Rainbow and Hobbs Building (Former)

124-126 Queen Street East, Hastings

  • Rainbow and Hobbs Building (Former). Principal elevation Queen Street East.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Imelda Bargas. Date: 1/03/2008.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2788 Date Entered 27th June 2008


Extent of List Entry

The registration includes all of the land in CTs HBA4/832 and HB93/223 (as shown on the 'Extent of Registration' map in Appendix 2) and the building and its fittings and fixtures thereon.

City/District Council

Hastings District


Hawke's Bay Region

Legal description

Lots 1 - 2 DP 3755 (CT HBA4/832); Lots 1 - 2 DP 4721 (CT HB93/223), Hawkes Bay Land District.


The former Rainbow and Hobbs Building, a two storey Edwardian building, is a rare survivor of the 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquake, and a building with a long commercial history.

The plans for the Rainbow and Hobbs Building were prepared in January 1914 and the building was constructed - probably later that year - by Hay and Sons. It is not known who the owner was at the time of construction, nor the architect. The property was acquired in 1920 by Algernon Rainbow, who also used it as his business premises. In 1923 he went into business with William Hobbs. Rainbow and Hobbs would go on to occupy the building for many decades, while Rainbow later became mayor of Hastings. Rainbow purchased a parcel of land to the immediate east in 1935 and some time after that extended the building, adding another third to its size. In April 1936 he sold both properties and the building to Queen Street Properties (Hastings) Ltd. From 1985 onwards, ownership of the property changed hands a number of times. The present owners are the Scannell family trust (SS Trust), and the building is occupied by Credit House Finance.

The former Rainbow and Hobbs Building can be described as Edwardian Baroque, a small but well executed example of the style, which made free and inventive use of Classical elements; this building does so with the wide curved window openings, keystones, circular windows and other elements, to create a building with a high level of visual interest. That the early part survived the Hawkes Bay earthquake intact, and that a matching addition was made 20 years after construction, adds to its technical and architectural interest, as well as its historical significance.

The former Rainbow and Hobbs Building's heritage value is derived from its long and continuous commercial history, its specific association with Algernon Rainbow, a significant figure in Hastings' history, and its distinctive and interesting Edwardian façade, which is a key element in the Queen Street East streetscape.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The former Rainbow and Hobbs Building has considerable local historical value, partly for its association with Algernon Rainbow, who was a successful accountant, businessman, community leader and, for six years, mayor of Hastings. His firm Rainbow and Hobbs was synonymous with the building and kept premises in the building for a number of decades. The building was also occupied by a number of long-standing and worthy tenants - insurance companies or agents and land agents among them. It stands as a rare example of a commercial building that pre-dates the Hawkes Bay earthquake of 1931.


The building has aesthetic value for its contribution to an impressive row of buildings, extending over the length of the block, on the north side of Queen Street East. Although there are some stark contrasts in the street, and varying sizes and heights, the continuous row of facades on the street boundary have a great deal of visual interest in their details, shapes and textures.


The building is a good example of the Edwardian Baroque style, a lively design that proclaims its purpose and gives it a presence in the street that its size belies. It is an intriguing example of how to add to a building in like style; the asymmetry that this brings about adds an element of interest to the facade.


There is technical value in the structure of this building, since the main part of it survived the Hawkes Bay earthquake with no reported damage while other buildings in the immediate vicinity were badly damaged.

Category of historic place (section 23(2)): This place was assigned a category status having regard to the following criteria: b, g, k

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:

The building is associated with Algernon Rainbow, a man who left a considerable mark on Hastings, as a mayor, community leader and businessman. The firm he founded, Rainbow and Hobbs, was a long-standing occupant of the building.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:

There is technical value in the structure of this building, since the main part of it survived the Hawkes Bay earthquake with no reported damage. It has design interest in being in the Edwardian Baroque style, usually associated with larger and grander buildings, but here used to good effect in giving the building considerable visual interest and a strong presence in the street.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

The former Rainbow and Hobbs Building is part of an interesting group of period buildings in Queen Street East, from before and after the Hawkes Bay earthquake; they form a group of historical interest for their farming and finance related uses, and although not all the buildings are compatible (there are modernist intrusions), they do have a townscape quality because of their visual interest.

Category: Category II


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Hay and Sons

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The details surrounding the construction of the Rainbow and Hobbs Building are not entirely clear, due to the absence of key information. Plans for the building were dated 8 January 1914, but the architect is not known. There is some suggestion it may have been the work of Albert Garnett, one of Hastings' best known and most successful architects. He had recently finished the Municipal Building and the second Wesley Methodist Church. Shaw and Hallett go as far as to say it is 'almost certainly' the work of Garnett, although they do not provide evidence for this assertion. The building was constructed - probably later in 1914 - by contractors Hay and Sons.

The identity of the first owner of the Rainbow and Hobbs Building is not known either. One name given on a Hastings District Council CBD form as the original owner is merchant Charles Tripping, who owned adjacent properties. It may have been built for accountant Algernon Rainbow, who owned the property in November 1920, when a new certificate of title was issued for Lots 1 and 2 DP 3755. However, Rainbow did not go into business on his own account until 1915 (see below) and street directories show that he was not an occupant of the building until 1921 or shortly before. The present numbering was not in use at this time but early occupants appear to have included The New Zealand Insurance Co., Natusch and Sons, architects, Cyril Croker, solicitor and William McCollouch, accountant.

Algernon Rainbow (1885-1969), known as Algie, was born and educated in Hastings. At 15 years of age he joined the Port Ahuriri office of the successful stock and station agency of Williams and Kettle as a clerk. After he moved to their Hastings office, he qualified as an accountant. He married Mary Beatson in 1909; they had two children. From 1915 to 1923 he practised on his own, he then joined W B Hobbs in partnership. He became the director of several private companies and trust boards, office holder in numerous sporting clubs and organisations, and president of the Hastings sub-centre of the St John Ambulance Association. He served as a borough councillor from 1927 and after a stint as deputy mayor, from 1933 to 1941, he convincingly won the Mayoral election. He served for six years. Upon his retirement he joined the board of J. Wattie Canneries and also served on the Hawke's Bay Catchment Board (1950-53) and was chairman of the local Boy Scouts' Association until 1954. He retired from Rainbow and Hobbs in 1959.

The building was originally two bays wide, conforming to the width of the land parcel (Lot 1 and 2, DP 3755, 124 Queen Street East). The Hawkes Bay earthquake in 1931 spared the Rainbow and Hobbs Building, although other buildings in the immediate vicinity were badly damaged (see Appendix 4: Figure 2). In August 1935, the adjoining, narrower parcel of land (Lots 1 and 2, DP 4721, 126 Queen Street East) was acquired by Rainbow from descendants of Charles Tripping and it may be that the building was extended at this time. If Rainbow did extend the building, he only had a narrow window in which to do so. He sold the properties in April 1936 to Queen Street Buildings (Hastings) Ltd., which was established that very year. It is also possible that this business extended the building after it acquired the properties. No record of this addition has been located, so this must remain speculation.

Queen Street Buildings kept the properties for the next 49 years. Who was behind this firm is not known but it may have been a separate company established by Rainbow and Hobbs, as the latter continued to occupy the building for many years. They were not the building's only occupants. For many years the building had relatively static occupants. Tenants included branches of the National Insurance Co. and the New Zealand Insurance Co., although never at the same time. Wilson and Son, office suppliers were long-standing occupants, as were Budd and Sons, insurance agents and the Hawkes Bay Land and Estate Agency. Later, from the 1950s, Braithwaite and Son, insurance agents were also lengthy occupants. In 1960, Rainbow and Hobbs made changes to the ground floor offices. This is the only recorded change on file. The architects were Davies, Phillips and Chaplin.

In May 1985, ownership of the property was transferred to company director Stephen Walker and his wife Susan. From 1992, when carpenter Edward Beach and his wife Elaine bought the property, it passed through a series of hands until it was bought by Simon Scannell and Timothy Wrigley as trustees of the SS Trust (Scannell family trust) in 1998. Today, the Scannell family trust still owns the property. In the 1990s the building was occupied by the Bay Collection Agency. Today the occupant is Credit House Finance, which gives its name to the building.

Physical Description

The former Rainbow and Hobbs Building is a two-storey building of an unusual, somewhat asymmetric composition. This comes about because of its construction in two distinct stages. The first stage, 1914, was a symmetrical façade of two wide semi-circular arched windows on either side of a narrow door; this pattern was matched above, with a circular window above the door and a stepped parapet. Some 20 years later (c.1935), another door and window was added to the south, but spacing's vary from the original and the parapet is flat, so that the facade is not quite as symmetrical as a first glance would suggest. The join in the two parts of the building is seamless, perhaps because a textured stucco covers the wall surfaces, with plain smooth plaster banding around the windows and along cornices and parapets.

The style is described in local publications as Edwardian Commercial, more generally known as Edwardian Baroque; this was widely employed in Government and commercial buildings of the pre-World War I years, even in Parliament Buildings itself. It is characterised by bold and free use of Classical elements, seen in the Rainbow and Hobbs Building (in modest scale) in the circular windows, semi-circular and curved window and door openings, keystones and exaggerated cornice and parapet. There is a touch of Art Nouveau in the parapet graphics that give the date of construction of 1914. It is a small building with a strong character and presence in the street, adding visual interest to the row of buildings on the north side of Queen Street East.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1914 -
Plans prepared for the Rainbow and Hobbs Building and building likely constructed the same year. Architect not known but possibly Albert Garnett. Building constructed by Hay and Sons. Owner not known.

1935 -
Rainbow acquires parcel of land to the south. Building extended to the south at the same time or some time thereafter.

1960 -
Changes made to interior of Rainbow and Hobbs' office.

Construction Details

In the absence of the original drawings, construction details are uncertain; brick masonry would not be uncommon in a building of this type built in 1914, but its survival of the Hawkes Bay earthquake without significant damage suggests it was built in reinforced concrete.

Completion Date

24th April 2008

Report Written By

Michael Kelly; Chris Cochran

Information Sources

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Mary Boyd, 'Rainbow, Algernon Instone 1885 - 1969', updated 7 April 2006, http://www.dnzb.govt.nz/

Wises Post Office Directories

Wises Post Office Directories

H Wises & Co, Dunedin, Eastbourne Street, Eastbourne Street East, Russell Street, vols 1916 to 1959-60.

Hastings District Council

Hastings District Council building files.

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

Land Information New Zealand

CTs HB 5/294, A4/832, 90/177, Hawkes Bay Land District.

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

File no 12009-778.

Shaw, 1991 (2)

Peter Shaw, and Peter Hallett, Hastings: Spanish Mission Styles of Five Decades, Napier: Cosmos, 1991.

Other Information

A fully referenced Registration 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.