Dee Street Hospital (Former)

194-200 Dee Street And 4-10 Gala Street, Invercargill

  • Dee Street Hospital (Former). Central Wing and South Wing (left) from adjacent carpark.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Heather Bauchop. Date: 1/08/2007.
  • Dee Street Hospital (Former). Gates, with Porter’s Lodge to the rear.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Heather Bauchop. Date: 1/08/2007.
  • Dee Street Hospital (Former).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: C Horwell. Date: 26/09/2013.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7777 Date Entered 22nd August 2008 Date of Effect 22nd August 2008


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the land described as Lot 5, DP 11873, and Lot 1 and part of Lot 2 DP 12591 (RTs SL9D/588, SL9D/587 SL8B/946), Southland Land District and the buildings and structures (including the Central Block, the South Wing and the Porter's Lodge) associated with Dee Street Hospital thereon, and their fittings and fixtures. The registration includes the fences and gates associated with the hospital, but not the building or land on which the adjoining McDonald's Restaurant stands.

City/District Council

Invercargill City


Southland Region

Legal description

Lot 5, DP 11873; Lot 1 and Pt Lot 2 DP 12591 (RT SL RTs SL9D/588, SL9D/587 SL8B/946), Southland Land District.

Location description

Block bounded by Gala Street, Dee Street, Leven Street and Victoria Avenue.


Dee Street Hospital, the site of New Zealand's oldest hospital buildings, is a place of national importance. The remaining buildings - the South Wing and Central Block and Porter's Lodge - are the only collection of 19th century hospital buildings in the country.

A Hospital Reserve was established alongside Dee Street in 1862 and work on the first of the hospital buildings, what later became known as the North Wing, followed later that year. It was opened in 1863 and housed the hospital's wards. In 1866, the Porter's Lodge was built, partly to house someone to look after the main gates at the south-eastern corner of the Reserve. This building still stands, the oldest on the site, and reputedly the oldest house in Invercargill.

In 1874, a small addition was made to the North Wing, and two years later a new building was constructed, later known as the Central Block, to a design by architect F.W. Burwell. It was an altogether more decorative building and was linked to the North Wing via a corridor. It was used as a dispensary and for a women's ward, among other things. Three years later, in 1879, Burwell designed the South Wing as accommodation for the house surgeon. Again linked to the Central Block by a corridor, it mimicked the plainer style of the North Wing, thereby completing a (largely) symmetrical trio of buildings.

The hospital continued to grow to the rear (or western side) but the next major addition led to the demolition of the North Wing. The new Queen Victoria Wing was promoted as recognition of the Diamond Jubilee of the reign of Queen Victoria. Completed in 1898, it transformed the east and north elevations of the hospital. There were more major additions in 1902 and 1909-10, by which time the hospital was overcrowded and with little prospect of being able to expand on the available land. In 1918, the decision was made to build a new hospital at Kew, where a fever ward had been built in 1907.

The new hospital was not completed until 1937, so in the interim, Dee Street remained under intense use. After Kew opened, Dee Street was retained, partially for maternity services, and in 1942 it was upgraded and renamed Queen Victoria Hospital. In 1957, with the opening of the west wing at Kew Hospital, Queen Victoria became primarily a maternity hospital. By the late 1960s, the hospital had been renamed the Dee Street Maternity Hospital. Along with the maternity function, the hospital was home to the ante natal clinic, blood bank, hearing aid clinic and the board's head office. The top storey of the South Wing is thought to have remained as residential accommodation.

Eventually, in 1979, maternity services went to Kew and the hospital closed. Discussions about what to do with the buildings began and were protracted. The Southland Hospital Board indicated that it was happy to keep some buildings and one plan emerged that would see all buildings west of the rear of the Central Block and South Wing demolished. In June 1984, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) classified the fences and gates, Porter's Cottage, South Wing and Victoria Wing as 'C' and the Central Block 'B'.

In the meantime, the Hospital Board complained that it could not find a user for the buildings and announced that it was going to demolish all the buildings not classified plus the Victoria Wing. Demolition began in September 1985.

The remaining portion of the hospital (essentially, the south-western corner) was put on its own title, Leven Street was extended through to Gala Street and in 1990 the Hospital Board disposed of the remainder of the land to McDonald's. The Southland Museum and Art Gallery negotiated a lease on the remaining property and in 1988 undertook some external restoration and remedial work on the buildings. It used the Central Block for storage, which it still does, and in 2000 refurbished the South Wing for use as accommodation for an artist-in-residence. Since 1985, the Porter's Lodge has been the home of the Citizen's Advice Bureau.

Dee Street Hospital can be divided into three main parts; the South Wing and Central Block, Porter's Lodge, and fence and gates. There is also a drive and some trees and gardens between the buildings. The two most prominent buildings are the South Wing and Central Block, which are both two-storied, constructed of brick and demonstrably Victorian Classical in design. They are connected by a corridor. The Central Block was designed to be the centrepiece of a trio of buildings, which is why it is the more elaborately decorated of the two, with the external plasterwork a feature of both floors. Both buildings are symmetrical about their principal (east) facades. Internally, both buildings are a mixture of original and modified fabric; most internal walls are lined with lath and plaster. The South Wing is the only one of the two to have been subject to any restoration or refurbishment since hospital use ended. Despite its poor internal state, the Central Block features much interesting fabric, including floor to ceiling varnished match lining in several rooms.

The Porter's Lodge is a picturesque cottage near the south-east gates. The main highlight is the cottage's main (east) façade, which is as original except for the slate roof (a 1989 addition). The cottage has two gabled roofs, one running perpendicular to the other, and a lean-to. Although external changes (two sets of casement windows) and many changes to the interior have robbed the building of some of its integrity, it remains a key part of the group.

The gates and fence are also an integral part of the complex, although they take in much more than the area occupied by the buildings. The fence - an elaborate post and rail construction of masonry and cast iron - encompasses about three-fifths of the present boundary of the square. The gates are on the south-east and north-east corners of the square. Both gates have main gates flanked by side gates. The former is an elaborate, almost Art Nouveau creation, while the latter, while decorative, is more formal and less exuberant.

Dee Street Hospital is of great heritage significance, both nationally and locally. While the value of this collection of heritage places was undermined when most of the buildings were demolished in 1985 and Leven Road was extended through the Reserve, the buildings and structure that remain were always amongst the most important of the complex. They stand as the country's oldest hospital buildings and one of Invercargill's most important historic places. Public recognition of this place is high, even though some of that recognition is gained by its proximity to one of the city's most popular drive-in restaurants.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The collection of buildings at Dee Street, the earliest of which was built in 1866, are the country's oldest hospital buildings, and have great historical significance for that. There are no existing hospital buildings of a comparable age, such has been the efficiency with which old hospital buildings in New Zealand have been disposed of. They date from a time when medical practice was in its infancy and New Zealand's hospitals were unable to do much more than basic surgery and convalescent care. As a result, they can still convey much about 19th century hospital practices.

The complex is also of great historical importance to Invercargill, which is the only city in New Zealand that, through its properties at Dee Street and Kew, retains hospital buildings from all eras of its history. The buildings at Dee Street were constructed partly from private contributions and remained in hospital use until the late 1970s, a period of approximately 100 years; their role in the provision of healthcare in Invercargill and Southland was immense.

Aesthetic Significance or Value:

All three buildings, together with the gate and fence, have high aesthetic value. The buildings, all demonstrably of Victorian origin, are picturesque and elegant in design and appearance, and offer a considerable contrast with the modern buildings nearby, including the adjacent McDonalds. The Central Block is a particularly attractive example of decorative Classicism, with high quality external plasterwork on three of its facades. The gates and fence, both examples of late Victorian decorative design, are likewise

Architectural Significance or Value:

The South Wing and Central Block are both the work of F.W. Burwell, a successful and highly competent architect and demonstrate his ease with the Classical idiom. While neither building is a remarkable example of their kind, they are carefully composed and detailed and make a great contribution to Invercargill's legacy of built heritage. The buildings' interiors, while much altered, still retain elements from their past, with the Central Block retaining significant fabric.

Social Significance or Value:

Dee Street Hospital closed its doors in 1979 but the role it played in providing maternity services to the people of Invercargill and other parts of Southland mean the remaining buildings still resonate for some, although that will diminish over time. The buildings, prominent from Dee Street and only a short distance north of the city centre, remain familiar landmarks to locals. The Porter's Lodge is familiar to many as the home of the local Citizen's Advice Bureau. The recent conversion of the South Wing into accommodation for an artist-in-residence may, in time, prove to be a socially significant use.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:

The Dee Street Hospital buildings are strong representatives of the long history of healthcare provision in New Zealand. Now the country's oldest hospital buildings they demonstrate that health provision was regarded as an important component of the quality of life sought by immigrants to this new country. They are also tangible reminders of the 19th century notion that healthcare provision required both private and public funding. It was only later that the government took over full responsibility for hospital-based care.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:

The Dee Street Hospital buildings demonstrate the kind of structures erected for hospital practice from that period of New Zealand history. They were undoubtedly considered as up-to-date as any in a New Zealand hospital of the time, although judged by modern standards they were less than ideal. The changes made to the buildings can also be linked to improvements in health care provision. This is less so in relation to the South Wing -a domestic building - than the Central Block, which retained a hospital function for 100 years.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place:

Dee Street Hospital's role in providing maternity services is the only use that most Southlanders would have associated with the building and even that is fading since the closure of the hospital in 1979, although some will be aware that the South Wing is used by an artist-in-residence. The surviving buildings are well known features of the townscape and visible for a short distance in several directions. The Citizens' Advice Bureau's long-standing occupation of the Porter's Lodge gives that building an additional profile in the community.

(f) The potential of the place for public education:

There is some potential for the main buildings, particularly the Central Block, to show typical 19th century hospital accommodation, notwithstanding the changes that have taken place. There is also an opportunity, through these buildings, to show the history of the wider site and how hospital care has changed over time.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:

The two main buildings demonstrate significant skill in their design, most clearly in the handling of Classical elements and the arrangement of windows. The Central Block is a particularly good example of Victorian architecture, with fine external decorative plasterwork a particular feature.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places:

As examples of 19th century hospital buildings, the Central Block and South Wing are unique buildings nationally. They have no parallel in the country.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

The buildings, gates and fence are remnants of the much broader historical landscape of the Southland Hospital at Dee Street. The area occupied by these remnants is only a portion of the square shared with McDonald's, which is in turn only a part of the original extent of the Hospital Reserve. The loss of that land and most of the buildings that occupied the site, and the subsequent construction of McDonald's, severely diminished the collective value of the complex, but enough remains to link the buildings to the square, which is partly enclosed by the original fence. To the west is the former Nurses' Home, which was once part of the Hospital Reserve but now sits on the other side of Leven Street.

Summary of Significance or Values:

This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, e, f, g, h, j, k


It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category I historic place.

As the home of New Zealand's oldest hospital buildings, Dee Street Hospital is a place of great national significance. The remaining buildings - the South Wing and Central Block - are only a part of the complex that once stood here, but they were the oldest remnant and retain strong historical and physical links. The buildings are joined by the former Porter's Lodge and the boundary fence and gates, both of which are integral elements of the former hospital and its grounds. The Lodge (1866) is the oldest building of the group and the oldest hospital building in New Zealand. The collection is of great importance to Invercargill as examples of some of the city's earliest heritage and as a place where healthcare provision took place for a century.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Burwell, F. W.

F.W. Burwell (1846-1915) is noted for designing many buildings in Invercargill, transforming the centre of the town between 1874 and the mid-1880s. Born in Scotland, Burwell served his articles with the architect John Matthews and immigrated to New Zealand in the late 1860s. By 1873, he had established his practice in Queenstown. He moved to Invercargill the following year. Once established there, he began designing elegant two and three-storey buildings in the Renaissance style. He designed almost all the buildings in Dee Street, including the hospital. 'The Crescent' was another notable Invercargill streetscape created by Burwell. In recognition of his work, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1880. The depression in the 1880s saw his commissions decline and he moved to Australia in 1887 where he practised in Melbourne, Perth and then Fremantle. He was particularly successful in the last, as Western Australia was in the middle of a building boom, and a number of his commercial buildings in central Fremantle are now classified by the Australian Heritage Commission. Burwell returned to Melbourne in 1910, and died there five years later. (Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, 'Burwell, Frederick William (1846-1915)' in Jane Thomson (ed.), Southern People: a dictionary of Otago Southland biography, Dunedin, 1998, p. 74.)

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The official history of Southland Hospital, published in 1968, states that the first government hospital in Invercargill was located in The Crescent, near the corner of Dee and Tay Streets. It was established by the newly created Southland Provincial Council in 1861, while it planned a purpose-built hospital at Dee Street. Just what building this first hospital occupied is not known. Likewise, what Invercargill people did for medical care before the hospital was established is unknown. Invercargill was little more than a few streets and houses surrounded by bush, although the town was growing quickly.

The site at Dee Street, a block lined by four streets, was a short distance from central Invercargill and was set aside as a hospital reserve, probably in 1862, although exactly when is not known. The first building planned was to contain the hospital wards. Work probably began late in 1862, as by February 1863 it was well advanced.

The brick hospital will be completed, as regards the outer walls, in a month's time; it is the first wing of the building, which will be added to as required. When completed it will look well, be commodious, and is admirably situated as regards drainage, ventilation, &c.

This newspaper report confirms that the intention was to build a row of buildings, which is exactly what transpired. The use of the word 'wing' strongly suggests that three buildings (two wings and a central block) were to be built, although it is not certain if this was the plan. The 1863 building was the north wing and was situated about the middle of the property. It is not known who the architect was but Angus Kerr, who had premises in Spey Street, may have been responsible. He supervised the erection of a fence around the reserve in 1870. The builder and cost remain unknown, but it was constructed of brick and cement plaster, lined out to resemble stone. The building provided 24 beds in all. In 1870, a verandah was added to the front elevation of the building.

The following year, the Hospital came under focus when a commission (three doctors and a lay person) was appointed by the Provincial Superintendent to examine the future of the Hospital's operations and funding. Tellingly, one of the recommendations of this commission was a proposal that future funding be gained through a private / public partnership:

In order that the Hospital may be carried on at a less expenditure on the part of the Provincial Government, it is recommended that it be maintained by private contributions, and by a subsidy voted by the Provincial Council, and that for this purpose the provisions of the 'Hospital Ordinance, 1863' be applied to this institution, and the further management be conducted by a committee of management elected by contributors, according to the provisions of Rule 4 of the aforesaid Ordinance. The Commission consider that by this arrangement the Hospital will be regarded more as a public institution than as a Provincial one. And that it will receive public support and sympathy to a greater extent than it has hitherto done.

It is not known if the commission's recommendations were adopted by the Southland Provincial Council, but it seems likely they were. As Watt points out, a publicly funded hospital was not a concept that most people were familiar with or in favour of. General sentiment preferred patients paying their way, unless they were destitute. From that point on, few if any of the Dee Street Hospital's buildings were erected without public contributions, substantially so in most cases. Establishing the public as a stakeholder in the buildings' funding had the effect the commissioners intended. It reduced the cost of hospital building on provincial and central government, and it gave Southlanders a sense of pride in their hospital. Funds were raised in various ways including benefit concerts, street appeals, fairs, general calls for contributions and bequests. The friendly societies of Invercargill organised a concert every year.

The annual concert under the management of the Friendly Societies in aid of the funds of the Southland Hospital took place lately at the Theatre Royal, and resulted in an excellent evening's entertainment being provided for those who patronised the institution, and over £50 being added to the funds of the hospital.

In 1864, much was done improving the hospital grounds. Then, in 1866, the Porter's Lodge was built near the corner of Dee and Gala Streets. This is now the oldest building standing in the complex and reputedly Invercargill's oldest house. The porter was a gatekeeper, not an orderly who moves patients around a hospital, as is the common use of the word today. The reserve was almost certainly always fenced - Watt refers to the replacement of the 'gaol-like' timber fence in 1870- and this building was built close to what were always the main gates to the hospital reserve. This was necessary because the hospital operated day and night and presumably entry could be required at times when the gates were closed or security was required. Watt quotes a description of the lodge in 1866 as having two apartments and being allocated for the use of 'the head nurse, whose husband, although not connected with the establishment, is permitted to occupy it at night, and the insane female also accommodated.'

This small building has changed much over time. The most obvious change was the addition, about 1900, of a lean-to the west and a chimney on the south elevation. Two sets of casement windows were inserted on the north side (date unknown) and the slate roof was reinstated about 1989. There have also been numerous, unrecorded changes to the interior, including the addition of much pinex as a lining.

The fence was again replaced in 1900, this time in cast and wrought iron. According to file notes held by the NZHPT, the fence was built by prison labour and is identical in design to that surrounding the Invercargill Club in Don Street. If the south-east gates were, as may be assumed, built at the same time, Kerr credits them to a tradesman by the name of Macalister. It would appear that the fence and gates, which only occupy part of the perimeter of the block, were built in stages. However, the sequence of construction of the fence and gates is a confusing one and may require research that is beyond the scope of this project.

The hospital itself expanded three times the following decade. In 1874, a six-bed ward extension was built by a bricklayer of the name of Stewart, whose successful bid was £1428-10-. These were not considered sufficient and in 1876, with the lack of accommodation a pressing issue, a new wing was commissioned. This was the year provincial government was abolished and central government took over the administration of health services, but the building had already been long in the planning. In June 1876 the Otago Witness described progress:

The new addition to the Hospital is gradually approaching completion. The work has been some time in hand, and the inconvenience from want of adequate accommodation has been patent enough to every member of Committee, but the present advanced state of the new building now enables one to hope that in a few months the Institute will be able to afford the hospitality to indoor patients which private necessity demands the publics to supply. The Committee have (sic) been very fortunate in their appeals for funds, and the subscriptions to the Hospital are such to sustain the character which the district has already attained for liberality.

Designed by F.W. Burwell, who was the most influential of Invercargill's architects during the 19th century, it was erected alongside the first building (to the south). It appears to have mainly been used as the hospital's outpatient facility for some decades after it opened. According to Watt, during this period, the Central Block was home to the dispensary, board room and library. Upstairs were the female ward and the dispenser's quarters. Men were accommodated in the North Wing.

To illustrate the hospital's level of use at this time, 205 patients were admitted for treatment in the hospital during the year 1879 (known as 'indoor patients'), of whom 138 were discharged. The number of out patients ('out-door patients') was 1061. Twelve ('only') deaths occurred during the year.

In 1879, another building was constructed adjoining the second, again via a covered way and again designed by Burwell. The contractor's name was McKay. This was built as the home of the Resident Surgeon (later Medical Superintendent), perhaps as a way of attracting and keeping the hospital's senior staff member in the job. The province had difficulty retaining its key staff and a purpose-built house may have been a suitable inducement. An advertisement from 1883 reveals how the house was used to attract potential applicants, along with the prospect of practising privately on the side:

WANTED, for the Southland Hospital, via Invercargill: a duly-qualified Medical Practitioner as RESIDENT SURGEON. Average number of indoor patients for the past two years. Salary, £250 per annum with free horse (sic) of 10 rooms and liberty of private practise within a radius of one mile of the Hospital. Applications, with copies of certificate and testimonials, to be in the hands of the under-signed not later than SATURDAY, the 30th of June. ROBERT GILMOUR, President. Invercargill, Ist June 1883.

With the erection of this building, the row of hospital buildings was complete. With the exception of the verandah on the north wing, the group was symmetrical, additional confirmation that the hospital authorities had a firm plan in mind when they began the hospital. At the time of the South Wing's construction, The Southland Times reported that it was hoped to build a verandah on the building to complete the symmetry of the group. At the same time as the completion of the South Wing, a corridor was built connecting the three buildings; part of that corridor survives today. In 1886, (Watt says 1888) a fever ward was built near the west boundary of the property.

By 1889 the house steward was also living at the hospital and there were complaints that 'one half of the present buildings are occupied by the house surgeon and house steward, and...that both officers should be single men, thus throwing into the hospital the apartments now used by them as residences.' It has been suggested that two families were using the south wing, one on each floor.

By the early 1890s the hospital's cleanliness was coming under scrutiny. In 1893, the inspector-general of hospitals, Dr Duncan MacGregor, described Invercargill Hospital as 'surgically insanitary' and hospital's trustees resolved to pull down and rebuild the north wing. That opportunity was less than five years away.

In the meantime, in January 1895, the government agreed to help fund an expansion of the hospital to the tune of £1500. In March a contract for an extension to the hospital was designed by MacKenzie and Gilbertson, who designed, among other buildings, the Railway Hotel (1896) and the Invercargill Club (1892). The builder was Joseph Hewitt and the contract price £1665. The extension, for the use of female patients, was built to rear of the north wing.

In 1897 the local community and Hospital Board decided that the next extension to the hospital would be named after Queen Victoria, who was marking the Diamond Jubilee of her reign the following year. The Southland Hospital Board collected £2030 from the public and, together with a government subsidy, had £4400 to spend on the new wing. The foundation stone was laid on 9 June 1898 and the building was completed later that year or early the following. The Victoria Wing was designed by McKenzie and Wilson and built by contractor William Smith. With its long balconies and strong street presence, it became the best known of the hospital's buildings. It offered room for a further 32 male patients.

To construct the Victoria Wing, it was planned to pull down the men's ward, occupying the old North Wing. It is difficult to know exactly what happened to the North Wing. It would seem that most, if not all of it was demolished and the remainder considerably altered. This may help explain some anomalies in the layout of the buildings following the construction of the Victoria Wing. Images of the time show a curious conjunction of buildings. In the place of the corridor to the North Wing was a two-storey building. Photographs also do not help determine if any of the North Wing survived the construction of the Victoria Wing. However, as the buildings were all ultimately demolished, it is not an important matter today.

Piercey quotes (without reference, unfortunately) a description of the hospital from the early 1900s.

The buildings are divided into three main blocks built on the pavillion (sic) plan, the northern block includes the hospital proper being sub-divided into male and female wards. The central block is set apart for relieving outdoor patients and contains a well appointed dispensary under the charge of a competent dispenser. Adjoining the dispensary is the operating room, fitted up with the latest surgical appliances. The southern block forms the residence of the Medical Superintendent. Situated at the rear and detached from the main buildings are the laundry and other domestic offices all of which are suitably provided. The buildings are connected by corridors, the wards running east and west with double storied verandahs carried to their full length.

Piercey states that more accommodation was built in 1902, including an out-patients and consulting rooms. In 1909-10 a surgical block was added to the design of E.R. Wilson. Both of these buildings were constructed towards the rear of the block and do not appear on historic images of the main elevation.

As mentioned earlier, the Dee Street site struggled with overcrowding for most of its history. Each extension barely improved the situation. The proximity of the site to the central city meant that growth would always be constrained to little more than the block itself and that it would ultimately struggle to meet the city's future needs. The first attempt to alleviate the pressure came in 1901 when a children's ward was built at Lorne Farm, although a combined home for old people and destitute boys had been built at Bowmont Street in 1886. Lorne Farm later housed and old people's home and was still functioning after the main hospital opened. In 1907, land was purchased at Kew from farmer H. Suferts for £2000 and a fever hospital opened there the following year. It was the forerunner of the permanent relocation of the Southland Hospital, which opened at Kew in 1937. A move to Kew was first mooted by the Inspector-General of Hospitals, Dr T.H.A. Valintine, in 1917, who described as one of the best sites in the country.

Although the decision was made to build a medical hospital at Kew as early as 1918, it took a very long time before construction commenced. In the meantime, the situation got worse at Dee Street. This situation prompted the hospital board to plan a complete hospital at Kew. This did not transpire either, at least not until 1979.

In the meantime, more improvements and changes took place at Dee Street. Guided by architect E.R. Wilson, who would later design Kew Hospital, the board undertook work in 1912, 1914, 1920 and a new X-Ray room in 1922. More renovations took place in 1937, when the new hospital at Kew opened. From 1942, the same year that the buildings' appearance was upgraded, it was renamed the Queen Victoria Hospital. At this stage, the South Wing was known as the Social Services Block, while the Central Block was known as the Administration Block. The Hospital Board also built its administrative offices in the north-west corner of the reserve, but the date of that building's construction is not yet known.

In 1949, it was suggested in a report to the Southland Hospital that the Queen Victoria Hospital should be converted into a maternity hospital. At this point, Queen Victoria had a capacity of 80 beds and although maternity services were undertaken there, utilising 45 beds on the ground floor, there was unused capacity upstairs that was used for general patients and known as Ward 10. In 1957, with the opening of the west wing at Kew Hospital, Queen Victoria became solely a maternity hospital. However, that same year the Southland Hospital Board made the decision that it would eventually abandon Dee Street and transfer maternity services to Kew.

By the late 1960s the emphasis at Dee Street had changed. Gone went the name Queen Victoria and it became known as Dee Street Maternity Hospital. Along with the maternity function, the hospital was home to the ante natal clinic, blood bank, hearing aid clinic and the board's head office. The top storey of the South Wing is thought to have remained accommodation throughout its last period of hospital use.

The decision to eventually leave Dee Street did take a considerable period to become a reality, but the move to Kew began to take shape in the 1970s. The Gazette Notice on the hospital reserve was lifted in 1972. With the completion of the Obstetrics Unit at Kew in 1979, Dee Street was closed. In the years following, the Hospital Board looked at various options for the disposal of the property and the demolition or retention of buildings. In 1982, in a letter to the Southland Regional Committee of the NZHPT, the chairman of the Board's buildings committee indicated that its preference was to retain the buildings visible from Dee Street (presumably excluding the Board's administrative offices) and demolishing everything west of the rear of the Central and South Wings, including the rear portion of the Victoria Wing. One of the issues the Board had to deal with was the push to extend Leven Street through the reserve to provide an alternative to Dee Street for traffic moving north-south (and vice versa). The building committee's proposal accommodated this.

The Southland Regional Committee undertook research into the block of buildings so that it could understand the sequence of construction better and in 1983, the Trust's Buildings Classification Committee came to Invercargill to inspect the hospital buildings (among others). Following that visit, the Trust indicated its intention, to the Hospital Board, to classify the fences and gates, porter's cottage, south wing and Victoria Wing (front part only) as 'C'. It recommended that the Central Block be classified 'B'. The Board meeting was held in June 1984.

In the meantime, the Hospital Board's architect suggested that the old complex be used as the Board's offices, which were at that time still sited in the north-east corner of the reserve. Although there was support for this proposal from within the Board, it was not prepared to commit itself to the concept. The Trust duly classified the buildings but the Hospital Board complained that it could find no useful purpose for the buildings. As a result, it told the Trust that it was going to pull down all the buildings not classified plus the Victoria Wing. Work was underway in September 1985 and when finished, just a fraction of the former hospital remained.

The remaining portion of the hospital (essentially, the south-western corner) was put on its own title, Leven Street was extended through to Gala Street and the Hospital Board disposed of the remainder of the land. At one point, it was prepared to offer the remaining hospital buildings to the NZHPT in a 'peppercorn sale'. The Southland Regional Committee was keen to acquire the building, but the Trust national office was reluctant to take on another property, being overburdened as it was. It said no. One curiosity that arises from the demolition and road extension is the fate of the fence. Today, it extends some distance along Leven Street from the north, suggesting it was rebuilt on the new after the boundaries of the reserve were changed.

With the demolition of the bulk of the hospital, the Southland Hospital Board (or Southland Area Health Board as it became) had a largely clear site to sell. In 1990 it sold part of the land to McDonald's (McDonald's System of New Zealand Ltd.), and it built a restaurant near the Dee Street side of the block, with a carpark behind. Today, the block is divided into three parcels, with the Southland District Health Board retaining ownership of the land that the remaining hospital buildings occupy.

With the NZHPT no longer interested in the old buildings, the Southland Museum and Art Gallery entered the picture. It negotiated a lease on the property and in 1988 formulated a plan for the future of the two main buildings. It proposed some level of restoration and refurbishment for the buildings, including the reuse of a spiral staircase salvaged from the Victoria Wing. It sought an assurance from the NZHPT that it would not obstruct the Museum in carrying out its plan.

The extent to which this plan was enacted is not clear. Externally, considerable work was certainly done, and in summary was as follows:

Tidying of the area on the north side of the Central Block where the connection with the rest of the complex was severed

The removal of a porch over the entrance to the Central Block

Removal of four fire escapes (two each) on the first floor of both wings

Removal of the infill between the two wings on the east elevation

Bricking up (and plastering and painting) of three apertures on the rooms on the west side of the corridor

Insertion of arched sash window over stair in South Wing

Restoration of missing external features such as decorative plaster

In addition, much work was done to restore missing decorative plaster on the building's exterior and this work was undertaken by Michael Forrest, Southland Museum and Art Gallery technician. Internally, the poor shape of the Central Block suggests it had little done to it, while the renovation of the South Wing did not happen until 2000.

From the time the Southland Museum and Art Gallery acquired the buildings, it used the Central Block for storage. Today the building is filled with an extraordinary collection of museum artefacts, building parts, exhibits, bones and general museum related material. There is no evidence of any work having been undertake on the interior within the past 20 years.

The South Wing was a different matter, but it was not until 2000 that work began on improving the interior. Again, the Southland Museum and Art Gallery drove the project, which was intended to turn the old resident surgeon's house into accommodation for a resident artist under the William Hodges Fellowship, and the wing renamed Burwell House, in honour of architect F.W. Burwell. Considerable work was done both to restore features in the interior and to provide a comfortable living environment for the resident artists. The work was again done under the supervision of Michael Forrest.

A summary of the key parts of the work is as follows:

Reinstatement of lath and plaster in various places, including ground floor hall

Reinstatement of newel and balusters at bottom of stairs

Removal of cupboard built at top of landing and reinstatement of balusters and newel of stairs

Fixing of salvaged fireplace and surround in living room (first floor) Reinstatement of dado in key areas - hall, staircase etc.

Papering, painting and staining

At present, the South Wing remains in use as accommodation for the artist-in-residence. The Central Block is still used for storage by the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, and its interior remains in relatively poor condition.

The history of the Porter's Lodge is a little uncertain following its period housing a gatekeeper. It was later used as the home of the Hospital Board's blood bank service and from the mid-1980's it was occupied by the Invercargill home of the Citizen's Advice Bureau, which remains the occupant. It sub-leases the building from the Southland Museum and Art Gallery.

In December 2005 the Southland District Health Board began consultation about the potential sale of Dee Street Hospital. The Board received a number of submissions, who, while not objecting to the sale, did want to ensure that the heritage classifications were protected and respected by any new owner. Discussions continued in June 2007, with the Community Trust of Southland hosting a meeting of interested parties to discuss options. Conversation again centred on the heritage classification and the issues of maintenance. Southland District Health Board continues to be committed to the disposal of the buildings, while discussion continues about their future in 2008.

Physical Description

The Dee Street Heritage Area occupies part of a block bounded by Dee, Gala, Victoria and Leven Streets. It is composed of four structures - three buildings and gates and fence. The buildings are the former Central Wing and South Wing of the Southland Hospital and the Porter's (or Gatekeeper's) Lodge.

The two main buildings were once part of a row of three buildings, connected by corridors and built between 1863 and 1879, that occupied part of the block here. The North Wing, the earliest building, was much enlarged and adapted over time and was finally demolished in 1987, along with various wings that extended off it, to make way for a McDonalds outlet. The removal of the remainder of the complex left two buildings connected by a corridor.

The Monkey Puzzle Tree was reinstated in the 1980s. The cabbage tree outside the south appears as a newly planted specimen in a photograph taken around the 1880s.

The South Wing:

The South Wing (1879) is a relatively plain, two-storey Georgian style building. Constructed of brick and rendered plaster, the building has a hipped roof clad in fibrolite (the connecting wing has corrugated iron), copper spouting, various timber-framed, double-hung sash windows and brick plastered chimneys of various styles. The building is symmetrical on its main (east) elevation, with an orderly arrangement consisting of a four panelled door flanked by two windows on the ground floor and three more arranged above on the upper storey. The corners of the building have quoins, in relief to resemble stone. The north elevation has but one (arched) window on the first floor, although there is a small aperture on the ground floor. The west elevation, presently partly obscured by vegetation, has three more windows on its first floor and one (possibly two) on the ground floor. The south elevation, alongside the road, has one window on the ground floor (previously a door) and above it a plaster projection dividing the floors. Most of the window frames, and that around the door, are composed of plaster mouldings. The door is part of an elaborate arrangement that includes the door itself, the frame with flanking posts capped with mouldings, three single pane lights above and slender panes either side.

In plan, the house is largely intact but has undergone some changes. As described in the 1999 plan for the its restoration and refurbishment, the ground floor is formed around a central hall, which leads from the front door. Leading from the hall, to the north, is the display room and to the south, the studio. At the rear are two rooms, now allocated as work rooms or largely vacant, which were probably once a kitchen and/or laundry. The stairs to the first floor are just behind the reception room, but alongside that is a passage that leads to the rear of the house and to the corridor that links it with the Central Block (and at one time to the rest of the hospital complex).

The first floor, now the living quarters, is gained via the stairs (lit by a large window) and landing, which is situated in the middle of the floor. In a clockwise direction, there is a bedroom in the north-east corner and another immediately south of it. The south-east corner is occupied by the lounge. In the south-west corner is the kitchen with the bathroom to the north of it. There is a spare room in the north-west corner.

The building's interior walls are lined mainly with lath and plaster, some of which was repaired or reinstated during the 1999 restoration. While the original four-panelled doors are still intact, most decorative timber has been removed from the ground floor, with the exception of the main spaces - hall and stair - where dado, architraves and skirtings are still intact, along with the timber balustrade on the stair itself. Otherwise more modern finishes are evident.

The first floor retains little more original fabric, and the changes have still been numerous. The main living room contains a fire surround from another building, the joinery is mostly modern, while the walls and ceilings are covered with modern linings. The same applies to the kitchen and bathroom, all no doubt with a view to making the place more liveable. Some rooms contain remnant joinery including picture rails and cornices, along with window and door architraves.


Joining the South Wing and Central Block is the corridor, which is lean-to in form, with rooms extending to the west from the corridor proper. The corridor actually runs through the entire Central Block but that portion is dealt with below in the description of that building. The corridor, the east elevation of which was obscured by an unsightly addition for some decades prior to 1988, has four arched windows beneath a moulded cornice on that elevation.

The west elevation has just one window - on the north end - and is otherwise featureless. Once used for fuel storage, each room had apertures for the movement of fuel but these have since been blocked up. The roof appears to be corrugated fibrolite. Otherwise the walls are constructed of brick and rendered plaster. The transition of the corridor interior from the Central Block is marked by an arch and a much lower, matchlined ceiling. The corridor feeds several rooms in the lean-to portion. The ceilings of these rooms are lower at their western ends, in line with the fall of the roof. For the purposes of this registration, the corridor is part of the Central Block.

Central Block:

The Central Block is, like its counterpart the South Wing, a formal, Classically based design, but much more elaborate. Two storeys high, it is symmetrical about its principal, east elevation, with a hipped corrugated roof and a triangular pediment over the central bay, which projects forward of the main line of the façade. Prominent chimney stacks - rendered and corbelled - cap the building.

On that front portion of the building, the windows are paired, with segmental arches on the ground floor and round arches on the first. Each window has a keystone at the top of the arch. Between each window is a column, with a Corinthian capital. The acanthus leaf and moulding decoration continues, in the manner of a string course, around both floors on the main and side elevations on the front portion of the building. On the first floor it is aligned with the spring in the arch. A projecting moulding defines the top of each storey and a continuous row of dentils sits beneath the eaves. Each corner on both storeys is finished with a pier and capital.

The rear or west portion of the building appears to have been built later, or at least deliberately different, and it contains far less decoration, although it is still carefully designed to sit with the rest of the building. It projects from the rear of the Central Block and abuts the rooms at the rear of the corridor. The double-hung sash windows are all segmental headed, with keystones, while the chimneys are corbelled but plainer.

The interior of this building was difficult to appreciate in places because it is full of so many items in storage. The building was designed as a medical facility so it is different from the domestic design next door, but the building also retains much original fabric, albeit that some is in poor condition.

From the main entrance the hall access two rooms on either side, what was once a doctor's room to the north and a waiting room to the south. Both rooms are partly filled with stored items, but from what is visible, the plaster has fallen from the lath in some places. Original cornices, skirting boards, floorboards and matchlined ceilings survive, but most of the walls are covered with pinex. The windows are mostly boarded up. Just before the end of the hall, on the north side, the stairs lead off and opposite this is another room.

Just beyond that is the corridor (running north-south) that gave access to the other wings. This marks a demarcation from the rear portion of the building, which may or may not be original. From here two substantial rooms on the other side of the corridor can be accessed. These retain some early or original fabric, including joinery and matchlined ceilings, but the walls are covered over with acoustic tiles or pinex which makes it difficult to determine the extent of remaining fabric.

The bottom half of the stairs have now been rotted out and temporary stairs have been fixed (uncertainly) over the top of them to gain access to the first floor. The first floor is gained from the stairs and landing. The main space is that occupying the whole length of the eastern side of the building. At one time divided into three rooms, it is now one large space. The former position of the partitions is still evident in some places. Some original joinery --cornices, skirtings, architraves etc. - still remains, and paper covers lath and plaster walls. A fireplace - modernised in the mid-20th century - remains in the south-west corner. There is only one other room remaining on the east side of the building and that is on the south elevation, and was probably one of the rooms occupied by the dispenser and/or his wife.

A hall leads from the landing and this gives access to the remainder of the spaces. It retains its timber dado. At the conjunction of the landing and hall is an arch, clad with small lengths of matchlined timber laid horizontally. This presumably covers an aperture cut in the former outside wall of the building, before the addition was completed. On the other side of this wall are four more rooms, with what was a kitchen in the south-west corner, a bathroom and ablutions area alongside (to the east), a room in the north-west corner (complete with partitioned compartments, possibly for new-born babies, and another room on the north side, nearest the landing. Most of the spaces retain considerable original fabric, with a great deal still lying under linings. The usual kind of features - matchlined ceilings, skirtings, cornices, doors and architraves - are evident, but the most striking feature might be the vertical, varnished matchlining, now partly uncovered in several rooms. It can be assumed that this was installed - in this part of the Central Block - en lieu of lath and plaster and is mostly in remarkably good order.

Porter's Lodge:

This building, a former house, is a small painted brick building a short distance from the main gates to the former hospital reserve. The building form is a gabled cottage with another gable extending 900 to the rear. From that is attached a small lean-to. The roof is clad with slates and, on the rear lean-to, corrugated iron. One tall, brick chimney is located on the south side of the house.

The main elevation faces east and is composed of a door, protected from the elements by a porch (an extension of the roof) and flanked by two double-hung multi-pane sash windows. A relatively modern three-light casement window sits beneath the north gable and there is another alongside it in the lean-to. Concrete lintels support the walls above the windows. A small double-hung sash window occupies the rear lean-to on its west elevation, while another is located on the south elevation of the lean-to. The bargeboards are timber while the spouting is probably copper.

The interior has been considerably adapted for office use and bears little relation to its former appearance. The main door leads directly into the front room (possibly once two tiny rooms either side of a passage), highlighted by a decorative fireplace (age unknown), from where doors lead to flanking offices. At the rear these offices meet up again in a short passage that gives access to the kitchen and toilet, both of which have matchlined walls and ceilings. Most of the other interiors have been clad in pinex and little of significance is visible.

Fences and gates:

The combination of fences and gates which encloses the 'square' occupied by the former hospital buildings is not continuous. This is partly because the original hospital reserve was much larger than the land today enclosed and so the original boundaries were not where they are today. In addition, it is possible that the fence was not continuous anyway (e.g. a hedge lines the boundary between the south wing and main gate).

Today, the fence occupies the entire eastern boundary (facing Dee Street), the entire northern boundary, and the northern end of the west boundary. The appearance of the fence on the western boundary is particularly curious because there was no street there at all before the demolition of the hospital buildings at the western end of the reserve in 1985. If the fence and gate were reinstated on a new alignment, records viewed as part of this registration do not show it.

The fence, built in 1900, is simple in form. It consists of a masonry base with masonry posts at intervals surmounted by stylised tiled, gabled roofs. Pipe rails, supported by cast-iron uprights at the mid-way point, span between these posts.

Gates and entrance ways are marked with taller posts with domed tops. Two gates remain in place. The main gate, on the corner of Dee Street and Gala Street is arranged in three parts, with the main gate (two parts, hinged on either post and meeting in the middle) flanked by two smaller gates. All appear to be mainly wrought iron in construction and are elaborately decorated in an Art Nouveau manner. The gate on the north-eastern boundary (outside McDonalds Restaurant) is similarly divided into three parts, but the gates are altogether less extravagantly treated. The designs, based around circular motifs sitting within a frame, are more formal and less free flowing than their counterparts down the road.

Construction Dates

1862 -
Hospital Reserve set aside

Original Construction
- 1863
North Wing completed

1864 -
Grounds upgraded and improved by local labour

Original Construction
1866 -
Porter's Lodge built near the corner of Dee and Gala Streets (architect unknown)

1870 -
Verandah added to building

1874 -
Six-bed ward extension built by local bricklayer (Stewart)

Original Construction
1876 -
Central Block added to hospital, designed by F.W. Burwell. Major functions include dispensary, board room and library

Original Construction
1879 -
South Wing constructed, again to designs by Burwell. Built as home of the Resident Surgeon

1895 -
Extension built to rear of north wing

1898 -
Victoria Wing completed to designs by McKenzie and Wilson. North Wing demolished

1900 -
Lean-to added to west end of Porter's Lodge

1900 -
Fence replaced, in cast and wrought iron. Apparently built by prison labour

Two sets of casement windows inserted on north side of Porter's Lodge

Cupola/ventilator removed from apex of roof of Central Block

1902 -
Out-patients and consulting rooms built, among other spaces

Original Construction
1909 - 1910
Surgical block added, to the design of E.R. Wilson

1942 -
Buildings upgraded and renamed Queen Victoria Hospital

Demolished - Other
1985 -
Most of Dee Street Hospital's buildings demolished. South Wing, Central Block, Porter's Lodge and some fences and gates retained

1988 -
Southland Museum and Art Gallery leases land and buildings from SHB and undertakes some external restoration of the hospital buildings, under supervision of Michael Forrest, museum technician (details in 2.1 Hist. Descript)

1989 -
Slate roof added to Porter's Lodge

1990 -
McDonald's builds a restaurant near the Dee Street side of the block, with a car park behind

2000 -
South Wing interior upgraded and restored for use by artist-in-residence (details of changes in 2.1 Historical Description and Analysis).

Construction Details

South Wing: Brick, plaster render, timber, fibrolite, plaster, glass

Central Block (plus corridor): Brick, plaster render, timber, fibrolite, plaster, pinex, acoustic tiles, glass

Porter's Lodge: Brick, slate, timber, pinex, concrete, glass

Gates and fences: Cast and wrought iron, plaster render

Completion Date

12th August 2008

Report Written By

Michael Kelly

Information Sources

Wises Post Office Directories

Wises Post Office Directories


Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

Land Information New Zealand

CT SD 146/281, 8B/947, Land Information New Zealand

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

NZHPT file 12009/048 Dee Street Hospital, Invercargill

North Otago Times

North Otago Times

23 July 1897

Otago Witness

Otago Witness

21 February 1863, 3 June 1876, 14 October 1876, 1 February 1879, 9 June 1883, 6 June 1889, 24 January 1895, 21 March 1895

Southland Times

Southland Times

20 May 1873, n.d. October 1879, n.d. 1984, 29 March 1984

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Otago/Southland Area 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.