Historical Significance or Value
Built in 1908, the Te Rau Press Building (Former) is part of the story of the rapid growth of Gisborne in the decades either side of 1900. The Peel Street historic area, of which the building is part, is significant as a piece of well preserved, early twentieth century commercial townscape. The area also has important historical links dating back to the early settlement and commercial development of Gisborne. The Peel Street/Gladstone Road area has continued to be part of the business centre of Gisborne since Captain Read's settlement initiatives in the 1870s. In particular, the Te Rau Press Building (Former) is connected to James Erskine, who commissioned the building for, his bakery supper and tearooms, and who baked and catered for the people of Gisborne for 50 years from 1876. It is important also for its association with the long established local newspaper, the Gisborne Herald that purchased the printing business in 1985.
Aesthetic Significance or Value
The Te Rau Press Building (Former) has aesthetic heritage streetscape significance as one of three substantial two storey, architect designed, Edwardian masonry buildings of similar scale that occupy the block of Peel Street from Reads Quay to Gladstone Road and form the NZHPT registered Peel Street historic area (Record No.7019). They contribute along with a number of other historic buildings of the era surviving in the town centre to the reputation of Gisborne town centre as the ‘Edwardian Capital of New Zealand’.
Architectural Significance or Value
The Erskine Building's has architectural significance both as the only Gisborne example of a building style often associated with Australian colonial architecture, with an imposing, deep verandah with filigree lacework, and as one of only two local buildings confirmed as the work of architect Herbert Brownlee.
Technological Significance or Values
The housing of the printing press technology for Te Rau Press is of technological importance. Including alphabet to enable printing in both Latin and Greek, was considered very advanced at the time, and the building later housed the first offset printing machine in Gisborne.
Social Significance or Value
The social significance of the building is apparent in the ambitious and sophisticated development of tearooms and supper room as part of the purpose built plan for the building, It epitomises Edwardian ideals of style and changing social values, reflecting both the growing business confidence in the burgeoning town and the increasing sophistication of its residents The large catering room on the first floor was utilised for recreation as a billiard hall in later times, reflecting another popular aspect of social life in the 19th century.
Spiritual Significance or Value
It has association with the Church Missionary Society and the Anglican Church through the Te Rau Theological College, established to train Maori from across the North Island to become ordinates in the Church. The Te Rau Press was begun by William Leonard Williams to produce publications, exam papers and other printed requirements for the Maori students. The business grew and was relocated to the Erskine Building and renamed Te Rau Press Building. The more specified mode of teaching that demanded such publications was likely adopted by the college as a reaction of concern by the clergy to the emergence of the Maori religion, Pai Marire.
Traditional Significance or Values
The Te Rau Press Building (Former) has traditional significance, for early initiatives with Maori education. It is associated with the training of Maori ordinates from across the North Island at Gisborne’s Te Rau Theological College. Archbishop William Leonard Williams established Te Rau Press, which became an independent business at the time it moved to the Erskine Building. Te Rau Press is also significant in its demonstration of changing relationships between Maori and Pakeha after the 1860s and the loss of the CMS Mission Station at Turanga by followers of Pai Marire that resulted in a more institutionalised, European approach to its teachings; the printing operation was part of this attitudinal shift.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
Built in the early twentieth century, the Te Rau Press Building (Former) is a very fine example of the masonry architecture that replaced the original simpler, timber buildings in Gisborne and other regional centres, as prosperity and growth led to rapid development and it reflects the use of architecture as a statement of civic pride. It is reflective also, of the rapid growth of towns like Gisborne as a direct result of the rapid expansion of the farming hinterland and in particular the boom decades in the district's farming growth either side of 1900. It reflects also a changing social environment in rural New Zealand around the turn of the 19th century, with a level of growing sophistication that saw such a purpose-built structure with both tea and supper rooms, with menus that elicited praise by local media.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The place has strong associations with William Leonard Williams who first began training Maori students in 1850 for the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and established a mission station at Waerenga a Hika near Turanga. He was the first principal of Te Rau Theological College and established Te Rau Press which eventually became an independent business that he relocated to the Erskine Building, renamed Te Rau Press Building at this time. Williams was elected Bishop of Waiapu in 1895.
It has important for its significant association with the Anglican Church during its early time as the Te Rau Press Building, housing the printing business of that name, an Anglican Church initiative for its Maori theological students and for its association with Pai Marire. The latter was reflected through more institutionalised teaching established by Williams with Maori following the conflicts of 1865,
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place:
Still widely recognised by its Te Rau Press Building nomenclature, it enjoys high public esteem for its historical associations, in particular with Te Rau Kahikatea and its Te Rau Theological College that schooled a number of Maori who went on to become leaders for Maori on the East Coast and nationally. It continues also to be valued for its aesthetic qualities and as a tangible reminder of pioneering Gisborne and the wider Poverty Bay.
(f) The potential of the place for public education:
The revitalised retail outlet on the ground floor ensures that the building is still able to be enjoyed, and it is also featured in historic interpretation panels on the street, local touring guides and historic publications give it existing value in a public education role.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape
The Te Rau Press Building (Former) is located on Peel Street in the central city of Gisborne, where it is part of a well preserved early twentieth century predominantly Edwardian earning the town a proud acknowledgement of New Zealand’s Edwardian capital. The Peel Street historic area group of substantial buildings of similar age, and scale form an evocative, uninterrupted heritage streetscape along one of Gisborne's main roads.
East Coast oral tradition states that the honoured ancestor Maui-tikitikia-Taranga fished up the North Island of New Zealand. Two Maori ancestral canoes are associated with this region; Takitimu, which made landfall in this region around 1450AD and Horouta. The area is thought to have been extensively cultivated and utilised by Maori, with the plains and rivers both an excellent food source and transport link. Abundant bird life and tidal flats yielded a wide range of protein sources. The nearby grasslands and swamps provided food as well as materials for weaving and construction. Large villages or pa were built on strategic points on the rivers and hills.
In 1769 Captain James Cook on his ship ‘Endeavour’ made landfall at what he named Poverty Bay. This was the first contact between European and Maori. When Cook arrived in the area, it was occupied by four main tribal groups; Rongowhakata, Ngai Tahupoo (later known as Ngai Tamanuhiri), Te Aitanga a Mahaki, and Te Aitanga a Hauiti. Heipipi Pa is said to have stood nearby the present-day intersection of Gladstone Road and Customhouse Street. Although there was no planned European settlement, by the 1830s traders and whalers had ensconced themselves in the region and trading posts later established by settlers such as Captain Read led to further European settlement. In 1868 the Government purchased 741 acres of land for the town site of Gisborne, which was surveyed into sections two years later.
In 1852 Captain G.E. Read, was invited by local Maori to establish a trading store. For thirty years this enterprising pioneer shaped and influenced the development of Poverty Bay and Gisborne’s town centre establishing Gisborne's first hotel, the Albion, and the courthouse as well as introducing his own early currency system involving £1 notes that only he could cash. At the time of his death in 1878 it was estimated that he had created three quarters of the town's business property. As observed by the Gisborne Herald, ‘Peel Street owes a tremendous amount of its progress to the pioneers of the town who moulded the commercial area of Gisborne into what it is today.' The redevelopment of the street in the decades either side of 1900 was at a time when large contingents of settlers began pouring into Gisborne. It was a boom time for farming that generated trade and saw development of the land around the town; Gisborne flourished and town expansion was required in order to serve the hinterland. The original timber buildings were replaced with architecturally designed masonry structures as a statement of civic pride and confidence in the area’s continuing prosperity.
Te Rau Press was built as the Erskine Building, being designed and constructed for James Erskine, a local baker, caterer and confectioner. It was part of an ambitious business expansion to provide a range of quality hospitality and retail outlets for the town. As described in the Poverty Bay Herald, it was,
‘A modern two-storey brick building is about to be erected in Peel street to the order of Mr Jas. Erskine, baker. The preparation of plans has been entrusted to Mr H. J. Brownlee, architect, and his drawings show a frontage of 66 feet, of a uniform height with Mr F. Hall's [Charlie Browns] new building.’
The article went on to detail that the ground floor would feature four shops with plate glass windows, as well as a refreshments room, dining room, kitchen, scullery, pantry and bathroom. Upstairs, the building featured private living accommodation, a ‘large social hall’ and a balcony running along the front. ‘The building’, concluded the Poverty Bay Herald, ‘will form a very fine addition to the architecture of the town.’ Another article in the Poverty Bay Herald, dated 8 June 1906, noted that tenders for the building had been received, but that there were ‘private reasons for the delay in the acceptance of tenders.’ Earlier historical records place the date of the building 1910 to 1912. However, two Poverty Bay Herald articles indicate that the building was completed by July 1908. One, for example, mentions that Mr H.N. Holmes, general secretary of the Wellington Y.M.C.A. was to attend a dinner on 30 July 1908 ‘in the upstairs portion of Mr J. Erskine's new building.’ The newspaper also featured a public notice in October 1908 that Erskine’s tearooms and supper rooms were now open for business. This is also what the Gisborne District Heritage Study indicates, arguing that the plans are dated 1907, but photographs taken in 1910 don’t show the building standing, thus implying that construction was delayed.
James Erskine’s business was originally located in Gladstone Road and he showed much confidence and entrepreneurship in his promotions, in what was then only a burgeoning hospitality sector, but no doubt buoyed by the growth and optimism that abounded in the town at the time. A newspaper advertisement from 1904 suggested that
‘HAVING secured the services of an experienced Pastry and Fancy Goods Baker, the undersigned is now in a position to Cater for BALLS, PARTIES, PICNICS, Etc., in a manner hitherto unknown in Gisborne. The Ladies will find, by consulting with J. E., the labor of entertaining is reduced to a minimum, Large and Small Parties being catered for on the most LIBERAL TERMS. THE BAKERY is in charge of a very capable man, and Householders will find no better Bread is obtainable in town, only flour of A1 quality being used in connection with this part of the business.’
It also noted that his refreshment rooms were open from 8am to 9pm every day. In 1906 the Poverty Bay Herald noted that he had purchased a cake mixing machine and current cleaner from England, and congratulated him on his investment in new technologies. In 1909 his business was acquired by the Gisborne Co-operative Bakery Company Ltd, and he joined the board of directors, as well as continuing to work for the company. In 1917 Erskine was made bankrupt, after the bakery business he started in 1913 failed as a result of rising costs and poor cash flow.
The Erskine Building was a two storeyed, plastered brick building with concrete foundations, gabled hip corrugated iron roof, timber joinery, timber floors, and a two storeyed verandah with bull nosed roof and cast iron verandah posts with iron lacework on the ground floor. Such deep verandahs are often associated with colonial Australian architecture. The asymmetrical neoclassical facade, reminiscent of colonial vernacular architecture because of the verandahs, had arched windows, shallow pilasters and plain walls with a parapet and pediment. Open for business by 1908, the Poverty Bay Herald featured a notice about the building and its services, including the tea rooms, ‘which are large and airy and comfortably furnished’ and the supper rooms, with their special feature of the oyster and fish supper.
‘The services of a capable and experienced Chef have been secured, and it is confidently anticipated that the requirements of the Public will be catered for on a scale which is certain to meet with approval. Experienced, smart Waitresses in attendance.’
According to the Gisborne Herald, the first floor was also at some stage home to the L. Hambra billiards saloon. A lean-to was constructed at the back of the building between 1910 and 1912.
From 1924 the Erskine building became the Te Rau Press Building when the Te Rau Press began operating in the building. This part of the building’s history connects it to the Anglican Church in Tairawhiti, and more specifically with theological training and education for North Island Maori at Te Rau Theological College. This was established in 1883, initially in the grounds of Te Rau Kahikatea when the New Zealand Maori Trust Board began financing Maori ordinates. William Leonard Williams, known as Mita Renata to Maori, one of the preeminent Church Missionary Society (CMS) clergymen in the East Coast area, was the first principal of the College and established Te Rau Press for printing of mission publications. It was equipped with sets of Greek and Hebrew letters and was used for many years to print the examination papers of theological students taking those languages, as well as for producing publications for Maori students and eventually a weekly newspaper, Te Rau Weekly Press. The Te Rau Press Building (Former) is associated also, with the changing relationship between Maori and Pakeha after the 1865 destruction of Williams’ mission station at Waerenga a Hika near Turanga during the Pae Marire conflicts. Pai Marire was a new religion preached by Te Ua Haumene of the Taranaki tribe as a reaction following defeat by British artillery fire. It offered for the demoralised Maori people, a much needed form of nationalism. The religion practiced a faith which combined aspects of Old Testament teaching with the traditional culture and priest craft of Maori. It proved a very effective form of psychological warfare. Shifting his base from missionary enclaves to the new Pakeha town of Gisborne, Williams’ foundation of Te Rau Kahikatea and the Theological College likely reflected a change in the way the CMS approached religious instruction of Maori. The college marked a change to a systematic training of Maori students with a view to recruiting the men as ordinates to the ministry.
The use of this building for the theological college printing business is, aside from the Category 1 Te Rau Kahikatea building (Record No. 812), the only other built remnant of Te Rau Theological College, which played such a significant role in the religious education of Maori from 1883 to 1920. Many distinguished Maori clergy studied at the college. Te Rau Press eventually became a secular firm, which in 1957 went into receivership. The then secretary Max Stevens bought both the building and business and installed Gisborne’s first offset printing machine. He also rented the top floor of the adjacent Hall’s (Charlie Brown) Building and established an office equipment and stationery store on the ground floor. The Gisborne Herald Co Ltd bought the business from Stevens in 1985. In 1996 Te Rau Press and the Herald merged their commercial print operations and moved to new premises, leaving the building to sit empty for the next seven years. Based on the evidence of the plans, the building was altered at some point by the removal of the pediment and parapet on the front façade. These alterations were probably made after the 1931 and 1932 Hawke’s Bay earthquakes. In 1950, repairs and renovations were made to structures at the back of the building to use as a publishing and printing factory. A small section of this was demolished in 1970.
In 2003 consent was given to earthquake strengthen and prepare the building for reuse as a retail showroom for Gisborne Office Products. This involved making a number of changes, including the demolition of three internal ground floor load bearing walls, the removal of numerous minor non-structural partitions and divisions on both the ground and upper floors, the removal of pressed steel ceilings and the installation of a uniform suspended ceiling, the removal of the split level floor and replacement with a level concrete floor, the construction of new ground beams, portal frames, footings and diaphragm bracing to compensate for the wall removal, parapet support and other general structural work, and to meet Council’s seismic standards. There was minor change to the rear facade to incorporate an inwards goods entrance.
The owners also tried to respond to the historic significance of the building, removing trelliswork between the front verandah posts that had been added in the 1960s, and seeking to integrate the new automatic double doors into the overall architectural scheme with a tiled entranceway and side wing walls. Timber from the original floor was salvaged and reused for repair work, and the original pressed metal ceiling was retained behind the suspended ceiling, which was also set back so as to fit with the upper windows.
In 2008 the building was again altered when the parapets on the north and south sides of were removed after the 2007 earthquake as a preventative measure.
Te Rau Press (Former) is the centre building of three substantial commercial heritage structures on Peel Street in the heart of Gisborne’s town centre. It contributes to the NZHPT registered Peel Street historic area (Record No. 7019). This cluster of historic buildings contributes to the reputation of Gisborne town centre as the ‘Edwardian Capital of New Zealand’; comprising of a group of substantial, two-storey buildings of similar age and scale which form an important, uninterrupted heritage streetscape along one of the town centre’s main roads.
The Te Rau Press Building (Former) is a two-storeyed, plastered brick building with concrete foundations, gabled hip corrugated iron roof, timber joinery, timber floors, a two-storeyed verandah with bull nosed roof, cast iron verandah posts with iron lacework on ground floor.
The asymmetrical neoclassical façade has arched windows, shallow pilasters and plain walls and parapet (parapet and pediment have been removed). One original ground floor doorway with heavy panelled doors remains as do many shop front details.
The ground floor features a large retail showroom, with double automatic doors in a central entranceway. Behind the showroom are offices, and an inward goods entrance. The first floor features offices, accessed by stairways from the front and back facades, as well as a covered balcony running the full length of the facade.
1910 - 1912
Lean-to constructed at rear of building
Probable minor alterations when building taken over by Te Rau Press
1931 - 1932
Pediment and parapets removed after earthquakes?
Repairs and renovations made to rear building for publishing and printing business
Part of rear building demolished
Alterations including the installation of a new shop frontage, removal of split level floor and replacement with a level concrete floor, the installation of a uniform suspended ceiling, minor changes to the rear facade to incorporate an inwards goods entrance
Earthquake damage to rear building repaired, removal of north and south parapet
Plastered brick, concrete foundations, gabled hip corrugated iron roof, timber joinery, timber floors, cast iron, iron lacework
11th October 2012
Report Written By
Gail Henry, Damian Skinner, Linda Pattison
Sheila Robinson and John Berry (eds.), Gisborne Exposed: The Photographs of William Crawford 1874-1913, Gisborne, 1990
Sheridan Gundry, Small City, Big Heart: Built Heritage of Gisborne’s Commercial District. Gisborne, NZ Historic Places Trust, Tairawhiti Branch Committee, 2006
Sheila Robinson, Gisborne Landmarks: An Historical Guide. Gisborne, Te Rau Creative Design & Print, 2004
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Lower Northern Area Office.
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.