Red Cross Building (Former)

200 Willis Street And Ghuznee Street, Wellington

  • Red Cross Building (Former), Wellington. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Paul Le Roy . Taken By: Paul Le Roy – Minicooperd. Date: 6/06/2015.
  • Red Cross Building (Former), Wellington. ©Photographer Alex Efimoff /
    Date: 22/02/2017.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1342 Date Entered 15th February 1990


City/District Council

Wellington City


Wellington Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 142 Town of Wellington and defined on A 2408 (CT WN21D/930), Wellington Land District


Donald Johnstone McGavin (1876-1960) bought the site in July 1906. Born in England and educated at the University of Birmingham, he was registered as a medical practitioner in 1903. He came to New Zealand after serving in the Boer War, and was knighted in 1921 for his medical services in World War 1.

The property at 200 Willis Street was transferred to the New Zealand Red Cross Society (Inc) on January 1947, and then to a merchant banker, Brian Stanley Alexander, in November 1981.

Historic Properties Limited bought the property in April 1982. The current occupiers Gooch, Mitchell and Macdiarmid, Architects, derive from the firm originally known as Atkins and Bacon.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Former Red Cross Building has been a familiar landmark in Wellington for over eighty years. Its distinctive and unusual design has been regarded with considerable affection by Wellingtonians. The house was built for Dr McGavin, one of Wellington's pre-eminent medical practitioners and surgeons in the early part of this century. It is best known for its association with the Red Cross Society.


Half timbered construction is the name given to timber framed buildings with the spaces between the timber members filled with some solid material, usually brick or cob. Many English houses and manor houses of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were built in this manner. Interest was created from the way in which the timber frame is highlighted by white-washing the panels between. Some Victorian and Edwardian architects made use of the Tudor style in domestic architecture. This attractive house is the best of the few examples of this style in Wellington. Although the construction method uses contemporary techniques it is an honest attempt at reproducing a Tudor building.


On its prominent corner site, this building with its Tudor style arouses strong visual interest giving it considerable townscape significance.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Atkins & Bacon

Alfred Atkins (1850-1919) was born in Birmingham, England. He had trained primarily as a civil engineer in England and on his arrival in New Zealand in 1875 he worked on railway location in the Wanganui district. He was elected an Associate Member of the Institute of Civil Engineers in 1886 and two years later became a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. He set up practice in Wanganui in both professions and during the 1880s Atkins was in partnership with Frederick de Jersey Clere.

When Atkins moved to Wellington in 1908, Roger Bacon joined him in practice and the firm of Atkins and Bacon was established. Shortly after this C H Mitchell (1891-1949) was taken on as a draughtsman. The firm continued to operate a branch in Wanganui and designed buildings at Wanganui Collegiate School including the Big School, boarding houses, Dining Hall and staff residences between 1909-21.

The firm undertook several hospital designs including Cook Hospital, Gisborne (1911), and Wairoa Hospital (1912) and was also responsible for much domestic work in Wellington.

Owing to failing health Roger Bacon had left the firm and moved to Blenheim about 1918. In 1919 Alfred Atkins died. C H Mitchell became a partner in the firm in 1918. Mitchell re-established the firm as a leading one in Wellington. The firm became Gooch Mitchell Macdiarmid.

Turnbull, William (1868-1941)

William Turnbull (1868-1941) entered the architectural office of his father Thomas (1825-1907) in 1882, and received a professional education from him. In 1890, William visited Melbourne and Sydney and was engaged in the office of J A Gordon, a Melbourne architect who at that time was engaged in the design of several major commercial buildings including the Melbourne (now Victoria) Markets.

In 1891 William returned to Wellington and was admitted into partnership in the firm of Thomas Turnbull and Son. This was one of the foremost architectural practices in the city at the turn of the century and it continued after Thomas Turnbull's death in 1907.

William became a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1906, designing many important early twentieth century buildings in Wellington such as 12 Boulcott Street (1902), Turnbull House (1918), and the Wellington Free Ambulance Building (1932). The range and variety of his adaptation of architectural styles show him to be fully versed in virtually every contemporary architectural style and to have special skills and flair for masonry design.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


William TURNBULL (1868-1941) Sketch plans

ATKINS & BACON Working Drawings


This two storey building is imitation Tudor in style. The first floor has a half timbered treatment.

The roof of the building is double pitched with a turret in the north east corner and two gables on the Ghuznee Street elevation. The main entry to the building is on Ghuznee Street, where there are shallow arches emphasizing the two doorways; the right one originally providing access to Dr McGavin's surgery and the left one to his residential quarters.

The west end of the building is lower than the main structure and contained servants quarters and service areas.

The south and west elevations have small windows only, while the two street elevations have a generous number of windows. At first floor level there are bay windows. The lead rain water head has the date 1908 beaten into it.


1961 - Wall between original kitchen and scullery at ground floor level removed.

Walls between original drawing room and bedroom and balcony at east end of first floor level removed; balcony closed in.

Notable Features

The Tudor treatment

The lead rain water head

Construction Dates

1961 -
Wall between original kitchen and scullery at ground floor level removed. Walls between original drawing room and bedroom and balcony at east end of first floor level removed; balcony closed in.

Original Construction
1908 -

Construction Details

Un-reinforced brick on concrete footings; concrete piles. Half timbered treatment planted on brick walling above ground floor. Partitions, timber framed. Floors, timber. Roof, timber framed, originally clad with tiles, now corrugated fibrous sheeting and corrugated iron.

Information Sources



Death of Sir Donald McGavin, 8 May 1960

Evening Post

Evening Post

The Street of Doctors is Dispensed With, 16 November 1976

Landmark for Auction 7 October 1981

Landmark has New Owners 24 November 1981

Well Known City Surgeon's Death 9 May 1960

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

Barbara Fill, C.H. Mitchell Architect 1891-1949, NZHPT Research Report.

Report for Wellington Regional Committee, NZHPT, 1984

Chris Cochran, Report : Red Cross Building Report for Wellington Regional Committee, NZHPT, 1978

Other Information

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.

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.