14 Symonds Street, Auckland
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 2
Private/No Public Access
22nd June 2007
Extent of List Entry
Registration includes the land in NZ Gazette 1967, p.962 (as shown on the 'Extent of Registration' plan in Appendix 3 of the Registration Report), and the structures, their fittings and fixtures thereon, excluding the Arts Building to the southeast and its footprint. The registration includes garden features such as walls, railings and a gate in the northwestern part of the property.
Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)
Allot 34 Sec 9 City of Auckland (NZ Gazette 1967, p.962), North Auckland Land District
The former house at 14 Symonds Street is the middlemost of a group of three adjoining Italianate houses, and reflects high-status urban design in late colonial Auckland.
Constructed in 1884, the two-storey dwelling was erected in lower Symonds Street, one of the city's earliest thoroughfares. Prior to the mid 1860s, the Symonds Street ridge was at the epicentre of British colonial power in New Zealand, containing Government House, the Albert Barracks and the General Assembly building. Noted for its ongoing inclusion of high-status institutions such as the Supreme Court, the ridge became increasingly popular as a residential area for the town's commercial leaders in the 1870s and 1880s, after the transfer of colonial administration to the newly designated capital at Wellington and the departure of British troops.
The property occupied by the current building at 14 Symonds Street was initially part of an endowment reserved by Governor George Grey under the Grammar School Trust Deed of 1850. By the mid 1860s, timber structures had been erected on the site by a lessee, Charles Pike, described as a settler. As property values rose, the Auckland College and Grammar School Trust sought to improve its income by demolishing existing structures and creating new subdivisions, specifying that dwellings on each property should cost no less than ₤500. In 1884 wine and spirits merchant, Edward Lewis (1835?-1909) purchased the lease for both 14 and 16 Symonds Street for the benefit of his wife Julia (1830?-1912), who transferred half of her interest to a trust for her children by her first husband Charles Davis (1814?-1875). Julia Lewis was mother-in-law to the influential Jewish businessmen Laurence David Nathan (1846-1905) and Alfred Hyam Nathan (1856-1905), while her first husband had also been an eminent member of the early Auckland Jewish community. Funded by Julia Lewis, near-identical new houses were constructed at 14 and 16 Symonds Street by January 1885. Both appear to have been initially built for rental purposes.
The house at 14 Symonds Street was constructed in an ornate Italianate design that was fashionable in the 1870s and 1880s, particularly among merchants, whose commercial premises were often erected in a similar style. It was built by William Baildon & Alexander Stevenson to a design by the prominent architectural firm of Edward Mahoney and Sons. Edward Mahoney had earlier been responsible for The Pah, reputed to be the grandest villa in Auckland, and had also recently taken the presidency of the Auckland Institute of Architects. He retired from business in 1885. The asymmetrical frontage of the new villa included a projecting bay and a short verandah, and befitting its financial value the house was built of durable materials, incorporating brick walls and a slate roof. Erected on sloping ground, the building contained two main storeys for reception rooms and bedrooms, with a kitchen and service rooms probably located in a basement. A large garden at the rear may have included a two-storey timber structure and two smaller outbuildings from an early stage. A multi-storey rear verandah on the main house overlooked this area and afforded more distant views across Grafton Gully to the Auckland Domain.
The residence was initially let to Auckland Grammar School headmaster Charles Bourne (1850-1913). As head of Auckland Grammar (1881-1893) and Christ's College, Christchurch (1893-1903), Bourne was a significant figure in the development of two prestigious New Zealand secondary schools. During his tenure at Auckland Grammar he developed an efficient organisation, established a school uniform, amalgamated the boys' and girls' schools and significantly improved the institution's academic standing. For a short time, the house appears to have been the residence of former Premier and Attorney-General Sir Frederick Whitaker (1812-1891) before his death in December 1891. By 1900 the residence, in common with a number of substantial homes located in the Symonds Street area, had become a boarding house providing accommodation for single working people and a transient population. This occurred as wealthier citizens increasingly moved to houses in suburban locations. Later known by the name Okareta, the residence was modified in the 1930s and 1950s to incorporate extra rooms for use as flats. Following its acquisition by the University of Auckland in the 1960s, the building housed the Town Planning Department, then the Political Studies Department, its current occupants. Its rear garden and outbuildings were removed by the early 1980s, when a large Arts Building was erected. Alterations were carried out to the main house at a similar time, including the removal of the later rear annex.
The former house at 14 Symonds Street is aesthetically significant as one of a cluster of three imposing and ornate Italianate villas, enhanced by its tree-lined frontage to Symonds Street. It is architecturally significant as a surviving example of a two-storey colonial dwelling of urban design, built to house citizens of standing. It is also an example of the work of the noted Auckland architectural practice of Edward Mahoney & Sons. The place has historical value for its association with the conversion of the Symonds Street ridge into a desirable residential district following the departure of the colonial capital to Wellington. It is also of value for its connections with the educationalist Charles Bourne, its probable connections with the former Premier and Attorney-General, Sir Frederick Whitaker, and its associations with prominent early Jewish merchant families.
Historical Significance or Value
The place has historical significance for its association with the transformation of the Symonds Street ridge into a sought-after residential district following the transfer of the colonial capital to Wellington. It demonstrates the role of the area as a high status enclave within the later colonial town and also reflects subsequent changes to the area, including the conversion of many large inner city dwellings to boarding houses and the subsequent development of the area for university purposes. The place also has historical value for its connections with the educationalist Charles Bourne and probable connections with the former Premier and Attorney-General, Sir Frederick Whitaker, as well as for its associations with prominent early Jewish merchant families.
Aesthetic Significance or Value
The place has aesthetic significance as one of a cluster of three imposing and ornate late-Victorian urban villas designed in the Italianate style. Its aesthetic value is enhanced by the collective similarity of design, scale and detailing of these buildings, and their proximity to the tree-lined frontage of Symonds Street. Collectively the group enhances the visual amenity of lower Symonds Street, one of Auckland's earliest colonial thoroughfares.
Architectural Significance or Value
The place has architectural significance as a surviving example of a two-storey villa of urban design, built to house citizens of standing. Its architectural significance is enhanced by the survival of two adjoining villas, which demonstrate the spatial relationship of many large villas to each other within a late colonial urban environment. It also has significance as an example of the work of the noted Auckland architectural practice of Edward Mahoney & Sons.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The place reflects the evolution of Auckland's lower Symonds Street area as a sought-after residential address in the latter decades of the nineteenth century. Together with two other dwellings - one to the southwest and one the northeast, it demonstrates the nature of the urban streetscape in a well-to-do part of the colonial city. It also reflects the adaptation and use of large dwellings in the twentieth century as boarding houses and flats, and for office accommodation for academics in the expanding tertiary education sector.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The place appears to be associated with a noted statesman, Sir Frederick Whitaker, who lived in the house immediately before his death in December 1891. It is also associated with Charles Bourne, headmaster of two prestigious New Zealand secondary schools - Auckland Grammar and Christ's College Christchurch. The place is also associated with the immediate family of Charles Davis, who had been a significant figure in Auckland's early Jewish community.
(f) The potential of the place for public education
Located beside a busy Auckland thoroughfare and as part of a major tertiary institution, the place has potential for public education about the history of late-Victorian architecture, high-status residential development in colonial Auckland, and aspects of the development of the University of Auckland.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place
The place has value as one of a group of three adjoining urban villas, displaying notable spatial relationships and other characteristics linked to late nineteenth-century residential urban design.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape
The place forms part of an outstanding historical and cultural landscape in the lower Symonds Street area. The surrounding landscape is particularly significant as the epicentre of colonial power in early New Zealand, as a high-status residential and administrative area in the late nineteenth century, and as an important educational precinct during most of the twentieth century. It contains an unusually large concentration of structures, in-ground archaeological deposits and trees of recognised heritage importance. Items include the British governor's house, remnants of the largest military barracks in colonial New Zealand and the oldest surviving stone church in the country.
The place is a place of historical or cultural heritage significance or value due to the extent to which it reflects the development of a well-to-do part of central Auckland, its association with important individuals in New Zealand history, and its potential for public education as part of a major tertiary institution. The place is also assigned Category II status having regard to its residential urban design and as part of an outstanding cultural and historical landscape in the lower Symonds Street area.
Edward Mahoney (1824-1895)
Edward Mahoney emigrated from Cork, Ireland with his wife Margaret and three children. The Mahoneys arrived in Auckland in 1856 where Edward set up as a building and timber merchant. In 1876 he established the architectural practice that later became Edward Mahoney & Sons, which for over thirty years designed and supervised construction of many Catholic buildings as well as churches for other denominations.
The Church of St John the Baptist, Parnell (1861) and St Mary's Convent Chapel (1866) are two of the earliest surviving ecclesiastical buildings designed by Edward Mahoney and reflect the gradual evolution from simple Gothic Revival structures to more ambitious and creative use of the Gothic form such as may be seen in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Khyber Pass (1881); and St Patrick's Cathedral, the latter completed in 1901.
Edward Mahoney was a founding member of the Auckland Institute of Architects, attending the first meeting in December 1880 where he was appointed honorary treasurer. He became president of the Institute in 1883. His sons Thomas (1855?-1923) and Robert (1862-1895) joined him in practice in 1876 and the early 1880s respectively.
Upon Edward's retirement in 1885, Thomas and Robert carried on the practice. After Robert's death in 1895, Thomas changed the firm's name to E. Mahoney & Son. The Mahoneys designed a wide variety of buildings including the Auckland Customhouse, hotels, commercial buildings and houses, their best-known surviving domestic buildings being the Pah, at Hillsborough (1877) and the Dilworth Terrace Houses, Parnell (1899). Their ecclesiastical buildings included St Mary's Church of the Assumption, Onehunga (1888) and St Benedict's Church, Newton (1888).
The firm of Edward Mahoney & Son continued to practice for a short period after Thomas Mahoney’s death in 1923, but was eventually dissolved in 1926.
Source: NZHPT Registration Report for Bank of New Zealand (Former), Devonport (Register no. 4511).
William Baildon (1836?-1917)
Born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, William Baildon arrived in New Zealand in 1859. After working on the Otago and West Coast goldfields he joined the rush to Thames in 1867. He settled in Auckland ten years later where he worked for many years as a builder and contractor and was a member of the Arch Hill Road Board.
Alexander Stevenson (1859-1925)
Alexander Stevenson was born in Glasgow in 1859 and was four years old when his parents immigrated to Auckland. He worked as a carpenter for seven years before taking up employment with the New Zealand Freezing Company. Stevenson later became the officer in charge of the Pukekohe Central Dairy Factory's testing department and was ultimately manager of the Waiuku and Frankton Butter Factories.
Early history of the site
Prior to European settlement, there was Maori occupation on today's Symonds Street ridge and Queen Street gully, known as Horotiu. The ridge may have been particularly well-regarded for its fertile soils and was cultivated by Ngati Whatua in the 1830s, when food was grown to supply the increasing number of Pakeha visiting the Waitemata harbour. After Auckland was chosen as the site of the colonial capital in 1840, the ridge was laid out as the epicentre of administrative power in the new colony, incorporating the British governor's house, the Albert Barracks - the largest military installation in the country - and the general assembly, where delegates from throughout the country gathered to discuss political matters. Following the departure of the colonial administration to the newly designated capital at Wellington in 1865 and the withdrawal of British troops shortly afterwards, the ridge consolidated its reputation as a high-status neighbourhood in the 1870s with the construction of desirable housing for the wealthy and places of genteel recreation such as Choral Hall and Albert Park.
The site occupied by the current building at 14 Symonds Street was part of a larger area of land on the southeastern side of Symonds Street that was initially an endowment reserved by Governor George Grey under the Grammar School Trust Deed of 1850. A Grammar School for the intended instruction of 'persons of all classes and races' who inhabited the colony was an early attempt to encourage local education, but was not finally established until 1869. The site on which the house at 14 Symonds Street was eventually built was subsequently part of a land parcel leased by the Trust administrators for 20 years to settler Charles Pike in 1859, but also took in some land from an adjoining plot to the southwest. A two-storey timber dwelling was built on the northeastern side of the current allotment by 1865. A stable erected in the northwestern corner of the current site by 1866 was demolished prior to 1882. The timber house was removed or demolished in 1884, following the lapse of the lease. New subdivisions were created by the Auckland College and Grammar School Trust, including the 612m² site on which a new house was constructed.
Construction of the building
The terms of the leases offered for the new subdivisions required that any dwelling erected should cost not less than ₤500. This reflects the increasing desirability of the area in the 1870s and early 1880s, particularly for individuals with commercial backgrounds who prospered during the economic boom of that period. Fifty-year leases for adjoining properties at 14 and 16 Symonds Street were granted to wine and spirits merchant, Edward Lewis (1835?-1909) in March 1884. The leases were held for the benefit of his wife Julia (1830?-1912), who transferred half of her interest to a trust for her children by her first husband Charles Davis (1814?-1875). Davis had been a merchant and auctioneer by trade, who had arrived in Auckland in circa 1843 and was one of three men who served the Auckland Hebrew congregation until a rabbi could be engaged in the early 1850s. Davis, merchant David Nathan and another were instrumental in obtaining a site for a synagogue. Ties with the prominent Nathan family were strengthened when one of the Davis' three daughters married Nathan's son Laurence David (1846-1905) and another married Nathan's nephew Alfred Hyam Nathan (1856-1905). The firm of L. D. Nathan established in 1868, grew out of David Nathan's general merchandising business which had been established at Kororareka in 1840 and relocated to Auckland in 1841. Later operating large kauri gum store, bond store and tea warehouse premises on the corner of Auckland's Commerce Street and Customs Street East, L. D. Nathan was one of few major Auckland businesses to survive the economic depression of the later 1880s and 1890s. Although more recently established than the business of L.D. Nathan, the firm of A.H. Nathan - importers, wholesalers and shipping agents - also enjoyed extensive trade throughout the province. The Nathans and other prominent members of the Jewish community lived in the immediate vicinity of lower Symonds Street during the late nineteenth century.
Plans for identical houses at 14 and 16 Symonds Street were drawn up by the noted Auckland architectural firm of Edward Mahoney & Sons in March 1884. Edward Mahoney had recently become president of the Auckland Institute of Architects and was known for his design of one of the grandest merchant dwellings in the Auckland area, at the Pah in Hillsborough in 1877. The design for the buildings was approved by the Auckland College and Grammar School Trust Board three months later and tenders were called at the beginning of June for the erection, 'in brick or concrete', of two residences. Ten tenders were received. That of Baildon and Stevenson was accepted.
Erected 'out of Julia Lewis' own separate estate and money', the urban-style villas were completed by January 1885. Their Italianate design was fashionable in the 1870s and 1880s, particularly among merchants, whose commercial premises were often built in a similar style. Built of brick with slate roofs and of asymmetrical appearance, the houses had kitchen and service rooms in the basement, living and dining rooms on the ground floor and bedrooms on the first floor. They also probably incorporated plumbed-in bathrooms. Much taller and more spacious than the houses they replaced, the residences were designed to portray the wealth of their occupants. Built close to the street, the residence at 14 Symonds Street had a small formal front garden and a significantly larger garden area to the rear, which may have included a two-storey timber structure and two smaller outbuildings from an early stage. A multi-storey rear verandah on the main building overlooked this area and afforded more distant views across Grafton Gully to the Auckland Domain.
Evidently built as a rental property, 14 Symonds Street was let to Auckland Grammar School Headmaster Charles Bourne (1850-1913) by March 1885. This occurred just before the urban property market collapsed as Auckland entered into a lengthy period of economic depression. As headmaster of Auckland Grammar (1881-1893) and Christ's College, Christchurch (1893-1903), Bourne was a significant figure in the ongoing development of two prestigious New Zealand secondary schools. During his tenure at Auckland Grammar he developed an efficient organisation, established a school uniform, amalgamated the boys' and girls' schools and markedly improved the institution's academic standing. Bourne had relocated to a residence in Manukau Road by 1889.
For a short time (perhaps only months) 14 Symonds Street probably became the residence of former Premier and Attorney-General Sir Frederick Whitaker (1812-1891), until his death in December 1891. Although his law partnership formed with Thomas Russell in 1861 was reputed to have been among the most lucrative in the colony, Whitaker's entrepreneurial activities brought him close to financial ruin in the 1880s perhaps explaining why he rented. Tenants in the 1890s included an insurance manager and a commission agent. By January 1900 the residence, in common with a number of substantial homes located in the Symonds Street area, had become a boarding house providing accommodation for single working people and a transient population. This occurred as wealthier citizens increasingly moved to suburban locations. Land values in this part of the colonial town nevertheless remained significantly higher than elsewhere in the city centre.
Subsequent use and development
The children of Julia Lewis had sold the lease of the property by 1913. Later known by the name Okareta, the building was listed in 1923 as 'apartments', a use that continued at least for the next 43 years. The property contained 17 flats by 1945-1946, reflecting increased pressure for residential accommodation as marriage and birth rates escalated following the end of the Second World War (1939-1945).
Having regained control of the site in 1949, the Crown sold 14 Symonds Street to Henderson farmer Roy Hosking in 1951 who constructed a two-room addition to the front of the house. The property was reacquired by the Crown in 1967 and by 1969 was being used, in conjunction with number 12 Symonds Street, by the University of Auckland's Town Planning Department. The University had been asked in 1956 to accept Princes Street as a 'permanent home'. The proposal had drawn strong objections, including those of several medical specialists who by now practised from the area in large numbers. Formally opened in May 1883, the Auckland University College initially occupied the disused District Court House in Eden Street. By 1965 the University was operating from over 80 buildings in the Princes Street and Symonds Street area, 45 of which were old residences or private hotels.
Land to the rear of the plot was significantly altered with the construction of the current Arts Building in 1981, by which time the rear garden and earlier outbuildings had been removed. Refurbishment was carried out to the house at a similar time. The 1951 addition was removed, its front wall made good and its front verandah reinstated. A two-storey verandah was constructed at the rear of the building replacing one that was three storeys high. The building's chimneys were removed and fire-stop doors and lobbies were installed. The house, in association with those at 12 and 16 Symonds Street, became the home of the Political Studies Department, its current use. A walkway was subsequently constructed close to the rear wall of the building.
The former house at 14 Symonds Street is currently one of a dwindling number of surviving colonial residences on the Symonds Street ridge. As one of a group of three adjoining houses of contemporary construction and design, it reflects prevailing attitudes to urban design in what was a well-to-do part of the colonial town.
The former house is one of a remnant group of three substantial, late-Victorian properties located on the southeast side of lower Symonds Street. Situated in the heart of the University of Auckland campus on the eastern side of Auckland's central business district (CBD), the properties are situated on the crest of the Symonds Street ridge. This section of Symonds Street, a major thoroughfare, is lined with numerous 100-year-old London Plane trees. These are identified in Appendix 2: Schedule of Trees, in Auckland City Council's District Plan.
Located within the eastern part of the historic colonial centre of Auckland, 14 Symonds Street lies within a broader landscape of outstanding historical and cultural heritage value. In the same block are St Andrew's Church (NZHPT Registration # 20, Category I historic place) which is the oldest surviving stone church in New Zealand, a house at 5 Alten Road (NZHPT Registration # 7398, Category II historic place), two other late-Victorian villas in Symonds Street, noted above, and two buildings of early twentieth-century date in Grafton Road. One of the two latter buildings, the plastered brick villa Bayreuth at 10 Grafton Rd, was for a time the home of influential music teachers Johannes Wielaert and wife Katherine Schafe. In the block to the north and east are the colonial governor's residence (Government House (Former), NZHPT Registration # 105, Category I historic place), remnants of the largest military barracks in New Zealand (including the Albert Barracks Wall, NZHPT Registration # 12, Category I historic place), the Old Choral Hall (NZHPT Registration # 4474, Category I historic place), which was one of the major venues for cultural gatherings in colonial Auckland, and the Old Arts Building, University of Auckland (NZHPT Registration # 25, Category I historic place). Numerous other places of considerable significance are located in nearby Waterloo Quadrant and Princes Street, including the former Supreme Court (now the High Court, NZHPT Registration # 17, Category I historic place), a former synagogue (NZHPT Registration # 578, Category I historic place) and several large residences collectively known as former Merchants' Houses.
Number 14 Symonds Street is the middle member of three similar urban properties of late nineteenth-century date, all of which are now encompassed within the Arts and Commerce precinct of the university campus. The property consists of a rectangular 612m² site incorporating a large building of residential design, a small front garden and an extensive open paved area to the rear containing a raised walkway. The walkway extends along the southeastern boundary at a right angle to the rear of the building. In the southeastern side yard is a free-standing canopy to shelter pedestrians. A similar canopy is located parallel to the rear of the building. A large Arts Building and its footprint lie within the eastern part of the property but are excluded from the registration. The ground slopes down considerably from the northwest to the southeast of the site so that the main building is two stories in height at its Symonds Street façade and three storeys high to the southeast. Set marginally further back from the front boundary than its neighbour to the northeast, the house has a shallow, front garden. A metal fence on a low concrete plinth stands on the front boundary to Symonds Street. The fence incorporates a garden gate.
The two-storey villa is of Italianate style and L-shaped in plan, with a projecting front bay. Identical in appearance to its neighbour at 16 Symonds Street to the southwest, the house is constructed of brick with an external plaster finish. On its front facade, the building has a full-height, canted bay with an entablature between its two storeys. The bay is also expressed in the roof form of the building. A front door is sheltered by a single-storey timber verandah which runs along the rest of the frontage. The verandah is supported by paired square posts and has a decorative frieze. The window surrounds on the upper storey of the façade have segmental heads, contrasting with the round-headed windows of the ground floor bay. The sides of the window openings are trimmed with an acanthus-leaf motif at the springing point. The side walls of the building are plain. On the northeastern wall a rectangular segmental-headed window lights the basement, while a single rectangular window is located on each of the ground and first floors. The southeastern wall has two rectangular windows at basement level, and a rectangular window on each of the ground and first floors. A short two-storey timber verandah extends across part the building's rear wall at basement and ground floor levels. The building's roof incorporates a series of hips and is clad with corrugated iron. The roof eaves have decorative brackets.
Internally, the central hallway on the ground floor has a large room off its northeast side and two rooms off the southwest side. The hall walls are of masonry construction. The large northeastern space is a staff common room and has French doors opening onto a rear verandah. The front room off the southwest side accommodates the departmental office and reception. Both front rooms at this level and the main front room upstairs have fireplaces and surrounds. A steep, narrow staircase at the rear of the building connects the ground floor with the basement, where there are offices and room for storage. The main entrance hall on the ground floor has a pair of ornate scrolled arch supports. On the rear wall of the landing above is a window with stained glass borders. The first floor has been partitioned to provide four offices. Fire-proof lobbies and smoke doors have been installed throughout.
1933 - 1934
Premises including a timber annex converted to apartments
Water closet formed on verandah.
Two-room addition to front (ground floor).
Conversion to staff and tutorial rooms, University use
Slate roof replaced by corrugated iron; water closet removed from verandah
Building refurbished (see registration report for details).
Brick, corrugated iron roof.
2nd May 2007
Report Written By
Martin Jones and Joan McKenzie
N. Easdale, Five Gentlemen's Residences in Princes Street Auckland: The Occupants and Their Enterprises 1875-1900, Auckland, 1980
T. Hodgson, The Heart of Colonial Auckland 1865-1910, Random Century NZ Ltd, Auckland 1992
L. Nathan, As Old as Auckland: The History of L.D. Nathan & Co. Ltd and of the David Nathan Family 1840-1980, Takapuna, 1985
G. H. Scholefield, A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, 1940
Keith Sinclair, A History of the University of Auckland, 1883-1983, Auckland, 1983
R. C. J. Stone, Makers of Fortune: A Colonial Business Community and its Fall, Auckland, 1973
K.A. Trembath, Ad Augusta: A Centennial History of Auckland Grammar School 1869-1969, Auckland, 1969.
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Northern 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.