Synagogue (Former)

19A Princes Street And Bowen Avenue, Auckland

  • Synagogue (Former), Auckland. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 2/08/2014.
  • Synagogue (Former), Auckland.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 18/09/2001.
  • Synagogue (Former), Auckland. 1905 Ref: 1/2-000540-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23248616.
    Copyright: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Taken By: William Price.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 578 Date Entered 27th June 1985 Date of Effect 27th June 1985


City/District Council

Auckland Council


Auckland Council

Legal description

Lot 1 & 2 DP 10249


This Princes Street building is one of only two nineteenth-century synagogues surviving in New Zealand, and the only one of this date in the North Island. The other is located in Dunedin. It was built in 1884-1885 after the Jewish community grew too large for their earlier building in nearby Emily Place. Constructed using early 'scoria-lime' concrete technology, the ornate synagogue was erected on a parkland site next to a row of villas belonging, in some cases, to members of the congregation. It overlooks the commercial district of Auckland in one of the most sought-after addresses in the town. Its prominent location appears to be unusual, reflecting a degree of confidence not found in all parts of the Jewish diaspora. Construction was aided by successful members of the early colonial business community, including David Nathan (1816-1886) and Philip Aaron Philips (1831-1913), the first mayor of Auckland and later town clerk.

The building exhibits a mixture of exotic styles, including Romanesque and Moorish. It was apparently modelled on the lavish Glasgow Synagogue in Scotland, which was erected in 1881. Designed by the local architect Edward Bartley, the Auckland synagogue was built using advanced local technology. This included mass concrete walls employing hydraulic lime developed near Auckland, and decorative details in moulded Keene's cement. The highly decorated interior has an apsidal tabernacle at its eastern end, and galleries on three sides for female members of the congregation. A basement was used for educational and social purposes, to which a school annexe was added in 1914. This was replaced by a modernist-style meeting hall before the congregation moved to new premises in 1969. The building was conserved in the 1980s and subsequent usage has included functioning for a period as a bank.

The building is of national and international significance as the best-preserved nineteenth-century synagogue in New Zealand, and a very rare survivor from the colonial period. It is a unique expression of Jewish religious and cultural identity in New Zealand, being the only remaining synagogue used for worship during both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is a reminder of the important contribution made by the Jewish community to colonial and later settlement, and the success of many of its members. It reflects the strength and confidence of the Auckland Jewish community, which made a fundamental contribution to the civic life and commercial development of the town. The layout of the building is intimately linked with Jewish religious practice, and embodies distinct approaches to spiritual and social life, including those involving gender. It is highly unusual in aspects of its style and construction, incorporating an early use of mass concrete employing local hydraulic lime. The synagogue reflects close links with British Jewry, and is important for its association with other historic buildings in the vicinity. It is the focus of one of the best-preserved colonial Jewish landscapes in New Zealand, and is an integral part of the only intact nineteenth-century residential streetscape in central Auckland.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Bartley, Edward

Edward Bartley was born in Jersey in 1839, and educated in the Channel Islands where he learned techniques of the building trade from his father, an architect and builder.

Bartley immigrated to New Zealand with his elder brother Robert, also an architect, while still in his teens. They eventually settled in Devonport, Auckland. Initially Edward was in the building trade but later he practised solely as an architect. He was at one time vice-president of the Auckland Institute of Architects and was also Diocesan Architect for the Church of England.

Amongst Bartley's most notable works were his ecclesiastical buildings including St John's Church, Ponsonby (1881), St David's Church, Symonds Street (1880), Holy Trinity Church, Devonport, and the Synagogue (1884). He was also responsible for the Opera House (1884) and Auckland Savings Bank, Queen Street (1884).

Additional informationopen/close

Notable Features

Registration covers the structure, its fixtures and finishes. It also includes recent modifications, extensions and other additions. The building is on the site of an earlier military guardhouse, which may survive as buried archaeological deposits.

Construction Dates

1852 - 1870
Site of military guardhouse and vegetable garden

Original Construction
1884 - 1885
Construction of synagogue

1914 -
Internal alterations and addition of school annexe and toilet block

- 1948
Replacement of school by a meeting hall

- 1978
Conversion of hall to a theatre, with basement added

1988 - 1989
Conversion of synagogue to a bank, including addition of front annexe and rear strongrooms

Completion Date

7th November 2001

Report Written By

Martin Jones

Information Sources

Goldman, 1958

L.M. Goldman, The History of the Jews in New Zealand, Wellington, 1958

pp.119-122 & 183-184

Historic Places in New Zealand

Historic Places in New Zealand

Odeda Rosenthal, 'Few of New Zealand's old synagogues survive', No. 25, June 1989

Conservation Plan

Conservation Plan

Salmond Architects, 'Old Auckland Synagogue: conservation plan', Auckland, 1988 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)

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.