Historical Significance or Value
Constructed in 1936, it is likely that this building is the earliest example of premises of a clinic or group practice in the Hastings area. Other group practices do not begin to appear in business indexes in the Hastings area until the late 1970s. The building is also an early example of premises of a clinic or group practice at a national level. Other known examples from this period are the Lister Building in Auckland (Register No 614, Category II), constructed in 1925, Kelvin House in Wellington (unregistered), constructed in 1928, and the Harley Buildings in Christchurch (Register No 3111, Category II), constructed in 1929. Though research from the United States gives some insight into the origins and motivation behind the establishment of group practices analysis of these buildings and the environment during which they were erected offers further insight into an area that is little explored in written histories of the medical and dental professions in New Zealand.
The building's historical significance at a local level is enhanced by its association with the aftermath of the 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquake which, along with the anticipated introduction of introduction of national health insurance, was a likely influence on the building's inception. The association with the aftermath of the 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquake is strengthened by the fact the building was designed by Davies and Phillips, architects particularly active in efforts to rebuild Hastings following the earthquake, and its Moderne style (with Art Deco features) characteristic of buildings in the Hawkes Bay dating from the reconstruction period.
AESTHETIC SIGNIFICANCE OR VALUE:
The Medical and Dental Chambers occupies a prominent corner site at the edge of the central business area of Hastings. The assured and consistent piece of period design from the 1930s contributes greatly to the streetscape. As well, it has aesthetic value in its interior spaces and fittings, which are matching in style. The elegant entrance and day lighting of the interior contribute to the building's aesthetic value.
ARCHITECTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OR VALUE:
The building is an excellent example of the Moderne style, displaying many of its characteristic features, such as a strong horizontal emphasis in the banding of the windows, cornices and parapets, and broad smooth surfaces with rounded corners. The symmetry is pronounced, and its adaptation to its setting on a corner site elegantly achieved. The design intention towards Art Deco styling can be found on the interior and exterior. With all elements taken together, the building is of outstanding significance for the complete picture it offers of a style of architecture that was important in the 1930s.
Contributing to the building's architectural significance is its very competent and elegant design by local architects Davies & Phillips. Davies & Phillips were one of the most successful practices in the city's history and are credited as the 'chief exponents of art deco in Hastings' in the 1930s.
The building has been recognised in a number of publications, many produced by the Art Deco Trust, both as a fine example of Art Deco style and of the work of Davies & Phillips.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history :
This building, dating from 1936, is an example of an early clinic or group practice. The only other known examples of clinics or group practices from this early period in New Zealand are the Lister Building in Auckland (Register No 614, Category II) built in the Chicago manner of multi-storeyed commercial buildings in 1925, Kelvin House in Wellington (unregistered) built in a stripped classical style in 1928, and the Harley Buildings in Christchurch (Register No 3111, Category II) built in a neoclassical style in 1929. Though they would become commonplace such practices are noted to have still been 'a new concept' when the John Street Doctors (Register No 7570, Category I) began operating in this fashion 10 years later in 1946. Research from the United States supports this suggestion noting that before 1950 most physicians had solo practices.
The building also has a number of features that make it a representative example of buildings erected in Hastings following the 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquake. It is an excellent example of the Moderne style with features characteristic of the period, and was designed by local architects, Davies and Philips, well known for their reconstruction work in the area following the earthquake. Also of note is that its date of construction points to the slower reconstruction pace that author Matthew Wright points to as peculiar to Hastings.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place:
Since its erection the Medical and Dental Chambers has been recognised in a number of publications, many produced by the Art Deco Trust, both as a fine example of art deco style and of the work of Davies and Phillips.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:
The building is technically very well built, using good quality materials, and all details are well designed by the architects. It is a consistent and coherent design, an excellent example of the Moderne style (with Art Deco features) that has been pointed to as one of the city's finest examples in this style. The survival of a high proportion of original fabric enhances its technical value.
The building has technological interest for its concrete construction, and for the use of other materials (such as terrazzo), which are not in common use today.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:
This building is a little dislocated from the main bulk of post-Hawke's Bay earthquake buildings in Hastings, but it is still a key component in a city substantially shaped by that one event, which led to the destruction and rebuilding of much of the city centre. Indeed it appears this event may have influenced the setting up of these particular chambers in New Zealand at this time. The building sits at a major intersection, and plays an important part in defining the historic character of the central business area of Hastings.
SUMMARY OF SIGNIFICANCE OR VALUES:
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, e, g, k.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category I historic place.
The Medical and Dental Chambers (Former) is an excellent example of the Moderne style of architecture, popular during the 1930s, and characterised in this case by the strong horizontal emphasis of the design, the broad flat surfaces and sweeping corners. Consistency of the overall design and the detail extends to the curtilage of the building, where a low wall mirrors the features of the building. Architectural interest continues to the interior, where the circular space of the entrance foyer, and original finishes and hardware, are elegant, consistent and of the period. With all elements taken together, the building is of outstanding significance for the complete picture it offers of a style of architecture that was important in the 1930s. The architectural value of the building is further enhanced by its association with architects of local importance Davies and Philips. The building has been recognised in a number of publications as a fine example of art deco style and of the work of Davies and Phillips. The building also has historical significance as an example of an early clinic or group practice, an aspect of New Zealand's medical and dental history given little attention in written histories to date. It is likely the earliest example of premises of a clinic or group practice in the Hastings area and its historical significance at a local level is enhanced by its association with the aftermath of the 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquake, which along with the anticipated introduction of introduction of national health insurance, was a likely influence on the building's inception.
The Moderne style building located on the eastern corner of King Street North and Queen Street West was a purpose-built medical and dental chambers owned by Hastings Medical and Dental Chambers Limited. The company was incorporated in October 1934. The building was completed in 1936, on land purchased in two parts by the company (in 1934 and 1936) from Annie Williams, wife of William Temple Williams, a sheep farmer and a descendant of the famous missionary Williams family. The architects of the building were Davies and Phillips. The Hastings Medical and Dental Chambers Limited owned the building until 2002, the year it was struck off the Companies' Register, after being declared insolvent in 2000.
At the time the Chambers were built in 1936 clinics or group practices were uncommon; other group practices do not begin to appear in business indexes in the Hastings area until the late 1970s. One book, on the history of the John Street Doctors in Wellington (Register No 7570, Category II), noted that group practice was still 'a new concept' when the John Street Doctors became Wellington's first group practice in 1946. Even joint practices, which seem marginally more common in the Hastings area when the Chambers were erected, appear to have been along marriage or family lines. The first practitioners at the Chambers appear to have had no such ties. Other than their related professions, the only link found to date is between two of the practitioners, Ernest R Whyte, Dentist and Dr David Alfred Bathgate, Medical Practitioner. They were based in the Hawke's Bay Farmers Building in Queen Street prior to the establishment of the Chambers. As early and long term occupiers of the building it is possible Whyte and Bathgate were shareholders in the company that owned the building, the Hastings Medical and Dental Chambers Limited. Certainly it appears that descendents of Whyte were shareholders in this company when it was liquidated in 2002.
Other examples of medical and dental chambers from this period have been found in other parts of New Zealand. The Lister Building in Auckland, named after Sir Joseph Lister - the founder of antiseptic medicine and pioneer in preventative medicine, was completed in 1925 in the Chicago manner of multi-storeyed commercial buildings (Register No 614, Category II). The company that erected it - similarly called Medical and Dental Chambers Limited - wound up in 1971. Kelvin House in Wellington (16 The Terrace, unregistered), was completed in 1928 and is stripped classical in style. The company that erected it - called Medical Chambers Ltd - owned the building until the 1970s. The Harley Buildings (or Harley Chambers Building) in Christchurch was likely named for Harley Street, London. This building was built in 1929 by G T Lucas in a neoclassical style (Register No 3111, Category II). In the absence of detailed records for the Hastings' company records for these buildings may tell us something of the establishment of the Hastings' company and operation of their building. The company in Auckland was set up with the express purpose of acquiring land and erecting the Lister Building - it seems likely this was also the case in Hastings. An article published prior to construction of Kelvin House in Wellington noted that the building was to comprise 'shops and showrooms on the ground floor, offices and showrooms on the first floor and special suites for medical men and dentists above [including] consulting rooms, surgeries, waiting rooms...and also a trading room and library'. In both Auckland and Christchurch rooms in the buildings were leased to practitioners to manage their own affairs, again this appears to have been the case in Hastings. In Auckland the practitioners who built the Lister Building were entitled to a number of spaces - it is unknown if the owners of the Medical and Dental Chambers, Kelvin House or Harley Buildings benefited in the same way.
While records on these buildings provide some useful insight into why the company may have been set up and how it operated they provide little or nothing on the motivation for the setting up of such clinics or group practices more generally. A report on the Lister Building suggests that the company was set up with 'a commonality of professional interest and for economic reasons rather than for any particular philosophy' but nothing is said beyond this. Meanwhile a history written on the John Street Doctors (Register No 7570, Category I), a longstanding private practice that evolved into a group practice following World War II, indicates that in its case group practice was a way to counter the constant intrusion on the individual doctor and his family's private lives. Histories of the medical and dental professions in New Zealand provide no direct analyses of what might have led to the development of such clinics or group practices in this country.
A report on Kelvin House for Wellington City Council's heritage inventory notes that the gathering of 'practitioners of various kinds' together in one building was 'in keeping with a trend overseas'. No reference is provided for this information however literature on the development of group practice in the United States certainly suggests that, though not yet commonplace, group practices had begun to appear in the United States by this time. The concept of group practice in the United States is noted in one book to have had its origins in the nineteenth century with companies needing to provide health care for employees in rural sites where medical care was unobtainable. The authors of this book and others writing on the subject acknowledge the contribution of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, which began in 1887, to spreading of the concept of group practice. By the early 1930s there were approximately 150 group practices around the United States, many of these were in the mid west with most started by those with connections to the Mayo Clinic. However there was opposition to the concept of group practice and its growth across the country was relatively slow. In the United States group physicians represented just '3 per cent of total physicians in private practice in 1946 and 7 per cent in 1959'. Another author notes that 'before 1950 most physicians had solo practices'. Opposition to group practice is said to have subsided by the 1950s 'because of effective legal challenges against organised medicine and a physician shortage'.
There is consistency between the motivations these authors give for physicians entering group practice. They include the sharing of costs - particularly in light of developments in medical technology, the opportunity for improved accessibility for patients and higher quality patient care, and an improved work life balance for the practising physician. In addition to these reasons an analysis of the environment in which the Hastings Medical and Dental Chambers were erected suggests two events may have influenced the setting up of these particular chambers in New Zealand at this time.
One motivation behind the erection of such a sizable building as medical and dental chambers in Hastings may have been to provide suitable accommodation for practitioners following the Hawkes Bay earthquake in 1931. Though there is no record of a large practice existing prior to the earthquake dentists are known to have needed to relocate in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. F C Fryer found temporary premises in Karamu Road after the building he was practicing in was destroyed; while architects Davies and Phillips, who would later be responsible for the Medical and Dental Chambers, were responsible for building dentist James Faulkner's dental surgery in the Queens Chambers in 1932. Davies and Phillips had teamed up with another architect Alfred Garnett in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and together they were responsible for designing a significant portion of buildings in Hastings following the earthquake. Garnett left the practice in 1933 and it is Davies and Phillips who have been credited as the 'chief exponents of art deco in Hastings' in the 1930s. Since its erection the Medical and Dental Chambers has been recognised in a number of publications, many produced by the Art Deco Trust, both as a fine example of art deco style and of the work of Davies and Phillips.
While the Medical and Dental Chambers were not completed until 5 years after the earthquake it is likely permanent premises were still in demand at this time. Matthew Wright's history of Hawkes Bay describes how reconstruction in Hastings went at a slower pace than in Napier. He notes that a decision to temporarily rebuild central Hastings and owners' desire to retain these temporary structures meant 'permanent reconstruction took place relatively slowly during the early and mid 1930s'.
Another motivation for building such a large medical and dental chambers in Hastings may have been the anticipated introduction of national health insurance in New Zealand by the first Labour government. The possibility had been discussed for many years and by 1935 its introduction seemed likely whether Labour was elected or not. By February 1935 how such a scheme might apply in New Zealand was a regular topic of discussion at meetings of the New Zealand Medical Association.
Labour was elected in November 1935; in Hastings long standing conservative H M Campbell would be ousted by Labour candidate E L Cullen. While some inside and outside of the medial profession feared that 'Labour intended to put an end to private medical practice' others, such as those setting up the Medical and Dental Chambers, may have anticipated an increased use of private medical and dental services with the benefits Labour suggested it would introduce making them more affordable.
It would be a number of years before any such benefits would be seen, with the Social Security Act not coming into effect until 1939, and the benefits subject to discussions between the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) and the New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) for a number of years after that. In November 1941, after much wrangling between the government and the New Zealand Medical Association, a scheme was introduced that would allow patients to claim back a refund (partial dependent on the doctor's fees) from the Social Security Fund. It would be some time later when the details of the benefits paid to dentists would be confirmed, the NZDA discussions having to have waited for the NZMA to resolve their issues with the government's proposal, however by 1943 there was an agreement in principle that 'a mixed state and private dental service was the best means of raising the low standard of the nation's dental health'. Whether the anticipated arrival of national health insurance was a motivation or not by this time Hastings Medical and Dental Chambers Limited had already been operating successfully for 9 years with their building home to a range of health professionals from 1936.
Though its name indicated it as first and foremost a medical chambers the primary use for the building since its inception was as a dental chambers. Over 12 dentists are known to have practised in the Chambers. They included Ernest R Whyte (c1936-1970), a possible shareholder in the company, H A'Court Fitzgerald (c1946-1972/3) and Albert E O'Meara (c1936-1957 and 1959-1961) individuals who also held leases over parts of the building at various points. Only 4 doctors appear to have practised in the Chambers over the years, though those that did practise in the building did so for an average of over 20 years. One long serving practitioner in the Chambers, and another possible shareholder in the company, was Dr David Alfred Bathgate (1936 to 1967). Dr Bathgate arrived in Hastings approximately 16 months prior to the 1931 earthquake. He worked in private practice in Hastings and as assistant surgeon at District Base Hospital in Napier. During the 1931 earthquake Bathgate worked at the emergency hospital set up at the Hastings racecourse before being put in charge of ministering to those on a train to Wellington. Bathgate had no intention to stay in Hastings long term, intending to join a group of colleagues in Auckland, but stayed on staff at Hastings Memorial Hospital. In 1954 he was awarded status of honorary consultant to the hospital in recognition of his long and valued service. Another doctor at the Chambers was Dr A V Kurta (1961 to 1971 and 1973 to 1994). Dr Kurta joined the District Health Board's service in 1960 and retired in 1989 as the senior surgeon at the hospital.
Another occupation that commonly used the Chambers, particularly in the latter part of the 20th century, was physiotherapy. Four individual physiotherapists have been identified as practicing from the Chambers over the years while in more recent times two practices Bay Physiotherapy (1988-1993) and Hastings Physiotherapy Centre (1993-2001/02) were tenants. Other health professionals that can be identified as having practices in the Chambers include nurses, chiropodists (later known as podiatrists), an optometrist and a masseuse (later known as massage therapists).
Though consistently used by health professionals over the years, the building has also been home to other businesses for example: an office supply company between 1963 and the early 1970s, and a hairdressers from 2000. It is presently partly tenanted by an Osteopath John Hendrie, National MP Craig Foss, the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society, NZEI Te Rui Roa, the NZ Horticultural Industry Training Organisation and Land Equity Development.
During its history the building has undergone some changes. The most significant alterations were to the western corner of the building in 1961. The modifications, which included the replacement of windows, the addition of a new front entry and the enlargement of the rear entry, were designed by architectural practice Davies, Phillips and Chaplin (formerly Davies and Phillips). Most other changes have been mainly confined to the interior, particularly to surgeries. Businessmen Trevor Paul and Tony Hicks purchased the building in 2002 and were responsible for an extensive refurbishment of the building. Their application to Hastings District Council's Façade Enhancement Scheme noted that the upgrade would involve 'a total internal refit and the repaint of the complete external façade of the Art Deco styled building'. It also included replanting 'existing tired landscaping with grown palms'. In 2007 the building was sold to the current owners Donald James Forsyth, Alison Ruth Forsyth and TCS Trustees Limited.
The building continued to be known as a Medical and Dental Chambers until at least 2000. This was the same year the company, Hastings Medical and Dental Chambers Limited, was declared insolvent. It was struck off the companies' register in July 2002. The name that now adorns the building, Las Palmas, which is a province of Spain, appears to date from businessmen Trevor Paul and Tony Hicks purchase of the building from the company in March 2002.
The Medical and Dental Chambers is situated at the edge of the central business area of Hastings. It was built in Art Deco Spanish Mission style in the aftermath of the 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquake. Surrounding buildings are generally of a more modern ilk.
The chambers is a long modulated rectangular building situated on a corner site with its long elevation presenting a grand symmetry to King Street North, and curving around the corner to face Queen Street West. The remaining two (inner) sides of the building face a driveway, car parking and an empty lot used for car parking.
The Medical and Dental Chambers is a single storey concrete building. There is an entrance door in the corner of the building, but the main entrance is a strongly emphasized element near the middle of the long King Street elevation. The doors are framed by an Art Deco modestly and symmetrically decorated archway and inward curving walls. A triangular oriel window features centrally in the stepped archway above the doors. Stretching out to either side are the long horizontal forms of lightly decorated cornices and parapet, with curves flowing around the corners. The fenestration forms a strong horizontal band which curves at the corners, and the sashes are divided horizontally by the glazing bars. These features show a strong Moderne influence. Art deco influence is seen in the geometric detail of the stepped parapet and in banding around the parapet however it is the form of the entire building, with its setting, that shows its Art Deco origins. The symmetry is pronounced. The attention to the challenges of a corner site is elegantly achieved despite subsequent alterations to joinery.
In addition the landscaping of the site reinforces the intentions of the design. A low garden wall with banding steps up and sweeps around to the doors, providing a continuation of the style of the building to the setting. Palm trees on either side of the door reinforce the symmetry and the position of the entrance.
The symmetry of the building is reinforced on the interior with a long hall corridors leading from a central foyer. The circular foyer is a very special feature and is lit from roof lights in the ceiling. It is carefully designed, with details such as curved cornices and walls, terrazzo skirtings and centrally mounted stepped signboard. The reception hatch doors following the curve of the wall.
The corridors on either side of the hall give access to rooms on both sides. The halls have an attractive quality of light from the roof lights: a combination of elegant beading, practical obscure glazing and discreet ventilation grills. Elegant and unusual panelled doors lead to rooms. Finishes, joinery and hardware are all consistent with the restrained Art Deco design of the building. Cornices, lintels and beams are stepped. Column heads and bases are accentuated.
Several rooms on the back (east) side of the building have small conservatory-like spaces formed from glazing extend over the roof. The two sides of the building that do not face the street have the functional array and practicality of facades that do not present a public dignity. Nevertheless the roof, door and window arrangements retain the asymmetrical Art Deco intentions of stepped walls, buttresses and aligned windows. The circular dome of the central foyer is clearly visible.
The concrete structure was plastered and raked in imitation of stonework; original textures and colours are now disguised somewhat by modern paint coatings. Corrugated iron over a simple timber framed roof is hidden behind the parapet. Floors are timber, supported on timber sub-floor framing and concrete piles.
This building is in remarkably authentic condition, outside and in. Windows and doors at the corner entrance appear to be modern insertions. The central circular foyer appears in totally authentic condition. At the time of writing (April 2007) some changes are being made to accommodate new tenants, however these changes appear relatively minor, updating what appears to be modern but slightly dated joinery.
The building is in very good condition, inside and out having been extensively refurbished in 2002.
Building constructed to designs by architects Davies and Phillips, and used for medical chambers.
Garage added to property
Alterations to shop - surgery (architects Holland & Jack)
Alterations to business premises
Hair salon occupying part of the building; two hand basins installed.
Extensive refurbishment of the building
Reinforced concrete construction, plastered finished
10th June 2008
Report Written By
Imelda Bargas, Chris Cochran and Alison Dangerfield
D A Bathgate, Doctor in the Sticks, Collins Bothers and Co Ltd: Auckland, 1972.
T. W. H., 'A history of Dentistry in New Zealand', New Zealand Dental Association, [Dunedin?], 1980
Geoff Conly, A case history: the Hawke's Bay Hospital Board 1876-1989, Hawke's Bay Area Health Board, Napier, 1992.
Michael Fowler, From Disaster to Recovery: The Hastings CBD 1931-35, Havelock North: Michael Fowler Publishing, 2007.
P. Hallett and P. Shaw, Spanish Mission Hastings: Styles of Five Decades, Napier, 1991
Wises Post Office Directories
Wises Post Office Directories
Wright St Clair, 1987 (2)
Rex Earl Wright St Clair, A history of the New Zealand Medical Association, Butterworths: Wellington, 1987.
Hawkes Bay East Coast Business & Trade Directories
Hawkes Bay East Coast business and trades directory vols 1954-1996, Universal Business Directory, Auckland
St George, 1998
Ian St George, A special general practice: the story of John Street Doctors, I. St George: Wellington, 1998.
Telecom Directories NZ
Telecom Directories New Zealand
Napier: vols 1996 onwards
M Wright, Hawke's Bay: The History of a Province, Palmerston North: Dunmore Press, 1994
Wright, 2001 (3)
Matthew Wright, Town and Country: The History of Hastings and District, Hastings, 2001.
Yellow Pages New Zealand
Yellow Pages New Zealand
Hawke's Bay Yellow Pages
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central region 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.