Although of German origin, Christian Jacob Waeckerle was amongst the first French settlers to arrive in 1840.
A qualified locksmith, Waeckerle was able to turn his hand to many things. After clearing land and working in a pit sawing timber in Takamatua, he moved to Akaroa and set up a blacksmith shop.
Recognising an opportunity for trade the enterprising pioneer went on to set up the first flour mill in 1848. He was also the first man to carry out the mail from Akaroa to Pigeon Bay, a difficult three day journey on foot.
After 12 years of working in the mill he built Waeckerle’s French Hotel on the current site of the Grand Hotel providing accommodation and stabling for travelers and their horses.
In 1876 he turned the running of the hotel over to his son-in-law. It burned to the ground in 1882 and foul play was deemed to be the cause as the town’s two other hotels were set alight on the same night.
The hotel operated temporarily from the Waeckerle’s cottage next door while the new building was erected and it reopened in 1883 under the rather grandiose name of ‘Waeckerle’s New Grand Commercial Hotel’ but the name was shortened during World War 1 when anti-German sentiments were running high.
The building retains much of its historic charm and some of the original features, but has seen many changes with the upstairs accommodation undergoing a complete renovation.
At the ripe old age of 132 the Grand Hotel has also withstood two major earthquakes and remains standing, ready to service the many travelers to the area.