on to complete his PhD at the AUT Faculty of Business and Law and graduated in 2008. Dr and Mrs Johnstone are now relocating to the UK and have decided to sell the Masonic Hotel Building, including the Queen’s apartment which is a real piece of Gisborne history.

The sale of the building is being handled jointly by local estate agents Harveys, and the Auckland-based Colliers, and will be auctioned on 10 June 2010 if not sold prior.

Media Release from 22 April 2010.

Contact: Bruce Johnstone
Email: bruce@johnstone.co.nz
Phone: 021 669 646