Haka Tourism Group founder Ryan Sanders first learnt the Earnscleugh Station Homestead was for sale when a staff member sent him the link as a possible site for luxury backpackers accommodation.
He had other ideas, sending it to his husband, Marco Creemers, with a note saying, ‘‘Stuff that, we’ll live there’’.
The couple were in Alexandra this week with friends and family to organise waterproofing of the category 1 listed historic place and try to learn all they could about its history.
Mr Creemers, of Auckland, is a project director for Samson Corporation, where he has overseen many new buildings, green buildings and restorations of buildings.
The couple had tracked down and read the book Castle on the Run, written by Gay McInnes — the granddaughter of the home’s builder, Stephen Spain, who lived in the mansion with her mother, aunt and her aunt’s family.
In 1919, Mr Spain had noted architect Edmund Anscombe draw up plans for a castle›like building in the Victorian-Edwardian-Jacobethan style prevalent between 1880 and 1920.
The home once had a wall built down the middle and out into the rose garden, dividing the two families, with some confusion as to whether it was to separate feuding brothers, brothers-in-law or the sisters themselves.
The new owners want to learn all they can about the mansion’s colourful history, ‘‘letting that educate and inform how we want to move forward’’.
The mansion was never completed to plans, which called for the brickwork and concrete pillars to be plastered over, as is obvious from the spaces left between the brickwork and windows, Mr Sanders said.
The couple married in 2018 at Rippon in Wanaka and had been thinking of having a home in Central Otago for a long time.
They fell in love with the home and stables and purchased it knowing the job ahead of them.
Mr Creemers said they knew what was needed, they just had to piece it together, and work with Heritage New Zealand as to what could be done.
‘‘We like the philosophy of faded glamour so we want to keep as much of the original house as possible,’’ he said.
The main changes will be functional, with the waterproofing being the most urgent task, followed by electrical rewiring and heating.
The kitchens and bathrooms need replacing, but they wished to honour the mansion’s past in its new life with lush curtains, chandeliers and furniture that suited the building.
‘‘Ultimately, the imperfections are part of the attraction,’’ Mr Sanders said.
His tour group operates nationwide, and increasingly has more work in Australia.
‘‘But this is where we’ll be spending our time unless we’re travelling for work,’’ he said.
They will be joined at times by their daughter, Izzy Creemers, who at 21 has just completed a three-year theatre degree in Canterbury.