Daily Telegraph Building
49 Tennyson Street, Napier
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 1
Private/No Public Access
21st September 1989
Date of Effect
21st September 1989
Hawke's Bay Region
Pt Lots 1,2 DP 503 Pt TS 128
The Daily Telegraph Building is considered to be one of Napier's classic Art Deco buildings. It is the third Daily Telegraph building to be built in Napier. The Daily Telegraph newspaper was established in February 1871. In 1886 a fire completely destroyed the first Daily Telegraph building as well as 25 other buildings. Within a week of the fire, work began on constructing a new premise across the road from the original building.
On 3 February 1931, two days after the Daily Telegraph had celebrated its Diamond Jubilee, the second building was completely destroyed by a massive earthquake which struck the Hawke's Bay region. At 7.8 on the Richter scale, the earthquake did massive damage and is considered to be the largest natural disaster to have occurred in New Zealand in the twentieth century. A total of 258 people died. In Napier, near the centre of the quake, the earthquake and subsequent fire destroyed most of the central business district. In the days after the earthquake the Daily Telegraph continued to publish using a portion of the Ball and Ball and Company' printing works, Dalton Street. The first news bulletin was published on 4 February 1931 in conjunction with its local rival, the Daily Herald. When the Dalton Street property was declared unsafe, the paper was published from Te Awa School, and later the Vulcan Foundry in Hastings Street.
Following the earthquake the Napier Borough Council delegated the task of rebuilding Napier to two government commissioners. A moratorium was placed on construction while the commissioners and the Napier Rehabilitation Committee devised a building plan for the city. Eventually the task of designing the Daily Telegraph building was given to Ernest Arthur Williams (1875-1962). Williams chose a simple Art Deco design to house the offices and printing presses. Art Deco was fashionable, suited the needs for safe construction (many Art Deco buildings were built of reinforced concrete, and the geometric designs in low relief reduced the potential risk of masonry falling off buildings during an earthquake), and economic to construct. The latter was of major concern given that the country was in the midst of the Great Depression and that, since insurance companies had ruled that the earthquake was an act of god, little or no money had been paid out. The tender to erect the building on the site of the previous building was awarded to the Fletcher Construction Company in November 1932, and the building was finished in May the following year. So as not to cause any delay in printing the, the presses were moved on the Saturday night from their temporary accommodation and were up and running in time to print the Monday edition of the paper on 8 May 1933. At the time the Daily Telegraph Building was completed it was hailed for its modernity. However, not all staff were moved into the building on completion, and the press continued to operate from the Vulcan Foundry for the next three years.
In the late 1930s the newspaper began to expand to cover a greater area, and branches of the paper established throughout the Hawke's Bay. The Daily Telegraph became a popular supporter of community projects, parades, exhibitions and sports teams. In the 1960s changes were made to the building including the removal of light fittings and built in furniture, and, in the following decade, the double-storey entrance space was closed in to provide a mezzanine floor. In 1971 the 134 staff celebrated the paper's 100 years with a banquet in the War Memorial Hall. In 1982 competition for the market led to a merger with its rival of the day, the Herald Tribune, which resulted in the creation of H.B. News Ltd. The papers continued to publish under their separate names. This take-over was short lived and in 1984 H.B. News Ltd was bought by N.Z. News Ltd., the publishers of the Auckland Star. During this time the Daily Telegraph became the first newspaper in New Zealand to introduce process colour on a daily basis. N.Z. News Ltd. was eventually taken over by Wilson and Horton Ltd. The Daily Telegraph continued to publish from the building until May 1999 when it was merged with the Hawke's Bay Herald-Tribune to become Hawke's Bay Today. The building is no longer used for the production of a newspaper.
The Daily Telegraph Building is one of Napier's outstanding Art Deco buildings. In addition, the building represents over one hundred years of newspaper publishing in the one location and over fifty years of publishing from the one building. The construction of the present Daily Telegraph Building, along with many other buildings, represents the resolve of Napier's citizens to rebuild their town following the devastating earthquake of February 1931. Today the building makes a handsome contribution to the townscape within the Napier City Centre Historic Area.
Fletcher Construction Company
Fletcher Construction Company was founded by Scottish-born James Fletcher (1886 - 1974), the son of a builder. Six months after his arrival in Dunedin in 1908, Fletcher formed a house-building partnership with Bert Morris. They soon moved into larger-scale construction work, building the St Kilda Town Hall (1911), and the main dormitory block and Ross Chapel at Knox College (1912). Fletcher's brothers, William, Andrew and John joined the business in 1911, which then became known as Fletcher Brothers. A branch was opened in Invercargill.
While holidaying in Auckland in 1916, James tendered for the construction of the the Auckland City Markets. By 1919 the company, then known as Fletcher Construction, was firmly established in Auckland and Wellington. Notable landmarks constructed by the company during the Depression included the Auckland University College Arts Building (completed 1926); Landmark House (the former Auckland Electric Power Board Building, 1927); Auckland Civic Theatre (1929); the Chateau Tongariro (1929); and the Dominion Museum, Wellington (1934).
Prior to the election of the first Labour Government, Fletcher (a Reform supporter) had advised the Labour Party on housing policy as hbe believed in large-scale planning and in the inter-dependence of government and business. However, he declined an approach by Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage in December 1935 to sell the company to the government, when the latter wanted to ensure the large-scale production of rental state housing. Although Fletchers ultimately went on to build many of New Zealand's state houses, for several years Residential Construction Ltd (the subsidiary established to undertake their construction) sustained heavy financial losses.
Fletcher Construction became a public company, Fletcher Holdings, in 1940. Already Fletchers' interests were wide ranging: brickyards, engineering shops, joinery factories, marble quarries, structural steel plants and other enterprises had been added the original construction firm. Further expansion could only be undertaken with outside capital.
During the Second World War James Fletcher, having retired as chairman of Fletcher Holdings, was seconded to the newly created position of Commissioner of State Construction which he held during 1942 and 1943. Directly responsible to Prime Minister Peter Fraser, Fletcher had almost complete control over the deployment of workers and resources. He also became the Commissioner of the Ministry of Works, set up in 1943, a position he held until December 1945.
In 1981 Fletcher Holdings; Tasman Pulp and Paper; and Challenge Corporation amalgamated to form Fletcher Challenge Ltd, at that time New Zealand's largest company.
Williamson Construction Company - main contract
Williams, Ernest Arthur (1875-1962)
Williams was an architect and engineer who was prominent in Hawkes Bay as a result of his contribution towards the reconstruction of Napier following the 1931 earthquake.
Born in London he immigrated to New Zealand with his family early in 1908, spending a few months in Christchurch before settling in Napier. Initially he joined the Napier firm of architects W P Finch and Company as an architectural draughtsman, employing the skills he had learned during his training in architecture and joinery in England.
He was a member of the engineering staff of the Napier Borough Council until 1912, holding the position of Clerk of Works. He held this position during the building of the Napier Municipal Baths.
Williams set up his own architectural practice in 1912. He was, however, co-opted as Napier Borough Engineer during World War 1, resuming independent architectural practice in 1921.
After the 1931 earthquake his practice expanded to include eight architectural draughtsmen to cope with the large number of commissions to replace buildings which had been destroyed. His completed works include the Criterion Hotel (192), the Central Hotel (1931), Harston's Building (1930 and 1932), the Daily Telegraph Building (1932), the Napier Harbour Board Offices, and hospital buildings on Bluff Hill.
Light fittings, built in furniture removed
Double-storey space closed-in to provide a mezzanine floor
29th November 2002
Report Written By
M. D. N. Campbell, Story of Napier, 1874-1974; Footprints Along the Shore
3 November 1932
Heather Ives, The Art Deco Architecture of Napier, Napier, 1982
Peter Shaw and Peter Hallet, Art Deco Napier: Styles of the Thirties, Auckland 1987.
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.