Public Trust Office (Former)

201 Karamu Road North And Queen Street East, Hastings

  • Public Trust Office (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Imelda Bargas. Date: 1/03/2008.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Imelda Bargas. Date: 1/03/2008.
  • Public Trust Office (Former). Ceiling.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Imelda Bargas. Date: 1/03/2008.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1101 Date Entered 27th June 2008


Extent of List Entry

The registration includes all of the land in CT HBB1/1008 and the building and its fittings and fixtures thereon.

City/District Council

Hastings District


Hawke's Bay Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 4893 (CT HBB1/1008), Hawkes Bay Land District

Location description

Corner of Karamu Road North and

Queen Street East


The former Public Trust Building was completed in 1926 to a design by Wellington architect Stanley W. Fearn and built by Hastings builder J.W.C. Monk at a cost of £10,925. It remained in the use of the Public Trust until the 1990s and since 2002 a tavern has occupied the building. The Public Trust was established in 1872 by central government to prevent the misappropriation of trust funds upon a person's death. It gained a number of duties surrounding the administration of the estates of deceased persons, particularly those who died intestate, as well as a range of other powers. It established a network of agencies throughout the country and constructed buildings to house its offices. Hastings was one of these.

The former Public Trust Building is of stripped Classical design, a carefully articulated design that makes use of columns, pilasters, cornices and other Classical motifs to provide an ordered and functional building. The impressive full height Ionic columns that stand either side of the main entrance doors on Karamu Road, and dwarf them, are particularly impressive features. The building is architecturally significant as a very good example of the style; as the work of an important architect of the period, and for its contribution to the townscape quality of this financial/legal quarter of the city. That it was built before the Hawkes Bay earthquake and survived its shocks is tribute to the architect and engineer.

The building's historic and social significance is derived from the approximately 70 years the building was owned and occupied by the Public Trust. In that period the building was visited by generations of Hastings citizens and the business conducted there affected the lives of many. The building has lost its original use but its accessibility is retained today in its new role as a tavern.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Public Trust is one of the country's most enduring crown entities, and the country's oldest trustee organisation. Established in 1872, it has played a considerable role in the country's history, through its role in will, estate and trust administration. A great many New Zealanders have had their affairs administered by the Public Trust. The Hastings office was part of a collection of buildings the Public Trust constructed to house its nationwide network of agencies. In one sense the Hastings office was a typical Public Trust office, but it operated for 70 years providing a service to the people of Hastings and further afield, a considerable period. The building is no longer associated with the Public Trust but its period of use remains easily the most significant. The building has some local significance for surviving the Hawkes Bay earthquake intact, while modest significance also comes via building's designer, Stanley Fearn, who was an architect of some status in Wellington.


The former Public Trust building has aesthetic value for the formal and precise architectural composition of the street facades (see below), and for the contribution it makes to the townscape quality of the area. It is the eastern anchor of an impressive group of period buildings that is grouped around the Karamu Road/Queen Street intersection, and which stretches west along Queen Street.


The building is a very good example of the stripped Classical style, which gives it an air of authority and dependability that is appropriate to the use. While typical of its time in many respects, it uses Classical elements in an original way, especially in the giant order columns on either side of the main entrance. It is cleverly arranged with access to the separate tenancy of the first floor at the far end of the building, a thoughtful response to the particular requirements of the time. It is the work of a regionally important architect, Stanley Fearn, and extends our understanding of his work.


The building has technical value because it is a major commercial building from the time before the Hawkes Bay earthquake of 1931. The structure was engineer-designed, and it survived the earthquake with no recorded damage; the existence of construction details, showing reinforcing details and concrete profiles, enhances this value. It is somewhat unusual in that the reinforced concrete construction, used for foundations, floors and walls, also extends to the roof.

Category of historic place (section 23(2)): This place was assigned a category status having regard to the following criteria: b, g, k

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

The Public Trust was an important and early example of state intervention on behalf of its citizens when it was established in 1872. The Public Trust has played a role in the life of a great many New Zealanders since its inception. The buildings the Public Trust built around New Zealand were examples of the importance with which it regarded 'bricks and mortar' investment. Those days have long gone, but the Public Trust buildings still standing, such as the Hastings branch, are a strong reminder of the prominent role the Trust has played in local and national life.

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

The structure of the building is illustrative of good design practice of the 1920s; that it is well designed is confirmed by its survival of the Hawkes Bay earthquake. It is a very competent piece of architectural design, both for its classically inspired form and decoration and for the functional attributes of the building. It is a well designed building that enhances the reputation of an architect known for his design skill.

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

Hastings is a city substantially shaped by the one event - the Hawkes Bay earthquake of 1931 - which led to the destruction and rebuilding of much of the city centre. This building survived the earthquake, but in terms of its general style and appearance it sits very well with many of the post-earthquake buildings and plays its own strong part in defining the character of the city. In the general vicinity of this building are a number of other buildings constructed during a similar period.

Category: Category II


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Fearn, Stanley

Stanley Fearn was a contemporary of Gary Young and at one time was in partnership with Gary Young and Austin Quick. Fearn's work is distinguished for his houses in the English Vernacular style.

Stanley W. Fearn (1887-1976) was a British-born, Wellington based architect who had a long career spanning a large part of the 20th century and incorporating a wide range of styles. He was still working as late as the 1960s. Most of his work was domestic but he designed a range of buildings, both in the capital, where he designed over 70 buildings, and further afield. In Wellington he is best known for the William Booth Memorial Training College in Aro Street (1913), which he designed with Austen Quick. This building won the first ever gold medal of the NZ Institute of Architects in 1927. His other Wellington buildings included Cambridge Pharmacy (1932) and the Dominion Arcade (1959).

Among his houses was the Frederic Wallis House, Lower Hutt (1927), the grand country house Rototawai, near Featherston (1929), as well as houses in Hobson Street, Thorndon. He was involved in the rebuilding of Napier and Hastings after the Hawkes Bay earthquake and among his surviving designs is the former Bestall's Building, Napier (1932). His son Detmar was also an architect.

Silver, S. T.

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Munn, J.W.C

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The Public Trust Building was completed in February 1926, to a design by Wellington architect Stanley W. Fearn. The plans for the building had been finalised in November 1924 and the contract awarded to Hastings builder J.W.C. Monk. It was built at a cost of £10,925.

The site occupied by the Public Trust Building - the corner of Karamu Road North and Queen Street East - was once used for horse sales, while another (unreferenced) source states that it was the site of the residence of one James O'Neil. Stock and station agents Williams and Kettle built sale yards and a rostrum on the site around 1900. The land was acquired by the Public Trustee in 1924, presumably with no buildings on it. The Public Trust Building was one of several significant public building works undertaken in Hastings around this time, including a new high school and hospital and extensions to the post office.

The Public Trust Office was established in 1872 by central government to prevent the misappropriation of trust funds upon a person's death. Initially the main task was to administer the estates of deceased persons who had named the Public Trustee as executor of their wills. In 1873 the Public Trust was given the power to administer the estates of persons who died intestate (i.e. without having made a will), to act as trustee of settlements, to manage the properties of living persons and, where empowered by the Court, to manage the estates of mentally ill patients. Later the Public Trust acquired certain duties regarding the estates of minors, the aged and infirm, and the discharging of mortgages when the mortgagee was dead, overseas, or could not be found. It established a network of agencies throughout the country and progressively erected a number of buildings to house its offices, many of which it has now disposed of, although it retains customer centres in some 35 places. A crown entity, it remains New Zealand's oldest trustee organisation.

The Hawkes Bay Herald described Hastings' new Public Trust building as an 'imposing modern street reinforced concrete structure' and 'further evidence of the steady growth of the town and surroundings.' The building was designed to allow the construction of a second storey at a later date. The building survived the Hawkes Bay earthquake of 1931, something that can probably be attributed to its reinforced concrete construction.

The Public Trust Building was occupied by the Public Trust for many years, during which time there were relatively few changes, and none to the exterior. In 1972, the roof was replaced in long-run iron. In 1978, the ground floor interior was extensively renovated to create an open plan style of office. These alterations involved the removal of many of the original fittings and partitions.

In July 1996, the property was transferred from the Public Trustee to Peter Hue Dalrymple and Joanne Dalrymple. The new owners looked to lease the building, but experienced difficulties in securing tenants. By mid-1997 they were considering the option of demolishing the building to create a car park. In response to this threat, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust commissioned a report that considered alternative development possibilities. The threat of demolition was not carried out.

In March 2001, the property was transferred to the present owner, Kenneth Wheadon. The Public Trust Building was then altered to create a restaurant and bar, and a resource consent was issued for this use. The ground floor is presently occupied by Rosie O'Gradys Irish Pub.

Physical Description

The former Public Trust building is a two-storied structure, built up to the street boundary on the corner of Karamu Road and Queen Street. Karamu Street is the shorter of the two facades, and is impressive for the two giant order columns that frame the doorway. The columns are set in a recess in the wall, and rise through two floors; they have simple bases, fluted shafts and Ionic capitals. The façade is otherwise quite plain, with flush wall surfaces and a cornice and plain parapet at roof level; there is a patterned dog-tooth moulding supporting the cornice. This treatment continues down the long façade of nine bays to Queen Street, although here, in shallow relief, is a pattern of Doric pilasters between the windows. Spandrel panels between the ground and first floor windows have a frame with a wreath and lions head.

The building is Stripped Classical in style, its almost utilitarian character and solid block-like form being relieved by a Classical ordering and subtle decoration. As well as the Public Trust, banks and other financial institutions commonly employed this style through the 1920s and 30s as suitably serious for such business premises.

The original drawing shows most of the ground floor as a general office (now a bar), with a safe, and offices at the front, on the north side and at the eastern end. There is an entrance from Queen Street here and a staircase to the first floor; this floor was fully divided into 'letting offices'. There was also a basement which housed the heating plant.

That the building survived the Hawkes Bay earthquake of 1931 is indicative of the desire of the Public Trust to build in a substantial manner in an earthquake-prone country; it had done this from the beginning, and especially in the head office it built in Wellington in 1909.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1925 -
Public Trust Building constructed by Hastings builder J.W.C. Monk for a cost of £10,925 to a design by Stanley Fearn.

1972 -
Roof replaced with long-run iron.

1978 -
Substantial changes made to ground floor as part of transition to open-plan office.

1995 -
Resource consent issued to erect two internally illuminated signs.

2001 -
Building consent issued for upgrade of former Public Trust premises to restaurant and bar.

2001 -
Resource consent issued to convert building into restaurant/bar, with seating for 40 patrons.

2002 -
Grant issued for façade enhancement.

Construction Details

The structural elements of the building are all reinforced concrete - the foundations, ground and first floors, walls and roof.

Completion Date

15th June 2008

Report Written By

Michael Kelly; Chris Cochran

Information Sources

Encyclopaedia of NZ, 1966

Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, Wellington, 1966

'Public Trust Office', from An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock, originally published in 1966

Hastings District Council

Hastings District Council building files.

Hawke's Bay Daily Herald

Hawke's Bay Daily Herald

1 March 1926

Heretaunga Intermediate School, 1961

Swamp to City: History of Hastings, Hastings: Heretaunga Intermediate School, 1961.

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

Land Information New Zealand

B1/1008, Hawkes Bay Registry

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

Armitage R.O., 'The Beginnings' in Newsletter of the Wellington Regional Committee of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, Vol.1, No.3 October 1976 p.7

New Zealand Historic Places Trust file no 12009-372

Public Trust Office

The Public Trust Office

The Public Trust Office n.d., 'Hastings Public Trust Office Building', p.1.

Van Zijll de Jong, 2002

Madelon Van Zijll de Jong, Historic Overview of Buildings and Houses in Hawkes Bay (former Public Trust Office), Hastings Central Library: Hastings, 2002.

Wright, 2001 (3)

Matthew Wright, Town and Country: The History of Hastings and District, Hastings, 2001.

Other Information

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.