Proud Places
February 29, 2024 | Stories

This is a story from our monthly newsletter, Heritage this Month.

Kerryn Pollock 

It’s the Pride time of the year, when queer communities and their allies throughout the country celebrate life on the rainbow spectrum. 

Pride festivals are public events that proclaim queer communities as out and proud. To mark Pride season, let’s take a wee tour through some of the public places on the New Zealand Heritage List Rārangi Kōrero that have a proud history.

In the 1970s, Auckland’s Shakespeare Hotel (1898) was the city’s queer watering hole. The back bar had long had a ‘gay clientele’ but after six o’clock closing ended in 1967, increasing revenue allowed for renovation and the two upstairs rooms became ‘the gay ones’, attracting ‘gays, trendies, and social butterflies.’  

The traditional Pride flag at St Peter’s Church, Wellington, 2021

Queen Victoria statues seem unlikely candidates for this tour but they have a history of cultural co-option by queer people. Auckland’s Queen Victoria in Albert Park (1899) was the site of the country’s first gay liberation movement public event in 1972, when queer activists lead by Ngāhuia Te Awekotuku and Nigel Baumber held ‘Gay Day’ at the statue. In 1977, lesbians gathered at the Wellington statue to promote lesbian visibility on International Women’s Day. 

Public toilets are important places in queer history. An underground public toilet was added to Dunedin’s Cargill Monument (1864) in 1910 but was subsequently locked at night to deter men from using it as a cruising site. Wellington’s ‘Taj Mahal’ public toilets (1928-29), now the Welsh Dragon Bar, was popular for similar reasons until it closed in 1966. In Auckland, the busy Ferry Building (1909-12), a portal between the city and the sea, was a site of intimacy and business for gay men and sex workers.  

For those more concerned with matters of the spirit, certain churches have historically welcomed queer people: St Matthews-in-the-City, St Luke’s (Anglican), St Luke’s (Presbyterian) in Auckland, St Andrews on the Terrace and St Peter’s in Wellington, and Glenaven in Dunedin. 

In 1920, the then-mayor of Whanganui, Charles Mackay, had his name removed from the Sarjeant Gallery (1919) foundation stone after he was publicly exposed as homosexual. Queer activists lobbied the council during the homosexual law reform period, and his name was reinstated in 1985. Artist Ann Shelton gilded Mackay’s name as part of her 2012 exhibition The City of Gold and Lead, and when the Whanganui institution re-opens at the end of this year following seismic strengthening, the foundation stone and Mackay’s name will be proudly visible. 

We identified that queer histories and communities were not well represented on Rārangi Kōrero and that this needed to change. In response we launched the Rainbow List Project in 2021, which aims to improve the diversity of Rārangi Kōrero through the inclusion of places of significance to Aotearoa New Zealand’s LGBTTFQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, takatāpui, fa’afāfine, queer and intersex) communities. We want to hear about the places that tell the stories of queer lives in Aotearoa New Zealand and invite you to contact your nearest office if you would like to contribute to the project.  

Rainbow List Project
New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero
Find out how you can contribute to the Rainbow List Project via our website.

Kerryn Pollock | Senior Heritage Assessment Advisor & Area Manager
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