Otago Boys' High School (Tower Block)

2 Arthur Street, Dunedin Central, Dunedin

  • Otago Boys' High School (Tower Block), Dunedin. CC BY 2.0 Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Stephen Colebourne. Taken By: Stephen Colebourne. Date: 19/12/2013.
  • Otago Boys' High School (Tower Block), Dunedin. CC BY-SA 3.0 Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org .
    Copyright: Benchill - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Benchill. Date: 25/10/2009.
  • Otago Boys' High School (Tower Block), Dunedin. Memorial Arch. CC BY-SA 3.0 Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org.
    Copyright: Benchill - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Benchill . Date: 25/10/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 375 Date Entered 28th June 1984 Date of Effect 28th June 1984


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the part of the land described as Pt Sec 86 Blk 19 Town of Dunedin (NZ Gazette 1974 p.1599), Otago Land District and the building known as Otago Boys’ High School (Tower Block), thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Heritage List/ Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 4 June 2020.

City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 86 Blk XIX Town of Dunedin (NZ Gazette 1974 p.1599), Otago Land District


This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is the original citation considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Work began on this building in July 1882 and it was completed by 1885. It replaced an earlier cottage built close to its present site in 1863-64.

Otago Boys' High School is a famous Dunedin Landmark, situated on a hill above the city with the Town Belt as a backdrop. This handsome, neo-Gothic structure consists of a central block with projecting gabled wings and ornamental turrets, and is one of the best examples of late Victorian architecture to be found in Dunedin's rich heritage. It was designed by R.A. Lawson, one of Dunedin's foremost architects who was also responsible for what is probably New Zealand's finest neo-Gothic church, the First Church of Dunedin.

The school was built of three types of stone, dark Leith basalt, lighter Port Chalmers breccia and cream Oamaru limestone. This combination of contrasting materials adds a lively, picturesque appearance to the exterior, typical of much High Victorian architecture.

The building, constructed by W.A. Carlton, incorporates many examples of fine Victorian craftsmanship. Each of the towers have four elegant corner turrets with pierced parapets on the East Tower and battlements on the West. The overall effect of the front façade is reminiscent of a castle. Within the walls of the building is a new theatre, which replaced as Assembly Hall and four classrooms. The earthquake risk which necessitated the removal of these rooms has in turn provided an opportunity to give a safe, functional use to an old building.

Otago Boys' High School is an imposing and impressive legacy of Dunedin's prosperous past and one of the best examples of Dunedin's many fine public and educational buildings.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Lawson, Robert Arthur

Born in Scotland, Lawson (1833-1902) began his professional career in Perth. At the age of 25 he moved to Melbourne and was engaged in goldmining and journalism before resuming architectural practice. In 1862 Lawson sailed for Dunedin, where his sketch plans had won the competition for the design of First Church. This was built 1867-73. Lawson went on to become one of the most important architects in New Zealand. First Church is regarded as his masterpiece and one of the finest nineteenth century churches in New Zealand.

He was also responsible for the design of the Trinity Church (now Fortune Theatre), Dunedin (1869-70), the East Taieri Presbyterian Church (1870), and Knox Church, Dunedin (1874). He designed Park's School (1864) and the ANZ Bank (originally Union Bank, 1874). In Oamaru he designed the Bank of Otago (later National Bank building, 1870) and the adjoining Bank of New South Wales (now Forrester Gallery, 1881).

See also: Ledgerwood, Norman, 2013. 'R.A. Lawson: Victorian Architect of Dunedin'. Historic Cemeteries Conservation NZ.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1884 -

Other Information

NZIA National Award Winners 1985

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.