Post Office (Former)
2-10 Andrews Avenue And 151 High Street, Lower Hutt
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 2
Private/No Public Access
5th September 1985
Extent of List Entry
Extent of registration includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 90205 (CT WN57D/255) Wellington Land District, and the building known as Post Office (Former) thereon. Extent excludes the single-storey building along the north-east boundary.
Lot 1 DP 90205 (CT WN57D/255), Wellington Land District
This large Moderne building was the third Post Office built in Lower Hutt, and was designed by the Government Architect, John Thomas Mair (1876-1959). The first post office in Lower Hutt was a small wooden building built on the corner of High Street and Laings Road in 1891. During the 1890s the role of the Postal and Telegraph Department expanded. Not only did the volume of mail it carried increase, but it also offered a far greater range of government services, such as a savings bank and the acceptance of licence fees, taxes, and local body rates. At the same the population of Lower Hutt grew. To cope with the increased demand on postal services, a two-storey masonry post office was built in 1906 to replace the wooden structure.
The 1920s and 1930s saw the rapid expansion of suburban development in the Hutt Valley, aided by the establishment of the Housing Construction Department in 1936. In that same year a town-planning scheme was adopted to control development. As part of planning for anticipated growth in the town of Lower Hutt, and to relieve future traffic congestion, land owned by the Catholic Church - then occupied by the Church of Sts Peter and Paul - was acquired by the Lower Hutt Borough Council in 1937 for a 'cross-street' between High Street and Dudley Street. It was called Andrews Avenue, and the north side of the street was set aside for the new and larger post office which is the subject of this registration.
The contract for the construction of the building was let to Messrs. W. M. Angus Ltd of Napier in July 1940, but it was not until a year later that the foundation stone was laid. In the meantime Lower Hutt became a city. On the day Lower Hutt's new status as a municipality was announced a picture of the proposed new post office was published in the Dominion newspaper. Further delays caused by shortages associated with the Second World War meant that the post office did not open until February 1943, and, even then, work still had to be completed on the upper storeys of the building.
Mair's Moderne design, incorporating elements of Art Deco, was purpose-designed for its site. The building was never intended to be solely occupied by a post office. The ground floor was also planned to be used by the railways bus office, with other government offices occupying the top floors. However, this never eventuated. For around fifty years or so the principal occupant has been the Post Office (including the Post Savings Bank, and later Postbank). Other occupants have included solicitors, dentists, and photographers. Today New Zealand Post utilises the building for a sorting office and private boxes. The ground floor space facing the High Street has been let for commercial purposes.
The Post Office Building, Lower Hutt, is historically significant as a reminder of the phenomenal growth of Lower Hutt in the first decades of the twentieth century. It is also important for its association with the Government Architect, John Mair. Occupying a corner site, it is a well-known landmark on Lower Hutt's main street.
Mair, John Thomas
John Thomas Mair (1876-1959) was born in Invercargill and began his career with the New Zealand Railways on the staff of the Office Engineer, George Troup. In 1906 he travelled to the United States of America where he studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. He then worked in the office of George B. Post in New York before travelling to England where he was admitted as an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects. He became a Fellow in 1940.
On his return to New Zealand he entered private practice, one of his first buildings being the Presbyterian First Church, Invercargill (1915), a prominent building of Romanesque character. He then practised in Wellington, carrying out largely domestic commissions.
In 1918 he was appointed Inspector of Military Hospitals by the Defence Department, and in 1920 he became architect to the Department of Education. Following the retirement of John Campbell in 1922, Mair was appointed Government Architect, a position which he held until his retirement in 1942. During this period he was responsible for a variety of buildings, including the Courthouse, Hamilton, the Post Office in High Street, Christchurch, Government Life Office and the Departmental Building, both in Wellington, and the Jean Batten Building, Auckland. Such buildings show a departure from tradition, with the emphasis on function, structure and volume as opposed to a stylistic treatment of the building fabric.
A Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, Mair was made a Life Member in 1942. His son John Lindsay Mair also practised as an architect.
The three-storey asymmetric reinforced concrete building dominates a corner site. Visual interest has been created by the window patterns and the use of expressed vertical columns. The main corner is rounded and horizontally grooved, with the two top storeys set back from the main facade. There are traces of art deco detailing in the ornament at the base of the flagpole at the north end and the slight ribbing that continues above the roofline on the set-back corner.
1941 - 1943
Alterations for retail purposes
19th February 2002
Report Written By
Encyclopaedia of NZ, 1966
Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, Wellington, 1966
15 July 1941, 4 February 1943
David Millar, Once Upon a Village, a History of Lower Hutt, 1819-1965, Wellington, 1972
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.