109-117 Manners Street, Wellington
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 1
Private/No Public Access
27th June 1985
Lot 2 DP 2987 (CT WN226/172), Wellington Land District
This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is the original citation considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.
The State Opera House, Manners Street, Wellington
The Grand Opera House, as it was then known, was designed and built between 1911-1914, opening in April 1914.
The building, providing some 16,500 square metres of floor space is a large brick rectangle with only one façade of any significance, that faces Manners Street. This is of plain style in a classical mode with an over-the-footpath verandah and ground floor shop windows and entrance doors. The remaining three walls are brick with very few openings. A balustraded parapet tops the building, and the roof of the verandah doubles as a balcony. The real significance of the building is its interior, which has 22m walls and a domed ceiling, with stalls, circle, and grand circle or 'gods' together with two tiers of boxes flanking the proscenium arch. Stage and backstage provides a space almost as large as the ground floor of the auditorium, and there are large ground and first floor foyers.
The architect was the Hon William Pitt of Melbourne, the site architect was Mr Albert Liddy. The scenic artist for the interior was Harold Bevan, the decorative artist was G Goulter of Sydney. Fibrous plaster decoration was by Mr O Wasohatz of Melbourne, and the builders were Messrs Sanders Bros of Wellington. The building was strengthened in 1977-82.
Apart form the now strengthened fabric, which is of tapering thicknesses of cement-mortared brick (six bricks deep at the bottom level) the architectural significance of the building is its interior. The stage facilities are unique in Wellington and may be unique in New Zealand. Behind a generous proscenium arch is a large stage and fly tower some 22 metres in height. Equipment for operating the theatre remains in place. The auditorium is lavishly decorated with fibrous plaster flowers, fruits, wreaths, corbels, brackets, cupids, bas-relief panels, columns and the large central dome. A grand white marble staircase leads from the black and white marble tiled ground floor foyer to the magnificent foyer on the first floor. This foyer, with an ornate ceiling, has four sets of double glass panelled doors leading to a balcony across the width of the street frontage. There are four ornamented boxes in two tiers on either side of the proscenium arch, dressing rooms on three floors, separate stairs to the 'gods' and adequate booking and administration offices and toilets.
The State Opera House has become an accepted and valued part of the Manners Street scene, a fact accepted by both the City and Government when the decision was made by State Insurance, the present owners, to strengthen, restore and preserve it in 1977. Built on an erst-while waterfront section, site of Kebbell's flour mill and since 1885 the Poneke Rugby Club Gymnasium, both the site and the building are part of Wellington's mercantile, social and musical history. Since the Grand Opera House was opened on Easter Saturday 1914, four generations of New Zealanders have shared the delights of opera, ballet, comedy and tragedy, drama - in fact the whole range of the musical, dramatic and performing arts. Under modern economic conditions it could truly be said that the building is as irreplaceable as its link with cultural development of the city and nation.
Restoration by the State Insurance Company
1911 - 1914
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.