The Pines in Epsom
The Pines has forty apartments, sitting on about 2.7 hectares (approx 7 acres) on the south-eastern slopes of Mt Eden. As well as neighbours on Owens Rd, Mountain Road and Omana Crescent, the Pines shares boundaries with Eden Gardens and the Mt Eden domain. The Pines looks after several ‘scheduled’ trees, which are trees listed in the Auckland Council plan as being significant to the city. In addition, a part of the grounds is now designated a ‘Special Ecological Area (Terrestrial)’, because of its value (along with the domain, Eden Gardens, and Government House gardens) as a habitat for birds and other fauna.
A striking basaltic rock face (part of the Mount Eden cone) forms part of the transition between the upper terrace and the lower flats of the site.
From 1856 when the land was first granted to Auckland pioneer Andrew Sinclair (a natural historian and co-founder of Auckland Museum), to the present day, its 7 acres have been retained intact. Previous owners include Edward King, builder of schools and churches in the Auckland Province; Albert Beetham, first chairman and of the South British Insurance Company and noted Horticulturalist; Isaac Richardson Vialoux, architect; Francis Sinclair, poet; polo –playing lawyer William Read Blomfield; and Selwyn Robinson.
Creation of the gardens of Epsom
It is specifically two of Auckland’s founding fathers who were responsible for tree planting in the Epsom/Eden areas what are now some of the most historic specimens in Auckland. George Burgoyne Owen, who is recorded as having planted the red turpentine and puriri on the Pines site and other historic trees in the area, Owens Road is named after him. The other person responsible for much of the planting of trees in the area at the time was Thomas Bannatyne Gillies.
The number of Norfolk Island Pines around Epsom, all around the same height, suggests they were all planted around the same time in the 1860s. The Queensland Kauri, which sits high next to the apartment building, has a companion further down Owens Rd, probably planted the same day. It is easy to imagine people arriving on ships from those places and trundling a wheelbarrow through the area, dropping off trees to be planted by the landowners of the time.
One of the first apartment buildings in Auckland
‘….what is going to happen to this place when I die? Out will come all the trees and the land will be roaded and carved up for houses. It would be a tragedy to see all these oaks and elms; cedars; puriris; sycamores and the rest destroyed’.
- Selwyn J Robinson (Owner of ‘The Pines’ 1930-1968)
Selwyn Robinson sold the approximate 7 acre site in early 1968 to a company to build the apartments. By June 1968 the 120-year-old two storey colonial house which once stood on the rise had been demolished to make way for what were at the time referred to as ‘the Robinson Apartments’. It is likely that the name ‘The Pines’ originates from some of the first recorded pine trees in the Auckland area which were planted by Josiah Clifton Firth in 1871 on the slopes of Mt Eden. The apartments were designed by American company Welton Becket and Associates, Los Angeles, which was one of the largest architectural companies in the world at the time.
People were moving into the apartments by the end of 1971, and there are still owners in residence who arrived that year.
The Pines gardens today
The gardens and facilities have continued to mature and be nurtured by successive Board of directors and owners, with improvements and changes. Three major trees were lost in 2004 when one of them was hit by lightning, and two others destroyed as it fell. Occasionally the gardens have been part of fundraising tours.