Masonic Club / Buckland Building

30-34 Customs Street East, Gore Street And Galway Street, Auckland

  • Masonic Club / Buckland Building.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 9/05/2011.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7295 Date Entered 14th December 1995

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Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 3 DP 373915 (CT 298369), North Auckland Land District, and the buildings known as Masonic Club / Buckland Building thereon, and their fittings and fixtures.

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)

Region

Auckland Council

Legal description

Lot 3 DP 373915 (CT 298369), North Auckland Land District

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Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

The Masonic/Buckland Building was built in 1885 as a warehouse for prominent Auckland merchant and speculator John Buchanan who met severe financial difficulties in the depression of the late 1880s. From 1898 to 1922 the Bucklands portion was leased by Sir Henry Brett and Thomas Wilson Leys, authors, journalists, publishers and benefactors.

The later history of the building demonstrates associations with retailers, servicing industries and service clubs, the most prominent being the Masonic Club.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Architectural:

Although under two separate titles, the Masonic Club and Buckland Building are architecturally one building originally built as a grocery warehouse for general merchant John Buchanan in 1885. The design of the Masonic/Bucklands is eclectic Romanesque/Italianate in Victorian Commercial Palazzo style.

The exterior of the Masonic/Buckland Building is treated as one place.

This building has been modified inside in the same manner as the other Britomart warehouses but rather less vigorously and at an earlier time, ie, probably during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s-70s (the last with reference to the unused bar). This would seem to reflect the stability of longer-term tenants than the other Britomart Buildings which seem to have had a high turnover of tenants up until the present.

Thus what one sees inside Masonic/Bucklands is that the integrity of the original brick and plaster construction has been preserved, but in most places replastered, and in some cases covered over, ie, next to the stairs with hardboard. Some walls have simply been repainted.

Stair balusters have been boarded over, probably in the 19.30s or 40s (the original balusters may be underneath as they were in comparative examples found at the Former Government Buildings in Wellington).

Doors, architraves, and door fittings have the design and appearance of 1950s workmanship which fits with the occupation of the Masonic by the Masonic Club from 1952.

The concrete stairs and bent pipe handrails above the second floor of the Masonic are not contemporary with 1885, the date the place was built, and were probably built judging from the deliberate artistic bend of the pipes, in the late 1930s or 40s: the style of the pipes is definitely Art Moderne of the period 1935-45.

Archaeological:

Parts of the area have archaeological potential.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

The following comments are made in relation to the criteria identified under S.23(2) of the Historic Places Act 1993.

a) The extent to which the place reflects important and representative aspects of New Zealand history:

The Masonic/Buckland Building reflects the importance of merchandising warehouses to New Zealand cities. In a colony which lacked substantial manufacturing industries, importing was an important business activity. These merchandising warehouses were usually clustered around the interface between the waterfront and the central business district. This building has special historical significance because its association with the first John Buchanan, one of Auckland's leading merchants and speculators, whose fall in 1888/89 symbolised the crash of the great Auckland expansionist boom of the 1880s. The building is also closely associated with Sir Henry Brett and Thomas Wilson Leys, authors, journalists, publishers and benefactors.

b) The association of the place with events, persons or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:

The Masonic/Buckland Building reflects the importance of warehouses to New Zealand cities. It is also associated with the speculative frenzy that took part in Auckland during the 1880s and which collapsed so disastrously in 1888/89. Buchanan was one of the most important casualties:

John Buchanan, merchant and entrepreneur, ultimately succumbed in this way. He had borrowed heavily, at first in order to finance his numerous investments, the most ambitious of which was the block of commercial buildings he erected in Customs St in 1885, but later to cover his heavy trade losses and interest payments. Over six years Buchanan was obliged to pay £13,000 interest upon his own borrowing, and upon the encumbered properties assigned him in settlement of trade debts. His attempts to save himself were futile for by 1889 his merchant house had been bled to death by constant withdrawals to pay interest.

Stone, p.129)

The 1888/89 crash was spectacular. Again, to quote Stone, "In 1886 Auckland entered upon a decade as harsh as any experienced in the 130 years of European existence. And to an extent not to be found in any other New Zealand city the depression pulled down the established commercial leadership. Bankruptcies were to be found in high and unexpected places. Firms imagined to be of unquestioned solidity fell." (Stone, p. 1)

In addition to the earlier occupants, the building has had an interesting range of tenants in recent decades. Two in particular stand out. The first, the Masonic Club, owned and occupied the building between 1952 and c 1987. The other lengthy association is with the London Book Club, which makes its first appearance in 1946 and continues at least until the late 1970s. London, now known as London Bookshops and part of the Whitcoulls Group, is New Zealand's second largest bookshop chain, which evolved from a lending library and bookseller.

c) the potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history.

The Customs St East buildings all stand on land reclaimed between 1879 and 1886 and therefore have archaeological significance.

Reclamation of the seabed commenced in 1859. The outer edge of the northern side of Customs St was initially bounded by a muddy embankment and on the seaward side of the reclamation were massive stone retaining walls, Customs St provided access to a number of wharves constructed out across the mudflats of Commercial Bay to deeper water. Between 1879 and 1886 the reclamation continued in a northerly and easterly direction forming the land between Customs and Quay St. This is the land on which the warehouses now stand.

It is probable that a large quantity of material will have been deposited on the sea bed from the wharves which is likely to include artefacts of historical and archaeological interest.

k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

This warehouse is one of several Merchants' warehouses on the northern side of Customs St East. This impressive group of nineteenth and early twentieth century commercial buildings once formed the city's point of commercial contact with the rest of the colony and the world.

Conclusion:

The Masonic/Buckland Building is recommended for registration as a Category I as a place of special and outstanding historical and cultural heritage significance and value. The Masonic/Buckland Building is one of a group of turn of the century merchandising warehouses built on Auckland's busy waterfront. It has special historical significance because of it associations with early Auckland entrepreneur, John Buchanan and the crash of the 1880s.

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Physical Description

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration report for Customs Street Historic Area considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

30 Customs Street East: Front Building: "Masonic Club".

Two storeyed rusticated base, pilasters to the cornice on the upper floor, pilasters form arcaded bays for round headed and square headed windows. A distinctive bracketed cornice caps the building, four storey, brick. Built 1885 for John Buchanan, General Merchant (predominantly grocery lines).

Architect: Not known.

34 Customs Street East: "Buckland Building"

Four storeyed, brick, originally part of John Buchanan's warehouse (above) built 1885. Architect: Not known.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1885 -

Information Sources

Auckland Public Libraries

Auckland Public Libraries

Photograph: Neg.960 (1892)

Auckland Weekly News

Auckland Weekly News

23/5/1885 p.17

14/4/1899 Supplement, p.7

8/12/1899 p.3

New Zealand Herald

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

14/4/1886 p.6

11/1/1889 p.6

26/9/1900 Supplement, p.2

16/4/1910 p.8

Stone, 1973

R. C. J. Stone, Makers of Fortune: A Colonial Business Community and its Fall, Auckland, 1973

Stevens, 1886

G T Stevens, Birds-eye Perspective of Auckland, 1886

Other Information

Copies of the original registration reports are available from the 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.