DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH HOTEL
Almost 200 years ago Johnny Johnston's Grog Shop opened on the Russell waterfront, and as the titular Johnston rose in stature, he elevated his establishment with a more noble name: The Duke of Marlborough. The ex-con was a prominent figure in the area, assisting in the translation of The Treaty of Waitangi into Maori, and hobnobbing with the colonial treasurer, who granted him the country's first liquor license — which still hangs in the bar.
The hotel has burnt down twice; during the town's sacking in the 1845 Battle of Kororareka, and again in 1931 in an accidental fire (when the publican had the foresight to hastily move the alcohol stores so he could continue trading); but each time it has risen from the ashes. Its numerous owners have each left their mark on the two-story wooden building, but whether interested in the striped marlin, caught in 1932, on display or the provocative artwork of Lester Hall, visitors here are immersed in two centuries f lives richly lived.