Imperial Hotel (Former)

66 Queen Street, 4 Fort Street And Fort Lane, Auckland

  • Imperial Hotel (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 4/09/2009.
  • .
    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 4593 Date Entered 10th September 1987


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Allot 1 Sec 2 Town of Auckland DP 13620 (CT NA349/160) and Pt Allot 1 Sec 2 Town of Auckland DP 22951 (CT NA617/276), North Auckland Land District, and the building known as Imperial Hotel (Former) thereon, and its fittings and fixtures. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the upgrade report for further information).

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)


Auckland Council

Legal description

Pt Allot 1 Sec 2 Town of Auckland DP 13620 (CT NA349/160) and Pt Allot 1 Sec 2 Town of Auckland DP 22951 (CT NA617/276), North Auckland Land District


The former Imperial Hotel is a notable example of a Victorian corner public house in the heart of colonial Auckland. Erected in 1883, it also incorporates two earlier structures dating from 1862 and 1873. It reflects varied aspects of Auckland's commercial and administrative development and has been used as a hotel, insurance rooms and offices for institutions such as the Auckland Harbour Board and Auckland Gas Board.

Located on the corner of Queen and Fort Streets, the former Imperial Hotel occupies reclaimed land on the site of Auckland's early foreshore. The Commercial Bay shoreline was utilised by Maori before colonial arrival, and was a major landing place for people and supplies after colonial Auckland was founded in 1840. In 1846, the land formed part of a Crown Grant to George Graham (1812-1901), a clerk of works in the Royal Engineers. An early building on the site consisted of the two-storey timber Metropolitan Hotel (later demolished), which was first licensed in 1858. This fronted Queen Street, Auckland's main commercial thoroughfare.

Surviving structures were subsequently erected to the east of the hostelry in Fort Street. Somerset House or Graham's Buildings, constructed in 1861-2, was the store of merchant J. Davis, and accommodated the offices of land commissioner H.H. Turton (1818-1887). Turton was an early Wesleyan missionary who was subsequently employed in the Native Office in Wellington. Adjoining Fort Lane, Webb's Buildings were erected in 1861 but were rebuilt in 1873 to the design of noted architect James Wrigley (1837?-1882). Prior to 1882, they housed the Auckland Harbour Board and the Auckland Gas Board, reflecting Fort Street's early importance as an administrative as well as commercial centre. From its inception in 1871, the Auckland Harbour Board oversaw the port's affairs and played a notable role in Auckland's economic development.

Hotel-keeper Thomas Anderson secured the lease of the Metropolitan Hotel in 1882. Brewers, Hancock provided a £1000 bond enabling construction of the hotel in brick, one of 16 public houses in Queen Street, conditional upon sale of their product. The new premises were erected in 1883 during a hotel construction boom that followed more stringent requirements introduced under the Liquor Licensing Act 1881. The three-storey building was designed in an Italianate architectural style by prolific Auckland architects Edward Mahoney and Son, and constructed for £4,268 by builder John Currie (1849-1921). It had two symmetrical facades, although three bays were added shortly after.

In 1885 the hotel lease was assigned to Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society, a major Melbourne-based company which used part of the prominently located building as its Auckland office. Renamed the Imperial Hotel, by 1889 the hostelry was accessed from Fort Street and incorporated Graham's Buildings (1862). By 1912 the hotel had a street-level verandah; bedrooms, a private sitting room, office and dining room on the first floor; and bedrooms and a new kitchen on the upper level.

Lessee Hancock redeveloped the ground floor in 1917 with a bottle store, a large public bar and a tobacconist shop. In 1924 Hancock, by then part of New Zealand Breweries, purchased the property. A lounge and new toilets (including a women's facility) were provided on the first floor in 1929. After further changes, the hotel's bar facilities were extended in 1954 into the former Webb's Buildings adjoining which had been purchased in 1930.

The Imperial Hotel became the Lion Tavern in 1966, taking in two thirds of the ground floor of the former Webb's Buildings in which a glassed stairwell was created. The first and second floors of the extended holding were redeveloped as backpackers' accommodation in 1989, retaining licensed bars on the ground and first floors. After 76 years in brewery ownership, the former Imperial Hotel changed hands in 2000.

The former Imperial Hotel has aesthetic significance for its distinctive, decorative façade, prominently positioned on the corner of Auckland's Queen and Fort Streets. It has archaeological significance for its rare incorporation of an 1860s mercantile structure and potential deposits linked with early colonial reclamation processes and pre-existing foreshore activity. The place has architectural value for incorporating an 1880s corner hotel designed by the prominent Auckland architectural practice of Edward Mahoney and Sons, and an earlier structure that is one of few known commercial buildings designed by James Wrigley. The place has historical significance for reflecting the development of the Queen Street area as the city's main commercial centre, and for its connections with several important organisations. These include the Auckland Harbour Board, Auckland Gas Board, Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society and liquor interests Hancock, New Zealand Breweries and Lion Breweries. It also has close associations with the early Wesleyan missionary H.H. Turton. The place has social significance as a longstanding place of drinking and social interaction, having been used for this purpose for more than 125 years.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Currie, John

John Currie (c.1859-1921) was born in Ireland. He immigrated to New Zealand in 1874 and practised architecture in Auckland on his own account. In 1879 the firm of L.D. Nathan became a major client. Accordingly much of Currie's work was in the designing of commercial and warehouse buildings. Few of these survive with the exception of L.D. Nathan & Co. Bond Store (now Archilles House, 1902) and P. Hayman's Warehouse (now Sofrana House, 1899-1900).

Currie also designed buildings for Moss Davis, the Auckland brewer. The two best known works from this association were the Rob Roy Tavern, Freeman's Bay (1884), and the restoration of the interior of the Grand Hotel in Princes Street after fire in 1901. The latter building was designed by H.D. Skinner in 1879, although is sometimes erroneously attributed to Currie. In addition to hotels and commercial work, Currie also undertook residential commissions. The best known of these is "Wickford" in Princes Street. Originally the home of Mr N.A. Nathan, it now accommodates the Registry Office of the University of Auckland. Currie was one of the original members of the New Zealand Institute of Architects formed in 1905.

Currie died in Ponsonby in 1921 aged 70.

Mahoney, Edward

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).

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

1858 -
Pre-construction: Two-storey timber hotel and outbuildings (corner Queen and Fort Streets)

1861 -
Pre-construction: Two-storey brick stores (Webb's Buildings, corner Fort Street and Fort Lane)

1861 - 1862
Construction: Three-storey brick store (Somerset House/Graham's Buildings, Fort Street)

Demolished - prior building
1872 -
Destruction by fire: Webb's Buildings

1873 -
Construction: Webb's Buildings rebuilt as three-storey brick stores

Original Construction
1883 -
Construction: Brick hotel

Graham's Building (1862) incorporated into hotel. Office conversion Queen Street frontage

Addition: Street-level verandah

1912 -
Kitchen installed (1862 - second floor)

1917 -
Tobacconist, public bars, and bottle store developed ground floor

1924 -
New stairs from public bar to basement

1929 -
Lounge and new toilets developed (first floor)

1950 -
Public bar counters replaced

1951 -
Dining room converted to lounge (1862 - first floor); Bedrooms reduced from 11 to 7, dining space and laundry developed (second floor)

1954 -
Bar extended into adjoining building (1873 - ground floor)

1954 -
Opening in party walls (ground floor)

1956 -
Manager's suite enlarged (first floor)

1958 -
Coffee bar and hairdressing salon developed (basement)

1966 -
New staircase with new windows (1873)

1989 -
Backpacker accommodation upper floors (1862, 1873, 1883)

Completion Date

29th September 2009

Report Written By

Joan McKenzie

Information Sources

Auckland Public Libraries

Auckland Public Libraries

Special Collections: Negs 4-401 (1865); 1-W262 (1881); 1-W566 (1912); 1-W1394 (1914)

Auckland Star

Auckland Star

7 January 1966, p.6

Cleave's Auckland Provincial Directory

Cleave's Auckland Provincial Directory, Auckland

Daily Southern Cross

Daily Southern Cross

16 April 1858, p.1; 26 April 1861, p.3; 25 March, 1862, p.5; 20 November 1872, p.3; 22 May 1873, p.1

Wises Post Office Directories

Wises Post Office Directories

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

Land Information New Zealand

D.I. 2A.1241, D.I. 18A.135, 1G.620, O1/941, R5/150, R12/782, R336/355; D.I. 18A.509, R168/220; CT NA617/276, CT NA349/160

New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.

15 March 2000, Sec. E p.12

Auckland City Council

Auckland City Council

Auckland City Environments, property file 4 Fort Street

Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa

Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa

Burton Brothers, Fort Street, image C.011136

Freeman's Journal

Freeman's Journal

9 March 1883, p.9

Other Information

A copy of the original report is available from 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.