Dominion Buildings

110, 114 And 120 Queen Street East And Civic Square, Hastings

  • Dominion Buildings.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Rebecca O'Brien.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1080 Date Entered 30th June 2006


Extent of List Entry

Extent of registration includes the land in Lot 1, Deposited Plan 2842, Lot 2, Deeds Plan 315, and Lot 1 Deposited Plan 6970, Hawkes Bay Registry and the Dominion Buildings thereon, but excludes other buildings on the land.

City/District Council

Hastings District


Hawke's Bay Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 2842, Lot 2 Deeds Plan 315, Lot 1 DP 6970 (CTs HBC2/215; HBM2/714; HBE1/1077), Hawkes Bay Land District

Location description

This building is located on three titles, each with its own address. 120 Queen Street East retains an access through to Avenue Road East.


The Dominion Buildings were designed in 1907 and completed in 1908. Built on land owned by Mrs Andrew Hamilton Russell, they commemorate her husband, who went on to distinguish himself during the First World War.

The architect and builder are not known. However, it is reputedly the first reinforced concrete office building in Hastings, and its sound construction in concrete enabled it to withstand the Hawke's Bay earthquake that destroyed many surrounding structures.

The Dominion Buildings are a good example of the Edwardian baroque style, based on Classical motifs used in a free and inventive way. The structure has a strongly modelled facade to Queen Street East, with much interest added by the decorative pilasters and cornices. Varying bay widths, textures such as in the rustication of the ground floor pilasters, and different patterns of fenestration between the floors add to the visual interest of the building.

The Dominion Buildings are located on three separate land parcels and for much of its existence it has been treated as three separate premises. From the 1950s, the southern portion of the building was named 'Aotea Chambers' to reflect the name of the owner of this portion. The buildings have been used as offices since construction and have included a wide variety of professional and commercial tenants.

The Dominion Buildings are of interest for the connection to Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Hamilton Russell. They are of architectural and technological interest as an example of reinforced concrete construction in Hastings and as one of the few remaining inner city commercial buildings constructed prior to the Hawke's Bay earthquake. The building has aesthetic value as it forms a strong centrepiece (both by virtue of its architecture and its scale) to a collection of period buildings in the block.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value


This is a building of considerable historic significance for Hastings, being one of the older commercial buildings in the central city, and one that survived the Hawke's Bay earthquake intact. It is one of the earliest (and reputedly the first) ferro-concrete buildings constructed in the city.


The Dominion Buildings have aesthetic value for the strongly articulated facade, which provides a richly textured edge to the north side of Queen Street. It contributes to the townscape qualities of the area, forming the centrepiece to an important collection of period buildings in this block.


The Dominion Buildings are a good example of the Edwardian baroque style that was popular in the years before the First World War. It is a rare building in the Hastings context, of a commercial building from the first decade of the twentieth century, and of Classical design, since others of like kind were destroyed by the Hawke's Bay earthquake. It provides an interesting counterpoint in Hastings to the predominant building style of the 1930s.


There is technological value in the structure of building. It was reputedly one of the first reinforced concrete office buildings in Hastings and was one of the few commercial buildings to survive the earthquake of 1931.


As a building that has housed many important, long-standing businesses, among them insurance companies, architects, solicitors, primary industry representatives, as well as trades, for nearly 100 years, the building has social value for Hastings.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:

This building, through its commercial use over nearly 100 years, demonstrates the role of investment properties in spurring urban development. In the case of Hastings, its rural hinterland relied heavily on such places, as many of the commercial facilities needed by farmers were to be found in a building such as this.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:

The building was constructed on land owned by Mrs Andrew Hamilton Russell. Mrs Russell was the daughter of prominent couple Mary Margaret Beetham (1845-1903) and runholder and entrepreneur James Nelson Williams (1837-1915).

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:

The building is technically interesting for having survived the Hawke's Bay earthquake, and being a relatively rare example of a major commercial building of the early years of the 20th century in Hastings. It is a handsome piece of Classical design, important in its own right and as part of a collection of period buildings in this block of Queen Street East. As a building surviving from before the earthquake, it is a link with the early development of the city and a reminder of its prosperity at this time.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place:

This building, unlike most others in central Hastings, is a rare tangible survivor of the Hawke's Bay earthquake. For that reason it has modest symbolic and commemorative value. The building also features the insignia 'AHR', the initials of Andrew Hamilton Russell, Mrs Russell's husband. Andrew Hamilton Russell (1868-1960) distinguished himself through his military service during the First World War.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

Hastings is, like Napier, a city substantially shaped by the one event (the Hawke's Bay earthquake in 1931) which led to the destruction and rebuilding of much of the city centre. However, this building is not part of the post-earthquake renewal and so offers a rare if isolated view of pre-earthquake Hastings amidst the predominant architectural forms of the 1930s.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The Dominion Buildings were, reputedly, the 'first ferro-concrete office block' in Hastings. They were designed in 1907 and completed in 1908: on 21 July of that year the Hastings Standard noted that the scaffolding had been taken down from the building to reveal its 'handsome frontage'. The paper went on to comment that the buildings were, 'a distinctive acquisition to Queen Street, and to the town to, for that matter'.

The buildings were commissioned by Mrs Andrew Hamilton Russell. Mrs Russell was born Gertrude Mary Beetham Williams and was the daughter of prominent couple Mary Margaret Beetham (1845-1903) and runholder and entrepreneur James Nelson Williams (1837-1915). In 1896 Gertrude Beetham married Andrew Hamilton Russell (1868-1960). Russell was a sheep farmer when the couple married. Mrs Russell commemorated her husband on the Dominion Buildings by incorporating his initials, 'AHR', on the facade. Russell went on to form and command the Hawke's Bay Mounted Rifle Volunteers. He received his first promotion, to Major, shortly afterwards and rose rapidly through the ranks thereafter. He is particularly remembered for his distinguished service during the First World War.

The Dominion Buildings were constructed over three separate land parcels. Although it has one continuous facade, for much of its history, the Dominion Buildings were treated as three separate structures. In 1913 Mrs Russell sold the southern portion, which retained the address '110 Queen Street East', to a retired Hastings farmer Letham Wallace Mackersey. Lindsay Mackersey, a solicitor, established an office in the Dominion Buildings shortly after its completion. After Letham Mackersey's death in 1936 the property passed to his executor, John Fraser, an accountant, who also had offices in the building for many years. The building passed from Fraser to his wife, Nellie, upon his death in 1942. That same year Nellie Fraser sold the property to Ian Mackie, a Waipukurau solicitor, and Fred Carlin, a Hastings accountant. In 1955 it was bought by Aotea Chambers Limited of Hastings. Members of the Mackersey family were closely involved in this firm, and retained offices in the building for many decades. The company finally sold the property to Peter Fenwicke's company Fenwicke and Co. Ltd. in 2001.

The central portion of the building, or '114 Queen Street East', was also sold by Mrs Russell and passed through a number of hands. In the 1920s it was owned by the Cowan family, who operated a plumbing business from the premises. It was sold in 1965 and was used as office premises. It was purchased by its current owners in 1988.

The northern portion of the building, or '120 Queen Street East', retained the name 'Dominion Buildings' and was owned by Russell family members until the 1970s. Prior to the sale it was used as offices by a variety of businesses, including accountants Butler & Spence and the Hawke's Bay Mutual Buildings and Investment Society. It also served as the headquarters for the Hawke's Bay Girl Guides Association and the Hastings Townswomen's Guild. It was sold to its current owners in 1988.

As one of Hasting's early reinforced-concrete structures, the Dominion Buildings survived the Hawke's Bay earthquake of 1931 and remain in use as offices to this day.

Physical Description

The Dominion Buildings are located in Hastings' central business district and are part of a grouping of two-storey commercial buildings on Queen Street East that were constructed in the first half of the twentieth century.

The building is a handsome Classical structure. Two storeys high the building dominates the block of Queen Street east of the railway line. The facade is divided into some 13 bays, ten of them with large windows and three of them narrow ones with a door at ground level and a single window on the first floor. The southernmost narrow bay, at first floor level, is embellished with initials in a shield and scalloped shell in a semi-circular headed niche. The initials are those of Andrew Hamilton Russell 'AHR'.

The bays are divided by pilasters, at ground floor heavily rusticated (emphatically marked out as large blocks of masonry), and at first floor smoothly finished with semi-circular capital and bases. There is a strong horizontal band at first floor level and cornice at roof level, these elements stepping out at each of the pilasters, emphasising the bays. The parapet above the cornice is plain but for the name and date of the building, the plainness contrasting with the richness of the architectural features below.

All door and window openings are distinguished by rounded top corners to the openings; windows are fixed and double-hung, with some of them (on both floors) altered over time.

Notable Features

Construction materials, fa├žade to Queens Street East, shield and Insignia.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1907 - 1908

1912 -
Alterations to Store (Phillips & Wright)

1919 -
Alterations to Offices (Phillips & Wright)

1925 -
Additions to Store (H.W. Abbott)

1931 -
Offices reconditioned after Hawke's Bay earthquake

1957 -
Additions to Store

1973 -
Application for building consent to carry out internal alterations

2001 -
Building consent issued - install new bathroom and fire rating

Construction Details

Reinforced concrete construction

Completion Date

1st November 2005

Report Written By

Michael Kelly & Chris Cochran

Information Sources

Boyd, 1984

Mary Boyd, City of the Plains, A History of Hastings, Wellington, 1984

Hallett, 1991

P. Hallett and P. Shaw, Spanish Mission Hastings: Styles of Five Decades, Napier, 1991

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this 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.