YMCA Building

77 Tay Street, Invercargill

  • YMCA Building, Invercargill.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand.
  • YMCA Building, Invercargill.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 11/10/2012.
  • YMCA Building. Invercargill. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Natalia Volna - itravelNZ®. Taken By: itravelNZ®. Date: 4/12/2011.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2528 Date Entered 24th November 1983


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 4564 (CT SL179/134), Southland Land District, and the building known as the YMCA Building thereon

City/District Council

Invercargill City


Southland Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 4564 (CT SL179/134), Southland Land District


Designed by Invercargill architect Charles Roberts in 1910 as the headquarters for the Young Men’s Christian Association’s (YMCA) this Edwardian building, housing shops and meeting rooms, has architectural, historical and social significance.

The YMCA movement that began in London in 1844 was conceived of as a Bible study group for the young men who had flooded into cities looking for work. The association was to provide a safe environment for young men who were away from home. New Zealand’s first YMCA began in Auckland in 1855. The YMCA was established in Invercargill in 1878. In its early years it carried on its activities in premises on Kelvin Street, but membership was limited. In 1906, the YMCA amalgamated with the Bible Class Union. A general secretary was appointed and headquarters moved to Esk Street.

In 1908, the YMCA proposed to the citizens of Invercargill a ‘comprehensive scheme’ having the object providing a ‘modern Home’ for the organisation. Invercargill citizens pledged £3820. The YMCA owned land in Tay street which they sold and leased the current site, opposite the town hall. The Board instructed architect Charles Roberts to prepare sketch plans of a building to cover the whole section, stipulating that there should be several shops on the street front to provide rental income. The plans were adopted in February 1910. Roberts invited tenders in April 1910, and that of Wilson Bros. of £4350 was accepted. The foundation stone was laid on 8 October 1910, and the building formally opened on 16 August 1911.

Secretary J.B. McKinney showed the Southland Times reporter through the new premises. The reporter commented on the harmonious and welcoming nature of the building for young men of all denominations: ‘the main entrance opens out into a spacious reception hall, from the farthest wall of which a big fireplace sends forth a welcome to the incomer. This reception room is to be the rallying place for members. It is to be fitted with comfortable lounges and easy chairs and it is intended to be a free and easy lounge where members may associate in friendly intercourse.’ Four shops and the entrance to the reception room faced Tay street. Off the reception hall were the public and secretary’s offices, and the boys’ department – a partitioned space providing a social room and a meeting room. At the rear of the building were the men’s and boy’s dressing rooms, bathrooms and toilets. Stairs led to the gymnasium. A dark room completed the ground floor.

The first floor was mainly occupied by the gymnasium (55 ft high, 58 ft long and 35 ft broad). A billiard room faced east adjoining a classroom and meeting place for clubs and other institutions that make use of the rooms. Along with the usual service areas, there was also a lecture hall capable of accommodating 150 people, and a social room for senior club members. The remaining apartment was to be used as a board room and as a meeting room for ladies’ committees.

In 1929, the organisation went into recess. In 1938, the local Rotary Club revived the organisation. By the 21st century it had diversified to the extent that it is now ‘more of a community service organisation than one just focused on youth.’ In 2018, the building continues to provide retail space and is the home of the YMCA Recreation Trust/Head Office.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Roberts, Charles. H

Roberts (1869-1942) trained as an architect in Dunedin before establishing a practice in Invercargill in 1895. Roberts seems to have been reasonably popular around the turn of the century designing many commercial and residential buildings. However, the Southland Times Building is one of only a small group of buildings attributed to Roberts which remain.

Wilson Bros.

Contractors operating in Invercargill around 1910.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1910 - 1911

Completion Date

22nd January 2018

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Southland Times

Southland Times

Southland Times, 9 Aug 1911, p. 5.

Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Helen Dollery, 'Youth organisations - Christian youth organisations', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/29497/ymca (accessed 17 January 2018)


http://www.ymcasouth.org.nz/who-we-are/ accessed 17 January 2018.

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 Otago/Southland Area Office of Heritage New Zealand