Who were the GRAHAM BROTHERS?
The Graham brothers, Peter and Alec, were the tourism pioneers of Franz Josef. Together they were experienced mountain guides, and excellent hotel managers. In 1903, Peter left Franz Josef to work as a guide at The Hermitage. One of his most famous clients was Freda du Faur, one of New Zealand's finest woman alpinists. With Peter as her guide she became the first woman to summit Mt Cook/Aoraki in November 1911. Alec was also an exceptional climber and he was part of the team that was the first to ascend Mt Aspiring.
Peter retuned to Franz Josef in 1911 when his brothers Jim and Alec bought the Waiho Hotel. The original building was under threat from the Waiho River, so they used a series of runners and hand winches to move the entire building. The new site is today the location of the Franz Josef/Waiau Department of Conservation Visitor Information Centre.
Peter focused on the administrative tasks of the Hotel, Rose and Jim ran the kitchen, bar and housekeeping team, while Alec managed the outside operations. He oversaw the farm, sawmill and the Tatare Gorge electricity scheme. In 1914 forty guests could stay at the Hotel and there was a formal dining room, two sitting rooms and a smoking room. By 1929 the hotel had 120 beds and clients were guided on the Franz Josef glacier, Copland-Graham Saddle trip, and overnight trips to Defiance hut.
The guiding business was so successful that in the early 1930’s the Grahams implemented a seasonal guiding structure by employing university students during their summer holidays. The Great Depression had little effect on the tourism numbers and in 1937 3,500 people stayed at the Hotel. There was now a General Store and Post Office on site. World War II saw two changes to the operation, firstly nearly the entire guiding team joined the military, and world-wide travel ceased and visitor numbers dropped.
After the war the Grahams continued to run the hotel until 1947 when they sold it to the Government Tourist Department. That year the hotel had over 5,000 guests, and it was too big to be run by just one family. Today the lasting impression of the Graham brothers is not the memory of a grand hotel that was destroyed by fire in 1954, or the many awards that they were given for their services to both guiding and tourism. Instead it is the many tracks and huts that they both helped to build and the part they played in the development of South Westland as a unique visitor destination.