Isaacs' Bonded Stores (Former)

22 Fort Street And 16 Commerce Street, Auckland

  • Isaacs' Bonded Stores (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 5/08/2009.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 5/08/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7819 Date Entered 1st March 2012


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Allot 13 and Pt Allot 14 Sec 2 City of Auckland (CT NA761/60), North Auckland Land District, and the building known as Isaacs' Bonded Stores (Former) thereon, and its fittings and fixtures. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)


Auckland Council

Legal description

Allot 13 and Pt Allot 14 Sec 2 City of Auckland (CT NA761/60), North Auckland Land District


The former Isaacs’ Bonded Stores is a rare early example of a bonded warehouse, and an important commercial remnant from the period when Auckland was a colonial base for military campaigns in Taranaki and the Waikato. Created by prominent merchants and civic leaders, Edward and Henry Isaacs in 1864, the two-storey brick and stone building was initially used as a commissariat store as well as holding general goods and auction space close to Auckland’s colonial waterfront. From 1891, the structure was employed as the main offices and warehouse for Carr Johnston and Company, believed to have been Auckland’s largest importers of products such as rice and raw coffee. Subsequently retaining significant links with trade and commerce, it has been used by major estate agents and auctioneers Barfoot and Thompson since 1964.

Prior to European arrival, the site formed part of a shallow bay that bounded an area of foreshore known as Onepanea. Following the establishment of colonial Auckland in late 1840, the foreshore formed a major landing place for goods and people in what became known as Commercial Bay. From 1859, the area was reclaimed by the Provincial Government for improved landing facilities, in what was the first major project of its type in the expanding city. Erected by September 1864, Isaacs’ Bonded Stores was one of the earliest major structures built on the reclaimed land east of Fort Lane, in an area noted for its connections with commercial maritime activity.

Isaacs’ Bonded Stores was erected as a gabled building of brick construction, with a basement of dressed bluestone imported from Melbourne. The latter is likely to reflect Edward and Henry Isaacs’ commercial connections with Victoria, where their firm had been initially established. Each storey may have contained at least two major spaces, separated by solid walls. All floors may also have incorporated large wooden posts to support the weight of stored goods. The ground and upper floors were lit by regularly-spaced, four-light windows. Early goods stored in the building evidently included those linked with the provisioning of troops in the wake of the Waikato and Taranaki campaigns. Both Edward and Henry Isaacs were noted civic leaders and respected members of Auckland’s important Jewish community: in May 1874, Henry Isaacs became the city’s second mayor. The Auckland Volunteer Fire Brigade appears to have been founded in the building in 1866.

Following the collapse of the Isaacs’ enterprise in the economic depression of the late 1880s, the building was modified for offices and a warehouse by Carr Johnston and Company in 1891. Further alterations may have been carried out by the firm and its successor Carr Pountney and Company in the early 1900s. The building’s external appearance was converted to a commercial Italianate style, although retaining significant aspects of the earlier structure. Converted for use as offices known as the King’s Chambers in 1914, the building continued to house numerous activities linked with maritime trade and commerce. In 1917 and 1919, it respectively housed the Vice-Consuls for Russia and Norway. Early links with land agency and auctioneering were retained through long-term tenants such as the North Auckland Farmers’ Cooperative and, since 1964, Barfoot and Thompson. Barfoot and Thompson purchased the building in 1992. The building remains in private ownership.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The place has high value for its connections with Auckland’s development as an early colonial port and entrepot, and as a base for military expansion in Taranaki and the Waikato. The building is strongly linked with improvements undertaken to the port facilities in the late 1850s and early 1860s, as part of the city’s first major expansion into Commercial Bay. It was one of the earliest major structures to be erected on the reclaimed ground, and was connected from the outset with the subsequent concentration of commercial maritime activity in this area, including the storage of imported goods. The building was directly used as commissariat stores, and reflects the combined use of government resources and private enterprise during these campaigns.

The place is closely connected with ongoing aspects of the city’s commercial development during the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It continued to be occupied by one of the city’s main wholesale businesses, E. and H. (later E. and A.) Isaacs, until at least the late 1880s, and was subsequently occupied by another major importer Carr Johnston (later Carr Pountney) and Company, for another twenty-five years. The place is connected with a wide variety of imported goods, reflecting the breadth of colonial markets. It has subsequent links with other enterprises that reflect Auckland’s role as a major commercial and financial centre. These include insurance companies, and estate agents such as Barfoot and Thompson, the latter continuing a tradition of commodity sale from the building that stretches back to the early colonial period.

Aesthetic Significance or Value

Isaacs’ Bonded Stores (Former) has aesthetic significance for its overall Italianate appearance, including ornamental features such as external architraves, false keystones, cornices and brackets. Its visual significance is enhanced by the building’s comparative prominence on the corner of Fort and Commerce Streets, and its physical association with adjoining structures of late nineteenth and early-twentieth century design. The building retains an unusually well-preserved late colonial frontage to Fort Street.

Archaeological Significance or Value

Isaacs’ Bonded Stores (Former) has archaeological significance for incorporating fabric that is likely to demonstrate construction techniques and materials used in the creation of early colonial warehouses. This includes imported bluestone, indicative of trading links with Australia. It also has value for its potential to yield information about the layout and use of early colonial warehouses and bonded stores.

Land beneath the building may retain environmental and other evidence about the pre-colonial and early colonial harbour.

Architectural Significance or Value

The place has considerable value as a rare early example of a bonded warehouse in New Zealand, retaining significant aspects of its initial layout and appearance, including its size and mass, some internal masonry divisions, window apertures at first floor level; and possibly floors and pillowed timber posts in the basement and ground floor. Its construction materials reflect requirements for solidity, security and resistance to fire in early colonial warehouses and bonded stores.

The building reflects the scale of buildings in central Auckland during the early colonial period, when structures rarely exceeded two or three storeys in height. Its Italianate appearance demonstrates prevailing late nineteenth- and very early twentieth-century architectural taste for commercial buildings in urban Auckland, and the ‘modernisation’ of earlier colonial facilities.

The place can be considered to have some value for its associations with A.P. Wilson, an architect responsible for many significant commercial buildings in central Auckland during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Cultural Significance or Value

Isaacs’ Bonded Stores (Former) has considerable significance for its close connections with Auckland’s Jewish community, which played an important role in the city’s civic and commercial development. The building was erected and subsequently used by notable individuals linked with this community over an extended period. Its initial occupants, Edward and Henry Isaacs, played prominent roles in the civic and religious life of the settlement, including as city councillors, members of the Auckland Harbour Board and leaders of the Hebrew congregation. They were also major businessmen. Henry Isaacs was Auckland’s second mayor.

The building is also believed to be where the Auckland Volunteer Fire Brigade was founded in 1866, led by another prominent member of the Jewish community: Asher Asher.

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

Isaacs’ Bonded Stores (Former) has special significance for reflecting Auckland’s role as a major port, import centre and commercial hub over the past century and a half, during which period the city has emerged and developed as New Zealand’s main commercial and financial centre. The place demonstrates important aspects of the city’s commercial evolution, including through its close connections with improvements in port facilities in the early colonial period; Auckland’s role as a military supply base during the conflicts of the 1860s; the city’s ongoing position as a major import centre over the next century with involvements in trade throughout the world; and the economic contribution of finance groups such as Commercial Union Assurance, and land sales agents including - for the past fifty years - Barfoot and Thompson.

The place is particularly important for reflecting the earliest surviving stages of Auckland’s commercial development as an entrepot; the city’s economic development during the earliest period of its colonial history; and its early reliance on imported goods for survival.

The place has been connected with the sale of goods or other commodities, such as land, since the early colonial period. The commodities have included products of which New Zealand was a notable per capita importer, such as tobacco and tea. Goods stored in and sold from the place reflect the diversity of the country’s colonial trading partners including Great Britain, the United States of America, the Pacific Islands and the Far East.

As a rare surviving example of an early colonial commercial building erected and used by prominent members of Auckland’s Jewish community, the place can be considered of special significance for reflecting the contributions of this community to the city’s civic and economic development.

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

Isaacs’ Bonded Stores (Former) can be considered of special significance for its connections with the military campaigns of the 1860s, including through its close links with the firm of E. and H. Isaacs, and by its direct use as a commissariat store during the military consolidation of the Waikato. The building’s creation directly reflects the prosperity brought by government spending during the conflicts; the benefit gained by some merchants during this process; and the general increase in Auckland’s wealth at this time. It also demonstrates the importance of imported goods to support the military effort. Its significance is enhanced as a rare known example of a commercial building in Auckland connected with the military campaigns of the 1860s, which reflects the close connection between government and private enterprise during the course of these activities.

The place is also of value for its links with notable individuals or enterprises such as E. and H. Isaacs, Carr Johnston and Company, Commercial Union Assurance and, more recently Barfoot and Thompson (incorporating Mandeno Jackson), one of Auckland’s leading estate agents. The firm of E. and H. Isaacs was one of Auckland’s main wholesale businesses. Both Edward and Henry Isaacs were significant individuals in Auckland’s early commercial, religious and civic history. Henry Isaacs was Auckland’s second mayor. Carr Johnston (later Carr Pountney) and Company are believed to have been the city’s main importer of rice, raw coffee and other goods.

The place is also believed to be connected with the creation of the Auckland Volunteer Fire Brigade, a significant civic body at a time when colonial administration was still at a comparatively early stage.

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

The place is believed to be a rare example of an early bonded store, and has significance for its potential to provide knowledge about early colonial secure-warehouse construction, including materials, techniques, layout and use.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

Located on a corner site in an area of high public and visitor activity, the place can be considered to have some potential for public education about aspects such as Auckland’s commercial development, its role during the military conflicts of the 1860s, and the importance of the Jewish community in early Auckland.

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

The place retains important aspects of early colonial bonded store design, including its main construction materials, size and mass, some dividing walls and window arrangements, and possibly its internal floors, posts and pillowed posts. These elements reflect aspects that can be considered significant in early colonial warehouses and bonded stores, including strength to accommodate greater storage capacity and the use of incombustible materials to reduce threats such as fire. Fire was regarded as a significant issue, as reflected in advertisements for the building being fireproof and the believed foundation of the Auckland Volunteer Fire Brigade inside the building in 1866, supported by E. and H. Isaacs.

Later embellishments to the exterior reflect changing tastes in architectural design for commercial architecture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These changes are likely to have occurred whilst the building remained in use as a warehouse and bonded store.

(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement

The place is important as one of comparatively few surviving buildings in central Auckland that date to the period when the city was colonial capital of New Zealand. The place reflects the city’s economic development during the earliest period of its colonial history.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places

The place has special significance as a rare early surviving example of a bonded warehouse in New Zealand. Because of their relatively plain and simple architecture, warehouses are less-frequently retained during urban development but once played a significant role in the commercial domain. Nationally, comparatively few bonded warehouses of nineteenth-century date are believed to survive. Other bonded warehouses that have so far been formally recognised are later in date.

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

Isaacs’ Bonded Stores (Former) is of special significance as one of the earliest surviving parts of an important historical and cultural landscape in Auckland’s Lower Queen Street and Fort Street area. This landscape reflects the city’s development as a major commercial and financial centre, including its emergence as the country’s main port and entrepot. The place is particularly important for its close connections with the earliest major reclamation of Commercial Bay: it was one of the earliest major structures erected on land to the east of Fort Lane, and demonstrates the early importance of the area in servicing improved port facilities created by the reclamation.

The place pre-dates an extension of the reclaimed area north of Customs Street from the late 1870s onwards, which contains later warehousing including a bonded store of early twentieth-century date. The proximity of Isaacs’ Bonded Stores to these other elements increases its value by indicating the origins of subsequent activity, and allowing comparisons to be made about aspects such as evolving architectural scale and design. The pattern of small older buildings and large newer structures is a feature of the broader Fort Street and Queen Street landscape, and provides a record of a century and a half of commercial development. The low-rise nature of Isaacs’ Bonded Stores (Former) forms an important contribution to this landscape.

It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category I historic place.

Isaacs’ Bonded Stores (Former) has special significance as a rare early surviving example of a bonded warehouse in New Zealand. It additionally reflects Auckland’s role as a major port, import centre and commercial hub over the past century and a half, during which period Auckland emerged and developed as New Zealand’s main commercial and financial centre. The place has special significance as a rare known example of a commercial building in Auckland connected with the military campaigns of the 1860s, and as a rare surviving example of an early colonial commercial building built and used by prominent members of Auckland’s Jewish community. These respectively demonstrate the city’s role as a major military supply base, and the important contributions of the Jewish community to the city’s civic and economic development.

The place is also of special significance as one of the earliest surviving parts of an important historical and cultural landscape in the lower Queen Street and Fort Street area that reflects Auckland’s role as a pre-eminent commercial centre and maritime entrepot.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Wilson, Arthur

Architect Arthur Pollard Wilson F.N.Z.I.A (1851-1937) was born and educated in London. He trained in the office of William Oakley for ten years. During this time he undertook various works throughout England while studying architecture at London University. He established his own practice in 1880, but two years later emigrated to New Zealand settling in Auckland.

Wilson gained commissions for many commercial buildings and designed residences for several prominent Aucklanders. He went into partnership with former pupil F.L. Moodie in 1910 and was elected to the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1912. By the 1920s the firm had become Wilson, Moodie and Gillespie with the addition of third partner.

Practising in Auckland until 1930, Wilson was a prolific designer. Between the late 1880s and the 1920s he designed many of the business premises in Auckland's commercial centre. Along with the firm E. Mahoney and Sons, he was one of the architects primarily responsible for the transformation of the Auckland city centre from a collection of small-scale buildings to the prosperous Victorian commercial centre of the early 1900s.

Surviving examples of Wilson's designs in Auckland include the Naval and Family Hotel, Karangahape Road which was rebuilt after destruction by fire in 1894; the Northern Steamship Company premises Quay Street (1898) (NZHPT Registration # 622, Category I historic place); the Strand Arcade (1899-900) and reconstructed after fire (1910-1911); and the A.H. Nathan Warehouse (1903) (NZHPT Registration # 7296, Category II historic place) on Customs Street East. Other commercial buildings to Wilson's design included premises for Kempthorne Prosser in Albert Street (1899); for Sargood Briscoe MacNeil in Customs Street East; and John Chambers in nearby Fort Street (both 1900). The Australian Mutual Provident Society Building (1912) on the corner of Queen and Victoria Street East was designed by the Wilson and Moodie partnership.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Early history of the site

The site is located in what was once the southern part of a shallow bay that formed part of the Waitemata Harbour. Prior to European arrival, it bounded an area of foreshore known as Onepanea. Onepanea was used as a place to lift tapu from warriors during the so-called ‘Musket Wars’. A reef on the site is reported to have extended into the harbour.

After the foundation of colonial Auckland in 1840, the foreshore became known as Fore (later Fort) Street. Along with the Queen Street wharf at its western end, this formed the main landing place for imports and people during much of the period when Auckland was colonial capital of New Zealand. In 1846, the legal landing place for customable goods was proclaimed to extend from Queen Street to Williamson and Crummer’s Bonded Store on the site of 20 Shortland Street. Already the main entrepot in northern New Zealand, Auckland improved its port facilities shortly before the outbreak of military conflicts in Taranaki and the Waikato, through reclamation of the southern part of the bay.

Reclamation works

From 1859, the Provincial Council reclaimed the area of Commercial Bay between Fort Street and what is now Customs Street East. The works formed the first major expansion of the city into the harbour, and were initially overseen by the architect Reader Wood. Large-scale reclamation had been envisaged from an early stage in Auckland’s colonial development. The first Surveyor-General, Felton Mathew, incorporated the projected position of Customs Street and a network of connecting allotments in his blueprint for the city, published in 1841.

Reclamation included erecting a large embankment on the line of Customs Street, which was mostly complete by September 1859. At this time, Wood stated that the scheme was ‘to carry out the present works, and so reclaim the land from the sea, and when that is done to lay it off into allotments with cross streets, dispose of it and with the funds arising therefrom to make cross streets, Fort-street and the necessary drainage…As the land is sold, it will belong to purchasers, and they will make cellars or build on piles just as they like…[T]hey will probably be sold as fast as possible to raise money to carry on the works.’

In January 1860, ninety-nine year leases were offered at public auction for a number of allotments between Customs Street and Fort Street. They included allotment 13 on the corner of Fort and Commerce Streets. This site is reported as having been obtained by the commercial partnership of Edward and Henry Isaacs ‘while still unreclaimed from the sea’. Commerce Street was one of two cross streets connecting the new harbour facilities on Customs Street with stores along the former waterfront on Fort Street. It had evidently been formed by July 1864, when the Collector of Customs, William Young, noted that the principal bonded stores were located in this area, and expressed concern that the state of Commerce and Fort Streets might retard Customs business.

Construction of Isaacs’ Bonded Stores (1864)

The reclaimed area was evidently envisaged from the outset to be occupied by warehousing and other structures servicing the improved port facilities. Between 1865 and the late 1880s, Auckland’s Customhouse was located in Fort Street. Related structures included the Telegraph Office, Provincial Government Offices and Post Office. The Auckland Harbour Board (established 1871) also met in premises in Fort Street for several years. The development of port infrastructure by the Provincial Council, and subsequently the Auckland Harbour Board, has been seen as a vital component of the city’s mercantile growth.

Isaacs’ Bonded Stores was one of the first major structures to have been erected on reclaimed ground to the east of Fort Lane. Prominently positioned on the corner of Fort and Commerce Streets, it appears to have been constructed in the winter of 1864, at broadly the same time that William Young made his comments. In May of that year, it was reported that dressed bluestones were being imported from Melbourne ‘for the new stores of Messrs. E. and H. Isaacs in Fort-street’. In early September, the firm requested earth from the Council to make a pathway fronting its new stores. From mid September onwards, the business advertised auctions at its ‘new Stores’ in both Fort Street and Commerce Street, indicating that the building was situated at the junction of the two roads. By early October, the firm made it known that ‘E. & H. Isaacs’s new Bond is now open to receive Goods at current rates.’

Edward and Henry Isaacs were prominent Auckland-based merchants, as well as notable civic leaders and esteemed members of the city’s Jewish community. Born in London, Edward Isaacs (1820-1891) had initially been employed in Tasmania before setting up his own business and despatching his younger brothers Henry (c.1824-1909) and George Isaacs to Auckland, while he remained in England as principal partner. In 1853, both Edward and Henry Isaacs moved to Melbourne to take advantage of the Victorian gold rush, and founded the firm E. and H. Isaacs. While in Melbourne, Edward Isaacs is said to have ‘identified himself with the public, social and charitable institutions of the city’. By December 1859, the business had relocated to Auckland, where it operated from a variety of locations including stores at the western end of Fort Street (now part of the Imperial Hotel), which it vacated in March 1864.

Soon after the brothers moved to Auckland, the colonial capital expanded during a period of heavy government spending linked with military conflicts in Taranaki and the Waikato. Before and during the Waikato campaign (1863-4), Auckland and its surrounding townships formed the base for some 10,000 troops and militia. In 1863-4, the town’s population increased from 8,000 to 12,500. Imports to the province quadrupled between 1860 and 1864.

E. and H. Isaacs are believed to have been among a group of businessmen that benefitted particularly from government contracts for provisioning troops during the Taranaki and Waikato conflicts. They are described as having been successful at inducing many ship owners to provide vessels so that they could fulfil their war contracts. Most supplies required importation from Britain and Australia. The Waikato campaign is said to have been ‘one of the best-prepared and best-organised ever undertaken by the British army’.

The creation of Isaacs’ new store occurred during the final stages of the Waikato War. Of substantial dimensions, its construction reflected E. and H. Isaacs’ involvement in the military enterprise, as well as Auckland’s general prosperity and the heightened demand for imported goods. The new building was a two-storey brick structure with slate roof cladding. Early images indicate that it incorporated exposed external brickwork, a horizontal string course between the ground and first floors, and a series of evenly-spaced apertures at both levels on its Commerce Street elevation which held sash windows of four-light type. The upper level also contained at least one goods entrance with hoist. The roof was gabled to Fort Street. The building additionally contained a basement, the basalt stone of which was described as being similar to that used for the Union Bank (since demolished) in Princes Street.

Other contemporary buildings to use imported stone included the Bank of New Zealand in Queen Street (1865, façade remaining), erected of Tasmanian sandstone. Both the Union Bank and Bank of New Zealand are said to have been the finest commercial buildings in 1860s Auckland. The use of imported stone for Isaacs’ store was considered noteworthy, and can be seen to reflect close commercial links with the Australian colonies. Internal walls may have separated rooms in the northern part of the building from larger spaces to the south. The cellar had external gratings for receiving goods.

Early use of the building

From the outset, the building appears to have been used for storing a combination of free and bonded goods, and for the auction of imported products. Bonded storage allowed duty to be deferred provided that goods were securely kept and subject to shared access and supervision by Customs officers. Bonded warehouses are also said to have been where Government agencies calculated the customs duties on incoming material and collected this money for the public purse. Secure warehousing in British ports was traditionally of brick construction, with loading doors and separate entrances and staircases for the workforce. In early 1865, E. and H. Isaacs applied to extend the area used for bonded goods in the cellar, which had previously been used for free storage. Free storage was for goods that were exempt from duty, or on which duty had been paid.

Reflecting the firm’s ongoing involvement in military provisioning, Isaacs’ Bonded Stores was also reported to have been ‘of great utility to the Government during the war for the storage of commissariat supplies.’ Although major conflict in the Waikato ended in mid 1864, troops continued to be engaged in military and other operations in the region. In January 1865, the ‘Anne Wood’ from London brought a full complement of general merchandise and Government stores, which was consigned to the firm. Military activity also manifested itself in some of the contents sold from the stores. One of the first auctions to be carried out was a private sale of boots and shoes, which included ‘military and nailed bluchers.’ E. and H. Isaacs also auctioned military items away from the site: in 1867 the firm was responsible for selling all horses, drays, harness and equipment of the corps performing the transport service in the Wanganui and Taranaki districts.

Other goods sold from the building in the first months after its construction included a selection of imported summer clothes, and items such as sugar, java coffee, mustard and Irish pork. Bonded goods included tea, tobacco, and tobacco products such as cigars. By the 1860s, New Zealanders are said to have consumed 477 tonnes of imported tobacco leaf a year, making the colony one of the largest per capita tobacco importers internationally. New Zealand and Australia were also the largest consumers of tea in the western world, this stimulant being drunk among most sections of colonial society.

Other use of the building appears to have included meetings of the Auckland Volunteer Fire Brigade, which was evidently founded in the building in early 1866. Henry Isaacs became treasurer of the organisation, and another prominent member of the Jewish community, Asher Asher (1822-1899), was elected superintendent. The force was evidently created because an existing fire brigade run by the insurance companies often allowed uninsured properties to burn. The firm of E. and H. Isaacs was later credited as ‘the only one who had taken a deep interest in the brigade’. At the time of initial foundation, a fire tower and bell existed on land immediately to the west of the building.

As merchants with an interest in the safe storage of goods, E. and H. Isaacs stood to benefit considerably from the control of fire as a hazard. At the same time that the brigade was being formed, they advertised their building as ‘Fireproof Detached Stores’ for bonded and free goods. The store was also considered to be secure from damp and the effects of flood, and padlocked doors additionally helped to protect it from theft. In January 1865, both brothers were involved in the creation of the Auckland Fire and Marine Insurance Company, with Edward Isaacs a Provisional Director.

During the 1860s and early 1870s, both brothers held other important commercial, civic and religious positions. Edward Isaacs was a member of the Chamber of Commerce in the mid 1860s; on the committee of the Auckland Hebrew School in 1866; president of the Auckland Hebrew Congregation in 1871, and a Justice of the Peace by the same year. Henry Isaacs was a member of the Auckland City Council from 1871 to 1874, and again in 1875. He was also evidently an honorary officiating minister of the Jewish synagogue in 1863; president of the Auckland Hebrew Educational Institute in 1869; and on a collecting committee for a new synagogue in 1871. Both brothers also helped to found the Auckland Shipping Company, which subsequently merged into the New Zealand Shipping Company, one of the colony’s most important maritime concerns.

Auckland’s Jewish community played an important role in the city’s early commercial, political and cultural development. The Isaacs brothers were part of a notable group that were particularly influential in the city’s affairs after central government moved to Wellington in 1865. Other prominent members included David Nathan, John Montefiore, and the city’s first mayor Philip Philips.

In 1874, Henry Isaacs became Auckland’s second mayor.

E. and A. Isaacs’ Bonded Store

Fires in the Fort Street area in 1872 and 1873 respectively destroyed goods held by E. and H. Isaacs nearby, and caused one of their structures – possibly the bonded stores – to be drenched with water as a precaution. Modifications to the building ensued. In February 1875, E. and H. Isaacs notified the Customs Department that they were making ‘certain alterations in the upper Storey of our Bond, which will necessitate the removal of a small portion of the Brickwork for a short period’. Under legislation introduced in 1866, no alteration or addition to a bonded warehouse, including the creation of a fresh means of access or egress, could be made without permission of the local Collector of Customs. Images dating to the 1870s and later indicate a solid parapet raising the top part of the east and west walls, and a higher parapet on the south wall. The roof also appears to have been modified, perhaps to a lesser-pitched, double-gabled form.

The modifications broadly coincided with the Henry Isaacs’ departure for London, and the formal dissolution of the partnership. Alfred E. Isaacs was subsequently made a partner in the firm, and from 1878 the business was known as ‘E. & A. Isaacs’. Henry Isaacs continued to be linked with the enterprise, supplying goods from overseas. In 1879, a shipment purchased from him contained saddlery, nails, pipes, iron safes, fancy goods and a case of cricket balls. Edward Isaacs took on further civic roles: he was City Councillor from 1875 to 1879, and sat on the Auckland Harbour Board for many years.

In 1879, A. and E. Isaacs requested permission to convert a Bond on the upper floor into more storage room for duty paid goods. From the same year, reclamation works between Customs Street East and Quay Street ultimately caused the warehouse to be located at a greater distance from the waterfront. Images said to date to the 1880s show a protruding hoist on the Fort Street elevation for lifting goods into the upper storey.

Although still one of the largest wholesale houses in Auckland, the firm foundered soon after the onset of economic depression in the late 1880s, and failed in 1888 after an enforced liquidation by the banks. They were among a group of high-profile casualties that were bankrupted as a result of a fall in trading profits and the value of their private land investments on the one hand, and their indebtedness to banks on the other. The firm’s assets were sold, and in February 1889, the Official Assignee in Bankruptcy gave notice to the Customs Department that the bonded store would be closed at the end of the month. However, the building continued to be leased until 1891 by Henry Isaacs, with A. H. Nathan as attorney.

Edward Isaacs died in the same year, and was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Symonds Street.

Occupation by Carr Johnston and Company

From 1891, the building was leased by Carr Johnston and Company (later Carr Pountney and Co.) as the firm’s main offices and warehouse. The company was engaged in the export and import trade, mostly involving Oriental, Pacific Island and New Zealand produce. In circa 1900, the firm was believed to be the largest importer in Auckland of rice, raw coffee, kapok, gunnies, castor and linseed oil, and Singapore goods. It additionally brought in products such as fencing wire, corrugated iron, wire nails, cement and American canned fruits. Exports included flax, lime-juice and tanekaha bark. The business had been founded in 1884 by Richard Carr, who was also a director and chairman of the South British Insurance Company. Carr’s business partner, Henry Johnston, was to briefly become managing director of the Kauri Timber Company, the largest timber concern in New Zealand.

Modifications to the building were carried out in the same year as the lease was obtained (1891), under the direction of architect Arthur (A.P.) Wilson. Wilson has been regarded as one of Auckland’s main commercial architects during the late 1800s and early 1900s, being responsible for several notable commercial buildings in the city centre including the Naval and Family Hotel (circa 1895-6), the Northern Steamship Company Building (1898), the Strand Arcade (1899-1900, rebuilt 1910), and the A.H. Nathan Warehouse (1903) in nearby Customs Street East. The modified Bonded Store was described as erected in a ‘workmanlike and artistic manner’, with alterations including the insertion of a lift and the widening of an entrance and raising of a floor to enable carts to be unloaded under cover. It was said that no expense was spared in making the building suitable for storing and handling large quantities of goods, and that its internal appearance was significantly altered. Advertisements may imply that bonded and duty-paid goods such as tea and spices were auctioned inside the building. The offices were subsequently described as ‘handsome, well lighted and roomy’.

Further modifications may have occurred in 1900 and 1902-4, when the rateable value of the building increased. This broadly coincided with conversion of the firm to Carr Pountney and Company (1901). Alterations not mentioned in 1891, but in evidence by the early 1900s include a balustraded parapet, window architraves with false keystones, and external rendering. These elements provided the building with a more ornamental commercial Italianate appearance. Significant aspects of the earlier arrangement were visibly retained, including the building’s general construction, size and mass, and four-light windows on the west wall.

Conversion to the King’s Chambers (1914)

In 1914, the upper floor was converted into separate offices, collectively known as King’s Chambers. By this time, Auckland had become New Zealand’s main commercial entrepot. Tenants in 1915 included many linked with customs and import work, as well as a land broker, a mail order company and a wholesale chemist. The ground floor appears to have been initially retained by Carr Pountney and Company. Other occupants encompassed the Russian Vice-Consul in 1917 and the Vice-Consul for Norway in 1919. Longer-term tenants included the Commercial Union Assurance Company from 1917 and North Auckland Farmers Cooperative by 1919, possibly occupying ground floor premises. A British-based company, the Commercial Union had expanded rapidly throughout the world in the first two decades of the twentieth century, becoming the largest of the British composite insurance companies by 1914. The North Auckland Farmers Cooperative (NAFC) was a land, stock and station agency which, together with customs and other agents, continued to occupy the premises until at least the mid 1940s.

During the 1950s, minor changes to the building included the conversion of a window in the western elevation into a doorway.

From the early 1960s, the building became the head office of a major estate agency, Barfoot and Thompson Limited, and its subsidiary Mandeno Jackson. The building was renovated in 1964, with new windows on the ground floor. This work is said to have been overseen by partner, Maurice Thompson. Barfoot and Thompson had benefited from expansion in the land market after abolition of the Land Sales Act in 1950, and construction of the Auckland Harbour Bridge in 1959. There were more houses erected in Auckland during the 1960s than in any decade since the settlement’s creation. Mandeno Jackson had been established in 1893, and until the 1920s was probably Auckland’s leading firm in the auction of choice residential subdivisions.

Subsequent modifications have included the removal and replacement of internal timber partitions. A brick dividing wall in the upper storey was evidently removed prior to 1980. The place has been associated with Barfoot and Thompson for some fifty years, and is in private ownership.

Physical Description


The former Isaacs’ Bonded Store is located in the northern part of Auckland’s Central Business District (CBD), which encompasses the city’s historic commercial core. The site lies on the northern side of Fort Street, which marks the line of the original foreshore and can be regarded as one of the city’s oldest and most important thoroughfares. The road links Queen Street and Customs Street East, two of central Auckland’s busiest commercial streets. The immediate area contains a large number of significant historic structures, and is notable for reflecting Auckland’s development as New Zealand’s main financial and commercial centre.

The site is located on the eastern corner of the junction between Fort Street and Commerce Street. It consists of an approximately rectangular allotment encompassing some 405 square metres. A building of late nineteenth-century Italianate design immediately adjoins the property to the east. Wright’s Buildings (1910-11, with elements from 1886; NZHPT Record No. 672; Category II historic place) lies on the western corner of Fort and Commerce Streets, opposite Isaacs’ Bonded Stores.

Other formally recognised historic structures in the immediate vicinity include Gilfillan’s Store (1865; NZHPT Record No. 9581, Category I historic place) facing the western end of Fort Street; and the Imperial Hotel (1883; with elements from 1861-2 and 1873; NZHPT Record No. 4593, Category II historic place) on the corner of Fort and Queen Streets. Historic buildings on the east side of Queen Street encompass Everybody’s Building (1866, remodelled in 1886 and 1915; NZHPT Record No. 4595, Category II historic place), Imperial Buildings (1911; NZHPT Record No. 4596, Category II historic place), and the Dilworth Building (1925-7; NZHPT Record No. 4600, Category I historic place). Some of these incorporate warehousing at the rear.

Recognised historic precincts occupy much of the ground between Fort Street and the waterfront, notably the Customs Street Historic Area (NZHPT Record No. 7160) and Quay Historic Area (NZHPT Record No. 7159). The former includes the L.D. Nathan and Company Stores (1904), erected as free and bonded stores at the junction of Customs Street East and Commerce Street, a short distance from Isaacs’ Bonded Stores. The Britomart Hotel on Customs Street East is believed to have been initially completed as the Sailor's Home Hotel in 1868, shortly after Isaacs’ Bonded Stores. Important in-ground archaeological sites in the immediate area include the remains of the Victoria Hotel, on the south side of Fort Street.

Building exterior

The former Isaacs Bonded Store is a distinctive two-storey building, occupying the whole site. Due to its corner location, it forms a comparatively prominent element within the Fort Street area.

The building has visible elevations on its west and south sides, with its long axis fronting Commerce Street. Embellishments added in the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries provide it with an overall commercial Italianate style. The structure retains important aspects of its early colonial design, notably in its construction materials, size and mass, and use of four-light windows at first-floor level. Ground-floor apertures also evidently mirror the position of earlier openings. An initial gabled roof has been replaced by a double-gabled structure, possibly in the 1870s. This element has since been clad as a mansard roof. The roof is concealed behind parapets to Fort and Commerce Street.

The building is of brick construction with a stone basement, believed to be of basalt. Externally, brickwork is concealed beneath rendering, which reflects changes made in the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries.

The Fort Street elevation has five, square-headed windows at ground floor level, and a further five identical apertures immediately above. They all incorporate external architraves with false keystones. The central upstairs window is likely to have been converted from a goods opening, which was associated with an external hoist. There is no doorway at ground floor level to Fort Street. A solid parapet encompasses a raised element on which the name of the building was once written. The cornice at first floor level incorporates ornamentation in the form of paired brackets.

The longer elevation to Commerce Street contains similar features, including a row of window apertures at first floor level. Many of the windows contain four-light double-hung sashes, as visible in the earliest photographs of the building. Similar ornamentation survives around these windows and at cornice level as in the south elevation. Balustrades at parapet level have been concealed or removed. The general arrangement of earlier apertures at ground floor level has been retained, but these have been modernised. An external tiled dado has been applied to both the south and west elevations.

Building interior

The building interior has not been inspected, and descriptions are based on existing plans of the building held in public records.

Internally, the basement is divided into two main spaces with a smaller area in the northern part of the building separated from a larger area to the south. It retains six pairs of large timber posts with pillows, which support the ground floor joists. Toilets are located in the southeast corner. General access is from a central staircase in the main southern space. Basement walls are described as being of stone and two feet thick, and incorporate grated alcoves to both Commerce and Fort Streets.

The ground floor is similarly divided into two main spaces. It retains six pairs of taller posts with pillows, the latter concealed beneath suspended ceilings. A small strong room survives on the east side of the southern space. A central staircase to the upper floor and basement survives in the centre of the southern space. The general clearance from floor to ceiling is approximately double that of the basement. Floor joists are recorded as being of substantial dimensions, measuring 13 x 10 inches across. Both north and south spaces contain office partitions and toilets.

The first floor has a single main space. Its floor incorporates similar joists to those at ground floor level. Timber supporting posts and a main dividing wall have been removed. It is reached by a staircase in the southern part of the space, adjoining the east wall.


Isaacs’ Bonded Stores is believed to be a very rare example of a surviving, purpose-built bonded warehouse of mid nineteenth-century date. Other known examples of bonded stores in New Zealand include the Moritzon Building, Dunedin (NZHPT Record No. 4752, Category II historic place), erected as Stavely’s Bond in 1878-9 and severely damaged by fire in 2008; the Tauranga Bond Store (NZHPT Record No. 7738, Category I historic place), built in 1883; the Wellington Harbour Board Head Office and Bond Store (NZHPT Record No. 234, Category I historic place), completed as a concrete structure in 1892; and L. D. Nathan and Company’s Store, also known as Achilles House (part of NZHPT Record 7160, Customs Street Historic Area), which was erected close to Isaacs’ Bonded Stores on the corner of Commerce Street and Customs Street East, Auckland, in 1904.

A bonded warehouse of comparable early date to the Isaacs’ Bonded Stores was a large structure erected for Messrs Cleve and Lazarus in Dunedin, which was built to a design by architect W. H. Clayton in 1864-5. Like the Isaacs’ Bonded Stores, this was a two-storey brick structure with a bluestone basement, containing rows of window apertures at both ground and first floor levels, and an external string course between the two floors. It was demolished in the 1980s. Notable early bonded stores in the Fort Street area of Auckland have also been demolished, including the basalt-built W.S. Grahame’s Bond Store on the south side of Fort Street. The former Gilfillan’s Store (NZHPT Record No. 9581, Category I historic place) in Queen Street, Auckland, contained a brick bonded store in the 1850s, but it is unclear if any of its remains are retained within the existing structure.

Surviving structures in Auckland linked with city’s role as a military supply base during the Taranaki and Waikato Wars and their aftermath are also rare or unusual. The Albert Barracks Wall (1846-52; NZHPT Record No. 12, Category I historic place) is a remnant of the main military accommodation during this period; the former Government House (1855-6; NZHPT Record No. 105, Category I historic place) was the colonial governor’s residence during the conflicts; and the Northern Club Building (1867; NZHPT Record No. 663, Category I historic place) was partly used as a British officers’ mess after it was erected as the Royal Hotel. Other structures within the Auckland metropolitan area linked with military activity in the 1860s were built as part of outlying settlements, such as the Blockhouse in Onehunga (1860; NZHPT Record No. 91, Category I historic place). An 1850s stone building in Princes Street, Onehunga, is also said to have been used as a commissariat for the army during the conflicts of the 1860s.

Isaacs’ Bonded Stores (Former) is a relatively uncommon remnant of the type of intensive small-scale development on narrow sites that once characterised Auckland’s colonial commercial centre. The building is believed to be one of comparatively few surviving store or warehouse buildings dating from the 1860s located on or near the early colonial foreshore in the lower Queen and Fort Street area. Other examples include Gilfillan’s Store (1865), and surviving elements of Somerset House / Graham’s Buildings (1861-2) now encased within the former Imperial Hotel erected in 1883. Other known 1860s store buildings in Auckland’s colonial centre include the circa 1861 Bluestone Store at 9-11 Durham Lane (NZHPT Record No. 2647, Category I historic place), a two storey stone structure initially occupied by agricultural merchants and auctioneers.

Isaacs’ Bonded Stores appears to be a rare early surviving commercial building in the former colonial capital that was erected and used by members of the influential Jewish community. An early house built between 1862 and 1864 for another important merchant, David Nathan (1816-1886), survives at Bella Vista, Waterloo Quadrant. A later residence on Princes Street (Sonoma, NZHPT Record No. 7730, Category II historic place) was erected for James Sharland in 1877-78, and was occupied for about three years from 1887 by his brother-in-law, Philip Philips, Auckland’s first mayor. The former Jewish Synagogue remains in Princes Street (1885; NZHPT Record No. 578, Category I historic place). E. and H. Isaacs used Somerset House / Graham’s Buildings in Fort Street for a period in 1863-4, but this structure was not built by or for their firm.

Later commercial buildings linked with the Jewish community survive, including other buildings in Customs Street Historic Area such as the L.D. Nathan and Company’s Store or Achilles House, and the A.H. Nathan warehouse (1903; NZHPT Record No. 7296, Category II historic place). The latter was designed by A.P. Wilson, who undertook modifications to Isaacs’ Bonded Stores in 1891.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1864 -
Construction of Isaacs’ Bonded Stores

1875 -
Alterations to upper storey, and roof

1891 -
Modifications, including widening of doorway, insertion of lift and other internal alterations (architect: A.P. Wilson)

1900 - 1904

1914 -
Internal alterations to first floor

Enlargement of two ground-floor windows on west elevation

1955 -
Reconfiguration of offices at south end of ground floor interior

1957 -
Conversion of window on west elevation to doorway.

1964 -
Modification of some ground floor windows on west elevation, and internal alterations

1986 -
Internal partitions added; strong room modified

Construction Details

Brick, with stone foundations

Completion Date

15th February 2012

Report Written By

Martin Jones

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1902

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol.2, Christchurch, 1902

Johnson, 1988 (2)

David Johnson, Auckland by the Sea: 100 Years of Work and Play, Auckland: David Bateman Ltd, 1988.

Stone, 1973

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

Barfoot, 2000

Chris Barfoot, Selling Auckland: The Story of Barfoot and Thompson, Auckland, 2000

Pearce, 1982

G. L. Pearce, The Pioneer Craftsmen of New Zealand, Auckland, 1982

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the Mid-Northern Office of the NZHPT.

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.