The Grand Tavern is a timber hotel associated with the development of Te Aroha in the Waikato Region, firstly as a goldrush town, then as a popular geothermal resort. It appears to have been constructed as the British Hotel in 1880-1881 soon after the discovery of gold in the Waiorongomai Valley. Initially providing accommodation for miners and others, the building was sold to the Auckland firm of Brown and Campbell in 1885 after the rush proved to be short-lived. Its new owners immediately converted and enlarged the building, taking advantage of its location next to the geothermal springs in Te Aroha Domain. The Domain had been laid out with pleasure gardens and bathhouses from 1884, attracting a large number of visitors after rail transport from Auckland was completed (1886). Te Aroha was the first geothermal resort in New Zealand to benefit from large-scale tourism for leisure and health, being overtaken by the more famous spa at Rotorua only at the turn of the century.
The hotel is an ornate two-storeyed structure with hipped roofs, a verandah and a prominent first-floor balcony overlooking the Domain. It appears to have begun as a rectangular, possibly pre-fabricated building, measuring 18 x 9 m (60 x 29 feet). Its enlargement in 1885 converted it into one of the most imposing hotels in the town, catering for a predominantly genteel clientele. These modifications appear to have been designed by Henry Crump, who laid out the grounds in the Domain. When enlarged the hotel contained eighteen bedrooms - accommodating invalids on the ground floor - as well as sitting rooms, a billiard room and a well-appointed dining area. The large first-floor balcony was especially popular for relaxation, and was occasionally employed for informal concerts. The building was further enlarged by 1902, when it contained 37 bedrooms and was known as the Grand Hotel. The subsequent history of the building reflects the gradual decline of the resort, when other famous establishments in the town - including the Hot Springs Hotel - were demolished. The ground floor was heavily modified when converted into a tavern, but the building exterior and parts of the interior retain their earlier form.
The Grand Tavern is of historical and architectural significance for demonstrating changes in the use of hotels during the late nineteenth century, from work-related lodgings to genteel places of retreat. It is a notable example of Victorian hotel design in New Zealand, with characteristics typical of the building-type such as a sweeping verandah, hipped roof and street corner location. The building is important for its associations with the beginnings of geothermal tourism and attitudes to health, disability and leisure. It is valuable for its links with the history of gold mining, having its origins in one of the last gold rushes in the country. The building illustrates the changing fortunes of Te Aroha township, being the only surviving hotel to date from the gold rush and foundation of the spa. It is particularly significant as part of a larger historic and archaeological landscape, which includes the extensive historic area at Te Aroha Domain. Its history is closely linked to that of the Domain, being deliberately designed to be visible from the Domain's main promenade. The hotel retains strong townscape value for its position along the street front, and makes a significant aesthetic contribution through its long balcony and verandah. The building is associated with important characters in colonial history such as John Logan Campbell (1817-1912), an influential Auckland pioneer and entrepreneur. It has also been the location of notable local events, including meetings that led to the foundation of the Te Aroha Jockey Club.
The goldfield town of Te Aroha grew quickly from 1880 but it was the Domain's hot mineral spa and the associated tourist activity, rather than the goldfield, which brought prosperity to the area. By 1880 the Hot Springs Hotel, the Wairoa Hotel and the Te Aroha Hotel had all been established.
In December 1880 Messrs Farrell Brothers of Thames were reported to have started erecting a large hotel for Patrick Quinlan (1854-1926). Believed to be the present Grand Tavern, but known then as the British Hotel, it was opened in January 1881. This extremely short construction period suggests that the building may have been prefabricated.
Brown and Campbell, liquor merchants of Auckland, purchased the hotel late in 1885 and additions were carried out to the design of Henry Crump that year. The completion of the railway line through Te Aroha in 1886 made travel to the spa easier and confirmed the town as a popular tourist and health resort.
Initially Te Aroha outshone Rotorua as a social centre, although the latter went on to become New Zealand's main international spa resort. Te Aroha's popularity continued into the 1920s and it was not until 1961 with the closure of Cadman Baths and the Hot Springs Hotel that the spa in effect ended.
1881-82 portion, Not Known
1885 additions, Henry CRUMP (n.d.)
This two-storeyed Victorian hotel is sited on the corner of Whitaker and Rolleston Streets. The two street facades have hipped roofs, regular fenestration and a similar decorative treatment, although the main facade is distinguished by the verandah.
The ground floor has segmental headed double hung sash windows with pilasters in between. The pilasters have flared capitals. Oversize 'brackets', some of which also serve as keystones, are evenly spaced along the facade, directly beneath the cornice dividing the two floors. A string course is continuous around the two street facades at a height equal to that of the Whitaker Street door head. Underneath this moulding large scroll brackets are attached to window frames.
The first floor has square headed double hung sash windows again with pilasters in between. The pilasters have simple flared capitals with decorative paired eaves brackets above.
The Whitaker Street facade has a verandah at first floor level. It is somewhat unsympathetically clad in lapped boards and supported on chamfered posts with brackets. Beams are fixed to large medallions on the facade and while the Rolleston Street facade has no verandah, similar medallions can be seen on the flared pilasters and suggest that there also was a verandah on this elevation.
The interior retains some of its original character, particularly in the house bar which has a panelled ceiling and walls and double hung sash windows. Part of the first floor has been converted into a manager's house. Elsewhere corridors have wooden arches with simple keystones. The guest rooms remain intact but are no longer used.
Extended 1885 and 1902.
- Cellar closed
- Bottle Store added to entrance hall, stairs closed off
- Cold Store added under stairs
- Wall removed between sitting and dining rooms
- Dining room relocated to kitchen
- Whitaker Street entrance to public bar closed
- Public bar enlarged by removing partitions, new bar area built
- Rolleston Street wing at first floor level converted to manager's
- Guest rooms enlarged, basins added
- Rolleston Street verandah removed
- Whitaker Street verandah covered with lapped boards
Registration covers the building, its fixtures and finishes. It also includes recent modifications.
Fine surface detailing on the street facades.
1880 - 1881
Construction of British Hotel (now Grand Tavern)
Extensive addition on Whitaker Street
Conversion of downstairs interior to bar
Concrete foundations. Timber frame clad with weatherboards, rusticated on street facades except for the verandah, and lapped elsewhere. Corrugated iron roof.
21st November 2001
Report Written By
Auckland Public Libraries
Auckland Public Libraries
Articles/Files/Pamphlets 'Quinlan, Patrick, Mary & Family - Research Correspondence File'
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1902
Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol.2, Christchurch, 1902
pp.824 & 830-831
Alfred Wright, Te Aroha, New Zealand: A Guide for Invalids and Visitors to the Thermal Springs and Baths, Te Aroha, 1887
Clive Kingsley-Smith, This is Te Aroha: The Story of the Founding of Te Aroha and the Settling of the Adjacent Districts 1880-1980, Te Aroha, 1981
New Zealand Herald
New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.
13.3.1926 p 12
New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)
New Zealand Historic Places Trust
'Grand Tavern, 81-83 Whitaker Street, Te Aroha', NZHPT Buildings Classification Committee Report, Wellington, 1990 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)
Ian Rockel, Taking the Waters: Early Spas in New Zealand, Wellington, 1986
Jeremy Salmond, Old New Zealand Houses 1800-1940, Auckland, 1986, Reed Methuen
F W Wild, (Ed) Te Aroha and The Fortunate Valley, Te Aroha, 1930
This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee 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.