The first of four rest houses to be built around the Summit Road as part of Harry Ell's vision.
Radical conservationist and liberal MP Harry Ell envisioned a Summit Road that would link the scenic reserves and walking tracks in the Port Hills.
To provide refreshments to weary walkers, 14 rest and tea houses were planned to be staged at regular intervals along the Summit Road.
In the end, only four rest houses were ever built:
The first of these four rest houses, The Sign of the Bellbird, close to the summit crest of Kennedy's Bush, New Zealand's first established scenic reserve, started life in 1913 as a caretaker's cottage. Within a year a tearoom had be added and accommodation in huts and tents was on offer. The Bellbird also functioned as a post office and telephone bureau.
The Sign of the Bellbird was designed by Samuel Hurst Seager, a prominent local exponent of the Arts and Crafts movement which advocated an authentic architecture of place. Consequently Seager sought to harmonise the Bellbird with its landscape by building it of locally quarried volcanic stone with a slate roof.
The cottage was occupied between 1913 and 1942 by a number of caretakers including Harry and his wife Ada. By 1942 the effects of the Second World War had taken their toll on the Bellbird. Motoring restrictions in particular had resulted in all-time low sales and a temporary closure was agreed when the last caretaker left due to ill health.
The isolated location of Sign of the Bellbird made it an easy target for vandals and over the years the building fell into disrepair. Eventually it was demolished and materials from the ruins were used to partially reconstruct the building as a shelter. This has proved popular with walkers, cyclists and picnickers in the area.
In 2015 a fire gutted the shelter's roof(external link). This was replaced in 2017.