Even in its most serious state of deterioration, the White Hart is a building that is dear to the New Plymouth communities collective heart. Once neglected – it has been transformed with a range of complimentary upmarket businesses now branded the West End Precinct.
Built in 1886, this classic timber Victorian homestead like building with two levels of verandah, sits on the corner of Devon Street West and Queen Street, New Plymouths cultural precinct including the neighbouring Clock Tower, the Len Lye Centre, the Govett-Brewster Gallery and the stunning coastal walkway, featuring Len Lye’s Wind Wand.
Those who are familiar with the city will know the White Hart for its infamous reputation. Some of this notoriety lends itself to a highwayman, Robert Wallath, whom in 1893, stalked into the White Hart and bailed up the barman, commanding, “Bail up, give me money, for money I’ll have”. He pointed his pistol at the barman and added, “Stand aside or I’ll blow your bloody brains out”, then rode off on his horse with a haul of change and a bottle of whisky, firing a shot as he rode past the police station.
During the 1970’s, the White Hart sat at the vanguard of hotels as a music venue, creating Taranaki’s own rock and punk music scene that attracted a line-up of Kiwi musicians, including Midge Marsden and the band Sticky Filth. In 1977, it became home to the notorious Magog Motorcycle Club who mingled with people from all walks of life. The dozens of bikes parked outside the historic façade became a feature along with its unruly reputation for “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll”, heightened by a good many drunk and disorderly related court cases and worse.
After years spent barely breathing, the White Hart is now beating strongly. There’s et vous, an upmarket, international women’s concept store, The Public Catering Company, a bakery that makes everything fresh daily, a fabulous covered courtyard boasting exceptional hospitality from Snug Lounge and Ms White at either end. Plantation, offering landscape conceptual design, homeware and stunning indoor plants completes the ground floor tenanting. A first-class extension to the King & Queen Hotel Suites with the Left Wing and comprehensive businesses services from Strategy Collective and Mortgage Brokering from Stephanie Murray all on the first floor, now see a fully operational and tenanted space.
The West End Precinct is not limited to those businesses within the White Hart however. In close proximity, there is Monica’s, the café attached to the Govett Brewster Art Gallery, internationally acclaimed Ozone Coffee, hairdressing specialists Elwin Evans, sustainably farmed Meat and Liquor, on King Street, Frederics’s on Egmont Street, and Social Kitchen restaurant on Powderham Street. They all offer exceptional and diverse hospitality experiences that make them a favourite of locals and a must try for those out of town.