Windsor House

58-60 Queen Street; Fort Lane, Auckland

  • Windsor House.
    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 4594 Date Entered 10th September 1987


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Allot 2 Sec 2 City of Auckland (CT NA62/130), North Auckland Land District and the building known as Windsor House thereon, and its fittings and fixtures.

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)


Auckland Council

Legal description

Pt Allot 2 Sec 2 City of Auckland (CT NA62/130), North Auckland Land District

Location description

Located between the east side of Queen Street and the west side of Fort Lane


Windsor House was erected in 1927-8 as an imposing eight to ten-storey building for restaurant and soda fountain company, W.R. Cooke and Son. Designed to house facilities that included a restaurant and offices, the building was constructed in Queen Street - Auckland’s main commercial thoroughfare - and can be seen to reflect the prosperity of the period prior to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Before Auckland was created as colonial capital, the site formed part of the foreshore at the bottom of the Waihorotiu valley, fronting the Waitemata Harbour. The bay that it adjoined contained a pipi bank known as Te Roukai. Called Commercial Bay by early colonial settlers, the area became Auckland’s main trading port and contained a wharf erected in 1852 in the vicinity of the current Queen Street, beside the Windsor House site. After a large area to the east of the wharf was reclaimed from 1859 onwards, the site incorporated a timber building facing Queen Street and a brick structure at the rear fronting Fort Lane. By the mid to late 1880s, the Queen Street building had been replaced by a three-storey brick structure occupied by Messrs Reid and Company, who stored kauri gum, flax and wheat in the rear warehouse. In March 1887 a fire damaged and possibly destroyed the latter, although this was subsequently repaired or rebuilt.

Windsor House was erected in 1927-8 by W.R. Cooke and Son Ltd. The firm had first set up business in Auckland from Christchurch in 1912, and initially occupied premises on the opposite (western) side of lower Queen Street as confectioners. By 1919, Cooke’s had moved to the three-storey building on the Windsor House site, where they operated a soda fountain and tea rooms. In 1926, they purchased the premises with a view to erecting a significant building in this prestigious part of the city, close to major commercial enterprises as well as several theatres, the main train station and shopping arcades.

A well-established architect, A. Sinclair O’Connor, was employed to design a new building. O’Connor had previously been responsible for several upmarket apartment blocks on the north side of Parliament Street elsewhere in central Auckland: Middle Courtville (1914-15), Corner Courtville (1919) and Alverstone or Windsor Towers (1926). The building was to incorporate an imposing façade eight storeys high with an additional residence for a caretaker on the top, to reach the maximum height allowed under city bylaws. It was also to contain a basement. Rather than the ornate Edwardian style adopted for the Courtville buildings, Windsor House was to be of a more restrained classical design, with two pilasters defining a tall central portion that separated recessed windows on either side. Decorative embellishments included ‘Union Jack’ motifs at first-floor level. As with the nearby Dilworth Building (1925-7), the façade followed Louis Sullivan’s Chicago-style three-part ordering of high-rise buildings.

The building contract was awarded to Messrs Fawcett Ltd., with work underway by May 1927. Approximately 300 concrete piles, 30ft to 35ft deep, were necessary to reach the bedrock below the reclamation. The building was erected in two stages so that Cooke’s business could continue trading throughout. Costing more than £50,000, the structure took some eighteen months to complete.

Initially known as Cooke’s Building, the structure contained substantial tea rooms on the ground floor and a grill room of similar size immediately above. An internal light well over the latter serviced offices on the upper floors, which housed surveyors, accountants, medical practitioners and other prestigious tenants. The building was completed towards the end of a period of economic prosperity, and was soon followed by the onset of the Great Depression. Towards the end of the 1930s, Cooke’s advertised that their kitchens and dining rooms surpassed anything of their kind in New Zealand, resembling ‘behind the scenes, in organisation and equipment, nothing so much as a luxury liner.’ Anything from a cup of tea to a three course meal was served, including ‘Cooke’s own super Rangitoto Ice Cream Sundae.’

In 1946, Cooke’s sold the building to AMP (Australian Mutual and Provident) Society, which was the largest - or equal largest - provider of life insurance in New Zealand. AMP moved into new offices in 1961, but continued to own the property. Between 1948 and 1961 Pan American Airways were also a ground floor tenant, after which the building housed a branch of the Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) Bank. Interior alterations to accommodate occupants over the years included a mezzanine floor for Stevens Glass and China Shop in 1950. In 2000 the building was sold to Enterprise Properties Ltd. and converted into a hotel.

Windsor House has aesthetic significance for its street presence and elegant design. It has architectural value as a well-preserved example of the work of notable Auckland architect, A. Sinclair O’Connor. Its significance is enhanced for being one of a group of buildings in close proximity in lower Queen Street which demonstrate the development of commercial architectural styles from the 1860s to the mid 1930s in central Auckland. The building is historically significant for reflecting Auckland’s economic prosperity in the 1920s, and for its close associations with several notable businesses including W.R. Cooke and Sons, and AMP. It reflects Queen Street’s role as a hub of commercial and recreational activity during the early twentieth century and later.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

O'Connor, Arthur Sinclair

Arthur Sinclair O'Connor (c.1884-1943) was born in Fremantle, Australia, and came to New Zealand about 1908. It is not known where he received his architectural training. The first record of his work in New Zealand was a joint competition entry with Alva Bartley in 1911 for the new parliament building in Wellington. From 1935 until his sudden death in 1943 at the age of 59, O'Connor conducted his practice from Civic House.

O'Connor designed many inner city apartments including Radnor, Waterloo Quadrant (1914); Middle Courtville, Parliament Street (1914); Corner Courtville, Waterloo Quadrant and Parliament Street (1919); "Espano", overlooking Myers Park (1931); Westminster Court (originally large Courtville), Parliament Street (1934) and Brooklyn Apartments, Eden Crescent (1936). Examples of his commercial works are the Keans Building (1927), Civic House (1929) and the Fergusson Building (1929), all on Queen Street, the Stormont Building, Kingsland (1929), and the Regent (now the Lido) Theatre, Epsom (1923). He was also the architect for the Orange Coronation Hall, Newton Road (1922) and the Church of England, Otahuhu (1931).

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1927 - 1928
Windsor House constructed by Messrs Fawcett Ltd

1930 -
Alterations to shop front for Cooke

1946 -
Alterations for shop and AMP by architects Gummer and Ford

1962 -
Major renovations on ground floor for ANZ Bank

2000 -
Upper floors converted into a hotel

1926 -
Windsor House designed by architect A. Sinclair O’Connor

Completion Date

27th June 2011

Report Written By

Martin Jones

Information Sources

Auckland Star

Auckland Star

31 October 1939, p.29

Cleave's Auckland Provincial Directory

Cleave's Auckland Provincial Directory, Auckland

Other Information

A fully referenced report is available from the NZHPT Mid Northern Regional 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.