Commercial Building

134 Willis Street, Wellington

  • Commercial Building.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Anika Klee. Date: 14/05/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7200 Date Entered 23rd June 1994

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Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 13389 (CT WN521/60), Wellington Land District, and the building known as Commercial Building thereon.

City/District Council

Wellington City

Region

Wellington Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 13389 (CT WN521/60), Wellington Land District

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Nestled within a row of low-rise buildings on the western side of Willis Street in central Wellington city, 134 Willis Street is a rare example of a typical nineteenth century commercial building. It has been described as ‘a rare survivor from a colonial city that was predominantly timber-built for its first forty years’ and is an important contributor to Wellington’s architectural history. While the building’s exact date of construction is conjectural, it is the oldest timber commercial building in central Wellington and one of the oldest buildings in Wellington. As such, the building’s historical value is in its great rarity and representative significance. The remaining nineteenth century fabric of the building has notable technical value and can provide understanding of nineteenth century building practices. Because of this it has been described as an ‘interesting study in architectural archaeology.’

Records researched by Kelly and Dai show that the property now containing 134 Willis Street was sold to John Pattison in 1858. Leased to Mr J. Otten from 1864-65, it was run as a boarding house by his wife. A substantial rise in the property’s rating value in 1868 suggests the construction date of the current building.

Although extensive changes to the exterior façade have been made over the years, the scale and aspects of detailing reflect its original formal Classical style. Two storeys high, the first floor is the more authentic level of the front elevation, with rusticated weatherboards and a double hung sash window on the left, and a modern window arrangement on the right. A cornice with five paired brackets extends along the north elevation. The rear elevation is clad with lapped weatherboards, possibly original in parts, and retains double hung sash windows.

It has housed another boarding house (1872 to 1879); engraver Charles Williams’ shop, Chas Williams and Sons (1879-1909); fishmonger and laundry (1928 to 1930); the St Francis Restaurant (circa 1930 to 1971); Aqua Vitae Bottle Store (date unknown); Toot Sweet restaurant (1992) and Woodstock Florist (1996 to present). Owners after Pattison have included a Yugoslavian family; a Greek family; Wellington City Council; and the Bank of New Zealand Officers Provident Association. At some point, probably when the Willis Street Village opened in 1979, the street number became 134.

Previously thought to have an association with the Tustin family sign-painting business (established 1860), an early photo shows that the Tustin business was further along Willis Street. Changes to Willis Street’s numbering over the years were probably the reason for this misperception.

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Construction Dates

Original Construction
1868 -

Modification
-
most windows changed; interiors refurbished (including alterations to room layouts), removal of chimney. Additions and removals of various outbuildings

Addition
-
Verandah added to main elevation

Modification
-
Verandah removed

Completion Date

5th May 2017

Report Written By

Rosie Goldsmith

Information Sources

Wellington City Council

Wellington City Council

Geraldine Dai and Michael Kelly, ‘Building, 134 Willis St, Wellington’, Report for Wellington City Council, 23 July 2011

Other Information

A copy of the original report is available from the NZHPT Central 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.

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