Founders Heritage Park is one of Nelson’s hidden gems – a picturesque miniature village of character buildings set in beautiful grounds and packed full of local heritage and lore.
Established in 1977 by a group of community-minded Nelsonians, Founders Inc, as it was then, was populated with historic replica buildings – both newly constructed and relocated – with the help of local businesses. By its opening in 1986, the renamed Founders Heritage Park had a collection of 20,000 donated historical items.
Now boasting a collection many times larger than that, and adding new exhibits regularly, today Founders Heritage Park is owned and managed by Nelson City Council and is home to numerous artisan boutiques and a café.
Among its residents are printer Renee Hadlow, jeweller Martyn Milligan, fashion designer Jill Alexander and sailmaker Robyn Holms. A recent addition to the park is the Atkins Gallery, featuring original art by Toss Woolaston, ceramics and jewellery from Jim Trembath.
Full of exhibits and displays showcasing Nelson’s heritage, there is always something new to learn at Founders. Earlier this year, in collaboration with Rutherford Rotary Club, Rutherford Cottage was turned into an interactive exhibit. Containing games and activities that help explain and celebrate the work of Lord Ernest Rutherford, First Baron of Nelson, and father of nuclear physics, who grew up in the nearby town of Brightwater.
The annual Founders Book Fair is a must-visit for book lovers or anyone keen to rummage for a record, puzzle, or CD treasure. Taking place every day from 5-13 June, the Book Fair has thousands of second-hand books, puzzles, board games, magazines, and mixed media such as vinyl records, CDs, DVDs, and cassette tapes on offer.
A visit to the park would not be complete without a ride on the heritage train, operated by the Nelson Railway Society, or a stop for refreshments at Founders Café, open Tuesday-Sunday and featuring live music to entertain visitors on Friday evenings.
Scattered among the village are spaces ideal for events, weddings, conferences and meetings, and the park can be hired in its entirety.
The Energy Centre is the largest of spaces in the park, with high ceilings and a concrete floor for larger events. Or you can dance the night away on the polished wooden floor of the Granary, hang fairy lights around the grand pillars or spill out onto the Village Green to enjoy cocktails in the afternoon sun. With an antique bar and full commercial kitchen, it’s an excellent space for a dinner or wedding.
If you are looking for something a little more intimate, The Jaycee is fully carpeted with a built-in wooden dance floor, has its own kitchen and great indoor-outdoor flow into the patio area and Village Green.
Founders also feature its own little church, Old St Peter Church, a beautiful venue for weddings and other ceremonies and functions. There are no restrictions around catering at Founders Park, and you are more than welcome to bring in a caterer or do it yourself.
For more information, see: https://www.founderspark.co.nz/
Explore the virtual tour at Founders Heritage Park