Post Office (Former)
42 Normanby Street And Hokianga Road, Dargaville
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 1
Private/No Public Access
29th November 1985
Extent of List Entry
Extent includes the land described as Sec 1 SO 65120 (NA77D/339), North Auckland Land District, and the buildings known as Post Office (Former) thereon.
Sec 1 SO 65120 (NA77D/339), North Auckland Land District.
The former Post Office at Dargaville is an interesting example of early twentieth-century government architecture, which reflects the importance of communications in provincial towns. Erected in 1914 under the direction of the Public Works Department (PWD), the brick post office was one of the most substantial structures in Dargaville township when it was built. Located on a busy intersection, it replaced a timber post office closer to the wharf that had been constructed in 1902. Postal and other communication services in Dargaville had risen rapidly in the intervening years, as the town's role in the exploitation of kauri timber and gum resources in the Northern Wairoa reached its peak. A particularly high number of savings bank and money order transactions were carried out in the settlement, attributed to the activities of Dalmatian gum-diggers.
Constructed towards the end of a nationwide building boom for government structures, the post office was the source of considerable civic pride. Its foundation stone was laid on 8 April 1914 by the Minister of Railways, W. H. Herries (1859-1923), who was a strong supporter of rural development. Herries also inspected the crossing of the North Auckland Main Trunk Railway over the Wairoa River during his visit, which was located 43 kilometres from the town. Formal opening ceremonies for the post office, planned for September 1914, were curtailed due to the outbreak of the First World War (1914-1918).
The building was designed in an Imperial Baroque style, possibly by Claude Paton under the supervision of the Government Architect, John Campbell. Initially conceived as a smaller building, a short corner tower was incorporated after protests by the Dargaville public, rendering it similar to post offices in larger provincial centres. Erected by Pattison and Brooks of Auckland, its Baroque appearance emphasised notions of grandeur, civilisation and progress. The building was broadly rectangular in plan, with a telephone exchange and women's retiring room at the rear, reflecting the expanding role of women in the post office workforce. In 1919, the building received the first internal airmail shipment in New Zealand, after letters were sent from Auckland aboard a twin-float aeroplane that landed on the Wairoa River.
Subsequent alterations included the installation of a clock in the corner tower in 1925, donated by G. N. Hayes, a local solicitor. Dedicated to Hayes' partner Lieutenant Charles Darling and other servicemen from the Northern Wairoa who had died in the First World War, this was unveiled in the presence of the local M.P. Gordon Coates (1878-1943), shortly before he became Prime Minister. More substantial changes in the 1920s included an increase in the size of the telephone exchange, while a larger extension was added in about 1953. Following the division of the New Zealand Post Office into state-owned enterprises in 1987, the building was sold into private hands, when partial demolition at the rear enabled it to be used as a drive-through liquor store, in spite of local opposition. It has since been employed as a community centre, a bank and commercial offices.
The former Dargaville Post Office has considerable significance for its association with the growth of the postal network, including the earliest trials in airmail delivery. It reflects important aspects of early twentieth-century life, including the role of the post office in providing fundamental state services to the general public. The building also demonstrates gender and other social issues, such as the different working tasks provided to men and women, and the comparative status of manager and employees. It is associated with several prominent events and individuals, including the First World War and Gordon Coates. The structure is an important symbol of local pride and commemoration, and an impressive example of government architecture. It is associated with the 'golden age' of Public Works Department construction in the early 1900s, overseen by John Campbell. The former post office is one of the few remaining buildings in central Dargaville that reflects the town's initial transition from a pioneer environment to established provincial centre. It has considerable landmark value for its appearance and prominent location.
John Campbell (1857-1942) served his articles under John Gordon (c1835-1912) in Glasgow. He arrived in Dunedin in 1882 and after a brief period as a draughtsman with Mason and Wales joined the Dunedin branch of the Public Works Department in 1883. His first known work, an unbuilt design for the Dunedin Railway Station, reveals an early interest in Baroque architecture.
In November 1888 Campbell was transferred to Wellington where in 1889 he took up the position of draughtsman in charge of the Public Buildings Division of the Public Works Department.
He remained in charge of the design of government buildings throughout New Zealand until his retirement in 1922, becoming in 1909 the first person to hold the position of Government Architect. Government architecture designed under his aegis evidences a change in style from Queen Anne to Edwardian Baroque. His best-known Queen Anne design is the Dunedin Police Station (1895-8), modelled on Richard Norman Shaw's New Scotland Yard (1887-90). Among his most exuberant Edwardian Baroque buildings is the Public Trust Office, Wellington (1905-09). Although Campbell designed the Dunedin Law Courts (1899-1902) in the Gothic style with a Scottish Baronial inflection, he established Edwardian Baroque as the government style for police stations, courthouses and post offices throughout New Zealand. In 1911 Campbell won the nation-wide architectural competition for the design of Parliament Buildings, Wellington. Although only partially completed, Parliament House is the crowning achievement of Campbell's career.
Claude Paton (1881 -1953) was born in Scotland and arrived in New Zealand in 1904. He received some architectural or draughting training in Glasgow which enabled him to gain employment with the Public Works Department in 1906 as an architectural draughtsman. Although Paton was never given the title of architect he was an influential force in the Department. He carried particular weight during the last decade of John Campbell's tenure as Government Architect; both were committed to the Edwardian Baroque style. Paton retired from the Public Works Department as a senior draughtsman in 1946.
Pattison & Brooks
No biography is currently available for this construction professional
Registration covers the structure, its fixtures and finishes. It also includes recent modifications.
Construction of Post Office
Clock added to tower
Southern extension for enlarged telephone exchange
External and internal modifications, including partial demolition of c.1925 extension
21st October 2002
Report Written By
Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHR)
Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives
1914, D-1, pp.60 & 90; 1915, D-1, p.31
Auckland Weekly News
Auckland Weekly News
16 April 1914, p.21
E. K. Bradley, The Great Northern Wairoa, (4th edn.), Auckland, 1982
North Auckland Times
North Auckland Times
17 April 1914; 17 & 20 February 1925; & 9 & 13 March 1925
12 May 2000
Peter Richardson, 'An Architecture of Empire: The Government Buildings of John Campbell in New Zealand', MA Thesis, University of Canterbury, 1988
Howard Robinson, A History of the Post Office in New Zealand, RE Owen, Government Printer, Wellington, 1964
John Stallworthy, Early Northern Wairoa, Dargaville, 1916
Historic Places in New Zealand
Historic Places in New Zealand
Julia Gatley, 'An Old Post Office Re-Used', No.44, November 1993
Dave Pearson, 'Conservation Plan for the Old Post Office, Dargaville', Works Consultancy Services, Auckland, 1991 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)
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.