Chief Post Office
12 Queen Street, Tyler Street And Galway Street, Auckland
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 1
Able to Visit
11th July 1986
Date of Effect
11th July 1986
Extent of List Entry
Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 100 DP 323395 (RT 93982), North Auckland Land District, and the building known as Chief Post Office thereon, and its fittings and fixtures.
Lot 100 DP 323395 (RT 93982), North Auckland Land District
The Auckland Chief Post Office (CPO) is an imposing public building at the foot of Queen Street, the main commercial thoroughfare in the city. Built in 1909-1912, it indicates the importance of the postal service as a state-run network for public welfare and communication. The building was constructed at the hub of the city's transport system, next to the ferry building, tram terminus and original railway building, as well as the commercial wharves. It was heralded as a milestone in the progress of the city, and opened by the Prime Minister, William Massey (1856-1925), in front of a crowd of 8,000-10,000 people in 1912.
The building was constructed at the same time, and to similar specifications, as the Wellington Post Office, which has since been destroyed. It was designed in an Imperial Baroque style, which was used for many public buildings of the time, including the Auckland Town Hall. White Oamaru stone and Coromandel granite emphasised the grandeur of its main facades, while a large light well and imported fittings did the same for its interior. The Post Office provided a variety of services, such as postage, banking and the payment of pensions on its ground floor, while its first floor contained offices, including those of the district engineer and traffic manager. The building also housed an electoral office for MPs to conduct constituency business, which was used by the Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, in the 1970s. The Post Office occupied the building until the early 1990s, making a number of modifications to the structure. An Art Deco rear extension, built in the 1930s, was demolished by the City Council in 2001 in preparation for the building's conversion to a transport terminal.
The Chief Post Office is nationally significant as one of the largest post offices in the country when built. It handled the biggest volume of mail in the region at a time when the postal service was an important symbol of beneficial state involvement in everyday life. The Chief Post Office was a flagship for such services, and maintains an impressive appearance with its Baroque style and lavish interiors. Its prominence encouraged the surrounding area to become a focus of major social events, such as the welcoming of returning troops and of royalty. The building is a visible and tangible part of the city's history as a centre for regional communication and has considerable landmark qualities at the lower end of Queen Street. It is an Auckland icon, located in the very centre of the city and continues to enjoy high public esteem. It has additional landmark and historical value for its proximity to other historic buildings nearby, being located at the junction of three registered historic areas - Harbour Historic Area, Quay Street Historic Area and Customs Street Historic Area.
John Campbell (1857-1942) served his articles under John Gordon (c1835-1912) in Glasgow. He arrived in Dunedin in 1882 and after a brief period as a draughtsman with Mason and Wales joined the Dunedin branch of the Public Works Department in 1883. His first known work, an unbuilt design for the Dunedin Railway Station, reveals an early interest in Baroque architecture.
In November 1888 Campbell was transferred to Wellington where in 1889 he took up the position of draughtsman in charge of the Public Buildings Division of the Public Works Department.
He remained in charge of the design of government buildings throughout New Zealand until his retirement in 1922, becoming in 1909 the first person to hold the position of Government Architect. Government architecture designed under his aegis evidences a change in style from Queen Anne to Edwardian Baroque. His best-known Queen Anne design is the Dunedin Police Station (1895-8), modelled on Richard Norman Shaw's New Scotland Yard (1887-90). Among his most exuberant Edwardian Baroque buildings is the Public Trust Office, Wellington (1905-09). Although Campbell designed the Dunedin Law Courts (1899-1902) in the Gothic style with a Scottish Baronial inflection, he established Edwardian Baroque as the government style for police stations, courthouses and post offices throughout New Zealand. In 1911 Campbell won the nation-wide architectural competition for the design of Parliament Buildings, Wellington. Although only partially completed, Parliament House is the crowning achievement of Campbell's career.
Claude Paton (1881 -1953) was born in Scotland and arrived in New Zealand in 1904. He received some architectural or draughting training in Glasgow which enabled him to gain employment with the Public Works Department in 1906 as an architectural draughtsman. Although Paton was never given the title of architect he was an influential force in the Department. He carried particular weight during the last decade of John Campbell's tenure as Government Architect; both were committed to the Edwardian Baroque style. Paton retired from the Public Works Department as a senior draughtsman in 1946.
Registration covers the building, its fixtures and finishes. It also includes recent modifications. The building lies on reclaimed land in Commercial Bay, and occupies part of the site of the first Auckland railway station
1909 - 1912
Construction of Chief Post Office
Demolition of associated side arches
1930 - 1940
Construction of rear annexe
Ground floor remodelled
Demolition of rear annexe
21st August 2001
Report Written By
New Zealand Herald
New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.
21 Nov 1912, p.8
Salmond Architects, 'Chief Post Office, Auckland, Conservation Plan', Auckland, 1990 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)
NZIA Resene New Zealand Award Winners 2008
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.