Welcome to the website of Historic Places Wellington Incorporated (HPW). We are a membership not-for-profit organisation based in Wellington, New Zealand. We advocate for heritage in the wider Wellington region, and offer events such as talks, walks and visits to historic places and buildings. For more information, see our About Us page. We are also on Facebook: facebook.com/historicplaceswellington
Wellington historic buildings to visit
Some of Wellington’s historic buildings can be regularly visited (although some require a guided tour). Click the links for more information:
Old St Paul’s Church; Parliament Buildings; Old Government Buildings; Supreme Court; Katherine Mansfield Birthplace; Government House; St Gerard’s Monastery; St Peter’s Church; Wellington Museum (including Nairn Street Cottage); Golder Cottage, Upper Hutt; Paekakariki Station Museum, Paekakariki, Kapiti coast.
Wellington’s historic listed buildings
To see if a building is listed as historic by Heritage New Zealand (formerly NZ Historic Places Trust) click the link to search. Local councils also maintain a heritage list as part of their District Plans – see our useful links page. You can search the buildings on the Wellington City Council’s list here: www.wellingtoncityheritage.org.nz
News and Events
In a decision released on 25 January the Environment Court has approved the demolition of the Erskine College Main Building. The Wellington Company (the site’s owner) had appealed a Save Erskine College Trust (SECT) heritage order over the Category 1 heritage building – for more on the history of the preservation battle see our Erskine College page. Heritage New Zealand (HNZ) was a party to the case and argued for the building’s retention.
The Court conceded that the “Erskine site is of outstanding heritage significance” and the demolition of the Main Building on its “heritage values … will be significant and irreversible.” However, it accepted The Wellington Company’s argument that it could not afford to adaptively re-use the Main Building as well as restore the chapel. An alternative to let both buildings remain as they were until someone else found a use for the buildings was rejected by the Court on (seismic-related) health and safety grounds. It therefore found “that the better outcome for heritage is to agree to a partial nullification of the heritage order and allow demolition of the main building in order, upon appropriate conditions, to secure the long term retention of the chapel.” The Court ordered that The Wellington Company has to strengthen the chapel before other works are carried out on the site. It is presently in talks with SECT and HNZ to develop the conditions for the chapel’s strengthening.
HPW is pleased the Erskine Chapel will be saved and reused, but we don’t see the decision as a great win for heritage. Robbing Peter to pay Paul – demolishing the Main Building to save the Chapel – is not the way to advance good heritage outcomes. The whole Erskine site is a Category 1 listed place and the demolition of an essential component of it is a terrible loss. This classification ought to mean that owners and territorial authorities are obliged to maintain the historical integrity of such places. In supporting the owner’s request to make the site a Special Housing Area, the Wellington City Council contributed to undermining Erskine’s heritage values.
The whole saga shows up the ineffectiveness of New Zealand’s heritage legislation – again. We think what is needed is a new statutory framework that provides stronger protection for built heritage. Until that happens, we’re likely to see other Erskine-like tragedies.
Here are a few photos of the interior of the main block.
An exhibition that may be of interest, although not about Wellington:
Lessons from the Arctic: How Roald Amundsen won the race to the South Pole.
In December 1911, Roald Amundsen planted the Norwegian flag at the South Pole, just weeks ahead of British polar explorer Robert Falcon Scott, who was approaching by another route. The tragic loss of the lives of Scott’s team is well known—but how did Amundsen succeed?
This panel exhibition of images and personal accounts reveals how, exploring some of the lessons Amundsen learnt from earlier experience in both polar regions, Amundsen won the race to the South Pole. The rare images were taken by the expedition crew, hand-coloured by Amundsen and used in his 1912 lecture.
Free entry. Open 9am–5pm, Monday–Friday. Until 28 Feb. The Atrium, Faculty of Architecture and Design 139 Vivian Street, Te Aro Campus, Wellington
Associated public talks: 6pm in Lecture Theatre 1, Faculty of Architecture and Design
14 February: Dr Ursula Rack—Race to the South Pole: A historian’s view
19 February: Professors James Renwick and Tim Naish—A race to save the pole: A scientist’s view
27 February: Pip Cheshire—The nature of building on the Antarctic continent: An architect’s view.
More information here.
Maritime Archaeology Association talk: The Tale of the barque Robina Dunlop
The story of the wreck of the Robina Dunlop…’A smart little clipper barque’ by all accounts, her untimely end on Turakina Beach and her crew’s personal lives. A presentation by Mike Johnston. 7.30 p.m. Wednesday 21 February 2018 at Wellington Museum, Queen’s Wharf.
The January-February 2018 edition of Heritage Today, issued by the Wellington Region Heritage Promotion Council Inc, is available from their online library. Some interesting summer reading!
The owners of the former Wellington motorcycles “earthquake prone” building in Kent Terrace have applied to demolish it. Although it isn’t heritage listed, it does form a nice streetscape with the heritage-listed Embassy Theatre next door. Read the news item here.
Surely at least retaining the facade could be an option? As the owners do not intend to “immediately redevelop the area” there will be an empty space (or carpark) here for … how long? “An exact timeframe is not presently known”.
Victoria University of Wellington has sold the Karori Campus (formerly Wellington Teachers’ College) to Ryman Healthcare. The modernist campus was designed by architects Toomath and Wilson in the 1960s.
We had a letter to the editor published in the Dominion Post on 15 December 2017:
Following the sale of the former Karori Teachers’ College by Victoria University to Ryman Healthcare, Historic Places Wellington urges that as much of the existing fabric of the Modernist campus be retained as possible. The complex was designed by the celebrated Wellington architect, William Toomath, between 1963 and 1977 and it is the best ensemble of Brutalist architecture in New Zealand. Its wholesale demolition would be a huge cultural loss for this city and the country.
Modernist architecture is presently not a universally loved style. This mindset will almost inevitably shift as it has for earlier architectural styles. We are sure that future generations will value Modernist buildings both for their architecture and for what they reveal about twentieth century New Zealand life.
We therefore exhort the new owners to seek the adaptive re-use of the exisiting buildings on the site. We’re sure that conservation and other architects could come up with new plans that could imaginatively meld the old and the new. This could be a huge win both for Rymans and the residents who will make the place their home.
Ben Schrader for Historic Places Wellington.”
Click here for a copy of updates from the Save the Karori Campus group (pdf): Collation of Updates 1 though 13 from the Save the Karori Campus Group and the latest updates: (pdf) Update 14 and Update 15. Here is a media statement from Ryman Healthcare: Media Statement from Ryman on Karori campus.
A number of people were invited to have a guided tour through some of the buildings in November 2017. These are some of the photos.
Victoria University of Wellington, which also owns the Gordon Wilson Flats at 320 The Terrace, wishes to demolish the building. It is not currently habitable. A city council panel approved the proposal to take the Gordon Wilson flats off the council’s heritage list. The Architectural Centre appealed the decision. The decision from the Environment Court on Gordon Wilson Flats came out on 9 August 2017. The appeal by the Architectural Centre is allowed and Gordon Wilson Flats should not be taken off the Council’s heritage list.
The decision noted that the appeal process had: “provided information that raises the heritage significance architecturally, socially and technically … of the GWF. Rather than diminishing the building’s heritage value … it has in fact strengthened the reasons for it to be listed” (at ). For more information about the Gordon Wilson Flats as architectural heritage, see the website of the Architectural Centre.
The Flats, which were built between 1957 and 1959, were on the City Council’s heritage list, but not on Heritage New Zealand’s Heritage List.
Historic Places Wellington financially supported the Architectural Centre’s appeal. The Committee held mixed views as to the architectural merit of the building – a reflection of wider community views – but all agreed that the delisting of a heritage building could set a dangerous precedent. It was on this basis that HPW gave its support. The Court’s rejection of the delisting will hopefully discourage other heritage building owners from taking this route
Special war-ending commemoration planned at St Peter’s Church, Willis Street
A memorial at the front of the nave in the Category 1 listed church on Willis Street has 24 names from the parish who died in World War One. The bellringers of St Peter’s Church in Wellington want to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I – 11 November 1918 – in a very special way next year. The bellringers would like to invite the relatives and descendants of those named to a special ‘peace ring’ at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month.
“If you know any of these former members of the parish or their relatives, or even have contact details, we would love to hear from you,” says Bells Master, Br Graham-Michoel Wills (firstname.lastname@example.org).
St Peter’s Church has the oldest bells in Wellington, preceded by just a few months by the Category 1 listed St Matthew’s in Auckland which has the oldest peal of bells in the country.
The roll of honour list from St Peter’s is: Private Frederick A Allen, Private Frank A Barton, Private Henry S Bernard, Rifleman George P Crawford, 2nd Lieutenant John S Dagg, Lieutenant John C Dudley, QMS Joseph G Faulkner, Lieutenant Oscar Freyberg, Rifleman Paul M Freyberg, Captain Leslie V Hulbert, 2nd Lieutenant James G Kinvig, Gunner Mark A Lavin, Private Leon G Lawrence, Corporal Eric Lyon, Sergeant William B Millington, Private Sydney H Parsons, 2nd Lieutenant Nathaniel A Pearce, Private Alfred G Petch, Sergeant Ernest N Player, Trooper Wilmot F Powell, 2nd Lieutenant Sydney O Smith, Captain John L Turner MC, Sergeant Frank V Tyerman and Sergeant Thomas C Webb.
The Government’s fund called Heritage EQUIP opened for applications on 15 December 2016. You can find more at this link: www.mch.govt.nz/heritageequip. This is separate from the facades and parapets policy.
Applications are welcome from owners of all privately-owned Category 1 Heritage New Zealand listed buildings across the country and for Category 2 listed heritage buildings in areas of high to medium seismic risk. “Grants are available for minor works under the Retrofit component of the fund, as well as for larger projects.”
The newsletters of the Wellington Region Heritage Promotion Council are available from the WRHPC website library.
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