Market Reserve Building

28-34 Tennyson Street & Market Street, Napier

  • Market Reserve Building.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Alison Dangerfield. Date: 10/10/2008.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4413 Date Entered 16th November 1989


City/District Council

Napier City


Hawke's Bay Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 20497


The Market Reserve Building, Napier, was the first major permanent building constructed in central Napier after the Hawke's Bay Earthquake 1931, and is considered to be a symbol of the Renaissance of Napier.

Plans for the construction of a Market Reserve Building began in July 1930 when the Treasury Department granted Napier Borough Council permission to raise three loans at rates above the normal Government limit of 5 ½ percent. This allowed for £29,000 to be raised on the erection of new buildings on the Market Reserve block. However, the Council found it difficult to raise funds. The Mayor, Vigor Brown, resorted to looking for funds in Australia and Britain. Eventually a promise of funds was raised. Ratepayers approved the loan in December 1930 and tenders were called for.

On 3 February 1931 a massive earthquake struck the Hawke's Bay region. At 7.8 on the Richter scale, the earthquake did huge damage and is considered to be the largest natural disaster to have occurred in New Zealand in the twentieth century. A total of 258 people died. In Napier, near the centre of the quake, the earthquake and subsequent fire destroyed most of the central business district. Following the earthquake a moratorium was placed on all rebuilding of business premises in order that the debris could be cleared and the future of the town's development could be considered. There was even some debate as to whether Napier should be abandoned and Hastings become the Government and business centre of Hawke's Bay, but this was eventually abandoned. In March 1931 the town was placed under the control of two commissioners who were to oversee the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Napier.

The rebuilding of Napier began in August 1931 with the decision to continue with the Market Reserve building. Associated Architects, a co-operative design office set up in Napier after the earthquake to assist with the reconstruction of the city, prepared new plans for the building. (The members of Associated Architects were the principals of the four major architectural practices in Napier at that time C.T. Natusch and Sons, Finch and Westholm, J. A. Loius Hay and E. A. Williams.) These plans were to be modified to take into account changes in building practices adopted after the earthquake. Since many people had been killed or injured by falling masonry during the earthquake, the new Standard Code of Building Bylaws required all new buildings to have minimal projecting decoration on the facade. However, it was found that the structural steel frame of the Market Reserve Building, as designed by Aleck Natusch of C.T.Natusch and Sons prior to the earthquake, did not require modification to meet the new standards. It allowed for the construction of the large arch windows that are a dominant feature of the building. The only change to the plans for the structure was its conversion from a welded structure to a riveted one, as it was flet that the noise this would create would The building also featured the first suspended verandah in Napier - again the result of the new building regulations, which specified that streets were to be clear of all obstructions along the curb line.

Tenders were called for a second time and Fletchers Construction Company was awarded the contract. The construction of the council-owned building was seen as a commitment to the future of Napier, and architect Rene Natusch even modified the specifications, calling for a riveted frame rather than a welded frame, in order that the noise from the construction would herald the renaissance of the city. Acknowledging the significance of the construction, the English manufacturers, Crittalls, provided bronze windows for the price of steel as a gift to the city. The building was completed in June 1932 and at the time "stood alone in the barren portion of Napier." Since 1932 the building has been used for a combination of retail and office space and more recently as the Napier Public Library.

The Market Reserve Building Napier is significant as the first building in the central business district of Napier to be erected after the earthquake of 1931. The building reflects the concerns over erecting structures that could withstand a disaster of a similar magnitude. It is also important as its construction signalled the community's resolve to rebuild Napier. Today, occupying half a block in the commercial heart of the city, it is a notable landmark in Napier.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Fletcher Construction Company

Fletcher Construction Company was founded by Scottish-born James Fletcher (1886 - 1974), the son of a builder. Six months after his arrival in Dunedin in 1908, Fletcher formed a house-building partnership with Bert Morris. They soon moved into larger-scale construction work, building the St Kilda Town Hall (1911), and the main dormitory block and Ross Chapel at Knox College (1912). Fletcher's brothers, William, Andrew and John joined the business in 1911, which then became known as Fletcher Brothers. A branch was opened in Invercargill.

While holidaying in Auckland in 1916, James tendered for the construction of the the Auckland City Markets. By 1919 the company, then known as Fletcher Construction, was firmly established in Auckland and Wellington. Notable landmarks constructed by the company during the Depression included the Auckland University College Arts Building (completed 1926); Landmark House (the former Auckland Electric Power Board Building, 1927); Auckland Civic Theatre (1929); the Chateau Tongariro (1929); and the Dominion Museum, Wellington (1934).

Prior to the election of the first Labour Government, Fletcher (a Reform supporter) had advised the Labour Party on housing policy as hbe believed in large-scale planning and in the inter-dependence of government and business. However, he declined an approach by Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage in December 1935 to sell the company to the government, when the latter wanted to ensure the large-scale production of rental state housing. Although Fletchers ultimately went on to build many of New Zealand's state houses, for several years Residential Construction Ltd (the subsidiary established to undertake their construction) sustained heavy financial losses.

Fletcher Construction became a public company, Fletcher Holdings, in 1940. Already Fletchers' interests were wide ranging: brickyards, engineering shops, joinery factories, marble quarries, structural steel plants and other enterprises had been added the original construction firm. Further expansion could only be undertaken with outside capital.

During the Second World War James Fletcher, having retired as chairman of Fletcher Holdings, was seconded to the newly created position of Commissioner of State Construction which he held during 1942 and 1943. Directly responsible to Prime Minister Peter Fraser, Fletcher had almost complete control over the deployment of workers and resources. He also became the Commissioner of the Ministry of Works, set up in 1943, a position he held until December 1945.

In 1981 Fletcher Holdings; Tasman Pulp and Paper; and Challenge Corporation amalgamated to form Fletcher Challenge Ltd, at that time New Zealand's largest company.

Williamson Construction Company - main contract

Natusch, C.T. & Sons

Charles Tilleard Natusch (1859-1951) completed his architectural studies in England in 1882, after which he travelled in the United States and Canada. He returned to England in 1883 to become involved in the town planning and development of Southend-on-Sea. He immigrated to New Zealand in 1886 and after a short collaboration with Atkins & Clere, established a practice in Wellington as an architect and quantity surveyor. He then moved to Masterton, Pahiatua and finally to Napier, where he bought the architectural practice of Robert Lamb. From 1908 Natusch worked with his three sons, Aleck, Rene and Stanley. The firm received many domestic commissions from the farming community. Its well known houses include Bushy Park (Kai Iwi), Gwavas (Tikokino), Matapiro (Napier), Maungaraupi (Marton) and Wharerata (Massey University). Following several changes of name and three generations of Natusch architects, the family practice continues today as Natusch Partnership in Napier.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

Two-storeyed American Renaissance style with consoles supporting ground floor awning and slanted corner entrance. Modernised Romanesque arched windows at regular intervals at the upper level to all street frontages.

Notable Features

Marble staircase, tile work in entrance lobby, plaster ceilings

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1932 -
Stripped Classical

1970 - 1980
Some walls removed and second stairwell added to interior

Completion Date

4th December 2002

Report Written By

Helen McCracken/NZHPT

Information Sources

McGregor, 1998

Robert McGregor, The Hawke's Bay Earthquake, New Zealand's Greatest Natural Disaster, Art Deco Trust, Napier, 1998

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.