Anzac and Kiwi Halls

62-64 Bell Street, Featherston

  • Anzac and Kiwi Halls.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Rebecca O'Brien. Date: 18/08/2002.
  • Anzac and Kiwi Halls.
    Copyright: Kath Jennings.
  • Anzac and Kiwi Halls. Interior.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Rebecca O'Brien. Date: 18/08/2002.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3953 Date Entered 2nd July 1987

Locationopen/close

City/District Council

South Wairarapa District

Region

Wellington Region

Legal description

Sec 213 & Pt Sec 214 Town of Featherston

Location description

Corner of Bell and Birdwood Streets, Featherston

Summaryopen/close

When New Zealand's largest military training camp was established in Featherston in 1916, the settlers of the area showed their appreciation of the soldiers by erecting a magnificent social hall known as 'the ANZAC Club' on the corner of Bell and Birdwood Streets. Built near the railway station, the club was designed to entertain its soldier visitors and save them from the 'pitfalls of the towns and cities'. Initiated by three early settlers, the land, building and furnishings were entirely paid for by descendants of early Featherston pioneers. Designed and erected by builders Murray & Rayson, no expense was spared on the project, the completed complex costing just over £8759. Inside, reading and writing rooms, billiard tables, a supper room and a refreshment bar were all provided for the comfort of the soldiers. Weekly balls were held in the main concert hall, which was capable of seating 600 people, and included a stage and dressing rooms. Electricity was supplied by a generator, as Featherston was not connected to the national grid until 1925. The unusual decision not to provide entirely separate facilities for officers earned the building praise from at least one Member of Parliament present at its opening.

During the influenza epidemic of 1918 to 1919, the ANZAC Club, formerly used to entertain the soldiers, became a hospital, its extensive facilities making it admirably suited for this purpose. After the First World War the hall was gifted to the Featherston Borough Council as a war memorial. It was again used as a hospital in 1943 to care for the Japanese prisoners wounded in the riot at the former Featherston camp. Following the Second World War, two rooms were converted into a Kiwi Memorial Hall in remembrance of Wairarapa soldiers killed during the conflict. Between and after the wars the hall served as a country hall. Renowned throughout the Wairarapa for its fine dance floor, it was considered the most important venue for social gatherings in the district. It continues in its role as a community hall and remains an expressive reminder of Featherston's intriguing history.

The ANZAC and Kiwi Halls have outstanding significance as a symbol of the patriotism that predominated in small communities throughout New Zealand during the First World War. From the electricity especially generated to light the building to the variety and quality of the ANZAC Club facilities, the building stands as testimony to the lengths the Featherston community went to, to provide for the comfort and entertainment of the soldiers. Its use as a hospital increases the building's substantial historical significance as it connects the Club with two events of national importance, the influenza epidemic and the riot of the Japanese prisoners in 1943. The building has local cultural significance as a memorial, not only to the soldiers who died in the two world wars, but to the early Pakeha settlers of the town and local Maori leaders whose portraits hang throughout the Club. Great similarities between the materials and design used in the Club and the demolished Featherston Military Camp buildings are demonstrated in early photographs. The architecture of the ANZAC Club provides a unique and valuable insight into the construction of what was then New Zealand's largest military training camp. The unusual accommodation for both officers and soldiers under one roof gives the building rarity value. The architectural, cultural and physical value of the building is recognised and valued by the local community.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

Mitchell & Mitchell

The firm of Mitchell & Mitchell was established by the Mitchell brothers, Cyril Hawthorn Mitchell (d. 1949) and Alan Hawthorn Mitchell (d.1973). The brothers were two of a handful of prominent Wellington architects of the early twentieth century. C. H. Mitchell had qualified as an architect in 1913, forming the partnership with his younger brother when A. H. Mitchell returned from training in the United Kingdom in 1932. The Mitchell brothers designed many buildings throughout New Zealand, and both became fellows of the New Zealand Institute of Architects.

Murray & Rayson, Martinborough

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Johnson Bros, Featherston

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The ANZAC Club is a large, single storey, wooden building that bears a very strong resemblance to the shelters erected at the Featherston Military Camp. Clad in weatherboards of heart totara or matai, the continuous concrete foundation walls around its perimeter have been finished with rough, textured stucco. The roof is sheathed in corrugated iron and there are few decorative elements on the outside of the building.

Erected in less than seven months the building has a sturdy appearance and is in an excellent condition. Located at the entrance to the hall is the ticket office. On the inside frame of the patterned-glass sash window through which tickets were sold, the pencilled calculations of the ticket vendors can still be seen. In the ticket office and throughout the building the walls are lined with rimu panels and painted zinc embossed with an Art Nouveau design.

In the main 'ANZAC' hall the high vaulted ceiling is supported by carved wooden trusses of Oregon timber. Wooden benches for patrons are inset into the walls. At the end of the hall is a raised stage complete with dressing rooms. The cork floor is a replica of the original floor, destroyed by the stiletto heels that were popular in the 1960s. Soon after the building was opened, a number of sketches and portraits of early settlers and local Maori leaders were hung on the walls as a reminder of the town's early founders. The names of the rooms opening off ANZAC Hall were painted on the doors and have been carefully preserved.

On a right angle to the ANZAC Hall is the Kiwi Memorial Hall. This hall was created in 1950 when the partition between the card and supper room was removed. In the angle between the two halls is a kitchen. Drinks were once served to the soldiers in the ANZAC Hall from a milk bar in this area. The bedrooms built next to the kitchen to accommodate employees now serve the local playcentre.

The ANZAC Club has undergone two major modifications and both changes serve as a reminder of the military history of the building. It was first modified in 1943 when it was converted into a hospital for wounded Japanese prisoners. Partitions were erected in the main hall and, although these have since been removed, the small kitchen and work room remains in what was originally an open verandah next to the supper room.

The second modification occurred in 1950 when, in memory of the soldiers killed in the Second World War, the wall between the supper room and card room was demolished and the space renamed 'Kiwi Memorial Hall'. New cloak rooms, ticket lobby and toilets were added at the back of the new hall.

Other than restoration work completed in 1986, other modifications to the hall have been minor. The kitchen and bathroom areas have been modernised and in 2002 the former bathhouse was converted into three separate toilet spaces. Beautifully restored, the ANZAC Club serves as an interesting example of functional architecture whose plain 'public works' exterior is belied by the craftsmanship and elegance of the interior.

Notable Features

Pressed zinc sheeting on the interior walls above the wood panelling.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1916 -
(Murray & Rayson)

Modification
1943 -
Johnson Bros, Featherston modified hall for use as a hospital

Modification
1950 -
Kiwi Memorial Hall completed according to plans by Mitchell & Mitchell

Other
1986 -
New cork floor laid

Other
1994 -
Servery and kitchen upgraded

Modification
2002 -
Modifications to original bathhouse

Completion Date

5th October 2002

Report Written By

Rebecca O'Brien

Information Sources

Carle, 1957

C. Carle, Gateway to the Wairarapa, Masterton, 1957

Lawson, 1917

W. Lawson, The Featherston Military Camp, Featherston, 1917

Nicolaidi, 1999

M. Nicolaidi, The Featherston Chronicles; A Legacy of War, Auckland, 1999

Tenquist, 2002

J. Tenquist, The ANZAC Club Story, Featherston, 2002

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this 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.