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McLean's Mansion History

McLean's Mansion is a two-hectare property situated at 387 Manchester St in Christchurch, New Zealand. The Mansion was initially called Holly Lea, but later became known as McLean's Mansion after its first owner, Allan McLean. It has 53 rooms and is the largest wooden residence in New Zealand. The Mansion, designed by Robert England, is a fusion of Jacobean architecture and Victorian features. Built between April 1899 and September 1900, the house has Category 1 heritage status. It is being purchased by the McLean’s Mansion Charitable Trust who will restore it and re-open it for a variety of purposes, including an art gallery and events centre.

  • 1899-1900
    The house was constructed for the Scottish philanthropist, immigrant and wealthy runholder, Allan McLean, when he was 78 years old, and he lived in it for the remaining seven years of his life It was designed by Robert England and was built of kauri by Rennie and Pearce Builders. It was the largest wooden residential structure in New Zealand at that time and is now believed to be the largest domestic building in the Southern Hemisphere The mansion is built to a rectangular plan with three storeys and a floor area of 2,100 square metres The 53 rooms include 19 bedrooms, nine bathrooms, and six servant rooms
  • 1902
    Allan McLean and his housekeeper Emily Phillips take up residence
  • 1907
    McLean dies leaving £596,000. In his will he made generous provision for his relatives, his housekeeper and staff, and also provided for the establishment of the McLean Institute. He wanted his mansion to be used "as a home for women of refinement and education in reduced or straitened circumstances".
  • 1913
    Emily Phillips leaves Holly Lea. Beneficiaries move in.
  • 1954
    Holly Lea is sold to the Government and is used as a dental training school
  • 1982
    Dental school closes. The mansion is used briefly by the Salvation Army First public open day of McLean’s Mansion is held with many thousands viewing it The property is sold to the Christchurch Academy and is used as a vocational training centre
  • 1983
    The building was registered on 7 April 1983 as a Category 1 heritage building
  • 2011 - 2017
    The building was badly damaged by the series of earthquakes that hit Christchurch The interior was further damaged by vandalism in the following years
  • 2018 -
    In 2018 the building was sold to the McLean’s Mansion Charitable Trust Fundraising to purchase McLean's Mansion begins, along with restoration More than 1000 people were able to view the Mansion during Open Days held between 26-28 October 2019. There were many positive comments about the restoration to date, and substantial donations were received in support of the project.
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