Historical Significance or Value
Gilfillan’s Store (Former) has historical significance for reflecting important stages in Auckland’s development as New Zealand’s pre-eminent commercial and financial centre. Planned and designed at the end of Auckland’s period as colonial capital, the former store has special significance as the second oldest known surviving commercial building in Auckland’s Queen Street; and as one of very few mid nineteenth-century warehouses and stores to survive in the commercial heart of the city. Potentially incorporating remnants dating from circa 1849-54, the place has historical significance for its associations with earlier warehousing and commercial activity established on the early colonial foreshore.
The commercial importance of the place is reinforced by its close associations with a number of individuals and interests that contributed to Auckland’s commercial development. It has special value for its association with early Auckland Provincial Council politician and member of the first Legislative Council John Anderson Gilfillan, who commissioned the design and construction of the store in 1865. Gilfillan was a founding member and an early president of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, an influential body in Auckland’s development as a city of capital. He was also the Auckland agent for the Hull steamship owners who established the Intercolonial Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. The Company greatly enhanced inter-provincial mail services, coastal shipping services, and inter-colonial communication between the Australasian colonies in the 1860s.
The building is historically significant as the first New Zealand place of business of stationers Collins Brothers and Company who subsequently became what is believed to be the colony’s first wholesale manufacturing stationery house, and a forerunner of the influential publisher Harper Collins New Zealand. It has value for its associations with seed merchants Arthur Yates and Company; and with the Waihi mining boom which revived the Auckland economy after the late nineteenth-century depression. The place has value for its seven-decade association with owners Hugh Wright; and his son of the same name who led New Zealand’s largest late twentieth-century men’s wear retail chain and facilitated development of a coffee bar in the building as one of New Zealand’s first pavement cafés.
The change of use from commercial warehouse, to small offices and shops in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries reflects the growth of the retailing and commercial service sector; replaced in the later twentieth century by larger tenancies occupied by the travel and hospitality industries reflecting popular leisure activities.
Exchange Lane has historical significance as part of the evolving early layout of Auckland city which encompassed a network of small lanes in the Queen Street gully.
Aesthetic Significance or Value:
Gilfillan’s Store (Former) is a striking visual reminder of early colonial Auckland. It has aesthetic value as a focal point and visual landmark at the western end of Fort Street, a shared space designed to reflect the cultural and geographical history of Auckland’s original shoreline area. The building also has aesthetic value for its simple visual appeal which stems from its plain style and modest scale which contribute visual interest and contrast to Queen Street, the main commercial thoroughfare of New Zealand’s largest city.
Architectural Significance or Value:
The place has high architectural significance as a visually well preserved brick commercial building the design of which dates to the end of the period when Auckland was colonial capital. It is a rare surviving example of a building the scale and brick construction of which once typified Auckland’s commercial centre. The design is significant for illustrating the transition from the simple Georgian style of the early colonial period to the Italianate style that subsequently became popular for commercial business premises in the later decades of the nineteenth century.
Gilfillan’s Store also has considerable architectural significance as the earliest known surviving work of Richard Keals the founder of a noted early Auckland practice responsible for a range of commercial buildings in nineteenth-century Auckland. The building reflects the simplicity of Keals’ early style which contrasts with the more ornate buildings designed by his practice in later years.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:
The former Gilfillan’s Store has special significance for reflecting important stages in Auckland’s emergence and development as New Zealand’s pre-eminent commercial and financial centre, from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. The place reflects the earliest surviving stages of Auckland’s commercial development as an entrepot and its reliance on imported goods for its survival and economic development during the earliest periods of its colonial history.
As the premises of Collins Brothers and Company stationers and of seed merchant Arthur Yates the former Gilfillan’s Store reflects the emergence of significant nationwide businesses in the colony during the late-nineteenth century and Auckland’s role as an important base for such activities. As the Mining Chambers, the place reflects the important role of gold mining in Auckland’s economic recovery from the late nineteenth-century depression. Late-nineteenth century tenants reflect the significance of the location within the hub of Auckland’s financial area, and activities in the former stock exchange off the south side of Exchange Lane, itself a busy pedestrian thoroughfare and place of interaction. The provision of men’s public toilets at the end of the lane reflects social attitudes to public sanitation in the early twentieth century. The extended period of ownership of the former Gilfillan’s Store by men’s outfitters Hugh Wrights, and alterations to the ground floor of the building during the first half of the twentieth century reflect the importance of retail activity in the main street of New Zealand’s largest city.
As a late-1950s coffee bar (one of the earliest outdoor pavement cafés in New Zealand); from 1971 Auckland’s second inner city pedestrian mall; and in 1989 as the first coffee roasting shop in central city Auckland, the place reflects the emerging popularity of street cafes as places for socialising, relaxation and hospitality in urban centres in late twentieth-century New Zealand.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:
The place has special value for its association with several individuals and companies of significance in Auckland’s and New Zealand’s commercial history. The place has special significance as what is believed to be the only surviving building within the commercial heart of colonial Auckland that is associated with important mid nineteenth-century business leader John Anderson Gilfillan who commissioned construction of the premises as his place of business. Gilfillan was a member of the first Legislative Council (1854), and a chair and founding member of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce (1856) an influential body in Auckland’s development as a city of capital.
The place has associations with two nationally significant New Zealand businesses during their formative years, namely Collins Brothers and Company, and Arthur Yates and Company. Yates’ occupation of the building coincided with expansion of the company into Australia. The place is also significant for its strong associations with Hugh Wright the founder of what became New Zealand’s largest men’s wear retail firm; and subsequently with his son Hugh John Wright who inherited the building and management of the family business from 1948.
(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history:
Potentially retaining the remnants of a circa 1849-54 building foundation of an early warehouse located on the waterfront of New Zealand’s colonial capital, the place may provide information about aspects of early colonial life such as the early use and development of small nineteenth-century urban sites, reclamation work in the intertidal area, and circa 1850s masonry building materials and construction techniques. The place has potential to demonstrate aspects of construction and commercial activity from 1860s onwards.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place
The former Gilfillan’s Store has special significance as a rare, visually well-preserved, purpose-built commercial warehouse and store in early colonial Auckland. It has special architectural significance as the earliest known surviving work designed by Richard Keals. The design also has technical value as an illustration of a transitional link between the simple Georgian style of the early colonial period, and the Italianate style popular for commercial buildings in mid to late nineteenth-century colonial Auckland. The place has value for its design and scale which expresses a simple formality that characterises a largely homogenous streetscape in Auckland’s insurance and financial district in the 1870s.
(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement:
The place reflects the earliest surviving stages of Auckland’s commercial development. It is believed to encapsulate remnants of an earlier building foundation dating from circa 1849-54 and its main structure was planned and built at the end of the period when Auckland was New Zealand’s colonial capital.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:
The place is of special significance as one of the earliest surviving parts of an important historical and cultural landscape in Lower Queen Street and Fort Street in Auckland. The area is important as the hub of business activity in New Zealand’s pre-eminent commercial and financial centre. Located at the intersection of Queen and Fort Streets, the place is a focal point and visual landmark within this landscape. Its position marks the location of Auckland’s shoreline and early colonial waterfront prior to major reclamation from the 1850s onwards.
The building’s contribution to the historic and cultural landscape also derived from its contrast in scale, design and age with buildings on adjoining sites. The pattern of smaller older and larger newer buildings is a feature of the wider Queen Street landscape and provides a record of a century and a half of commercial development. The low-rise nature of the building is an important contribution to this landscape.
Summary of Significance or Values:
This place was assessed against, and found to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, c, g, i and k.
Gilfillan’s Store (Former) is considered to qualify as a Category I historic place for its special significance for reflecting important stages in Auckland’s emergence and development as New Zealand’s pre-eminent commercial and financial centre, from the mid-nineteenth century onwards.
The place has special value for its association with several individuals and companies of significance in Auckland’s and New Zealand’s commercial history.
The place has special significance as a rare, visually well preserved, purpose-built commercial warehouse and store in early colonial Auckland. It also has special architectural significance as the earliest known surviving work designed by Richard Keals.
The place is of special significance as one of the earliest surviving parts of an important historical and cultural landscape in Lower Queen Street and Fort Street in Auckland.
Early history of the site:
Prior to European colonisation, Maori occupied numerous sites beside the Waitemata Harbour and used its associated bays for transport, food-gathering and other purposes. The bay which now borders Auckland’s commercial centre was linked with settlement in the Waihorotiu Valley and its adjoining headlands, which have been traditionally connected with Ngati Huarere, Te Waiohua and Ngati Whatua. The mouth of Waihorotiu Stream was situated near the current intersection of Queen Street, and Swanson Street. Nearby, Te Whatu waka landing and mooring area was a rocky ledge at the foot of what became Shortland Street. On the western headland, a site known as Ngaa Uuwera - burnt breasts - extended south towards the current Exchange Lane.
Ngati Whatua’s offer to transfer a large area of land to the British Crown for the creation of a colonial capital was formally agreed in September 1840. In 1841, at the Crown’s first land sale, Alexander Dingwall (1804?-89) purchased Allotment 8 located on the southwest fringe of the Commercial Bay foreshore, the main harbour and key landing point for goods and settlers. The purchase was jointly financed with fellow Scottish carpenters Alexander Black (1813-81) and Alexander Marshall (1810?-75), who were collectively known as the three Alexanders or the three Sandies. The site lay partly within the tidal area at the foot of the Smales Point peninsula, and may have been purchased for the landing of timber. The rear boundary adjoined a proposed government lane, known by 1854 as Mill Lane. Intended as back entrances lanes were a notable feature of acting Surveyor General, Felton Mathew’s 1840-1 town layout. The eastern end of the property may have been reclaimed shortly after, and the western end cut back into Smales Point, minor works by comparison with other nineteenth-century earthworks in the commercial centre.
The allotment held in common by the three from 1843 was formally partitioned in 1845. In association with an adjoining owner, a strip of land was set aside to create a side lane off Queen Street for the loading and unloading of bulky goods from barrows and carts. Alexander Marshall was allocated the southernmost portion of the holding.
Marshall had arrived in the Bay of Islands in 1838 and moved to Auckland shortly after. He undertook building work including - in association with Black and Dingwall - the construction of Smales Point township, a cluster of timber buildings in what became Albert Street.
Marshall’s wife Mary (1807?-70) was related to influential Auckland entrepreneurs Henderson and Macfarlane who were early tenants of the Sandies’ warehouses constructed in the 1840s.
The two-storey warehouses stood immediately west of the Queen Street Wharf completed in 1852. A major entrepot and trading centre from its earliest days, Auckland enjoyed a more diverse trade than other ports in the colony and except for brief periods, remained New Zealand’s main seaport. Merchants played a key role as importers, receivers of consignments, distributing agents, and also operated as land and shipping agents. Maori, indispensable to the town’s pioneer economy as suppliers of food and labour, were significant customers.
Brothers John Anderson Gilfillan (1821-75) and Robert Gilfillan (1823-1909) set up as merchants and commission agents in the colonial capital in 1848-9 and appear to have moved into premises on Marshall’s site as early as August 1849. A two-storey brick building referred to as Gilfillan’s Warehouse was erected in the rear of Marshall’s Queen Street property as early as 1854 and operated as a bond store at least from early 1859.
In 1861-2, three-storey, brick warehouses began to occupy the west end of the nearby Fort Street reclamation opposite. By 1863, some investors were beginning to regard Queen Street as the future rival of Shortland Street, Auckland’s main commercial thoroughfare.
Construction of Gilfillan’s new store (1865):
In March 1865, Gilfillan and Company took a lease over the front three quarters of Marshall’s holding where they were longstanding tenants. The agreement provided for the removal or sale of buildings, provided that ‘a good and substantial brick building suitable for a merchant’s store, warehouse and office was erected within six months of the demolition.
The planning and design of the new premises occurred at the end of Auckland’s period as colonial capital in 1865, when Gilfillan was chair of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce. Construction of a three-storey store, warehouse and offices, ‘for Messrs Gilfillan, merchants, Queen-street, upon the site of their old premises’ was well advanced by June 1865. The new store was erected in brick on a ‘concrete foundation’, evidently scoria and mortar constructed circa 1849-54.
The three-storey premises had a plastered front and a slate roof with lead ridging. The design was of a simple Italianate architectural style, marginally less plain than the two- and three-storey Georgian-style brick buildings erected in the commercial centre in the late 1850s and early 1860s following the prohibition of timber construction under the City of Auckland Building Act 1856. Unlike Gilfillan’s earlier store which incorporated a large retail display window, the ground floor store-front was symmetrical. Within the rusticated base was a centrally located doorway flanked by two equal sized windows with segmental arch heads.
The incorporation of an arched entrance, arch-headed window openings contrasting with rectangular window openings, and the use of simple rustication illustrated a transition from the Georgian style characteristic of the early Victorian period to the Italianate architectural style adopted for commercial buildings in mid- and late-Victorian Auckland.
Internally the structure lacked cross walls and appears to have had a cellar space and at least one fireplace.
Gilfillan’s Store was a comparatively early work by local architect Richard Keals (1817?-85). A prolific designer of commercial buildings in the 1860s and 1870s, Keals had arrived in New Zealand in 1858 and set up architectural practice in the city by late 1861 after initially working as a builder. The comparative simplicity of Gilfillan’s Store was a marked contrast to later Italianate-style commercial buildings designed in a more ornate style by Keals’ practice for Queen Street sites in the 1870s and 1880s.
The contractor was a Mr Gunn who may or may not have been associated with a short-lived 1860s Auckland partnership Messrs Rhodes and Gunn.
Use of the premises by John Gilfillan (1865-8):
Scottish-born John Gilfillan was the son of an excise officer. He was a founding member of the colony’s first Legislative Council in 1854, and a member of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce in 1856 - an influential body in Auckland’s development as a city of capital. As a united voice for business, the Chamber (of which Gilfillan was a chair in the 1860s) sought measures including improvements to postal services, subsidies for coastal shipping services, improved protection against fire and the provision of an adequate water supply.
Gilfillan and Company’s Queen Street store offered a wide variety of merchandise including imported food, tobacco, alcohol, building materials, machinery and clothing, and was an auction venue for other merchants’ stock. Hoisting-beams on the side walls adjoining Gilfillan Lane enabled bulky goods to be transferred, it being suggested in 1869 that the weight carried by the various floors was causing the building foundations to sink. The premises was also a bond store, where customs duties were calculated on incoming goods and collected for the public purse.
From offices in the building, Gilfillan administered his own affairs and those of the business interests he represented. These included the Australian Mutual Provident Society, of which Sydney-based Robert was a director. Gilfillan was the Auckland agent for Hull steamship owners Pearson and Coleman. As the Intercolonial Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, the firm held contracts for mail services between Australia and New Zealand; for fortnightly shipping services between the provinces; and a direct trans-Tasman steamship service between Auckland and Sydney, greatly enhancing communications and business opportunities. He was secretary of the Bay of Islands Coal Company (1868) one of several companies encouraged into existence by the opening of the Thames goldfields which stimulated engineering and coastal shipping activities, saving the economy after relocation of the colonial capital to Wellington in 1865.
An 1866 map of the city depicts two structures separated by a right of way on Marshall’s site. The accompanying schedule (1867) refers only to a single three-storey brick building. It is unclear whether the 1850s bond store may have been the free-standing structure at the rear.
At this time Mills Lane remained only partially formed, although the portion in the vicinity of Gilfillan’s store may have been completed as early as circa 1869.
Use of the premises by Robert Lusk (1869-80) and Collins Brothers (1881-9):
Following Gilfillan’s relocation to premises nearer the wharf, Robert Lusk (1823?-80) commission agent and wholesaler, became Marshall’s new tenant in 1869. Lusk’s business interests extended to gold mining enterprises and benefited from proximity to ‘Scrip Corner’ (the Queen and Shortland Street intersection) where stockbrokers, agents and investors waited for telegrams from the Thames gold fields. The mining companies were primarily Auckland-based and the bullion was exported from the city’s wharves. The New Zealand Insurance Building erected in 1870 included a stock exchange (largely financed by local brokers and mining agents) accessed from Gilfillan Lane and Queen Street.
The exterior of Marshall’s building suffered fire damage in 1869. Testimony that ‘about three fourths of the building is new’, suggests that part of an earlier structure was incorporated within the 28-metre long building erected in 1865. Replacement buildings erected on Black and Dingwall’s sites replicated the design of Marshall’s building, the three addresses presenting a unified façade in the city’s insurance and financial district after 1869.
Following Marshall’s death in 1875, the income from the Queen Street property was paid to his two daughters under a trust established by his son John who had inherited the asset.
A substantial three-storey addition was made to the rear at an unknown date prior to 1882 - possibly between 1869 and 1877 - extending the premises above a right of way and almost to the rear boundary.
Through Robert Lusk and his father Robert Baillie Lusk (1798-1891), in 1881 the building became the first New Zealand premises of Collins Brothers, a forerunner of the influential publisher Harper Collins New Zealand (1978). Prior to his arrival from Scotland in 1849, Lusk Senior was a stationer. As an acquaintance of William Collins II, he voluntarily represented the Glasgow printing and publishing firm’s interests in the colony for a time.
The antecedents of what appears to have been the colony’s first wholesale manufacturing stationery house date from circa 1870 and the Queen Street address. The first manager was reported seventy years later to have been ‘Mr J. Lusk’, succeeded by David Cattanach who arrived in November 1880, the month of Robert Lusk’s death. Robert Lusk ‘paper merchant’ was the occupier of the address in January 1878, and at the time of his death was the ‘New Zealand agent for Collins and Co. of Glasgow’. Collins enjoyed a virtual monopoly of school book supplies to Australasia. The first Collins dairy was published for the colony in 1881, eight years before the company relocated to Commerce Street where it began local production of stationery.
Arthur Yates Limited (1889-96):
The Queen Street address was taken over by Arthur Yates and Company seed merchants in 1889. The enterprise founded in 1883 in nearby Victoria Street by Arthur Yates (1861-1926) who moved to Australia in 1887, was continued locally by his brother Ernest (1864?-1947). ‘Yates’ Reliable Seeds’ and Yates’ Garden Guide, synonymous with home gardening on both sides of the Tasman, remain a national institution.
The Mining Chambers and Exchange Lane (1896-1907):
In late 1896, the lease was briefly taken up by mining agents John Porter and William Hampson at a time of increasing gold yields from Waihi and the Ohinemuri district following the introduction of the cyanide extraction process earlier in the decade. The building became known as the Mining Chambers; and, the adjoining lane as Exchange Lane reflecting two decades of use as an access to Auckland’s stock exchange.
Following Auckland’s recovery from the late nineteenth-century economic depression, the Mining Chambers’ tenants included share brokers, legal managers, a small printing and publishing firm, a patents bureau, and the architect R. W. de Montalk who designed the pavilion for the 1897-8 Auckland Industrial and Mining Exhibition. From circa 1897 until 1906 the international tourist agency Thomas Cook and Sons occupied part of the ground floor, overseeing the nine branch offices and sub-agencies that promoted the colony’s developing tourist industry. During this period the front section of the Mining Chambers was known as Cook’s Building.
Changing use and ownership, formalisation of Exchange Lane as a public thoroughfare (1907- ):
During the early 1900s Auckland expanded significantly faster than the other three main urban centres in New Zealand, consolidating its role as the country’s largest city and financial power house.
In 1907, Alexander Richardson Dickey Watson (1878?-1917) an actuary and later a noted public benefactor, took a 42-year lease of the building. The area formerly occupied by Thomas Cook was partitioned into two shops, requiring replacement of the central entrance by a triangular lobby with two separate doors. By circa 1908 a single-storey verandah had been constructed along the Queen Street frontage and a bridge connected the rear of the building with Mills Lane. New Zealand’s first weekly newspaper, The New Zealand Truth founded in 1905, opened an Auckland branch office in the building in 1910.
In 1913, offensive odours from a men’s lavatory constructed over thirty years before off the south of Exchange Lane prompted complaints from nearby offices. Reflecting the high water table of the original shoreline, the smell evidently worsened depending on the tide. Other hazards in the Lane included conflict between pedestrian and wheeled traffic; insanitary conditions due to heaps of manure and rubbish; drunken brawling; and risk of robbery. The City Council considered dedicating the space as public road. The private owners erected gates at the lane entrance. Reflecting attitudes to public sanitation in the early twentieth century, a men’s public lavatory was constructed in 1914, work that involved excavation under Mills Lane. Exchange Lane remained in private ownership, but was concreted by the Council in 1917 who took over its cleaning the following year.
By 1917, the Mining Chambers had been extended to the rear boundary. The small addition had concrete floors and enabled access from the second floor directly onto Mills Lane via a loading bay. Outfitter Hugh Wright (1870-1948) was assigned the lease in 1919, a time of prosperity for tailors as men were targeted as consumers in the immediate aftermath of the First World War (1914-18). Eight-decades of Marshall-family ownership ended when Wright purchased the property in 1922.
The Mining Chambers including its retail tenancies continued to be rented out, Wright retaining nearby rental premises for his retail outlets. The Quoin Club (1916-30) a group of Auckland artists occupied rooms on the building’s upper floor. Influential members of the Club included the noted New Zealand sculptor Richard Oliver Gross (1882-1964); and the architects William Gummer (1884-1966), and Malcolm Draffin (1890-1964).
At an unknown date prior to 1928, kerbside verandah posts were removed following installation of a suspension verandah. Fire damaged the middle and upper floors in 1928 with water spoilage to stock in Hugh Wright’s ground floor drapery. The southeast corner of the brick wall was removed in 1929 to provide for a retail display window.
Hugh Wright’s show rooms were briefly listed at the address. Other tenants including a sports goods retailer, a radio dealer, and a dancing school reflected popular 1930s leisure activities. In 1935 the Mining Chambers re-emerged as a discrete visual entity when the two adjoining buildings were demolished. Retail tenancies were redesigned in 1937 by Auckland architect George Tole. Brick partition walls were constructed on steel girder supports; a corner entrance was created; and openings to Exchange Lane were enlarged. A light well provided natural light after the erection of the Dingwall Building on the adjoining site in 1935-6. A brick wall is said to have been built across the right of way on the Dingwall boundary for the duration of the Second World War (1939-45) to stop potential damage by bomb blast.
Council plans to extend the public lavatory in 1947 led to Exchange Lane’s gazetting as a service lane in 1951. But the toilets, the alleged ‘nightly haunt of a band of sexual perverts’, were permanently closed and street cleaning equipment stored there until 1955. The space then accommodated an Auckland Electrical Power Board transformer until late 1969, and the entrance to the toilets was subsequently bricked up.
Inspired by Melbourne’s first boulevard café, a smart coffee shop opened in the Mining Chambers in February 1958. A successful campaign by Hugh John Wright (1908-94) for outdoor seating resulted in the coffee bar becoming one of the first outdoor pavement cafés in New Zealand. Since his father’s death in 1948, Wright had led New Zealand’s largest men’s-wear retail chain. Although Wright declined to sell the Mining Chambers for demolition in the 1950s, consideration was given to redevelopment of the site in 1964.
A number of travel agents tenanted the building from the 1960s when the advent of long-range jets and completion of the Auckland International Airport (1965) made Auckland the world gateway to the South Pacific. The local publicity division of the Government Tourist Bureau based in the Mining Chambers since 1958 moved to larger premises in 1963, the same year Watts Sports Depot ended its 33-year tenancy. Coinciding with Wright’s appointment as Italian consular agent in 1965, a programme of remodelling commenced which may have included removal of the building’s brick chimney. Stars Travel Agency expanded a shop tenancy into the basement area requiring a new stairway that was subsequently repositioned. Other travel industry tenants included Alitalia Airlines, United Travel and American Express International.
In 1971, three years after the transformation of Auckland’s Vulcan Lane, Exchange Lane was developed as Queen Street’s second mall. The new pedestrian precinct was linked to Mills Lane above by a spiral staircase. The concept by architects Nyall Coleman, Gibson and Associates was funded by Auckland City Council with contributions from three adjoining property owners including Hugh Wright. Reflecting popular culture of the time, the Mining Chambers’ tenants included a television rental firm and an RCA Victor record store.
The upper floor including several sets of rafters was refurbished after fire damage in 1984. The same year, steel straps and bolts were introduced to secure sections of the front exterior walls; cracks in the parapets and window lintels were repaired; and windows were replaced. A coffee roasting shop, the first in the central city, opened in a ground floor tenancy in 1989.
Ending a 75-year association with the Wright family whose nineteen men’s wear stores made them a household name, the Queen Street property was bought by an associated company, Bradstreets Limited in 1994. A bar was established on the Mining Chambers’ upper floor fronting Mills Lane in circa 1997. At an unknown date prior to 2003 a decorative balustrade was added at first floor level overlooking Queen Street. The property changed hands in 2009 and is now known as the Ranchhod Chambers.
Gilfillan’s Store is located in the northwest section of the Queen Street gully, in the heart of Auckland’s Central Business District (CBD). Queen Street is Auckland’s main commercial thoroughfare, from which several small lanes of early colonial origin extend, and is notable for reflecting Auckland’s development as New Zealand’s main financial and commercial area. The street has a comparatively large number of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century buildings, a number of which were constructed in the boom years of the late 1890s and the first three decades of the twentieth century. Gilfillan’s Store is of special significance as one of only two known surviving Queen Street commercial warehouse and store premises dating from 1865 or earlier.
The externally well preserved former Gilfillan’s Store located on the west side of Lower Queen Street occupies an 1840s site two city bocks from the current waterfront. Its position marks the location of Auckland’s shoreline and early colonial waterfront prior to major reclamations from the 1850s onwards. The three-storey surviving mid-Victorian-era commercial structure is a notable focal point at the end of Fort Street, a planned shared space designed to reflect the cultural and geographical history of Auckland’s original shoreline area. Surviving nineteenth-century buildings along the north side of Fort Street include the Imperial Hotel (Former) (record no. 4593, Category II historic place); the former Scherff’s Building; and the former Isaac’s Bonded Stores.
In nearby Customs Street is the Former Custom House (record no. 104, Category I historic place) dating from 1888-9, and the Customs Street Historic Area (record no. 7160) containing a number of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century commercial warehouses of ornate Italianate architectural style.
Buildings of recognised historical and cultural value in the vicinity of the former Gilfillan’s Store on the west side of Queen Street are the early twentieth-century Smeetons Building (Former) (record no. 4583, Category II historic place); the Dingwall Building (record no. 4584, Category II historic place); and the New Zealand Guardian Trust Building (record no. 623, Category I historic place). Further south is the nineteenth-century Bank of New Zealand (record no. 95, Category I historic place) opposite which is a group of four nineteenth-century structures which include Blackett’s Building (record no. 4483, Category I), and Craig’s Building (Former) (record no. 4484, Category II).
The three-storey former Gilfillan’s Store is a feature of special visual significance in the Lower Queen Street streetscape due to its simple mid-nineteenth-century form and comparatively small scale. The building is a notable contrast with multi-storey twentieth-century office blocks in the immediate vicinity. Combined with the adjoining narrow thoroughfares Exchange and Mills Lanes, the place represents the earliest surviving stage of Auckland’s commercial development and a remnant of the nineteenth-century landscape and layout of the central business district.
This pattern of smaller older buildings and larger newer buildings is a feature of the wider Queen Street landscape and provides a record of a century and a half of commercial development and Queen Street’s growth as Auckland’s foremost commercial thoroughfare.
Giflillan’s Store occupies a narrow site on the north side of Exchange Lane. The service lane and pedestrian precinct approximately three metres in width extends the length of the site and accommodates seating and umbrellas associated with a café located on the building’s ground floor. Several doorways open south along the lane. Although effectively part of the city’s infrastructure since the 1840s (but formally since 1951), the lane has a fourteen-decade day to day association with the building.
At the west end of Exchange Lane an early 1970s spiral staircase rises to Mills Lane connecting with Albert Street. The staircase of radiating concrete slabs and a metal railing stands in front of a blind wall that extends the width of the lane. The lower section of the wall is brick and indicates the location of a former men’s public toilet (1914-71) within a cavity excavated into the bank below Mills Lane. A short length of roof is visible above a row of square ventilation holes. The upper section of the wall dates from the nineteenth century and is constructed of roughly dressed stone blocks.
The three frontages and the contrasting levels of Queen Street and Mills Lane contribute to an appreciation of the Gilfillan’s Store as a three-dimensional structure. The south wall of Gilfillan’s Store defines a narrow view shaft from Mills Lane across to part of Fort Street.
Gilfillan’s Store occupies a narrow rectangular site of 261 square metres. The site is entirely covered by the current brick building. The structure is three storeys high with a half basement section in the front and may incorporate parts of an earlier building constructed prior to 1865, although no signs of this are visible on the exterior.
The Queen Street and Exchange Lane elevations are finished with cement plaster. The single-storey rear (second floor) elevation facing Mills Lane is unpainted brick laid in garden bond.
The Queen Street façade is relatively plain and reflects a simple mid-Victorian Italianate architectural style commonly adopted for commercial buildings in Auckland in the 1860s. The two upper storeys are divided into three bays. The flanking bays are set back slightly from the central bay, a variation not reflected in the building’s parapet and heavy cornice.
The shop front to Queen Street is sheltered by a suspended verandah and is entirely modern. To facilitate the natural flow of pedestrians into Exchange Lane, the southeast corner of the ground floor has been cut away to leave a pier, a feature of the building since 1937. The second storey, which is separated from the upper storey by a heavy string course, has three window openings with segmental heads. A metal lace balustrade above the verandah is a comparatively recent addition. The window joinery in the three, flat-headed window openings of the third storey appears to have been replaced.
The Exchange Lane elevation consists of a continuous plastered façade with many window openings on the upper floors. There are several large window openings on the ground floor. The easternmost doorway opens into a small entrance lobby and stairway, the only staircase serving the upper levels of the building.
The Mills Lane (rear) elevation abuts the narrow footpath which has basalt kerb stones. The brick wall has a double-width entrance protected by metal gates, and has no windows.
The early twentieth-century portion of the building has a pentice roof that slopes back towards the east. The main roof is a single ridge terminating in a hip at the east end and a gable at the west end and is of corrugated metal.
The interior of the building was not fully inspected. The areas accessed had modern linings, ceilings and finishes. The extent to which the current internal linings may mask older materials is unknown.
The half basement has a concrete slab floor and consists of two approximately equal sized areas on either side of the stairway. The basement is currently used for storage and was not viewed.
The front portion of the ground floor is in retail use and has a modern ceiling and wall linings. A café occupies the two rear portions of the ground floor.
The lobby of the main entrance off Exchange Lane is finished with modern tiles. The lobby floor, and the stairs which may be of timber construction, are also of modern appearance. Timber joinery including skirting boards and architraves do not survive. Doors onto the stairwell are of modern design consistent with fire requirements. The basement stairs were not viewed.
The two upper floors which formerly accommodated a number of small offices in the early twentieth-century have been converted into larger open plan tenancies. The open layout may be more akin to the building’s original function as a nineteenth century trading warehouse. Parts of the first and second floors were reinstated after fires on two occasions (1928 and 1984). A number of roof trusses were refurbished or replaced in 1984.
The second-floor rear tenancy (not viewed) has access from Mills Lane and Exchange Lane and is currently a bar venue divided into two main areas. The western section of the bar has open rafters with collar supports, timber flooring and brick walls perhaps with a plaster finish.
The building is a relatively unusual remnant of the type of intensive small-scale development on narrow sites that once characterised Auckland’s colonial commercial centre. Gilfillan’s Store is believed to be one of comparatively few surviving store buildings dating from the 1860s located on or near the original foreshore in the lower Queen and Fort Street area. Other examples include surviving elements of Somerset House / Graham’s Buildings (1861-2) now encased within the former Imperial Hotel erected in 1883 (record no. 4593, Category II historic place), remnants that are no longer visually evident. Isaac’s Bonded Stores (Former) erected in the 1860s or 1870s may date from 1863. Gilfillan’s Store is one of the earliest examples to retain its discrete visual identity within the streetscape and is clearly recognisable as an early commercial building.
Other known 1860s store buildings in the commercial centre of New Zealand’s largest city include the circa 1861 Bluestone Store at 9-11 Durham Lane (record number 2647, Category I), a two storey stone structure initially occupied by agricultural merchants and auctioneers; and the former Graham’s Building (1862), a three-storey brick structure at 104-106 Queen Street (not registered).
The former Gilfillan’s Store is currently the earliest known surviving work of the noted early Auckland architect Richard Keals. Comparatively few designs by Richard Keals or the firm of Richard Keals and Sons have so far been recognised through registration. They include Blackett’s Building (1878-9; record no. 4483, Category I), Craig’s Building (1882; record no. 4484, Category II), modifications to the Queen’s Ferry Hotel (1871 additions; record no. 630, Category I), and to the Fitzroy Hotel (1874 modifications; record no 7582, Category I). Another known surviving early Auckland building that was designed by Keals is the Masonic Hotel, constructed in 1866 at Devonport.
1865 Demolition: Timber building
Three-storey store on existing foundation, possibly incorporating part of an earlier structure
Demolition: Structure at back of site
Repair external fire damage north wall and roof
Rear (three storey, brick)
1908 - 1909
Verandah Queen Street
Construction: Men’s public toilet at end of Exchange Lane
Rear (three storey, brick)
Repair fire damage to third floor
Corner of brick wall removed (ground floor)
Creation of corner entrance Queen Street
Building remodelled; stairway from shop to basement
Repair fire damage level two; upgrade exterior
Construction: Two-storey timber store and warehouse premises
Construction: Brick building or addition at rear (circa 1854-9)
Scoria foundation (part); concrete floor slab; timber floors; brick walls; timber rafters and collars; corrugated metal roof.
9th June 2011
Report Written By
Archives New Zealand (Auck)
Archives New Zealand (Auckland)
‘Map D13 - 10 January 1919’, ACC 014, D13
G .W. A. Bush, 'Decently and In Order: The Government of the City of Auckland 1840-1971', Auckland, 1971
1 October 1891, p.114
Cleave's Auckland Provincial Directory
Cleave's Auckland Provincial Directory, Auckland
1899, 1901, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1907, 1909, 1919
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1902
Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol.2, Christchurch, 1902
Daily Southern Cross
Daily Southern Cross
13 May 1862, p.3; 25 June 1862, p.2; 14 June 1865, p.5; 19 February 1866, p.6; 3 March 1866, p.6; 13 November 1867, p.2; 3 September 1868, p.1; 19 February 1869, p.1; 2 April 1869, p.4; 12 May 1869; 31 July 1869, p.1; 17 September 1869, p.5; 1 April 1870, p.5; 12 February 1872, p.3; 22 April 1875, p.3; 13 May 1876, p.2
6 February 1928, pp.8 and 11
Grey River Argus
Grey River Argus
6 June 1916, p.2
Wises Post Office Directories
Wises Post Office Directories
1928, 1930, 1931
Home and Building
Home and Building
July 1971, p.42
Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)
Land Information New Zealand
Deeds Index DI 1A.121; DI 2A.1160; Crown Grant 1G.235; Records 2D/131; 2D/449; 17D/635; 25D/772; 20M/570; 20M/749; R54/591; R54/593; R124/417; R296/495; R397/178; Plans: SO 36047; SO 48554; Certificate of Title NA751/49, North Auckland Land District
Leighton's Auckland Provincial Directory
Leighton's Auckland Provincial Directory
September 1989, pp.38-9
New Zealand Herald
New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.
30 April 1894, (Supplement, p.1); 9 October 1917, p.6; 21 February 1948, p.10; 7 October 1994, Sec. 1, p.9; 1 August 2009, p.F1
Howard Robinson, A History of the Post Office in New Zealand, RE Owen, Government Printer, Wellington, 1964
David Simmons, Maori Auckland, including Maori Place Names of Auckland. Collected by George Graham, Auckland, 1987
R. C. J. Stone, Makers of Fortune: A Colonial Business Community and its Fall, Auckland, 1973
R. C. J. Stone, Young Logan Campbell, Auckland, 1982
Auckland City Council
Auckland City Council
Auckland City Council Valuation List North Ward: ACC 210, Box 1, Item 3 (1877); Box 3, Item 10 (1878); Box 5, Item 16 (1879); Box 7, Item 22 (1880); Box 9, Item 14 (1881); Box 11, Item 34 (1882); Box 14, Item 44 (1883). Auckland City Council, Works Department Files: ‘Convenience Exchange Lane’ (1913-65), ACC 219, Box 284, Item 284a; ‘Exchange Lane’ (1913-89), ACC 219, Box 283, Item 283j.
Auckland City Council
Auckland City Council
Auckland City Valuation Field Record Sheets, Queen Street 1912-1974, Series ACC 213, Item 131a. 95 Queen Street, Seismic Reports 1 November 1981-24 February 1982, ACC 024, Box 2, Item 2u
Auckland City Council
Auckland City Council
Auckland City Council, Auckland City Environments
Bee Dawson, A History of Gardening in New Zealand, Auckland, 2010
Tubbs, H.J., ‘Manufactured Stationery’, pp.159-65 in McKay, R.A. (ed), A History of Printing in New Zealand 1830-1940, Wellington, 1940
Auckland City Libraries
New Zealand Militia, Volunteers and Armed Constabulary 1863-1871
4-501 (1852); 1012-46 (1859); 4-413, [c.1865-9]; 4-59, (c.1871); 1-W966 (1881); 7-A15332, (n.d.); Old NZ Print 23 (c.1903); 7-A5513 (1909); 1-W1636 (1918); 1-W409, (1920); 4-1696 (1927), Sir George Grey Special Collections
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Northern Region office
This building is subject to a Heritage Order (Auckland Council Heritage Order, 5 April 2011).
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.