Espano Flats

20 Poynton Terrace, Auckland

  • Espano Flats.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2627 Date Entered 26th November 1981 Date of Effect 26th November 1981


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Lot 10 DP 16124 (RT NA63A/978), and Units A-L FDU1 DP 112278 (RTs NA63A/965-76, NA64D/222), North Auckland Land District, and the building and structures known as Espano thereon.

City/District Council

Auckland Council


Auckland Council

Legal description

Pt Lot 10 DP 16124 (RT NA63A/978), and Units A-L FDU1 DP 112278 (RTs NA63A/965-76, NA64D/222), North Auckland Land District


Built in 1927-8 to a design by architect A. Sinclair O’Connor, the imposing four-storey Spanish Mission-style Espano Flats in Poynton Terrace has architectural and aesthetic significance for its intact and visually striking form, its setting among subtropical palms, and proximity to St Keven’s Arcade (1923-6) on Karangahape Road, a significant Auckland heritage streetscape. The distinctive block of twelve self-contained flats reflects increasing urbanisation in 1920s and 1930s society and private sector initiatives to capitalise on providing housing for an expanding clerical and professional workforce in New Zealand’s larger cities. Espano’s siting on the boundary of Myers Park, an area cleared of slum housing over a decade before, demonstrate early town philosophies relating to modern living and enjoyment of amenities.

Prior to European arrival, successive iwi and hapu groups occupied Horotiu, present-day Queen Street gully. Within eight years of creation of Auckland as colonial capital in 1840, a scoria house known as St Keven’s occupied the property; which was later transferred to Auckland merchant David Nathan (1816-86). In 1913, three hectares of slum land to the north was gifted to the city by former Auckland Mayor Sir Arthur Myers (1867-1926) promoter of the dominion’s first town-planning bill. Steps taken to improve the southern Queen Street and Karangahape Road area included installation of an electric tram line from the CBD in 1916. The subdivision and auctioning of the Nathan property in 1919 further encouraged redevelopment. Notwithstanding slow 1920s economic growth, Auckland builder William Thomas bought the site on the north side of then Pitt Terrace, in 1925. Stairs built at the head of the park in 1926 provided a short-cut from Karangahape Road to Auckland’s central business district, enhancing Thomas’ already attractive holding. Espano was one of a number of 1920s and 1930s private projects providing purpose-built flats for the expanding tertiary-sector workforce. Tenants who could afford to do so, deserted boarding houses for fashionable flats that offered greater independence and privacy within walking distance of city workplaces and amenities.

Underway by September 1927, the four-storey brick and ferro-concrete block was among Auckland’s largest building projects reported for 1927. Local architect A. Sinclair O’Connor (d.1945), had previously designed of a number of apartment blocks including what is said to be New Zealand’s first - Middle Courtville (1914). A departure from his earlier designs, Espano’s Spanish Mission Revival style reflected the adoption of a popular domestic architecture of the south western United States in warmer centres in New Zealand and capitalised on the visual qualities of Myers Park where subtropical plantings including palms were foreseen as early as 1913. Spanish Mission influences are evident in the building’s small narrow window spaces; the dominance of the wall massings; three grouped round-headed arches facing the park; and barley twist columns at the front entrance. Half-round tiles fringe the flat roof, a detail echoed in three dovecote chimney caps and a penthouse that housed a shared laundry. Internally, the three flats on every level each had a north-facing living room overlooking the park. Unlike many of its contemporaries, Espano did not have a lift.

A month after the 1929 Wall Street crash, Frederick Prouting (nephew of Dr Frederick Rayner, governing director of Amalgamated Theatres) bought the block, retaining it until 1946. The refurbished units were sold individually in 1986. Construction of penthouse apartments on the roof was avoided when four resident-owners bought the title in 1992.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

O'Connor, Arthur Sinclair

Arthur Sinclair O'Connor (c.1884-1943) was born in Fremantle, Australia, and came to New Zealand about 1908. It is not known where he received his architectural training. The first record of his work in New Zealand was a joint competition entry with Alva Bartley in 1911 for the new parliament building in Wellington. From 1935 until his sudden death in 1943 at the age of 59, O'Connor conducted his practice from Civic House.

O'Connor designed many inner city apartments including Radnor, Waterloo Quadrant (1914); Middle Courtville, Parliament Street (1914); Corner Courtville, Waterloo Quadrant and Parliament Street (1919); "Espano", overlooking Myers Park (1931); Westminster Court (originally large Courtville), Parliament Street (1934) and Brooklyn Apartments, Eden Crescent (1936). Examples of his commercial works are the Keans Building (1927), Civic House (1929) and the Fergusson Building (1929), all on Queen Street, the Stormont Building, Kingsland (1929), and the Regent (now the Lido) Theatre, Epsom (1923). He was also the architect for the Orange Coronation Hall, Newton Road (1922) and the Church of England, Otahuhu (1931).

William Thomas

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Refurbishment and creation of separate titles

Completion Date

12th March 2015

Report Written By

Joan McKenzie

Other Information

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.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Northern Regional Office of Heritage New Zealand.