Old Dairy Factory

Dairy Farm Road, Palmerston North

  • Old Dairy Factory 1992. Original image submitted at time of registration.
    Copyright: NZHPT Field Record Form Collection. Taken By: Dorothy Pilkington.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7180 Date Entered 23rd June 1994

Locationopen/close

City/District Council

Palmerston North City

Region

Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 89429 (CT WN57A/349), Wellington Land District

Summaryopen/close

The following text was prepared as part of an upgrade project and was completed (05 Dec 2002)

The Old Dairy Factory at Massey University, Palmerston North was designed as a dairy research laboratory. Several internationally recognised breakthroughs in dairy technology have been pioneered in the building since it was completed in 1929.

In the first half of the twentieth century, dairy produce was one of New Zealand's three major exports. Yet a general lack of understanding about the science involved in the production of milk products often resulted in great variation in quality. Importers in Britain criticised the exports they received. The government recognised that, if New Zealand was to continue to be a competitive exporter, it would have to conduct its own agricultural research and improve the knowledge and ability of those working on the country's farms.

In 1926, after several false starts and over two decades of delay, the New Zealand Agricultural College Act was passed by the government. This Act legislated for the establishment of Massey College, (now Massey University), a modern educational and research facility committed to the advancement of New Zealand agriculture. The College was to be established on the estate of John Batchelar, a property of 332 hectares [820 acres] near Palmerston North that was suitable for all types of farming. The top priority for the new college was the erection of a model dairy factory equipped for the manufacture of cheese and butter with laboratory facilities for research. In 1927 it was resolved that the factory should be shared between the college and full time researchers from the recently established Dairy Research Institute (DRI), a branch of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR). Work on the premises would focus upon problems specific to New Zealand's commercial dairy industry, and be partially funded by it.

The factory was designed that same year by Roy Lippincott, an American architect later responsible for the two other main college buildings, the Refectory [1930] and Massey University Main Building [1931]. These two buildings are visually linked to the dairy factory through similarities of style and the use of stylised, Maori motifs on the building exteriors. Built by Trevor Bros., Palmerston North, construction began in 1928 and was completed the following year for just over £14,088. Built of reinforced concrete, with a roof of Marseille tiles, the single storey building has broad eaves possibly derived from the Arts and Crafts movement. The building was designed to ensure a hygienic environment; the interior features concrete floors, wooden ceilings and tile-lined walls. At the time it was completed there were facilities for cheese and butter making, pasteurising and testing, as well as general administration areas.

In 1929 staff moved equipment from their temporary laboratory in the Batchelar homestead into the new factory. Supervised by an officer from the Dairy Division of the Department of Agriculture, milk from the college farms was made into butter and cheese which was then sold through an agent. In 1935 a major research breakthrough was made at the factory when Doctor H. R.Whitehead discovered that the bacteriophage was the primary cause of failure in cheese starters. The discovery was instrumental in overcoming this problem. In 1937 the factory became involved in the pasteurisation process when it was asked to supply milk for the 'milk in schools' scheme. The factory produced milkfat for the armed forces during the Second World War. The factory was also instrumental in developing the technique behind the vacuum pasteurisation of cream.

The dairy factory was used for research and training Massey students until 1967. It was then briefly taken over by New Zealand Pharmaceuticals, who intended to use the premises to develop export earning products from freezing works waste material. Massey University sold the factory to DSIR in 1988. Partially renovated in 1992, the building later won the Western Branch Award for Architecture in the NZIA - Resene Awards for sympathetic restoration. The factory is currently owned by AgResearch, an independent, government-owned research organisation established in 1992.

The Old Dairy Factory in Palmerston North is nationally and internationally significant as a facility that enabled New Zealand scientists to make key breakthroughs in dairy technology. It has historical importance as a symbol of the recognition and acceptance of the important role that research has played in the development of this country's primary industries. As a central part of what became Massey University, the building provides insight into the practical application of scientific research in the dairy industry. The building is also architecturally noteworthy as part of a trio of fine buildings designed by architect Roy Lippincott.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is from the original Proposal for Classification report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

DESCRIPTION:

Massey Agricultural College was established in 1926 by the amalgamation of the agricultural facilities of Auckland and Victoria University Colleges. To function efficiently the College required three new buildings; a dairy factory, a main science building and a refectory. The dairy factory was built first (1928-29) and Lippincott then designed the other two as a pair.

Until 1931, the dairy factory was used by both Massey Agricultural College and the Dairy Research Institute as the National Dairy Research Laboratory. The Dairy Research Institute (DRI) was established as a unit of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) in 1927. Massey and the DRI shared many staff as well as resources. Until the 1960s this building was used for the training of, and for research undertaken by, New Zealand's dairy technology students.

Several internationally recognised developments in dairy technology, including the isolation of bacteriophages in New Zealand cheese starters in 1935 and the vacuum pasteurisation of cream for butter making in 1950s, were pioneered in the building. Such developments contributed to New Zealand's export earnings as they were introduced at a commercial level.

During World War II the building was used to produce milk for Palmerston North's "milk in schools" scheme and anhydrous milkfat for the armed forces. In the 1970s, NZ Pharmaceuticals used the building to develop export earning products from meatworks waste, the basis of the company's present production.

From an agricultural college with a role in research and in the scientific approach to farming, Massey has developed into a multi-faculty university. It was granted autonomy from Victoria University in 1963 and received its present name, Massey University, in 1966.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is from the original Proposal for Classification report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Established as an agricultural college, Massey University has developed as a multi-faculty university while retaining a strong agricultural side. The Old Dairy Factory has historical significance in that its erection was a prerequisite for the development of this institution. It can be considered the first building of the new Massey Agricultural College and was built for the combined use of Massey and the Dairy Research Institute. Owing to its use as the National Dairy Research Laboratory, the building has historical significance in the national and international scientific development of one of New Zealand's primary industries, with repercussions in the national economy.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is from the original Proposal for Classification report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

ARCHITECTURAL QUALITY:

One of the tenets of the "Chicago school" of architects was that a structure could not generate an adequate aesthetic solution on its own. Hence decorative detail was applied and was abstracted from nature or from historical precedent. Following World War I this architecture was characterised by the expression of the relationship between horizontal and vertical structural members, by much simplified door and window mouldings, wall surface and cornice design, and by intricate applied ornament using geometric motifs or motifs abstracted from nature or from historical precedent.

The Old Dairy Factory is a well resolved and coherent design which alludes to American archetypes, as outlined above, without imitating them. It combines this allusion with applied ornament in the form of stylised Maori carvings on the facades. In addition, it employs up to date construction technology, apparent in the use of reinforced concrete.

This is one of three buildings designed for Massey Agricultural College by the American architect RA Lippincott. He designed the main science building and the refectory the following year.

TOWNSCAPE/LANDMARK VALUE:

The Old Dairy Factory is sited on the river flat below the site of the Massey University campus. Small flanking houses have been designed to cover the generator and artesian bore at one side and are in a style sympathetic to that of the factory building.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

Lippincott, Roy Alstan

Roy Alstan Lippincott (1885-1969) was born in Pennsylvania and graduated Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University, New York, in 1909. He became involved with the "Chicago School" of architects including H.V. Von Holst, Marion Mahoney and Walter Burley Griffin who were in turn greatly influenced by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.

In 1912 Griffin won the competition for the design of Australia's Federal Capital, Canberra, and offered Lippincott a junior partnership shortly afterwards. They moved to Sydney in 1914 and to Melbourne about a year later.

Lippincott entered several design competitions with draughtsman Edward F. Billson and in June 1921 they won the competition for the design of the Auckland University College Arts Building. Lippincott and Billson established a partnership and Lippincott moved to Auckland later that year.

The Arts building with clock tower is the best known of the buildings designed by Lippincott for Auckland's University campus. The Students' Association building (1921-1926), Caretaker's Cottage (1928-31) and Biology building (1938) were also to his design, as was the north-west wing of Choral Hall added in 1925. Other buildings designed by Lippincott during his time in Auckland were Smith and Caughey's Department Store building (1927-29), Massey University Science building, Palmerston North (1929-31), Farmers Trading Company Tearooms (1934-36) and St Peter's Preparatory School, Cambridge (1936-37).

He was elected Associate of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1922 and a Fellow in 1924. He was actively involved in both Auckland Branch and National Council Affairs, particularly in the field of architectural education. Lippincott remained in New Zealand until 1939 when he returned to the United States and practised in Los Angeles. He became a partner in the firm of Kaufmann, Lippincott and Eggers, Los Angeles, and retired in 1958 when he moved to Santa Barbara.

Roy Alstan Lippincott (1885-1969) was born in Pennsylvania, USA. Lippincott gained a Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University, New York, in 1909. Subsequently, he became influenced by the Chicago School of architects, who were a group of architects active in Chicago at the turn of the twentieth century. The group had parallels with the European Modernism movement and was amongst the first to promote the new technologies of steel-frame construction in commercial buildings.

In circa 1912, Lippincott was offered a junior partnership with Chicago School architect Walter Burley Griffin, who had won a competition for the design of Australia's Federal Capital, Canberra. He moved to Sydney with Griffin in 1914 and to Melbourne the following year.

In 1921, Lippincott and draughtsman Edward F. Billson won a competition for the design of the Auckland University College Arts Building - now known as the Old Arts Building, University of Auckland (NZHPT Registration # 25, Category I historic place). Lippincott moved to Auckland later that year and remained in New Zealand until 1939. In addition to designing the Old Arts Building, Lippincott designed several other buildings for Auckland University, including the Students' Association building (1921-1926), the northwest wing of Choral Hall (NZHPT Registration # 4474, Category I historic place) added in 1925, the Caretaker's Cottage constructed (1928-1931) and the Biology Building (1938). He also designed an addition circa 1927-1929 to Smith and Caughey's Department Store Building (NZHPT Registration # 656, Category I historic place), the Massey University Science Building in Palmerston North (1929-1931), the Berlei Factory in Auckland (1930-1931), the Farmers Trading Company Tea Rooms in Auckland (1934-1936) and St Peter's Preparatory School in Cambridge (1936-1937).

Lippincott was elected Associate of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1922 and a Fellow in 1924. He was actively involved in the Auckland Branch and National Council Affairs, particularly in the area of architectural education.

In 1939, Lippincott returned to the United States, where he became a partner in the Los Angeles practice Kaufmann, Lippincott and Eggers. He retired in 1958 and moved to Santa Barbara.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is from the original Proposal for Classification report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

BUILDER:

Trevor Brothers, Palmerston North

ARCHITECTURAL DESCRIPTION:

The Old Dairy Factory is a substantial single storey building with a rectangular plan and a large expanse of hipped roof. A smaller, narrow building adjoins it to the west and runs almost the entire length of the main part of the building. All facades have regular fenestration and pronounced eaves. These low eaves, coupled with the large area of tiled roof, give the building something of an Arts & Crafts appearance. An American influence is apparent in the bold horizontality of the eaves and is enhanced by the detail of the mouldings on either side of, and between, the windows. These mouldings can be interpreted as a stylised Maori motif and terminate in a relief dado to sill height.

At the centre of the ridgeline is a small pyramidal lantern. A number of skylights illuminate the parts of the interior which do not receive sufficient natural light from windows. The ceiling is match-lined and walls have a tiled dado over a metre in height.

MODIFICATIONS:

1992: Western Branch award for architecture in the NZIA-Resene awards following sympathetic restoration

Notable Features

Stylised Maori motifs on building exterior

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1928 - 1929

Refurbishment/renovation
1992 -
Renovations

Construction Details

Constructed of reinforced concrete with concrete floors and a wooden truss system supporting the Marseilles tile roof.

Completion Date

5th December 2002

Report Written By

Rebecca O'Brien

Information Sources

Brooking, 1979

T. W. H. Brooking, 'Massey its early years: a history of the development of Massey Agricultural College to 1943', Palmerston North, 1979

Manawatu Daily Times

Manawatu Daily Times

30 April 1927

19 March 1928

3 December 1929, p8

4 December 1929, p9

1 July 1930

McGillivray, 1978

W. McGillivray, New Zealand Dairy Research Institute; A History of the First Fifty Years 1927-1977, Palmerston North, 1978

New Zealand Institute of Architects Journal

New Zealand Institute of Architects Journal (NZIA)

'Massey University', 20 April 1967, pp104-107

Thornton, 1982

Geoffrey G. Thornton, New Zealand's Industrial Heritage, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1982

Joblin, 1970

Dorothea Joblin, Behold the Plains; The Story of the Old Houses of Massey, Longman Paul Ltd, Auckland, 1970

Massey University Archives

Massey University Archives

Original plans and contract documents

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the Central Region of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Proposal for Classification report 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.