New meets old at hotel door

The reopening of the historic Warkworth Hotel is still some time away, as plans for its restoration are still under discussion.

The hotel, with its two-storey facade and pitched roof, is one of the town’s oldest buildings and has a Category 2 status with the Historic Places Trust.

It has already been partially re-piled, but part of the restoration will include lifting the building at least 500 millimetres above the overland flow path and potential floodwaters.

The upstairs area is earmarked for a function room and social area for residents, which will also be available for community events. The ground floor will accommodate a modern restaurant and boutique bar.

The Warkworth Hotel was established by Warkworth businessman John Southgate in 1864 and was later run by his son William.

Name changes over the years have included Southgate’s Inn, the Mahurangi, the Warkworth, the Establishment, and the Hotel.

When John Brebner was the publican, it was used as a meeting place for the Freemasons until the Masonic Lodge was built in 1883 in Baxter Street. The lodge also has Category 2 status.

From austere beginnings, the original hotel has been enlarged and refurbished over the years. In 1900 and 1910, verandahs were added on both levels, along with a billiards room.

Mr Southgate planted the landmark Norfolk pine at the front of the building for his son in the 1870s.

The hotel has been a focal point of the town, with many socials held there after local yacht races.

It was a favourite watering hole for American servicemen stationed in the area during World War II, and even the odd rodeo horse has been entertained at the bar.