Historical Significance or Value
The Hastings Municipal Women's Rest has historical significance. The building is likely the first example of a women's rest built exclusively and separately for this purpose in New Zealand. Throughout the 1920s similar rest rooms were established in many other towns across the country and, by the 1930s, they were considered a 'civic necessity'. Designed to accommodate mothers and workingwomen, Cooper et al argue that the construction of rest rooms became 'a signifier both of the proper involvement of women in public life and of civic responsibility to women'.
The Hastings Municipal Women's Rest has aesthetic value for the style, form and detail of the building, which is appropriate to its purpose and to its park surrounds. The building was designed to create a domestic, welcoming and comfortable environment for women within the central business district. The Californian bungalow style and the garden-like setting of Civic Square continue to converge to create this home-like atmosphere.
The Hastings Municipal Women's Rest is a good typical example of the Californian bungalow style of architecture, widely adopted for domestic buildings in New Zealand in the 1920s. The style is used here to a very good effect for a new building type: a women's rest. It displays many of the characteristic features of the style, both outside and in, and is a competent piece of architecture, well suited to its purpose, even after 85 years of service.
The Hastings Women's Municipal Rest has social significance. During its first year, there were almost 10,000 visitors to the Hastings Municipal Women's Rest. The domestic style structure has since been widely used by women from out of town, workingwomen and by mothers who were visiting Plunket. The building continues as a facility for women and it offers diverse services to women under the management of the Heretaunga Women's Centre.
Section 23 (2), Historic Places Act analysis: a, e, f, g and k.
Category: Category II historic place
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The building is likely the first example of a women's rest built exclusively and separately for this purpose in New Zealand, facilities that were by the 1930s considered to be a 'civic necessity'. The Hastings Municipal Women's Rest reflects the increased recognition of the needs of women outside of the private sphere. It can be seen as an exemplar of a pattern repeated throughout the country, where women's rest rooms were established, and by extension women's access to and place in the community, after sometimes extensive local lobbying to borough councils.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place
The Hastings Municipal Women's Rest is held in considerable esteem by the public. The construction of the building was funded largely by private donations. The upgrade and restoration of the building in 1993 was also funded partly by public donations. In the first year of operation there were almost 10,000 visitors to the Hastings Municipal Women's Rest . The rooms have continued to function since then as an important meeting space and facility for women. In addition, the building functions as an educational centre in its own right; a wide range of services are offered. Under the management of the Heretaunga Women's Centre, courses and workshops are run from the building as well as support groups and gatherings, counselling services and other services.
(f) The potential of the place for public education
The Hastings Municipal Women's Rest has potential for public education. The building is open to the public. It also largely in its original condition and it continues to be used for its original purpose. The history of the building is recorded on the foundation stone and plaques in the main foyer.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place
The Hastings Municipal Women's Rest has some technical value for its construction methods and materials of the early 1920s; its value in this respect is enhanced by its surviving the Hawke's Bay Earthquake of 1931 and by its high level of authenticity. The building has high value for its design, since it is a very good example of the Californian bungalow style of architecture, adapted for a non-domestic use. The building also demonstrates what Cooper et al refer to as a shift from 'public lavatories' to the elaborate buildings of 'rest rooms' designed to accommodate mothers and workingwomen.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape
The Hastings Municipal Women's Rest is located in the central business district of Hastings, on the edge of Civic Square. Civic Square is a parkland area designed for the use of Hastings' citizens and visitors and therefore an appropriate site for the Rest. The Square includes grass, trees and civic memorials such as the Cenotaph (Category II historic place). The building is also a survivor of the Hawke's Bay earthquake of 1931, and therefore provides insight into the pre-earthquake architecture of the city.
Summary of significance
As an early example of a women's rest room and most likely the first women's rest built exclusively and separately for this purpose the Hastings Municipal Women's Rest merits Category I registration. The history of the Hastings Municipal Women's Rest assists in showing not only the struggle of women to obtain these services in their community and the evolving provision of these services by volunteers and borough councils, but also touches on the work of organisations of high significance to women at this time such as the WCTU and Plunket. The integrity of the building and its aesthetically pleasing surroundings assist in the telling of this story. The Hastings Municipal Women's Rest is also socially significant within the Hastings region as it has been patronised both by local residents and visitors from the country for over 85 years.
From the mid-nineteenth century, toilet facilities for men had been provided in New Zealand towns and cities to counteract the 'committal of nuisances in the street'. However, no similar provisions for women were made at this time. The initial provision of rest rooms for women in New Zealand appears to have come about at the initiative of individual Women's Christian Temperance Union branches in the late nineteenth to early twentieth Century. It was an extension of their work providing refreshment tents at local A and P shows as an alternative to liquor outlets and on polling days to encourage voter participation. A history of the Union notes the provision of these rooms as an example of the 'WCTU 'blaz[ing] a trail into practically every avenue of social service that needed attention'. By 1908 rest and refreshment booths were seen as a distinct division of the WCTU, with their provision reported on separately in the WCTU's annual conference report in their newsletter, the White Ribbon, and the appointment of a superintendent to the division in 1910.
Reports in the White Ribbon indicate that early rest rooms were set up on existing sites, with working bees organised to outfit them. The earliest example comes from New Plymouth where, in 1898, the local branch reported that they had gained the use of one room of the Borough Council Chambers to use as a ladies sitting room with lavatory attached and, in 1899, that the room had been well furnished by the Union. In 1902 the Gisborne branch reported having furnished a similar convenience attached to their coffee rooms.
The first rest room in Hastings 'a Mothers' Rest Room' was set up by the local WCTU branch in September 1919, noting that it fulfilled 'a long-felt want'. After unsuccessfully lobbying the Borough Council to provide this service the Hastings members proceeded to outfit a disused shop themselves. A report on the Rest in the White Ribbon in October 1919 notes that there was no charge for the Rest Room but that, as the branch wished to make the Rest as self-supporting as possible, there were charges for tea, biscuits and 'other conveniences'. It also noted that they hoped to gain some assistance from Council as they were 'conferring a benefit on the whole town'.
Although the Hastings branch of the WCTU was in the first instance unsuccessful in gaining the support of the Hastings Borough Council, borough councils appear to have first become involved in the provision of these services in association with local WCTU branches. They most often provided space, such as within the Borough Council Chambers in New Plymouth. However by the 1920s and 1930s borough councils were taking greater responsibility for providing this service. Early purpose built examples include the New Plymouth Borough Council ladies sitting room in the new Carnegie Library circa 1908-1912 and the stand alone Hastings Municipal Women's Rest in 1921. Daley, in her article on women's quest for public toilets, commented that 'by the outbreak of the Second World War there were few towns without public toilets for women'.
A number of parties are, and should be, credited with the development of a Municipal Women's Rest in Hastings. The WCTU can be partially credited given its establishment of the original rest in the area. Daley certainly credited their effort as an influence noting that 'once the Council saw that the rooms were used by hundreds of women every week they agreed to build a Municipal Rest Room'. Although interestingly, though the WCTU had lobbied the Borough Council for their assistance in earlier years, the establishment of the Municipal Rest Room was not trumpeted as a success in their annual report in the White Ribbon, with the Hastings branch making the simple statement that 'after two years' successful running the WCTU Rest Room closed down and a Municipal Rest Room has taken its place'.
Boyd, in her history of Hastings, noted that it was 'on the Mayor's suggestion, the Borough Council set up a special committee to provide [the rest room] with a new municipal building'; linking their decision to erect a 'Mother's Rest' to concern for the protection of women and children among the Plunket Society and the WCTU and a wider concern about public health. Lloyd's article, on the Centenary of Hastings, suggests a more specific prompt for the development of the building, the efforts of the Plunket Society to secure premises. He describes how the then Mayor suggested that if the Plunket Society could find the money for the building, the council would provide the site, noting that the councillors never anticipated the women to raise that sort of money. In addition to raising money via raffles and collections the women received a large donation from local timber merchant A B Knight. Lloyd's description of events accounts for the private contributions to the building and the provision in the building for Plunket Rooms.
Whatever the initial impetus, in 1920 a building permit to construct a 'dwelling & rest' was issued. The Rest, built in the style of a Californian bungalow, cost approximately £2500 to construct and, as described, was paid for largely by private contributions. It was designed by the Borough Engineer, S.B. Dodge. The foundation stone was laid by the mayor on 23 March 1921 and the building was officially opened on 8 September 1921.
As noted above the Hastings Municipal Women's Rest is an early example of a women's rest room; a number of sources even credit the Hastings Municipal Women's Rest as the first mother's rest in Australasia or in New Zealand. While this is not the case, with the WCTU having established a number of other women's rest rooms before this time, the Hastings Municipal Women's Rest is certainly one of the first examples of a purpose built women's rest. Except in the case of New Plymouth, where Council included an area for this purpose in the new Carnegie Library circa 1908-1912, most early examples reported upon in the White Ribbon appear to have been within existing buildings that were furnished and refitted appropriately, similar to Hastings 1919 rest room. The rest room in New Plymouth, while an earlier example, was neither a separate structure nor was it the core function of the Library building. The Hastings Municipal Women's Rest is likely the first example of a women's rest built exclusively and separately for this purpose. Certainly examples of purpose built rest rooms on the New Zealand Historic Places Trust Register date from after the Hastings example; Napier (1925), Marton (1927), Havelock North (1930s) and Nelson (1936).
Administered by a Council-controlled committee, the Hastings Municipal Women's Rest can be seen as an exemplar of a pattern repeated throughout the country, where women's rest rooms established their place in the community after sometimes extensive local lobbying to borough councils. In the case of Hastings a service set up and successfully administered by interested women evolved into to a service administered by council. As Cooper et al argue that the building of rest rooms became 'a signifier both of the proper involvement of women in public life and of civic responsibility to women'. The Hastings Municipal Women's Rest included accommodation for a live-in matron and also rooms for the Hastings branch of the Plunket Society. Plunket was given free use of the rooms in return for a contribution towards the matron's salary.
The Hastings Municipal Women's Rest was widely used by women from out of town, workingwomen, and mothers who were visiting Plunket. During its first year, there were almost 10,000 visitors to the Hastings Municipal Women's Rest. In 1929, a booklet promoting Hastings claimed that around 170 women used the building each day. It detailed that:
Its purpose is to serve as a retiring place where young businesswomen may spend their lunch hour and of a place of rest to mothers or women visitors to Hastings. Here they might obtain light refreshments, mothers may attend to their children, warm their babies' bottles, leave their parcels, write letters, read journals, and attend to their toilet.
The Hastings Municipal Women's Rest is an example of what Cooper et al call the shift from 'public lavatories' to the elaborate buildings of 'rest rooms'. Noting that by the early 1920s, discussions concerning women's toilets focussed largely on women as mothers, with some consideration also given to the needs of the growing number of workingwomen, these rooms placed 'less emphasis on women as creatures with a need to urinate or worse and more on women as mothers, as creatures with a need to 'rest'. Cooper et al also suggest that 'rest rooms' provided an extra space for privacy from men at a time when women's clothing was becoming more revealing.
The booklet also stated that, owing to the popularity of the facility, the Council proposed to make extensions that would provide a sun porch, children's nursery and play room, and an outside playground. Photographs indicate that these changes were carried out. The building survived the Hawke's Bay earthquake of 1931 with only minor damage. No major changes were required to the building, but in 1993 the building underwent a major restoration project. In 2003, minor changes were made to the interior and in 2003 the Heretaunga Women's Group began running courses and workshops from the building, as well as access to support groups and gatherings, counselling services and other services for women. The building continues to function as an important meeting space and facility for women.
The Hastings Municipal Women's Rest is located in the central business district of Hastings, on the corner of Russell Street South and Eastbourne Street East. The building faces Russell Street South but is separated from it by a small area of land that features short paths, trees and flowerbeds, and has the appearance of a small domestic garden. To the rear of the building is Civic Square, a green parkland area with established trees, benches, and civic memorials. Men's toilet are also located at the rear of the building (external access only).
The building is a very good example of the Californian bungalow style, which made its first appearance in New Zealand before the First World War, becoming very popular through the 1920s for domestic buildings. The building, in another context, could easily be mistaken for a large dwelling, so many of its features being common to good quality housing of the early 1920s. These features include low-pitched roofs; deep verandahs; shingles in the gable ends; exposed structure in the form of beams and rafter ends; tapered verandah columns, and casement windows with fanlights above.
The interior joinery is also typical of the period with shaped architraves and plain panelled doors, while linings consist of original sheet plaster panels with plain timber cornices. The heavily textured stuccoed finish of the exterior walls is also typical of the style.
The single-storey building has an attractive garden setting on the corner of Civic Square, the trees and gardens emphasising its domestic qualities. The verandah, wrapping around the north and west sides of the building and with several rooms opening on to it, is an important feature, providing a shaded outdoor space with views out to the garden and nearby buildings. Another feature deserving of mention is the semi-circular bay window on the eastern side, again emphasising the close relationship of building and garden setting.
There have been some alterations over time, including the closing in of a porch on the south-west corner, and the replacement with corrugated iron of the original roof cladding; this was diamond-shaped asbestos slates, commonly used on bungalow-style buildings; these by chance survive on the roof of a bay window.
Structure, stucco finish.
Window and door joinery.
Foundation stone and plaques.
1920 - 1921
Minor repairs carried out to make good damage caused by Hawke's Bay earthquake
Building consent issued to upgrade the Hastings Municipal Women's Rest.
Building consent issued to alter plumbing and electrical installations
Building consent issued to erect two new pergolas
Building consent issued to enlarge café kitchen area
Building consent issued for roof repairs and replacement
Timber construction, stucco cladding, corrugated iron roof.
1st January 2007
Report Written By
P Cleaver, C Cochran, I Bargas
Mary Boyd, City of the Plains, A History of Hastings, Wellington, 1984
Gender, Place and Culture
Gender, Place and Culture
Cooper, Annabel; Law, Robin; Malthius, Jane; and Wood, Pamela; 'Rooms of Their Own: Public Toilets and Gendered Citizens in a New Zealand City, 1860-1940', vol. 7, no 4, 2000, pp 417-433.
Jeanne Wood, A Challenge not a truce: A History of the New Zealand Women's Christian Temperance Union 1885-1985, Nelson, 1986.
Official Handbook, 1929
Official Handbook of Hastings for Tourist, Sportsman, and Settler, Hastings, 1929.
New Zealand Women's Studies Journal
New Zealand Women's Studies Journal
Daley, Caroline, 'Flushed with Pride: Women's Quest for Public Toilets, 2000, pp. 95-113.
April 18, 1922.
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.