Turnbull House

Turnbull House is located in Bowen Street and was the home of Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull (1868-1918) and later the Alexander Turnbull Library. Alexander Turnbull was the son of a successful businessman, Walter Turnbull. His family’s wealth enabled him to indulge his interest in collecting from a young age.

On his death in 1918 the collection included some 55,000 volumes as well as manuscripts, photographs, paintings and sketches. In 1920 The Alexander Turnbull Library, based on the collections bequeathed to the Crown by Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull in 1918, was opened to the public.

The house, built in 1916, was designed by Thomas Turnbull and Son to accommodate Turnbull’s collection of books, considered one of the finest in the South Pacific.  The building was the home of the Library until 1975 when the library was moved to 44 The Terrace and is now in the National Library building in Molesworth Street. Turnbull House was then used by community and cultural groups for meetings and sometimes had a cafe in it. The building is of national historic significance and is a Category 1 heritage listed building.

The building needs earthquake strengthening; it is administered by the Department of Conservation (DoC). It has been closed for about two years now and we understand DoC does not intend to begin work on it until 2017. Given it will be the 100th anniversary of Turnbull’s death in 2018, we are concerned that it won’t be strengthened and reopened by then. We have written to the Minister of Conservation, Hon. Maggie Barry, to ask if this timetable can be brought forward.

Turnbull house historic

This image and some more information on Turnbull is available on the New Zealand History website.

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Two recent photos of Turnbull House (taken by Vivienne Morrell).

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