Coronation Library

103 Rue Jolie, Akaroa

  • Coronation Library, Akaroa. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 13/11/2011.
  • Coronation Library, Akaroa.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Robyn Burgess. Date: 10/09/2014.
  • Coronation Library, Akaroa. Interior of reading room.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: M Vincent. Date: 22/04/2015.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1716 Date Entered 23rd June 1983


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt RS 61, (CT CB126/22), Canterbury Land District and the building known as the Coronation Library thereon.

City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Pt RS 61 (CT CB126/22), Canterbury Land District


Designed by early Canterbury architect, Samuel Charles Farr, the Coronation Library, a small timber building at 103 Rue Jolie in Akaroa, has had an exceptionally long period serving as the town’s public library, since it was built in 1875 through until 1989, and it continues to operate as a public facility. The building has architectural, aesthetic, historical, social and cultural significance.

The Akaroa Literary Institute was founded in 1861, initially occupying a space in the Akaroa Land Office but after a decade it had outgrown the premises. In 1873 Daniel Watkins, Akaroa’s first doctor and pharmacist, donated the site at 103 Rue Jolie, for a purpose-built public library. Such institutions were considered important for cultural growth, reflecting social philosophies of harmony and self-improvement.The building was designed free of charge by architect, Samuel Farr, and, with financial assistance from the provincial government, it was opened in 1875. When first built, it was a typical colonial public building: a fairly simple weatherboard box with an Italianate façade.

The Coronation Library is a single storeyed weatherboard building set back slightly from its Rue Jolie frontage amongst trees and lawn on a small suburban-sized section. It has a T-shaped plan and its exterior incorporates a number of Arts and Crafts style elements, including Marseille tiles, casement windows with shingled hoods and cusped brackets. Beyond the room into which the front door enters is a spacious reading room, around nine metres long, with original match lining and book shelves.

A series of floods in the early 1900s caused significant damage to the library. The building was repaired and remodelled in 1911-12, with assistance from a grant scheme initiated to commemorate the coronation of King George V in 1911. Many libraries across New Zealand were developed or redeveloped under this scheme, and it was at this time that the newly re-named Coronation Library at Akaroa was handed over to the Akaroa Borough Council. The 1911-12 renovations stripped the exterior of much of its classical decorative elements and it was given a fashionable Arts and Crafts make-over, including a tiled roof as an improvement on the old shingles, leadlight and hooded windows and electric lighting. The building operated as the town’s main library until 1989, when a new library opened at Akaroa Area School. A local trust continues to care for the Coronation Library building and maintains a reference library of New Zealand material.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Farr, Samuel Charles

Samuel Farr (1827-1918) arrived in Canterbury in April 1850, before the 'first four ships', the ships that brought British settlers to the city of Christchurch. He worked at Akaroa as a builder, turning his mind to solutions for various problems faced by the settlers in the area and proving his worth as an adaptable and versatile colonist.

In 1863 he moved to Christchurch, advertising his services as an architect. Whether he had ever trained formally for this profession has not been established, but it seems likely that he was one of the several 19th century settlers who managed successfully in this field after some practical experience and diligent self-education. Farr had a considerable flair for design and an ability to give his clients what they considered "value for money", and had the good fortune to launch his career by winning a number of prestigious competitions in Christchurch, thus settling his name firmly in the public eye. His designs followed current conventions of style and decoration, but he was innovative in his early use of concrete, most notably the construction of a complex of buildings for wealthy runholder, George Moore, at Glenmark between 1875-1881.

Farr was a versatile designer, equally at home with classically influenced styles, such as he used for St Paul's Presbyterian Church (1876) or with Gothic which he employed frequently in schools and churches. The former Normal School, Christchurch (1873-76) is perhaps his most scholarly Gothic design.

Mr Cullen

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1875 -

1911 - 1912
Remodelling and repair

Completion Date

9th May 2018

Report Written By

Robyn Burgess

Other Information

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.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Southern Regional Office of Heritage New Zealand