The land on which the area is located has considerable historical significance as a focal point in the early development of the city of Wellington.
The corner between Lambton Quay and Willis Street, where Stewart Dawson's now stands, was known as Clay Point or Windy Point in the early days of Wellington beachfront settlement. In the early 1840's it was the site of the prominent flagstaff of Major Charles Heaphy, the draughtsman for the New Zealand Company. In 1843, the Wairau conflict so alarmed Wellingtonians that they built the Waterloo redoubt on Clay Point. The fortification, under the command of Captain William Mein Smith, was defended by three heavy guns. It was dismantled several years later when the area began to be developed commercially.
It was in front of Clay Point that the first extensive reclamation in Wellington was carried out. The initial purpose of the reclamation was to create space for a better road around the steeply rising slope of Clay Point which was so close to the sea that travel was difficult at high tide. At the same time, the precipitous slope of Clay Point was being cut back, the rubble being used as fill in the earliest widening of the beachfront. Between 1857 and 1863, reclamation was carried out in earnest, until almost eight acres had been reclaimed from the sea. All of the buildings in the area, on the seaward side of Lambton Quay stand on this reclamation.
Plimmer's steps have early historical significance through their association with John Plimmer, an early settler and successful businessman. One of his first warehouses was "Plimmer's Ark' which was the wreck of the Barque Inconstant, which ran aground on Wellington Heads. Plimmer had the wreck relocated on the then waterfront and used it as a wharf and warehouse. Plimmer later built the brick warehouse located on Plimmers Steps, and planted an oak nearby in what was then his garden, possibly from an acorn given to him by Sir George Grey. Plimmer's steps, like Dawson's corner, have become a well known Wellington landmark.
The historic area has been the site of some of the earliest buildings built in Wellington. One of the most notable was the Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute, located just north of Plimmers Steps. The first Athenaeum was built in 1850, but a much grander building was built in 1877. The Institute served an important cultural function, with its library, lecture rooms and concert hall. the building was demolished in the 1930s.
The historic area has been a focal point in the city's commercial development. The BNZ has continuously maintained its central Wellington office on the corner site of Lambton and Customhouse Quays since reclamation. A branch office of the BNZ was opened in Wellington in 1862, and a permanent branch office opened on this corner site in 1863.
Other companies have maintained a long association with the area. The South British Insurance Company had offices on Lambton Quay from the 1870s on the site of the present South British building. The AMP Society erected its first office building in 1877 on its present day Hunter St - Customhouse Quay corner site.
DESCRIPTION OF BOUNDARY:
This area encompasses the structures, land and objects in the area surrounding the juncture of Lambton Quay, Customhouse Quay, and Willis St, including Plimmer's Steps.
(On the block, bounded by Lambton Quay, Customhouse Quay and Hunter St, there are four former B.N.Z. buildings now owned by the Wellington City Council that are compatible in style, size and function.)
B.N.Z. Building No. 1 - 239-247 Lambton Quay (Category I)
The B.N.Z.'s head office was opened in 1901 on the acute angled corner site of Lambton/Customhouse Quay. The three storey building was designed by Thomas Turnbull in the Italian Palazzo style. A significant feature of the building is its unique, snub nosed entrance way at the Lambton Quay/Customhouse Quay intersection, designed to fill the awkward, sharp angled corner of the site. The interior features an impressive main banking chamber.
B.N.Z Building No. 2 - 233-7 Lambton Quay (Category II)
The Wellington Building & Investment Company's four storey offices were built in 1904. Designed by Thomas Turnbull & Son, the building's design combines classical and renaissance forms.
B.N.Z. Building No. 3 - 98-102 Customhouse Quay (Category I)
Designed by Wellington architect Thomas Turnbull, this was built for the National Mutual Life Association of Australasia in 1883-4 and sold to the B.N.Z. in 1963. It was one of the first masonry buildings in Wellington and has impressive and richly decorated facades (3 storey) in the Classical style with embellishments by the highly respected Wellington partnership of Burton & Platt.
B.N.Z. Building No. 4 - 29 Hunter St (Category II)
The B.N.Z purchased the former NZ Accident Insurance Company in 1938. The building which is much smaller than the other three but of similar height and style was designed by Hislop & Waldon
United Fruit Company - 360 Lambton Quay (Category II)
The former Equitable Building & Investment Company of Wellington Ltd. was built circa 1900 (architect unknown). The 2 storey building of Classical design had a 3rd storey added in 1902 by architect G.G. Schwartz.
Stewart Dawson's Building - Willis St/Lambton Quay (Category II)
The sensitive but restrained, 3 storey facade which follows the line of the corner on to Willis St was designed in 1900 by architect William Chatfield.
City Meat Co Building - 2-4 Willis St (Category II)
Built circa 1900, the identity of the architect for this building is unknown. It could well have been Thomas Turnbull, as he is known to have carried out alterations to the building in 1900, very soon after it was built.
Whitcoulls - 312-316 Lambton Quay (Category II)
The Whitcombe & Tombs building opened in 1907. The four storey of Neo - Classical design is thought to have been designed by William Turnbull. It is typical of commercial buildings of the period (masonry construction).
Plimmer's Emporium - halfway up Plimmer's Steps
Built in 1916, this 3 storey structure is of a very plain design, lacking any external ornamentation.
A.M.P. Building - Customhouse Quay/Hunter St (Category I)
The A.M.P. Building was designed by Clere & Clere in 1925 and opened in 1928. The 7 storey building is faced with N.Z. Granite at basement level and then ochre Hawkesbury stone from New South Wales. It represents a transitional period between the Neo-Classical architecture of the Edwardian period and the modernism of Art Deco.
A.M.P. Building - Hunter/Featherston St
Built post 1940, it is compatible in scale and function.
Former Commercial Travellers Club Building (Northern Bldg) - 107-9 Customhouse Quay (Category II)
This Neo-Georgian 8 storey building was designed by Mitchell & Mitchell in 1929. The bulk of the building is faced in brick but the top and the two lowest levels are of cream coloured stone.
South British Building - 326 Lambton Quay (Category II)
Auckland architect, M.K. Draffin designed this building of concrete construction in 1936.
C.B.A Building - 328 - 330 Lambton Quay (Category II)
Also of concrete construction, the C.B.A building, designed by Clere & Clere, was opened in 1935.
Prudential Building - 332-40 Lambton Quay (Category II)
The Prudential Building is notable for its high quality Art Deco style of decoration. It was designed in 1935 by Australian architects Hennessy, Hennessy & Co., their local associates being Gray Young, Morton & Young of Wellington. It incorporates technological innovation in the sense that it was one of the first steel framed buildings to be erected to cope with the new requirements for earthquake strengthening.
M.L.C. Building - 33-7 Hunter St (Category II)
The M.L.C. Building was designed by Mitchell & Mitchell in 1940. It is of concrete construction and is faced with faience tiles and shows a number of Art Deco features. The building's appearance is streamlined by the use of prominent piers rising from the first floor to the top.
Other Notable Objects
Plimmer's Steps - Lambton Quay up to Boulcott St
The actual steps have been upgraded several times over the years but the site has considerable historical links with early Wellington and one of the city's most prominent early citizens.
The tree is believed to have been grown by John Plimmer in what was then his garden, during the mid-nineteenth century, possibly from an acorn given to him by Sir George Grey.
Nineteenth Century Lamp - (traffic island outside A.N.Z.)
It was presented to Wellington by Samuel Brown, the city's mayor from 1887-8, to commemorate the advent of electric lighting in the city in 1888.
Note - the following historic places have been demolished since the Historic Area was first registered by the Trust in 1984:
former ANZ Building, 99 Customhouse Quay
Building at 105 Customhouse Quay
McKenzie, 1984 (5)
McKenzie, James, South Lambton Quay Conservation Area, Wellington, NZ Historic Places Trust (1984)
This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Proposal for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.
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.
Historic Area Place Name
AMP Society Building
Bank of New Zealand Building (No 1)
Bank of New Zealand Building (No 3)
Bank of New Zealand Building (No. 2)
Bank of New Zealand Building (No.4)
City Meat Company Building (Former)
MLC Building (Former)
Nineteenth Century Lamp, Traffic island outside A.N.Z. Bank, Wellington.
Plimmer's Emporium - Halfway up Plimmer's Steps, Wellington
Plimmer's Oak, Wellington
Plimmer's Steps, Lambton Quay up to Boulcott Street, Wellington.
Prudential Insurance Building
South British Insurance Building
Stewart Dawson's Building
United Fruit Company Building