W. A. Thompson and Company Building (Former)

307‐319 Queen Street, Auckland

  • W. A. Thompson and Company Building (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 5/08/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4587 Date Entered 10th September 1987

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Allots 4‐5, Sec 29 City of Auckland (CT NA2D/938) North Auckland Land District, and the building known as W.A. Thompson and Company Building (Former) thereon.

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)

Region

Auckland Council

Legal description

Pt Allots 4‐5, Sec 29 City of Auckland (CT NA2D/938) North Auckland Land District

Summaryopen/close

The Neo-Georgian-style building was erected in 1923-4 for W.A. Thompson and Company, reputedly New Zealand’s largest pram and pushchair manufacturer by the 1960s. The retail premises has historical and architectural significance as the earliest of three contemporary designs by the noted Auckland practice of Holman and Moses for sites within a small block on Auckland’s Queen Street. Like the nearby Auckland Sunday School Association and the No Deposit Piano Company Buildings (erected in 1924-5 and 1925 respectively) the reinforced-concrete and brick structure is of local significance. It forms part of a group of largely late nineteenth- and predominantly early twentieth-century buildings of a scale compatible with the Town Hall, a landmark completed in 1911 stimulating replacement of earlier timber structures nearby. The glazed-brick and plaster façade, tiled roof and steel-framed windows of the W.A. Thompson and Company Building illustrate changes in commercial architectural design in the early 1920s and adoption of the largely domestic-scale Neo-Georgian style for urban commercial buildings of modest size.

Prior to European arrival, successive iwi and hapu groups occupied Horotiu including the present-day Queen Street gully. Traditions refer to a small pa on or near the current Town Hall. Following Auckland’s creation as colonial capital in 1840, baker Peter Robertson subdivided his holding in 1859. In 1863, carpenters Richard Monk and James Rice Morgan bought a holding and established a steam saw mill. Following the death of Sir William Martin who had become the owner in 1880, the current site was created within a vacant portion of the former sawmill property. The vacant site bought in 1882 by William Row Bridgman, a draper, changed hands several times before its purchase by baby carriage manufacturers William Augustus Thompson and Alfred Thompson in late 1923. The enterprise established in 1893 in Victoria Street West as machinists, W.A. Thompson and Company, diversified into sewing machine sales and repair, with the first mention of perambulator manufacture late in 1896. Moving to Queen Street in 1899, the venture remained primarily a sewing machine agency. Perambulator manufacture, again mentioned in 1907, was carried out in a factory in nearby Wakefield Street by 1910.

Tenders for a new Queen Street retail premises were called by Auckland architects Holman and Moses in September 1923. The brick and concrete building of four floors with a two-storey façade to Queen Street was constructed by Auckland builder G.G. Pollard. Brick and plaster detailing contributed to the overall unity of the streetscape while the large steel-framed windows reflected a general change in design approaches for commercial buildings. Finished with a tiled Mansard roof and steel oriel windows, the glazed brick shopfront with plaster dressings was a departure from common concrete plaster. By this time the Company was specialising in baby products, basket-ware and invalid chairs.

Early tenancies were taken up by a retailer of electrical goods including gramophones; James Wilson tailor; and furniture manufacturers Grief and Esterman. In the 1930s the Thompson Building, also known as Thompson’s Pram House, housed the clubrooms of several English associations and clubs, and a German Club.

Following William Thompson’s death in 1945, his brother Alfred became the sole owner of the business, establishing W.A. Thompson and Company Limited with his two sons in 1946. Alterations included re-partitioning and modernisation of the building’s ground floor shop front in 1946. A mezzanine floor was built in the ground floor retail area in 1955. The firm, reputedly New Zealand’s largest pram and pushchair manufacturer by 1964, gave up its Queen Street premises and moved to Otara in 1966. Following purchase of the property by Auckland City Council, tenants over the years included Council’s valuation staff; Mollers’ Gallery; and a Japanese specialty store.

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Construction Professionalsopen/close

W.A. Holman and L.V. Moses

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

G. G. Pollard

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Modification
1955 -
Mezzanine floor constructed

Completion Date

2nd April 2015

Report Written By

Joan McKenzie

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.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Northern Regional Office of Heritage New Zealand.