Australis House

36-38 Customs Street East, Gore Street And Galway Street, Auckland

  • Australis House.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 18/09/2001.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4577 Date Entered 25th October 1990

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 1 DP 371807 (CT 290313), North Auckland Land District, and the building known as Australis House thereon, and its fittings and fixtures.

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)

Region

Auckland Council

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 371807 (CT 290313), North Auckland Land District

Summaryopen/close

This brick warehouse is a particularly ornate example of the many commercial storage buildings that still line Customs Street, close to the shipping wharves in central Auckland. The five-storey building plus basement was erected in 1903-1904 for the Entrican Brothers, Andrew and James, at the substantial cost of £10,000. The brothers had migrated from Northern Ireland in the 1880s and become prosperous grocers and general merchants in the following decade. They belonged to a new generation of traders that challenged the established mercantile network by acting as agents for 'home manufacturers' in the United Kingdom. This allowed them to import goods as diverse as confectionary and ironmongery from Australia and Britain, while exporting refrigerated cheese and butter in return. By the early 1900s they had outgrown their rented premises, having 33 employees in 1904. Both brothers achieved political office in later life, with Andrew Entrican being deputy mayor of Auckland for 21 years. He was also a long-serving member of the Auckland Harbour Board, which regulated trade and other activity in the port.

The warehouse was designed to stand out from the crowd, with elegant Baroque detailing on the principal facade. It was one of the taller buildings in the waterfront area, overlooking to its rear the Queen Street railway station. The building was used for a variety of purposes, from the packing of butter and cheese exports in the basement to bulk storage on the upper floors. The ground floor was used for administration and as a showroom, while the first floor held patent medicines and 'fancy' goods. Later modifications included the addition of a loading dock, while the upper floor was damaged by fire in 1960. The building had ceased to be used as a warehouse by 1970, after which it was converted to commercial offices and renamed 'Australis House'.

The former Entrican Building, or Australis House, is significant as the trading headquarters of a successful import/export business in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Auckland. Its design was intended to exhibit the success of its founders, who became prominent local citizens. It contributes considerably to the urban character of one of Auckland's best-preserved historic commercial streets, and is one of a diminishing number of Edwardian warehouses that characterised the Auckland waterfront. It demonstrates Auckland's role as a major conduit for consumer produce in and out of the country, and the prosperity of some Protestant Irish migrants during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Its value is enhanced by its proximity to other historic buildings of a similar date within the Customs Street Historic Area.

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Construction Professionalsopen/close

Mitchell & Watt

John Mitchell (c.1859-1947) and Robert Martin Watt (1860-1907) were in partnership at Auckland by 1892.

Mitchell was born in Ramelton, Northern Ireland, and received his architectural training in Ireland before emigrating to New Zealand in 1888 and settling in Auckland. He became known for his early use of reinforced concrete. In 1893 he invented a baked earthenware block which was used in domestic construction. He left for England in 1912 and was involved with a prefabricated housing project at Bournemouth. He retired in 1922 and returned to New Zealand.

Watt was born in Scotland and studied architecture in Glasgow with the firm of Barclay Bros. He immigrated to New Zealand about 1878 for health reasons and practised in Auckland both on his own account and in partnership with Mitchell. In 1960 he was elected president of the Auckland branch of the New Zealand Institute of Architects.

Mitchell and Watt were appointed architects to the Auckland Education Board in 1892. Mitchell undertook new work while Watt undertook rebuilding projects and renovations to existing buildings. Their work includes schools at Te Mata (1905) and Maungatautari (1905), additions to schools at Cambridge (1900) and Dargaville (1905), the Seddon Memorial Technical College (1908-13). Non-educational buildings include Mt Eden Congregational Church (1900). Watt was responsible for the design of the Ley's Institute, Ponsonby (1905-06).

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration report for Customs Street Historic Area considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

"Australis House"

The verticality of the building is emphasised by pilasters, attic level capped by bracketed cornice and three pediments, Five storey, brick, sixth storey incorporated in 1970" Built in 1903-1904 for A.J, Entrican & Co" who specialised in imported grocery lines.

Architects: J. Mitchell & R.M. Watt.

Notable Features

Registration covers the building, its fixtures and finishes. It also includes recent modifications. The building lies on nineteenth century reclaimed land in Commercial Bay, next to the original Britomart Point and close to the site of the Gore Street wharf

Construction Dates

Other
1878 - 1883
Reclamation of land

Original Construction
1903 - 1904
Construction of Entrican Building

Reconstruction
1960 -
Roof rebuilt after fire

Modification
1970 - 1972
Internal refurbishment

Completion Date

15th August 2001

Report Written By

Martin Jones

Information Sources

Auckland Star

Auckland Star

16 Oct 1903, p. 3.

Clough, 1996

Rod Clough, 'Britomart Transport Terminal Project: Archaeological Assessment, Site R11/1379', Auckland, 1996 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

'Australis House (formerly the Entrican Building), 36-38 Customs Street East, Auckland', NZHPT Buildings Classification Committee Report, Wellington, 1990

New Zealand Graphic

New Zealand Graphic

29 Oct 1904, p. 22.

Conservation Plan

Conservation Plan

Salmond Architects, 'Australis House, 36 Customs Street East, Auckland: A Conservation Plan', Auckland, 1997 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)

Other Information

Copies of the original registration reports are 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.