The red 1d ‘Shield’ stamp of New South Wales is canceled with a roller postmark of MELBOURNE/ 11.JAN.13 and it was addressed to J. Colin Ronald Esqre, Melbourne and is redirected in red ink to G.P.O. AUCKLAND (Figure 1).
The reverse shows that it was readdressed to J. Colin Ronald, The Hermitage, Mt Cook Timaru, New Zealand, without any postal marks (Figure 2).
The first Hermitage was built in 1884, under the direction of Frank Huddleston. Huddleston, surveyor and water colour artist from Timaru, was appointed ranger for the Mount Cook area because of fears that local vegetation, especially the bush and the native lilies and daisies, would be destroyed by grazing and burning. This initial accommodation house was set in twelve hectares near the base of the Mueller Glacier, beside White Horse Hill. It was a small cob building, with a pond formed from the hole where the clay was dug for the sun-dried bricks.The present Hermitage looks out past White Horse Hill to the Hooker Valley and Mount Cook. The first Hermitage is seen in Figure 3.
In 1885, Huddleston sold his land and hotel to the Mount Cook-Hermitage Company; which was formed to create a swiss-style alpine village. The company bought rugged horse-drawn coaches to run from the railhead at Fairlie to the Hermitage. It took visitors three days to reach the Hermitage from the coastal port of Timaru! Huddleston remained as manager in 1894. Two years later the New Zealand Government took over the Mount Cook-Hermitage Company, then in difficulties. In 1906, the Mount Cook Motor Company began running service cars to the Hermitage. Interestingly, one of the first was driven by John Rutherford who drove in the first regular horse coach in 1886. The original Hermitage could not cope with increased demand for accommodation, the more so because thirty years of bad weather and fire had taken their toll. As work began on the second Hermitage, the first was damaged by flood; two months later it was destroyed by another flood.
The second Hermitage opened in 1914, controlled and promoted by the then Department of Tourist and Health Resorts. The Mount Cook Motor Company was keen to help extend it as a visitor numbers drew on the company’s services and also to keep the Hermitage open throughout winter. Eventually the company applied to lease the property, taking it over in 1921. The Hermitage was extended, camping facilities developed and package tours offered – for perhaps the first time in New Zealand. Further extensions came in 1924. In 1944 the lease expired and the Mount Cook and Southern Lakes Tourist Company, as it become known, returned the Hermitage to the Government.
Disaster struck in 1957 when the second Hermitage was razed to the ground in a spectacular fire. The Government moved quickly to design and build a new hotel on the present site. It was operational by May 1958 and has since been extended several times. The latest in 2001 which included the addition of the Aoraki Wing and a major upgrade of the public areas.In 2007 the company began to increase it’s tourism portfolio in the region by purchasing Glacier Explorers in October and officially opening the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre in December. This provided more activities for Mount Cook visitors to experience and continued with the acquisition of Alan’s 4WD Tours (now named Tasman Valley 4WD & Argo Tours in October 2009. The latest Hermitage is seen in Figure 4.
Duncan Darroch (1888-1967) was born in Otago, raised in Milton, and was a sailor in the 1920s working on Union Steam Ship Company coasters visiting every port in New Zealand and travelling to Canada and Britain, painting during his journeys. He studied at the Canterbury School of Art in 1922 under Archibold Nicoll although he was largely self taught. 1928 was a farrier and then a ranger at Mount Cook. He lived at Mt Cook from 1926 until his death. He painted mountains and seascapes in an impressionist style and is represented in the Aigantighe (Timaru), Dunedin, Forrester (Oamaru), Hawkes Bay, Hocken (Dunedin), McDougall (Christchurch), University of Canterbury Christchurch), Sutter (Nelson), Te Papa (Wellington) galleries and at the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, Hermitage. Painted in oils. He bequeathed his chalet, Tighnabruaich, at Mt Cook, to the New Zealand Forest and Bird Protection Society. One of Duncan Darroch’s paintings of Mount Cook is seen in Figure 5.
This paper relies heavily on the website: http://www.hermitage.co.nz/en/about-us/hotel-history