Westerman's and Co. Building (Former)

101 Heretaunga Street East And Russell Street South, Hastings

  • Westerman's and Co. Building (Former), Hastings. Image courtesy of Adam Turnbull.
    Copyright: Adam Turnbull. Date: 15/05/2018.
  • Westerman's and Co. Building (Former), Hastings. 2016 building detail. Image courtesy of Maiken Calkoen.
    Copyright: Maiken Calkoen.
  • Westerman's and Co. Building (Former), Hastings. 2016 building detail. Image courtesy of Maiken Calkoen.
    Copyright: Maiken Calkoen.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 178 Date Entered 28th June 1990 Date of Effect 28th June 1990


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 14181, Hawkes Bay Land District and the building known as Westerman's and Co. Building (Former) thereon, and its fittings and fixtures.

City/District Council

Hastings District


Hawke's Bay Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 14181 (RT HBG2/1449), Hawkes Bay Land District


The former Westerman's building, Hastings, has been a much-loved Hastings landmark since its construction in 1932. It was designed by the noted architect Edmund Anscombe for the Westerman's, a well-known Hastings retail family, following the destruction of previous Westerman shop in the Hawke's Bay Earthquake in 1931.

Ernest Alfred Westerman (1878-1954) was born in Timaru. After leaving primary school he joined a local drapery business. He gained further experience in the retail trade by working for Ballantynes in Christchurch, and overseas in London. On his return from London, he set up in partnership with a Wellington draper. In 1911 Westerman branched out on his own and acquired the premises and business of J. A. Greenfield's Eclipse drapery in Hastings. He renamed the business Westerman and was soon joined by his brother Victor Leonard (1891-1973). In 1921 the Westerman and Co. expanded their business by building a new store on the corner of Russell and Heretaunga streets. Behind the shop they set up a sample room which was rented to commercial travellers and company representatives who wished to display their wares. This expansion was part of a general trend in Hastings after the war. Within the central part of Hastings saw a growth in retail shopping - eventually making Hastings the main supply centre of the province.

On 3 February 1931 a massive earthquake struck the Hawke's Bay region. At 7.9 on the Richter scale, the earthquake did huge damage and is considered to be the largest natural disaster to have occurred in New Zealand in the twentieth century. In Hastings large parts of the retail area were destroyed either by the earthquake or in the subsequent fires. Westermans' building was left substantially in ruins. In 1932 Edmund Anscombe, who was one of a number of architects involved in the reconstruction of Hastings, was commissioned to design a new building for Westerman's in reinforced concrete. The new building incorporated elements of both Spanish Mission and Art Deco styles. The former can be seen in the use of the arches, colonnades and Marseilles tiled roof, and the latter in the geometry and use of applied decoration. Both these styles were popular in Napier and Hastings during this period. Anscombe reused some of the internal joinery salvaged from the previous shop, including most notably the original staircase with wooden balustrades and newel posts, adding to the eclectic character of the building. The new building cost £4,300 and was built by Trevor Brothers.

The building and the business remained in the Westerman family until 1975 when Ernest's son Jack retired and the sold the concern. A number of businesses have owned the building since then, and for a while it was occupied by Arthur Barnett Ltd, a large Dunedin based department store. The lower ground floor has now been separated into smaller retail spaces, and its occupants include a woman's clothing store, café, and the Hastings Visitor centre.

Sited on a street corner, Westerman's is a well-known landmark in Hawke's Bay and forms an important contribution to Hasting's townscape. Architecturally it is a fine example of a mainly Spanish Mission style building. Historically the building is important for its associations with the Westerman family. It is also important for its association with the noted architect Edmund Anscombe.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Westerman's and Co. Building has historic significance for its close association with the Westerman family, in particular Ernest Westerman, the founder of the firm that owned the building (and its predecessor) for over 50 years. The building has been a retailing attraction since its construction and although its fortunes have waxed and waned, it has retained its original commercial purpose. The building has always contained a café, a Hastings institution that continues to this day. The building's design was the work of Edmund Anscombe, one of the country's finest architects during the first half of the 20th century. He made his mark principally in Wellington but he made a considerable contribution to the rebuilding of Napier and Hastings. Westerman's is one of his finest buildings.


The main aesthetic value of Westerman's and Co. Building is its townscape quality, it being the main structure in the row of compatible buildings in the Spanish Mission style that stretch along the whole of this Russell Street block. The building has very high townscape for this reason, and high visual interest, especially for the focus of the composition on the corner of the building, where the Spanish ornamentation reaches its climax in the elaboration of a balcony. This corner is at one of the CBD's busiest intersections, so that the building is something of a landmark in the city.


The Westerman's and Co. Building is a very good example of the Spanish Mission style, perhaps the most significant of the post-earthquake commercial buildings in Hastings. It makes creative use of the style to provide a building of interesting patterns and textures along the very long Russell Street façade, breaking it up into well-scaled parts.

The retail function of the building is seen in some of the best designed and executed shop-front joinery and glass work to be found anywhere in the country.


The Westerman's and Co. Building has technical interest for its reinforced concrete construction, enhanced by the existence of some of the working drawings which document the profiles of the concrete and the reinforcing. There is also technical value in the lead-light work, the timber shop-front joinery and the Wunderlich pressed metal soffit of the verandah. The building was extremely well built, of high quality materials, and it stands as a very good example of trade practice of the early 1930s.


The Westerman's and Co. Building was probably the first major building completed in Hastings the aftermath of the earthquake and has considerable symbolic importance for that reason. Westerman's and Co. was once the premier retailing outlet in Hastings and many people still alive today will remember its heyday. Today the building houses the city's information centre and is still used by a range of outlets, including a café, a feature of the building since it was established. Built on a key corner right in the middle of town and alongside the railway, Westerman's and Co. Building has high public recognition for locals and visitors alike, and it is recognised for its ornate exterior and fine shop frontages.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Anscombe, Edmund

Anscombe (1874-1948) was born in Sussex and came to New Zealand as a child. He began work as a builder's apprentice in Dunedin and in 1901 went to America to study architecture. He returned to Dunedin in 1907 and designed the School of Mines building for the University of Otago. The success of this design gained him the position of architect to the University. Five of the main University buildings were designed by Anscombe, as well as Otago Girls' High School and several of Dunedin's finest commercial buildings including the Lindo Ferguson Building (1927) and the Haynes building.

Anscombe moved to Wellington about 1928 and was known for his work as the designer of the Centennial Exhibition (1939-1940). Anscombe had travelled extensively and had visited major exhibitions in Australia, Germany and America. The practice of Edmund Anscombe and Associates, Architects, had offices in the Dunedin, Wellington and Hawkes Bay districts, and Anscombe's buildings include the Vocational Centre for Disabled Servicemen, Wellington (1943), Sargent Art Gallery, Wanganui, and several blocks of flats including Anscombe Flats, 212 Oriental Parade (1937) and Franconia, 136 The Terrace (1938), both in Wellington. As well as being interested in the housing problem, Anscombe held strong views concerning the industrial advancement of New Zealand.

(See also http://www.dnzb.govt.nz/dnzb/ )

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

Physical Description and Analysis (based on site visit Chris Cochran/ Michael Kelly, 2004):

This two-storey retail building features an interesting combination of Spanish Mission and Art Deco elements. Sited on the corner of Heretaunga and Russell Streets, in the heart of the Hastings CBD, the building has two street elevations, each treated in a similar manner, with extensive glazing at ground floor level and an ornamented façade above.

The Heretaunga Street facade is divided into three parts. The central section, with a raised parapet, has a group of three round-headed windows; below is the main entrance to the store, clearly delineated by an arched form in the fascia of the verandah. This section is flanked on either side by a pair of square headed windows capped with decorative mouldings.

The Russell Street elevation is much larger than that in Heretaunga Street and is broken up in a way that almost suggests three different buildings. Each end of the elevation is a replica of that on Heretaunga Street, and is somewhat plain in contrast to the central section where Spanish Mission imagery is strongest. In this central section a double doorway with a round-headed fanlight is flanked by two rounded headed windows; on either side of this arrangement is a set of three smaller round-headed windows. Between each window is a barley twist half column to the springing line. Above this central section is a simple, geometric parapet.

A splayed corner links the two street elevations, and has a double doorway leading onto a small balcony with wrought iron balustrading. The doorway is framed by barley twist half columns and fluted Corinthian pilasters with elaborate capitals; the round-headed fanlight over the doors is framed by a stepped moulding which is echoed in the parapet decoration above. This somewhat extravagant and highly ornamented corner section has a Spanish baroque flavour, which provides a strong focus to the building.

A verandah runs the length of the two street facades and is notable for its Wunderlich pressed metal soffit. This is complemented by the extensive use of decorative leadlights in the glazing below, framed in timber, a very rare example of this type of shop-front joinery. Large plate glass windows provide generous light and viewing to display areas inside; the glazing is set outside the line of the columns, a very modern feature for the time.

Built shortly after the 1931 earthquake, the building reused some elements from Westerman's and Co. earlier building. The party wall on the south-east boundary was retained, as were parts of the original staircase with timber balustrade and newel posts, and old verandah tiles were reused on the top of parapets; all these elements were little damaged by the quake and were utilised in the new building, adding to its eclectic character.

Update based on site visit Imelda Bargas, March 2008

Though the interior of the ground floor has been refitted over time to meet tenants' requirements significant elements of the building can still be viewed when visiting shops including the leadlights and floor coverings in the entranceways to shops. As noted in the history the fittings on the first floor were auctioned off. The leadlight windows now found on the interior of the upper floor have been repositioned there by the present owners.

Notable Features

Pressed metal ceilings under verandah

Decorative leadlights

Internal staircase

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1931 -

1991 -
First floor interior furnishings removed

1993 -
Ground floor separated into smaller retail spaces

1995 -
Ground floor café internal alterations

2004 - 2005
First floor refurbishment and fit out

Completion Date

7th April 2008

Report Written By

Michael Kelly/Chris Cochran

Information Sources

Boyd, 1984

Mary Boyd, City of the Plains, A History of Hastings, Wellington, 1984

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central Region office

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.