Devonport Flats

127-131 St Aubyn Street/State Highway 44 And 9 Dawson Street, New Plymouth

  • Devonport Flats.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 22/04/2011.
  • Devonport Flats.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Elizabeth Cox. Date: 17/11/2001.
  • Devonport Flats.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 22/04/2011.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 890 Date Entered 1st September 1983

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 13810 and DP 13859 (CT SRS TNF4/122), Taranaki Land District and the buildings known as Devonport Flats thereon.

City/District Council

New Plymouth District

Region

Taranaki Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 13810 and DP 13859 (CT SRS TNF4/122), Taranaki Land District

Summaryopen/close

Completed in 1924, Devonport Flats is a four storey purpose-built apartment complex in central New Plymouth. Consisting of three related buildings constructed in two stages from 1923, Devonport Flats has historic and architectural significance as an early reinforced concrete example of this type of residential development. Flat or apartment living become popular in New Zealand’s main urban centres from this time and the Devonport Flats reflects this demand for a more metropolitan lifestyle. Devonport Flats is a local landmark because of its scale and distinctive architectural features influenced by the Stripped Classical style. It also has local importance because of its association with the Waldie family and prominent New Plymouth architect, Frank Messenger (1865–1945), of Messenger, Griffiths and Taylor.

The flats were initially called Waldies’ Devonport Flats, after their owner Alexander Blackwood Waldie (1862–1928). Waldie was a Lepperton farmer with various commercial interests in New Plymouth, including the Criterion Motor Garage. He also took ‘a prominent part in the volunteer movement’, through his involvement with the Taranaki Guards and was a founding committee member of the New Plymouth Automobile Association. Indeed, both Messenger and Waldie had an early interest in motor vehicles and had a previous professional relationship extending Waldie’s garage building.

Devonport Flats has been described as ‘one of the largest blocks of flats in New Zealand in the early 1920s’, featuring ‘unity in the design which is both lively and disciplined’. The complex’s St Aubyn Street façade has repeated features, including lower-level double height arched windows, and two levels of rectangular windows with decorative keystones. The separation of these upper levels is demarcated by a pronounced corbel course. Originally the outermost window openings were left unglazed so the flats had seaward balconies. These had begun to be enclosed by the 1960s and by the 1980s only a few balconies remained. The narrow wing along Dawson Street is distinguished by its three sets of three-storey oriel windows which provide sea views. Waldie’s electro-plating business was originally located in Devonport Flats’ ground level corner space and this remained commercial premises until at least 1965.

Conveniently located within walking distance of the city’s commercial centre, the flats were also close to foreshore leisure opportunities and around the corner were gardens associated with the Cenotaph (List No. 885). This made the flats attractive to white collar and retail workers and a relatively high proportion of flats had female principal occupants. By the 1950s the demographic had altered slightly to also include tradespeople. The property was owned by the Waldie family until the 1970s but had become known as the Devonport Flats by 1935.

Devonport Flats is a prominent landmark within its streetscape, which consists of an interesting spectrum of housing architecture and types including characteristic late-nineteenth century to mid-twentieth century standalone houses, as well as the Art Deco Clarendon Apartments building. Complexes of flats only started being built in New Zealand’s urban centres from 1914, with growing momentum in the 1920s and 1930s. It was highly unusual to find them outside of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in the early 1920s, let alone an example of Devonport Flats’ scale. This is reflected on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero (the List) by Devonport Flats being the only provincial example from the period which is entered on the List.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

Messenger, Griffiths & Taylor

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Messenger, Francis (Frank) John

Francis John Messenger was a New Plymouth architect. He practised from the 1890s until his death in 1945 and was responsible for a number of prominent buildings in Taranaki which cover a variety of building types. His work includes the verandah (1909) of New Plymouth's White Hart Hotel (1886, Cat I), extensions to St Mary's Church (Cat I), Shoe Store Building, 58 Rata Street (1910, Cat II), Inglewood Town Hall by Percival & Messenger (1913, Cat II), St Andrew's Anglican Church, Rata Street by Messenger, Griffiths & Taylor (1922-23, Cat II), the Cenotaph opposite St Aubyn Chambers (1924, Cat II) and the Taranaki Savings Bank Building, 89 Devon Street by Messenger, Griffiths and Taylor (1929-30, Cat II).

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

Four storey flats constructed from reinforced concrete in three stages.

Construction Dates

Refurbishment/renovation
-
Balconies enclosed

Original Construction
1923 - 1924
1923: Stage One/St Aubyn and Dawson Streets corner section constructed

Completion Date

19th October 2017

Report Written By

Karen Astwood

Information Sources

Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Morrison, Philip and Ben Schrader, ‘Inner-city living - City flats’, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/inner-city-living/page-2, accessed 14 Sep 2017.

Taranaki Daily News

Taranaki Daily News

8 July 2013, p. 9

Cast in Concrete: Concrete construction in New Zealand

Thornton, Geoffrey, Cast in Concrete: Concrete construction in New Zealand, 1850–1939, Auckland, Reed, 1996.

Other Information

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.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Central Office of Heritage New Zealand