Wharerata homestead was originally built in 1901 to a CT Natusch design for Mr Arthur Edward Russell, a successful Hawkes Bay farmer. Nicknamed "Rata" by local Māori (thanks to his prolific fiery red beard), when the time came to decide on a name for his new home in the Manawatu, Arthur decided on "Wharerata” – or house of the red beard!
Arthur died in 1924 and his wife Ethel returned for a period to the homeland. Upon her return to Palmerston North, she came laden with the spoils of a spending spree abroad. It seemed time had dulled her memory of the capacity of the downstairs drawing room (now the Russell Room) and its ability to accommodate her new purchases, and she set about expanding it to its current majestic 95m2 area. The new space created above it, which commanded stunning views of the elevated grounds, became her impressive bedroom.
Gifted to Massey University after Ethel’s death in 1949, it was initially used as a lecture space and then in the 1970s became the on-campus social hub - as the University Staff Club.
With the subsequent cessation of the staff club, the metamorphism into unique event centre commenced. Through the care and attention of many dedicated staff in the intervening years, it has now evolved into Manawatu’s premiere function centre.