Historical Significance or Value
The Butter Factory (Former) has historical significance as it illustrates the changes in the dairy industry and changes to manufacturing of furniture due to the completion of the railway to Auckland. The Butter Factory (Former) was constructed to be multi-purpose with a butter factory on the ground floor and manufacture and retail on the other floors. The building was built at the cusp of changes in the organisational structure of the dairy industry in New Zealand. The success of entrepreneurs in establishing dairy factories encouraged the establishment of cooperatively owned factories. The Butter Factory (Former) only existed as a butter factory for two years when the model of ownership changed and butter in Whangarei was produced by a co-operative. The building was also used for furniture manufacture but this ceased soon after the Auckland to Whangarei railway was completed.
Aesthetic Significance or Value
The building and 1936 addition has local aesthetic values. When viewed from Bank Street it is neoclassical in form and adds to the streetscape of Bank Street that includes other heritage buildings such as the Town Hall (Former) and the Public Trust Office (Former). The Butter Factory (Former) when viewed from Butter Factory Lane is integrated into the landscape as it has used the basalt stone quarried from the site. Local basalt is not normally used as a building material in Whangarei and this gives the building a sense of place and a direct link to its surrounding environment.
Architectural Significance or Value
The building has local architectural significance. The multifunctional building is one of few in the Whangarei area that incorporate local stone as a building material. The stone was quarried directly from the building site and is used for the bottom two storeys. Most buildings in Northland had been built of timber. The Butter Factory (Former) building also incorporates kauri as a building material. This includes a massive kauri lintel 12 metres in length and 70 centimetres thick with the tool marks still visible. The building, neoclassical in form, was built from local materials available on site. The builder and designer were also Whangarei residents.
Social Significance or Value
The building has played its part in the social life of Whangarei with the tearooms, night club, wine bar and youth theatre all contributing. The extension to the building in 1936 that included tearooms were used for public events especially those associated with gathering of women. Because of its construction with large open spaces it makes it ideal for social gatherings of large groups of people.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The building has considerable significance for reflecting the importance of the dairy industry to Northland. The Butter Factory (Former) clearly demonstrates the changes in the organisational structure of the dairy industry in New Zealand. The success of entrepreneurs in establishing dairy factories encouraged the establishment of cooperatively owned factories. The building uses have adapted and changed over time in response to changing economic and social drivers in Whangarei.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The first owner of the building, James Harrison, and the builder Richard Keyte were both important figures in the early development of the town of Whangarei. Harrison was a prominent businessman and entrepreneur in Whangarei who was involved in differing enterprises including butter making, furniture manufacturing and retail. Richard Keyte was the first undertaker and as well as building many early Whangarei residences and he was also the builder of the Whangarei hospital in 1901.
(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places
Early dairy factories are significant for the important role they played in the economic development of New Zealand in the beginning of the twentieth century. The Butter Factory (Former) is a rare example of a privately owned butter factory from the beginning of the twentieth century. There is only one other national example of a private butter factory listed with Heritage New Zealand, the North Kaipara Dairy Company (461). The Butter Factory (Former) is locally rare being constructed of stone.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural area
Bank Street includes prominent buildings associated with commerce and trade including the Public Trust Office (Former) (List Entry No. 479) and the Town Hall (Former). This area of Bank Street is the former financial and banking centre of Whangarei. The Butter Factory (Former) contributes to the streetscape and collection of heritage buildings because its architecture and its various functions as a building.
Summary of Significance or Values
The Butter factory (Former) is a building that was built to function as a butter factory and furniture manufacturing business. It is a rare representative example of a private butter factory as the economic model changed to co-operative factories at the end of the nineteenth century. The first owner of the building, James Harrison, and the builder Richard Keyte were both important figures in the early development of the town of Whangarei. The building has contributed to the social life of Whangarei as it has at various times contained a tearooms, nightclub, wine bar and theatre rehearsal space. The building is rare locally as it is built of stone and the main street frontage is neoclassical that contributes to Whangarei’s aesthetic and streetscape values.
Early history of the site
The site of the future butter factory lies at the base of basalt ridge above Whangarei Harbour, an area long occupied by Maori. Lava from the Hurupaki eruption formed an elevated ridge conducive to human settlement above the harbour and low lying swampy land. The coastal areas of the Whangarei Harbour were long occupied by Maori, evidenced by a range of features including pits, terraces, shell middens, cultivation sites, burials and pa.
The site of the future butter factory lies within an area of significance to Maori being a pa, and a place to haul up waka. Directly opposite were two named sites. The first of which, Pihio Pa, occupied a steep-sided, long ridge above the harbour affording defence and the option to disappear if necessary into the hinterland. Approximately 100 metres to the north was He Unga Waka, where waka could land enabling the occupants to climb up to the pa.
The current Town Basin area and inland to Kamo, Ketenikau and Parihaki, was the territory of the Ngati Kahu People. Tipene had his village at Pihoi on the high land above the present Town Basin and extending along the north side of the harbour. In colonial times the wider location was the site of meetings between rangatira and missionaries and the place where the first chapel was built in the Whangarei area. In 1839, the missionary printer William Colenso and the then British Resident at the Bay of Islands, James Busby, visited the Whangarei area on the vessel Black Joke. On 8 December 1839, Colenso went up the harbour in the ships boat and stayed with Tipene at his pa at Pihoi. Colenso paid five visits to Whangarei and in April 1840, a timber chapel was built by Maori that Colenso identifies as Abraham, Steven and the chiefs.
The Bank Street site
William Carruth, a Scots settler, purchased just over 390 hectares from Ngati Kahu in 1839, encompassing much of the future commercial area of Whangarei. Pihoi Pa and He Unga Waka were extensively modified by the development of the colonial town and from the mid nineteenth century the swampy scrub land between the basalt ridge and harbour was gradually cleared, drained and filled. European settlers named what is currently Bank Street ‘Scoria Hill’ because of the volcanic nature of the ridge.
Carruth sold a portion of the holding to John George Petingale and Edward Dent and family in 1846. By 1850, there were four European settler families with homes on the west bank of the Hatea River: the Petingales, Dents, Mairs and Holmans . In 1855, Edward Dent bought land from Pertingale and established a store at the intersection of present day Cameron and Bank Streets. A road ran up Scoria Hill to what is now Bank Street.
General storekeeper James Harrison, who went on to become a significant businessman and entrepreneur in the Whangarei district, bought the property in 1879. Born in Durham, England, Harrison had migrated to New Zealand in 1872, initially settling in Coromandel, and then moving with his wife Hannah to Whangarei in circa 1875. The couple’s sons had joined the business by 1898, and possibly as early as 1886.
Harrison’s business ventures also extended to brickmaking, flax milling, a blood and bone works, and a dairy factory in production at Kauri, north of Whangarei. Harrison brought a number of hand-operated cream separators from Britain which he gave to local suppliers. In return, they provided cream for butter manufacture, a notably different system from the communal cream skimming stations that traditionally supplied butter factories.
This was a period of rapidly increasing butter manufacture; there were four local dairy factories in production in Whangarei by November 1905, with Harrison and Sons shipping just over eight tons in October. Dairy produce was to remain one of New Zealand’s three major exports during the first half of the twentieth century.
Construction of the Butter Factory (1905)
In 1905, Harrison commissioned construction of a new building. The design intended to provide for retail and manufacturing activities incorporating a butter factory on the bottom storey.
Attributes commending the Bank Street site included the availability of good quality basalt building stone. The basalt was a durable, fireproof and thermally stable construction material that was able to keep the building cool during the summer - vital for butter production. A ready supply of clean artesian water was available from a spring on the property, and a nearby stream enabled transportation of the finished product by punt to the Hatea River for loading from the harbour onto refrigerated vessels destined for Auckland. The location was also comparatively close to road junctions from the rural hinterland; and to the Bank Street railway station providing for local freight, although the line was not completed to Auckland until 1925.
Construction of the butter factory was the work of local Whangarei building contractor Richard Keyte, who may also have been the designer. He used the natural materials that were available, the basalt that was laid in regular courses and the beams and columns constructed of Northland kauri. The use of basalt was uncommon in Whangarei but the construction of the building was influenced by the natural supply of stone at the building site.
The building had two street frontages, Bank Street and the rear onto Butter Factory Lane. The bottom storey functioned as a butter factory while the rest of the building was used as a furniture factory and retail showroom.
The Bank Street façade, designed with an eye for street appeal for retailing, was muted neoclassical in appearance with decorative details, columns and classical forms. The Bank Street entrance functioned as a showroom for furniture that was manufactured in the building.
The rear of the building was Italianate in style with simple windows and the two top storeys brick cement rendered to a smooth finish. There was a contrast in design between the front of the building for retail and the rear of the building (Butter Factory Lane) for manufacture.
Subsequent use and modifications (1906 - 2014)
The butter factory premises was the venue of at least one gathering of the temperance organisation, Band of Hope, notice being given of a in April 1906 meeting to be held in Harrison and Sons‘ new building. In early January of 1906, James Harrison and Sons were making arrangements for pulping fruit, installing the necessary plant into ‘the Mananui Building in Bank Street’. Only days later there were complaints of an unpleasant odour at the foot of Dent Street , caused by the liquid from Messrs Harrison and Sons’ butter factory.
Following completion of the Bank Street factory equipped with the most up to date appliances, Harrison closed his Kauri Dairy Factory and made his butter in Whangarei. The brand name of the butter was Mana and hence the name Mananui Building. Mana operated as a brand from 1902 to 1907. Barely a year after the completion of the new butter factory, the Mana butter brand went out of existence. Encouraged by the success of dairy factories established by entrepreneurs, forty per cent of the colony’s 150 dairy factories were farmer owned and directed cooperatives by 1890. A decade later cooperatives outnumbered individually owned factories.
In 1907, four factories were operating in or around Whangarei. The Whangarei Co-Op Dairy Company was established in 1907 and it brought the manufacturing plant from Harrison’s factory. By 1907, the bottom storey of the building was no longer being used as a butter factory and butter production in Whangarei was now consolidated in the Whangarei Co-Op Dairy Company. The model for dairy manufacturing had changed from that of an individual owner to the cooperative system.
Butter production ceased in the building because of these changes to the social and economic model.
The building was then exclusively used by Harrison for the manufacture and sale of furniture. The bottom storey that had been used as the butter factory was now used as the loading bay of timber for the factory.
The furniture manufactured by J. Harrison and Sons was in the showroom upstairs and manufactured by the firms’ workmen from kauri, rimu, oak and other New Zealand and imported timbers. The company advertised that they had a fine array of furniture in all the latest designs and varieties. They also stressed the special care that they took in selecting their timber which came from a mill of good standing.
Closure of furniture factory and extension to building
In the 1920s, the furniture factory closed. This may have been because of the death of James Harrison in 1928, or because of increased competition as the railway line to Auckland (completed in 1925) meant that goods from the larger centre could be easily transported. After the closing of the furniture factory the building was used as a drapery and clothing store and belonged to the Harrison Brothers. In 1936, an extension was made to the north of the former butter factory to accommodate a tearooms and bakery. The ovens were located in the basement of the new extension and a dumb waiter delivered the baked goods to the tearooms. The new extension was built of brick, cement rendered outside, hard finish plaster internally, rimu floors and beams and external steel windows. The Balmoral tearooms were an important venue for social gatherings in Whangarei. The tearooms were used for public events especially those associated with gatherings of women. In 1936, there were at least three recorded social events. The mayoress and Whangarei women’s organisations entertained Mrs R. Semple who was visiting Whangarei with her husband Robert Semple, Minister of Public Works and Transport. The Public Works Department used the tearooms twice in 1936 when the wives of staff farewelled Mrs Hills and Mrs Shankland who departed the district when their husbands were transferred.
As the building was now functioning as a drapery and clothing store, the addition of tearooms meant that the shopping experience was augmented with a cup of tea and a scone. This combination of shopping and tearooms was popular and examples of this are the Farmers Department Store (Former) and the George Courts Store (Former) in Auckland.
The building was bought by the Furnishing and Furniture Company, Fabers, in 1941 ending a 36 year association with the Harrison family. A former owner Peter Faber found the building not particularly well-suited to furniture retail because of the multiple levels with furniture having to be moved around between the floors, but commented that, ‘it kept me fit, it is probably why I have lasted so well’.
In 1960, the building became the venue of the first night club to open in Whangarei, an establishment known as the Casa Fontana. Strengthening of the roof and remodelling of the Bank Street shop fronts were undertaken in 1968 to give the building a more modern appearance, work that resulted in the removal of all the lead light glass from the front of the building.
When Fabers sold in 1990, the premises became a carpet warehouse. Extensive renovations under new owners brought the building up to earthquake code. A wine bar currently (2014) operates in the space formerly occupied by the butter factory and the top storey is used as by the Whangarei Youth theatre for a rehearsal space. The former Balmoral tearoom is currently a café.
The building is located at 84-88 Bank Street, Whangarei. The proposed List entry includes the 1905 building located at 84-86 Bank Street and the 1936 extension at 88 Bank Street. The buildings were built adjacent to each other are now interconnected as recently the party wall at the second storey has been removed. The buildings when viewed from Bank Street have similar form, shape and repeated neoclassical features.
The Butter Factory (Former) and the 1936 tearooms addition stand on the east side of Bank Street within the block bounded by Cameron and Hunt Streets within the former banking and financial area of Whangarei. This area was the centre of commerce but the retail and Central Business District gradually expanded eastward to the flatter land. A number of buildings date from the first half of the twentieth century. Clustered within the centre of the block are the Butter Factory (Former), opposite the Edwardian Baroque Town Hall (Former) built in 1912; and the Public Trust Office (Former), a neoclassical design (c. 1924) (List Entry 479, Category 2 Historic Place). The neoclassical former AMP building (c. 1924) occupies a site at the northwest corner of the Hunt Street intersection. The Butter Factory (Former) is part of this twentieth century collection of neoclassical and Baroque buildings and contributes to the urban landscape of the former banking and financial area of Whangarei.
The site consists of two lots and has two frontages divided by a steep drop. The Butter Factory (Former) and addition abuts Bank Street and extends back a little over half the length of the site. The L- shaped lot occupied by the addition provides frontage to Butter Factory Lane. To the rear of the former butter factory is a landscaped courtyard. A parking area occupies the area behind the 1936 addition.
The Butter Factory (Former) is a rectangular four-storey building constructed of local basalt stone and red brick. The 1936 extension is a three storey building built of brick. The building has two entrances: one from Bank Street (west) and the other from Butter Factory Lane (east). The northern and southern walls are party walls.
As viewed from Bank Street, the 1905 structure presents as a two-storey building and the 1936 extension as a one storey building. Only storeys three and four are visible from the street and are of more modern appearance than the Butter Factory Lane (rear) elevation. The smooth cement render of the simple neoclassical designed exterior has been painted.
At the Bank Street level, the building has been modified with modern aluminium joinery and doors. A stairwell entrance at the southern end of the elevation provides access to the wine bar on the ground floor. Due to this modification, little remains of the original finish. The 1936 extension presently functions as a café and has large glass doors and windows at street level.
Above the Bank Street verandah on the 1905 building is a decorative masonry cornice. The four evenly-spaced sash windows are two-light sashes as in the Butter Factory Lane elevation. The top storey has a decorative cornice and a centrally-located stepped gabled styled parapet flanked by three evenly-spaced rectangular rendered columns. On the top of the tympanum is a decorative feature depicting a rope circle with a simple knot with two exposed ends. These simple decorative neoclassical features are echoed in the 1936 extension.
Viewed from Butter Factory Lane, the full extent of the buildings are revealed. The rear elevation of the 1905 building shows the exposed roughly hewn basalt stone with cement pointing used to construct the ground storey and second storey. The third and fourth storeys have been constructed in red brick which has been rendered in a smooth cement plaster concealing the brickwork and adding to the appearance of the building.
Towards the south end of the rear elevation of the 1905 building are a series of doors one at each level, the only surviving evidence of the fire escape which used a hydraulic powered lift that was removed in 1952.
The windows of the 1905 building are set within gently arched openings with sills finished in cement render. The window surrounds and reveals lack any particular detailing; their simple form and function are part of the charm of the building. The windows are double pane sashes with plain glazing bars on each storey. Those on the second storey have plain glass border lights in the top pane. The windows on the third and fourth storey are two-light sashes.
The ground storey of the 1905 building has been modified to accommodate large bi-folding wooden doors for the wine bar on either side of which are a large opening behind timber shutters - a modification with no glass. The lintels and window surrounds have been completed in brick, which contrasts with the original stone core construction of the building.
To the north of the 1905 building is the three-storey 1936 rendered brick extension built for the tearooms and bakery. The windows are steel framed and noticeably larger than those in the 1905 building. The addition is built of brick that has been cement rendered to a smooth finish. The extension is clearly delineated when viewed from the east.
Internally, the 1905 building has kauri timber column beams and large open spaces. A massive kauri lintel (12 metres long and 70 centimetres thick) on the west side of the building supports the upper storey. Axe marks are visible where the log was squared. The exposed fracture and extraction faces of the quarry surface where the basalt was extracted for the building are visible on the second floor.
The ground floor is concrete and slopes towards the entrance, a surviving feature associated with wet floors used in the butter factory operation. The large and uncluttered internal spaces illustrate previous use of the premises as a factory and retail showroom. There are marks on the concrete surface of the ground floor that indicate where machinery was placed.
The 1936 addition has the redundant bread ovens on the ground floor from when it functioned as a bakery. The former tearooms on the third floor now functions as a café.
The builder and probable designer of the building was Richard Keyte (d.1921) who, with his brother John, came to Whangarei in 1865 on the Rob Roy. The brothers came from Worcester, England where their father, William Keyte, was a carpenter. Richard Keyte settled in Whangarei and initially lived at the corner of Cameron and John Streets. Before coming to New Zealand he married Ann Stait, daughter of Edward Stait, a shepherd. Richard originally worked as a carpenter, building many early Whangarei residences and the first hospital as well as serving as the town’s first undertaker. Keyte built a house in Dent Street about 1880 and had workshops in Vinery Lane and also Dent’s Paddock, now Apirana Avenue. In the early 1890s he purchased land in Aubrey Street and built a new house. The barn behind the house may have been shifted from the Apirana Avenue site, and for many years was used as a workshop for the undertaking business.
Something of an inventor, Keyte’s creations included an automatic fire alarm for ships and houses, and an automatic fire escape which he sold to a Wellington syndicate.
Ceased to function as a butter factory
Fire damage, ground floor
Addition to north side of the building for tearooms and bakery
Removal of hydraulic powered fire escape
Strengthening of roof trusses and remodelling of Bank Street shop fronts
Basalt masonry and brick exterior walls; kauri and rimu beams, columns and lintels; with a galvanised iron roof.
3rd February 2015
Report Written By
Nancy Pickmere, Whangarei: The Founding Years, Whangarei, 1986
G McLauchlan, The Northland Co-Operative Dairy Industry - A history, 1996 Auckland.
A fully referenced New Zealand Heritage List report is available on request from the Northland Office of Heritage New Zealand.
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero 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.