Criterion Hotel

48 Emerson Street, Market Street, Tennyson Street And Hastings Street, Napier

  • Criterion Hotel.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Alison Dangerfield. Date: 24/03/2009.
  • 2011.
    Copyright: Jenny Edwards. Taken By: Jenny Edwards.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1128 Date Entered 16th November 1989


City/District Council

Napier City


Hawke's Bay Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 20497, Hawkes Bay Land District. (Note the Criterion Hotel is held in the following unit titles: 27519; HBM1/1003; HBM1/1007; HBM1/1011; HBM1/997; HBP21359;HBM1/1000; HBM1/1008; HBM1/1012; HBM1/998; HbP2/1360; HBM1/1001; HBM1/1005; HBM1/1009; HBM1/995; HBM1/999; HBM1/1002; HBN1/1002; HBM1/1006; HBM1/1010; HBM1996; HBP2/1358.)

Location description

The building has street frontages on Emerson Street, Market Street, Tennyson Street, and Hastings Street.Shop addresses include:

89 Hastings Street, 48 Emerson Street, 50 Emerson Street, 58 Emerson Street [Blooms 2018]

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

The first Criterion Hotel was opened on this site in March 1874. This building was destroyed in the earthquake. The present Criterion hotel building symbolises continuity and stability locally.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


The Criterion Hotel is an eclectic design incorporating elements of both Spanish Mission and Art Deco styles.

Spanish Mission style, a twentieth century revival of a Californian building type which was used by Spanish missionaries who, in the eighteenth century, settled in the Western Americas and began a programme of educating and caring for the indigenous American Indian populations. The first Spanish missions were built in adobe (mud brick construction) and then whitewashed to deflect the intense heat of the Californian sunshine. The form of the buildings emphasised horizontally with long low structures extending along a plateau. Decoration was minimal; arched openings and barley-twist columns and occasional bell-towers provided the only embellishment. Simplicity and sincerity in the use of indigenous materials were the keynotes of this style.

The first major prototype of Spanish Mission style revival was the Californian Building at 1893 World Exposition in Chicago. The style was subsequently featured in architectural literature through to the 1930s and Williams would have been fully conversant with the major elements of the style which he employed in this building.

The use of Spanish Mission and Art Deco elements by Williams and his contemporaries, was consciously based on the idea that Napier had all of the climatic and cultural advantages of the West coasts of America but in an entirely new setting. The style emphasised the normal concern of the period with creating an environment of outdoor living and sunshine which Spanish Mission represented in popular culture. It also related to the California Bungalow style which had already been in evidence for ten years before. Its use in public buildings is significant for extending the style of the domestic area with the idea of creating a city of youth and promise.


The Criterion occupies a large block of land in Emerson Street, the main street of Napier. It is backed by the Market Reserve Building and so the entire section through to Tennyson street is the work of Associated Architects with thematic links through the use of arched window openings. These arches also link to other Williams designs in Napier - the Central Hotel at the corner of Emerson and Dalton Streets and the work of Louis Hay, Finch and Westerholm, and other contemporary Napier architects.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Williams, Ernest Arthur (1875-1962)

Williams was an architect and engineer who was prominent in Hawkes Bay as a result of his contribution towards the reconstruction of Napier following the 1931 earthquake.

Born in London he immigrated to New Zealand with his family early in 1908, spending a few months in Christchurch before settling in Napier. Initially he joined the Napier firm of architects W P Finch and Company as an architectural draughtsman, employing the skills he had learned during his training in architecture and joinery in England.

He was a member of the engineering staff of the Napier Borough Council until 1912, holding the position of Clerk of Works. He held this position during the building of the Napier Municipal Baths.

Williams set up his own architectural practice in 1912. He was, however, co-opted as Napier Borough Engineer during World War 1, resuming independent architectural practice in 1921.

After the 1931 earthquake his practice expanded to include eight architectural draughtsmen to cope with the large number of commissions to replace buildings which had been destroyed. His completed works include the Criterion Hotel (192), the Central Hotel (1931), Harston's Building (1930 and 1932), the Daily Telegraph Building (1932), the Napier Harbour Board Offices, and hospital buildings on Bluff Hill.

Angus, William McKenzie

William McKenzie Angus was born in Naseby in 1883. At age 14 he moved to Wellington to work as a blacksmith but changed to carpentry and worked in several North Island centres before coming to Napier in approximately 1907. He founded the firm W M Angus Ltd in 1923, with approximately 4-5 employees. At the time of his death in July 1968 the firm had 200 employees. His first major job in Napier, the Chief Post Office, withstood the 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquake as did the other buildings he had erected in Napier by this time. (Registration Report for the Waiapu Diocesan Office Building and Synod Hall, 2008).

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


Spanish Mission style with a centrally placed group of three windows with arched window head fanlights on the upper storey flanked by projecting windowed units with tilted cordova terracotta half-tile roofs over them.

The sunburst design of the three fanlights is the hallmark of Art Deco, and is also to be found in the plaster decoration above the main entrance to Hay's Rothman's building designed the following year (1933). The balcony with its balustrade of solid concrete with vertical slit openings again links back to classical themes in architecture, yet it is supported by blocks of masonry stepped back into the wall. Decoration on the exterior of the building is kept simple with dark painted window bars forming a geometric pattern to contrast with the stark white of the exterior walls. This white blank wall is relieved only by small diamonds of contrasting colour set centrally above each window head that is not covered by a tilting roof. These have the effect of uniting the wings of the building with the central portion creating a "theme" for the design.

The lower storey has a stepped roof over the central entrance way and the building is symmetrically ordered, extending along to Hastings Street in one direction and Market Street in the other. The corners are emphasised by a window and balcony feature placed at an angle to the street frontage.


The lower storey street frontages which are leased for commercial purposes have been considerably altered, as has the structure and internal management of the hotel itself.

Notable Features

The central portion of the Criterion Hotel is a significant feature in the design concept.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1932 -
Spanish Mission

Construction Details

Reinforced concrete, plaster, hipped terracotta roof; two storey

Completion Date

14th April 1989

Information Sources

Alexander Turnbull Library

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington

E A Williams Obituary, New Zealand Biographies 1962. Volume 5, p.42,

Alexander Turnbull Library

Ives, 1982

Heather Ives, The Art Deco Architecture of Napier, Napier, 1982

Ives, 1982

Heather Ives, The Art Deco Architecture of Napier, Napier, 1982

Shaw, 1987

Peter Shaw and Peter Hallet, Art Deco Napier: Styles of the Thirties, Auckland 1987.

Other Information

A copy 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.