The Old Stone House is an historic building nestled at the foot of the Port Hills.
The Old Stone House was built in 1870 by Sir John Cracroft Wilson to house the native Indian and Eurasian employees who travelled with him to New Zealand from India. Born in India himself, Wilson was educated in England and returned to India to work as a magistrate.
In 1854, with his health in decline, Wilson had taken extended leave and travelled to Australia. Not finding Australia to his liking, he continued on to New Zealand where he took leases out on three Canterbury stations and purchased 108 hectares of swampy land he named Cashmere after his favourite Indian region of Kashmir. After undertaking work to drain the swamps and build his Cashmere estate, Cracroft, Wilson returned to India and left the running of the Cashmere estate to his son.
In 1857, after seeing action in the Indian Mutiny, Wilson returned to New Zealand with his family and more native Indian and Eurasian employees. Initially, his employees lived in huts on what is now Shalamar Drive but many struggled with the cold Christchurch weather. To help, Wilson built them the large stone house to live in communally, making The Old Stone House the home of the first Indian community in Christchurch. Little is known about the construction of the Old Stone House, the stones were probably taken from a quarry on Marley's Hill and the architectural style is that of English vernacular.
Although Wilson died in 1881, the family continued to run the Cashmere estate despite a period of requisition by the military during the Second World War when the building was used to house the Signals Section of the Combined Head Quarters Southern Command. Workers still lived in the Old Stone House until the 1950s, when subdivision of the section and better farming technology reduced the need for so many employees. The building was then often vacant or used for storage.
In 1966, Sir John's descendant gave the Old Stone House to the Student Christian Movement, who had made use of the building in the years before. Members restored the building but the interior was gutted by fire in 1971 leaving only a shell. In 1972 the Cracroft Community Centre was founded and fundraising began to restore the building. Much of the work was done by volunteers, including sourcing roof materials from other local historic buildings, cutting decorative boards, pointing stonework and landscaping. By the late 1970s the Old Stone House was open to the public with a slightly altered layout that gave the main room a cathedral-style ceiling.
Well used by the community, it was also a popular venue for weddings until the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2011 when it closed after sustaining damage. It re-opened in February 2018 and resumed its status as a community and event venue.