Built in 1859, it was originally part of St Andrew's College, which was an Anglican institution for the Christian education of Melanesian boys. Melanesia, an island group in the Western Pacific, was initially part of the Anglican Diocese of New Zealand.
Constructed of basalt from nearby Rangitoto Island, the L-shaped building provided a dining hall, kitchen and storehouse for the college. It was part of a larger complex of buildings, including a church and schoolhouse, which were arranged in a quadrangle. The steep-pitched roofs and square-headed windows of the Tudor Revival-styled Melanesian Mission Building recalled the architecture of late medieval and early modern educational institutions, as did the layout of the college. Tudor Revival design was frequently used for mid nineteenth-century schools in Britain, harking back to a major expansion of the educational system in sixteenth-century England, which was in turn linked to the creation of the Anglican Church.
Following the transfer of the Anglican mission to Norfolk Island in 1867, the educational functions of the complex remained. The building initially formed part of a naval training school, then an industrial school, teaching work practices to 'neglected and destitute boys'.
It was subsequently used for Anglican services and Sunday school teaching, before being occupied from 1915 until the early 1920s by the Walsh Brothers' flying school, whose staff trained at least a third of the airborne New Zealand personnel in the First World War.
With the incorporation of Mission Bay as a suburb of Auckland, public awareness of the building's history increased. This led to its restoration as the Melanesian Mission Museum in 1928, when substantial repairs and alterations were made. After being found unsuitable for the display of artefacts, it was taken over by Heritage New Zealand in 1974.
During 2017, this iconic Auckland building was seismically strengthened, and its surroundings revitalised with stories associated with the history of the building told through quality interpretation. The site also features a magnificent new café and restaurant, along with a fresh new function space on the Mission Bay waterfront.
Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga gratefully acknowledges the support, cultural guidance and contribution of the Melanesian Mission Trust Board to the restoration of the Melanesian Mission. We also warmly thank Foundation North, the Stout Trust, Vector and the many Heritage New Zealand members and supporters who gave so generously to the strengthening and restoration project.