Grand Chateau

Bruce Road, Whakapapa Village, Ruapehu

  • Grand Chateau, Ruapehu.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Karen Astwood. Date: 8/03/2018.
  • Grand Chateau, Ruapehu. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com - https://www.flickr.com/photos/geoff-inoz/.
    Copyright: geoff-inOz. Taken By: geoff-inOz. Date: 30/10/2009.
  • Grand Chateau, Ruapehu. CC Licence 2.0 Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Department of Conservation. Taken By: Peter Kurdulija. Date: 13/09/2017.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7318 Date Entered 6th September 1996

Locationopen/close

City/District Council

Ruapehu District

Region

Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region

Legal description

Lot 4 DP 69562, Ruapehu District

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

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

Historical:

The Chateau was built in the Tongariro National Park in 1929 by the Tongariro Park Tourist Company, a subsidiary of the Mount Cook Tourist Company. It did so with the encouragement of the Tongariro National Park Board (established 1923), which had to take over the building two years later when the company went bankrupt. From 1932 until the late 1980s the building was run by the State through its Tourist and Publicity Department as one of New Zealand's best-known tourist resort hotels, servicing the park and the developing ski industry.

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

Aesthetic:

In an area of dominating mountain scenery, the Chateau stands out as the largest and most architecturally impressive building in the Whakapapa area. The combination of scenery and building is popularly taken to represent an European influenced aesthetic-hence the word 'Chateau'. In fact the building is English/American Georgian style.

Architectural:

The style of the Grand Chateau is American Colonial Revival, a variant of the Inter-War Georgian Revival style. The building features American influences such as the balconied portico at the main entrance but its reinforced concrete and trabeated construction is not traditional despite the correctness of its Georgian outlines.

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

Social:

The Grand Chateau illuminates something of the upper values of the recreational society of both visitors and locals to this unique part of New Zealand.

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

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

The Grand Chateau may be compared to the Rotorua Bathhouse and the Ward Baths as a major project meant to lure wealthy international travellers to enjoy New Zealand's natural beauty in safety and comfort. The structure has assumed a national iconographic status that transcends its narrower architectural or historical values.

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

The hotel is closely associated with natural disasters. In 1945 the hotel was evacuated when Mt Ruapehu erupted over a ten month period. In 1942 it provided accommodation for Porirua mental patients after the lower North Island earthquake.

Rodolph Wigley was the founder of the modern Mt Cook Group of Companies. Wigley entered the tourism business in 1906 when he started driving tourists to Mt Cook in a Stanley Steamer car. The Mt Cook Company took over the lease of the Hermitage from the government in 1922 and made substantial investments in tourist

hotels in Queenstown, Mt Cook, Ruapehu and Rotorua during the interwar period.

The Mt Cook Group of Companies, now 90% owned by Air New Zealand, has been a leader in the tourism and transport sector throughout most of the 20th century.

Herbert Hall was architect to the Mount Cook Tourist Company. He is best known as an Arts & Crafts architect and the designer of a number of notable residences in Timaru.

The building can be linked strongly with Canadian hotel designs of a similar calibre and European styling. The deliberate use of European architectural styles of the past to create buildings of such deliberate iconographic impact is noteworthy.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:

The Chateau is designed in a rare style -American Colonial Revival- and this alone would give it some claim to be considered a special and outstanding place. The building is the only one of its kind in New Zealand to be built almost entirely of reinforced concrete yet made to resemble a traditional brick Georgian building.

The building is constructed of reinforced concrete in a trabeated (post and beam) form. This includes all the principal floors with the exterior walls above the basement and ground storey clad in brick veneer. Only the top, third, storey of the building (the dormer windows storey) has timber floors and framing. The result is that while the design of the Chateau follows the formal outlines of a Georgian style of architecture, i.e., in terms of a main block with (as originally designed but not built) two flanking wings, an entrance portico done in the Classical Doric Order, and an aesthetic and historically correct style emphasis in terms of the brick veneer on the exterior walls, the constructional aspects of the design follow the modem precepts of quite a different contemporary style of building in the 1920s and 30s known as Stripped Classicism, a style which employed concrete construction methods. A conventional range of Georgian details in the form of timber eves, dentils, dormers, window sashes and plastered brick chimneys completes the exterior design.

Inside the building, the formal aspects of the design are continued in the entrances to, and in the interiors of the restaurant and lounge with plaster Classical entablatures, cornices, architraves, squared columns and characteristic Georgian fanlights above the doors. In keeping with the construction of the place, this detail is applied over concrete walls and ceilings. The upstairs accommodation, however, has undergone two refurbishment's over the last fifteen years (the last being in the summer of 1994-95) and is not original in plan.

In 1929 the heating system was designed, and hailed in the engineering journals, as a hitherto unheard of form of storage heating where enormous tanks in the basement continuously heat water to boiling point and then pump it up to the top of the building where it circulates down through five storeys back to the basement. The upper tanks are therefore never empty of hot water. Electrically heated now, the original fuel was coal/oil, but the system was so good it has simply been overhauled and is still in operation.

The building is furthermore outstanding in terms of its mansion size and relative landmark status in the Whakapapa area.

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

Although this building is very much an individual statement in terms of size, design, and siting it has links with other iconographic tourist and landscape structures such as the Hermitage at Mount Cook, the Rotorua Bathhouse, and other such buildings.

Conclusion:

Chateau Tongariro, Whakapapa Village, Mt Ruapehu, is recommended for registration as a Category I as a place of special and outstanding historical and cultural heritage significance and value. The Chateau, designed in an American Colonial Revival style, stands out as the largest and most architecturally impressive building in the Whakapapa area, and has a national iconographic significance as one of New Zealand's best-known tourist resort hotels.

Linksopen/close

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Modification
1994 - 1995
Upstairs accommodation has undergone two refurbishments the last being in the summer of 1994-95 and is not original in plan.

Original Construction
1929 -
English/American Georgian style

Construction Details

Reinforced concrete in a trabeated (post and beam) form

Clad in brick veneer above the basement and ground storey

Only the third storey (the dormer window storey) has timber floors and framing

Information Sources

Rockel, 1986

Ian Rockel, Taking the Waters: Early Spas in New Zealand, Wellington, 1986

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.