Mount Cook Police Station (Former)

13 Buckle Street and Tasman Street, Mt Cook, WELLINGTON

Quick links:

The Mount Cook Police Station (Former), constructed in 1894 is one of New Zealand's most historic police buildings. The plan to construct a police station on Mount Cook originated as early as 1887. In the latter half of the nineteenth century Te Aro (over which Mount Cook looks) was Wellington City's fastest growing suburb. Many of its inhabitants were recent immigrants. With the increased population (and often overcrowding) came an increase in crime and the need for more police. The Mount Cook Police Station was designed by a Mr Weyburne. Unlike most public buildings, which were built by the Public Works Department, the Prison Department undertook the construction of the new police station. The latter supplied the prison labour from the nearby Mount Cook and Terrace Gaols. In addition the Mount Cook Gaol (located on the hill above the new police station) supplied the bricks to build the building. The arrow marks that commonly adorned prison bricks can still be seen in the outside walls of the building and associated boundary wall on Tasman Street today (Tasman Street Wall, Category II historic place #7758). The building was handed over to the Police Department in December 1893, and officially opened on 10 April 1894. The station was essentially a two-storey rectangular building built of polychrome glazed brick. A particular feature of the design was the black and white glazed brick banding above and between the heads of the arched windows and main entrance door. Inside the lower floor contained the public office, the office of the sergeant in charge, men's dining room, library, kitchen and scullery. On the second floor were bathroom facilities and four bedrooms. Outside was a bricked yard with two cells. At the time of opening five constables and one sergeant were based at the station, and was the largest station next to the main city station. In 1898 a Royal Commission into allegations of police corruption and inadequate service recommended that a central depot be established in Wellington to train new police recruits. Reluctant to spend any money building a new facility, the government decided to make use of the new Mount Cook Station and the first recruits were received in December 1898. In 1905 another Royal Commission into the police force found that the conditions at Mount Cook for recruits and duty men were far from ideal. A new purpose built training facility was constructed in Newtown and Mount Cook police station was last used to train new recruits in 1910. In 1903 a single storey detached addition was added to increase accommodation. In 1912 a larger two-storey extension was built requiring the removal of the original stable, part of the brick wall and back porch. This new addition included a billiard room on the ground floor and more sleeping accommodation above. There may also have been a structure built to house a motorcar. During the 1930s the site occupied by the Mount Cook Police Station was earmarked as part of the development of the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum (Category I historic place, #1409) which was being constructed on the old Mount Cook prison site. In 1936 an agreement was reached whereby the land was transferred to the Board and Trustees of the Museum on the condition that the Police Department could vacate the building at its discretion when a replacement had been constructed elsewhere. Unfortunately for the Museum the alternative site offered to the Police proved unsuitable and the station remained in use for another twenty years. In May 1956 the occupants of the Mount Cook Police Station were relocated to a new barracks in Vivian Street. In the following month the decision was made to close the Mount Cook Station and the personnel were shifted to the Taranaki Street Station. The Mount Cook Police Station closed at 5pm on Monday 9 July 1956. The Police Department retained the building as its clothing store although it was soon used for other stores as well. In 1959 the first floor bathroom was removed in order to make more storage and a year later an electric hoist was installed. In 1967 the Police Department moved out and the building was handed over to the now National Museum and Art Gallery. In 1978 the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, in recognition of the historic importance of the building and with the consent of the Museum, undertook a 'restoration' of the building. During this work the 1912 extension was demolished. During the 1980s the Ministry of Works undertook earthquake strengthening of the building and removed some of the internal walls on the second storey. The Museum remained in the building until Te Papa opened in 1998. The building was then transferred to the Wellington Tenths Trust as part of the main Museum land. The area containing the police station was then subdivided from the main part of this site and sold to Bernard and Milvia Hannah, who remain the owners today. The building is currently used as office space by a number of small businesses. The cellblocks and other outside structures are mainly unused. The Mount Cook Police Station has outstanding historical value as one of New Zealand's most important police buildings. It is one of New Zealand's oldest purpose built police stations and for a period of twelve years, 1898-1910, it was the national police training facility as well as a working station. It has technical value in that it is one of the few buildings remaining for which it is possible to see prison bricks in situ. It has considerable aesthetic value, with its decorative polychromatic brickwork. The Mount Cook Police Station also occupies a key corner on Buckle Street (State Highway One) and as one of Wellington's most distinctive buildings it is an important city landmark.

Mount Cook Police Station (Former) | Helen McCracken | 01/07/2008 | Heritage New Zealand
Mount Cook Police Station (Former). Station yard | Helen McCracken | 01/06/2008 | Heritage New Zealand
Mount Cook Police Station Former). Station yard, view of original cell (far left) and 1903 cell block | Helen McCracken | 01/06/2008 | Heritage New Zealand



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 1


Private/No Public Access

List Number


Date Entered

9th September 1989

Date of Effect

9th September 1989

City/District Council

Wellington City


Wellington Region

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 87064, Wellington Land District and the buildings and structures known as Mount Cook Police Station (Former), and its fittings and fixtures. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the Information Upgrade Report for further information).

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 87064 (RT WN54D/135), Wellington Land District

Stay up to date with Heritage this month