The Hotel was built originally in 1897 in Waihi, some 120 km’s north of Rotorua, from Kauri timber which was celebrated for its unsurpassed building qualities. It has endured trials and tribulations during its long and eventful history but remains today a prominent showpiece in the very heart of Rotorua.
In the early 1900’s, Waihi was a thriving town, the third largest in New Zealand (after Auckland and Wellington). Waihi is home of the of the Martha Gold Mine, then the richest in the world. Many hotels and public houses sprang up to cater to the demands of the miners and visitors that occupied the town. One of the finest of these establishments was the New Central Hotel, later to become The Prince’s Gate Hotel. Built by Mr E. Morgan, it had 75 bedrooms and very quickly became well known for its superior qualities. Visiting mine officials enjoyed the excellent hospitality shown by the first proprietors of the hotel, Mr & Mrs M.G. Power. Many distinguished names began to appear in the hotel register and the biggest weddings and social functions were held at the hotel. Due to Waihi being the railhead it was a popular stay over for visitors to the Bay of Plenty who could then travel on to Tauranga by coach. After Mr & Mrs Power left the hotel their daughter Nellie Budd and her husband took over as proprietors. Mrs Budd, a member of the operatic society, had a beautiful voice and would often entertain her guests with her singing. After leaving the hotel Mr Power later became the mayor of Waihi. Sadly, both he and his wife died from the influenza epidemic sweeping through the region in 1918.
Prince’s Gate Hotel, circa. early 1900’s
In 1906 the hotel was purchased for nearly $9,000 by Mr Moss Davis, father of Sir Ernest Hyam Davis a New Zealand businessman and Mayor of Auckland City from 1935 to 1941. He was also on other Auckland local bodies, philanthropic and sporting organisations.
In 1908 the town was still thriving. Miners made up most of the population and kept the bars busy. It seemed nothing could go wrong but demise was literally just around the corner. With Bars involved in price hiking, upset wives, unruly behaviour, and a general discontent the threat of losing their liquor licences was a possibility. Due to apathy amongst those that did not consider this likely, many did not vote. The bombshell result did indeed see bars in Waihi lose their Liquor Licences by only 86 votes.
In 1909 the bars closed and although the New Central Hotel closed its bar with dignity many did not. The Rob Roy, regarded as the Hotel that started all the trouble in the first place, closed with a large melee including the throwing of stones and bottles.
The New Central Hotel saw a steady decline in business for a period of about three years. In 1912 is became busy again by providing housing for extra police sent from Auckland to help quell the riots that arose during the infamous miners’ strike. The mines were thriving, and the men were only asking for better working conditions and pay. Even after law and order was restored the bitterness remained and many decided to move away.
With the declining population the New Central Hotel was losing trade but once again tragedy brought some temporary relief. When the influenza epidemic hit Waihi after the First World War the Hotel became a hospital and served a great purpose within the local community.
Prince’s Gate Hotel (centre right), circa. early 1900’s
Prince’s Gate Hotel (in background), during the miner’s strike 1912
However, after the epidemic was over, it was decided to move the hotel to the fast expanding tourist town of Rotorua. It was considered that the Hotel would be most suitable for tourist accommodation (such vision and foresight).
So, in 1920, nail by nail and board by board, the hotel was dismantled and transferred by horse-drawn wagon to the Waihi Railway Station. The timber and fittings were duly taken by rail to Rotorua where it is believed that the original builder of the Hotel, Mr Morgan, was employed to reassemble the hotel. The Hotel was structure remained almost unchanged from the original.
Its new location was superbly positioned at the corner of Arawa and Hinemaru Streets. It sits directly opposite the entrance to the stunning Government Gardens and Bath House Museum, both accessed through the Commemorative Archway Gates.
The sign at these gates read: “The wooden arches that grace the entrance to the Government Gardens once spanned the intersection of Fenton and Hinemoa Streets. Designed to represent the royal crown, they were erected in 1901 to honour the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York”.
The newly reassembled Hotel was finally re-opened in 1921 appropriately named as “The Prince’s Gate Hotel” and has retained this name ever since.