Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital (Former)

50 Butts Road, Dunedin

  • Pelichet Bay Infectious Disease Hospital (Former), Dunedin. Central block and north wing.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Jonathan Howard. Date: 21/04/2010.
  • Pelichet Bay Infectious Disease Hospital (Former), Dunedin. Central block, west elevation.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Jonathan Howard. Date: 21/04/2010.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 9575 Date Entered 15th April 2011 Date of Effect 15th April 2011


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 4 DP 516572 (RT 805569) and Lot 4 DP 488156 (RT 699582), Otago Land District, and part of the land described as Lot 3 DP 516572 (RT 805570), Otago Land District, and the buildings known as Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital (Former) thereon, and its fittings and fixtures. The extent excludes the Logan Park High School building and the small quarry hut which encroach onto Lot 4 DP 488156. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 10 October 2019.

City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Lot 3 DP 516572 (RT 805570), Lot 4 DP 516572 (RT 805569), and Lot 4 DP 488156 (RT 699582), Otago Land District


Hidden from view behind large trees, a sloping drive leads from Butts Road to the secluded former Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital, established in 1908 to accommodate Dunedin’s patients with serious communicable illnesses.

In the nineteenth century epidemics were a serious issue. One of the early expressions of this was the establishment of quarantine stations to stop the spread of shipboard infection to the settled city population. In Dunedin such a facility was established at Quarantine Island, with passengers from forty three vessels quarantined there between 1860 and 1916. In the 1870s a short-lived fever hospital was established in the Town Belt in Dunedin, but was closed within a year as a result of public pressure.

In a national context in 1903 the Government placed the legislative responsibility for infectious diseases cases with local hospital boards, leading to a rush to construct suitable facilities. District Health and Charitable Aid Boards throughout the country discussed their options, whether it be the building of a ward associated with an existing hospital, or a new, separate facility. Social, medical and governmental pressure came to bear on the Otago Health Board for a separate hospital in which to house those stricken with infectious maladies, particularly scarlet fever. Periodic epidemics, often affecting children, added intensity to the campaign. The campaign was lengthy but finally by September 1908 the Infectious Disease Hospital was accepting patients.

The hospital was designed by noted Dunedin architect Patrick Young Wales. His drawings were based on the ‘pavilion plan’, an international trend in hospital design incorporating separate wards, proper ventilation, adequate drainage and water supply aimed at creating healthy conditions and preventing the spread of infection. A central block (with a second storey added shortly after construction) and two rectangular wings on either side were linked at the rear to small ‘pavilions’. A grassed recreation area rose up behind the hospital, merging into native bush, providing an appropriate setting for aiding recovery. An outbuilding was added a short distance to the north of the hospital, probably to house the morgue.

The Hospital operated on this site for the next forty five years. Throughout this time there was controversy about the site and the facilities. In the 1920s the facility was closed briefly as the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition was located at the adjacent Logan Park, and the hospital was considered an inappropriate neighbour. The Hospital reopened following the exhibition, but there were fruitless discussions about relocating the facility to Wakari Hospital. Finally, in 1952 following the fall off in demand after World War Two, the Hospital was closed.

In the 1950s the hospital was sold to the University of Otago and has since been used for student accommodation. Few modifications have occurred, other than the addition of modern kitchen and bathroom facilities.

The hospital’s isolated natural setting and simple design, with wide verandas and angled pavilions, creates a pleasing aesthetic and evokes the feeling of separation from wider society which underpinned the choices for location and design. Architecturally the hospital is especially significant, not only for its architect Patrick Young Wales, but for its association with the internationally accepted pavilion plan. The new scientific principles of the plan, championed by such luminaries as Florence Nightingale, are well represented by the structure and design of the hospital. The building also stands as a symbol of the new standards in child care and the social evolution of child welfare causes. The hospital’s largely unmodified design represent late nineteenth and twentieth century society’s approaches to illness and represents a number of stories which add significantly to our understanding of New Zealand history.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Infectious Disease Hospital has historical significance. Its association with the historical treatment of infectious diseases, particularly scarlet fever, provides a fine example of the kinds of care available, both nationally and internationally. Particularly as a solution for the treatment of sick children, it stands as an example of the revolution in child health and treatment which was spreading through out the Western world from the last decades of the nineteenth century. The story of the hospital also links in with the development of the promotion of the welfare of children in society. It was built soon after the specialised Dunedin hospital ward for children was established. The first Karitane Hospital, the forerunner of the Plunket Society, was built soon after. Dunedin was at the national forefront of the international trend towards organisation aimed at promoting the welfare of children.

Aesthetic Significance or Value

The Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital (Former) has aesthetic significance. Its simple, symmetrical design is aesthetically pleasing as are the verandas which run the length of the side wings. The pavilions, which are set at an angle to the linking corridor, are unusual features which add to the aesthetic presence of the hospital. The grassed recreation area behind the hospital, bordered by trees, creates an isolated feel in what is actually a busy educational area and provides a picturesque setting for the hospital, an important element in the design of pavilion hospitals.

Architectural Significance or Value

The hospital’s architectural association with the newly accepted Victorian and Edwardian ‘pavilion principle’, championed by Florence Nightingale, is also significant. The separation of wards into small pavilions linked by short corridors was a new international architectural design working in collaboration with new medical principles. Although by no means a grand example of the pavilion plan, it has significant aspects of this architectural type.

The Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital was designed by noted architect Patrick Young Wales, son of the original partner of Mason and Wales, New Zealand’s oldest and one of the country’s most notable architectural firms. Wales was responsible for a number of significant Dunedin buildings and became the Otago Hospital Board’s architect.

Scientific Significance or Value

The Infectious Diseases Hospital represents the scientific developments and new medical principles in the care of the sick, particularly in the care of the infectious sick. Isolation became a key principle which resulted in the development of the pavilion principle. Fresh air was also adopted into the medical treatment regime. Providing outside seating areas and recreation areas to enable access to sunshine and fresh air became important components. Adequate drainage and water supply were the final components in the new regime which were to be provided by the architect, who now also assumed the role of engineer. The Pelichet Bay Hospital incorporated all these features. Built on land in, what was then, an area isolated from the general population, the building also provided for separate wards, internal ventilation, adequate draining and water supply, as well as an outside recreation area.

Social Significance or Value

The Infectious Disease Hospital has social significance. It represents the social discourse of the late nineteenth/early twentieth century which used the image of the suffering sick child as a persuasive argument to found welfare organisations. The image engendered compassion and a moral imperative to take action. Children became a focus for social action and agitation, a cause adopted and promoted by contemporary media. The Infectious Diseases Hospital was a direct result of one such philanthropic campaign, well supported by government pressure, and represents the international trend towards an increasingly enlightened view of children.

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

The Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital (Former) is a rare remaining example of New Zealand’s attempt to control the spread of infectious disease. As children were most often targets of these diseases, scarlet fever in particular, it also represents a more general interest in child welfare.

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

The Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital (Former) was designed by noted architect Patrick Young Wales whose contribution to New Zealand’s architectural history has been well recorded.

The Hospital also connects with the movement towards promoting child welfare. This trend could be seen in the provision of separate children’s wards and, most significantly, in the establishment of the Plunket Society in 1907. The wellbeing of the nation was increasingly connected with the wellbeing of its youngest generation.

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

The Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital (Former) is also significant in terms of its community profile. A remarkable degree of public and political dialogue resulted in the hospital’s creation. The media was also actively involved in the campaign. Yet within a short space of time, public esteem for the hospital fell markedly. Interestingly, this very lack of esteem resulted in few alterations to the building. Its location and structure was deemed so untenable that it received little care and attention. Accordingly, the hospital maintains its integrity, retaining significant features from its time of construction.

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

The Infectious Disease Hospital is rare testament to the internationally feted pavilion principle. Its compact size makes the features of the pavilion plan design particularly obvious. The hospital’s drainage and water supply systems were technologically superior and served the hospital well. It was not until the 1950s that the system was connected to the city.

The Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital (Former) is one of the few unmodified physical representations of early twentieth century hospital design. More specifically, it is a design which represents an international trend in the design of fever hospitals. The Hospital represents the pavilion principal incorporating separate wards, good ventilation, drainage and clean water supply. The Hospital provides knowledge not only about New Zealand medical history, but international hospital trends which may be traced to such luminaries as Florence Nightingale.

The Hospital retains significant features from its time of construction. The structure maintains its original cladding and doors. Some interiors have been altered to create modern kitchen and bathroom facilities but much of the original layout remains intact. It is a rare, almost unadulterated example of an early twentieth century fever hospital.

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

The Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital is a rare extant example of a purpose built isolation hospital in New Zealand. Fever hospitals, or fever wards within existing hospitals, were necessary in main urban centres. It appears, however, that apart from Wellington’s former ‘Chest Hospital’ the Pelichet Bay Fever Hospital is the only other remaining purpose built infectious diseases hospital in New Zealand.

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

The Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital is a rare and special example of a specially designed fever hospital in New Zealand. It represents wider historical and cultural landscapes, both nationally and internationally, ranging from new crusades concerning child welfare to the evolution of new medical techniques. The hospital is also an outstanding, unmodified example of the international architectural trend towards the pavilion plan. The Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital speaks to landscapes which are scientific and medical, architectural and technical, child-centred and humanitarian.

Summary of Significance or Values

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


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

The Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital makes a special contribution to our understanding of New Zealand’s history. The hospital is an example of the pavilion plan which had become an accepted international trend in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The hospital includes the defining characteristics of the plan – separate small wards, ventilation, adequate drainage and water supplies, and access to outside areas.

The hospital is also a rare extant example of New Zealand’s medical, public and governmental campaign to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. As these infections affected children in particular, the hospital also represents the evolution of the humanitarian concern for the welfare of children. The breadth of stories told by the hospital signifies the outstanding contribution it makes to our understanding of New Zealand medical and social history.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Wales, Patrick Young

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Maori History of Dunedin Area

The history of Coastal Otago (Te Tai o Araiteuru) relates to the tradition of the waka Arai Te Uru. These traditions and histories provide the basis for tribal identity. Muaupoko (Otago Peninsula) in particular provided a sheltered place for settlement, and Waitaha, Ngati Mamoe and Ngai Tahu, who remain associated with the area, all visited and lived in the vicinity. At one time up to 12 kainga existed in the lower Otago harbour. The coastline was a major trade route. Tauranga waka and associated nohoanga occurred up and down the coast, linking sea and land based resources. The mahinga kai and the varieties of plant resources were important to iwi, and with the Pakeha settlement and land sales starting in the late 1840s (particularly the sale of the 400,000 acre Otago Block) there was a significant loss access to land based food sources.

Treatment of Infectious Diseases in the Nineteenth Century

In the nineteenth century epidemics were a serious issue. One of the early expressions of this was the establishment of quarantine stations to stop the spread of shipboard infection to the settled city population. In Dunedin such a facility was established at Quarantine Island, with passengers from forty three vessels quarantined there between 1860 and 1916.

The ever present threat of infectious disease, particularly of childhood diseases such as diphtheria and scarlet fever were high in the minds of Victorian New Zealand. The subject raised passionate debate about causes and appropriate treatments. The image of the sick suffering child had become widely used as a persuasive argument to found hospitals. Before the nineteenth century, ‘children had been seen as incomplete beings with a fragile hold on life in whom it was wasteful to devote too much care and attention’. The European Enlightenment and a new nationalism, however, led to a perception of children as the source of progress and national survival. Out of this spirit came the first children’s hospital, established in 1821. This image of the suffering child was used once again in the last quarter of the nineteenth century to give impetus to the establishment of Britain’s fever hospitals.

Dunedin’s proponents of a separate fever hospital used an argument that was part of a late nineteenth/early twentieth century discourse prominent in the Western world. In 1875 scarlet fever was rife in Dunedin. In December a section of land in Dunedin’s Town Belt was set aside for a Fever Hospital to be run by the Sanitary Committee of the Dunedin City Corporation. A hospital was operational by 1876 but its location and the available care were ongoing sources of public opposition and a case was eventually taken to the Supreme Court. There was passionate debate about whether hospital or home was the appropriate place to treat ailing children. One correspondent, prominent Dunedin medical practitioner Dr William Stenhouse, railing against hospital care, wrote heatedly that the removal of a child to hospital left ‘[s]hadows of departed little ones, desolate homes, lacerated hearts of parents, embittered by the reflection that they left the last hours of their babes to be soothed by hireling hands.’ An injunction was issued and the hospital closed in 1877.

Epidemics erupted from time to time over the following decades, as did the clamour for a separate, isolated fever hospital. In 1903 the Government placed the legislative responsibility for infectious diseases cases with local hospital boards, leading to a rush to construct suitable facilities. District Health and Charitable Aid Boards throughout the country discussed their options, whether it be the building of a ward associated with an existing hospital, or a new, separate facility. In 1902 there was an agreement in Auckland to construct an infectious diseases hospital at Port Chevalier, at that time a distance of four miles from the city. Nelson too proposed to erect a separate fever hospital, and Christchurch had its own facility at Bottle Lake. In Timaru a new infectious diseases hospital was built in 1905-6.

In 1902 the location of Pelichet Bay for an isolation hospital was proposed. Negotiations with the site owners, the Defence Department who used the area as a rifle range, proved to be ongoing and difficult. When an outbreak of scarlet fever occurred in 1903, the Dunedin City Council was forced to use the Immigration Barracks at Caversham as a temporary hospital. By 9 February the female ward was full and the Medical Officer pointed out it was not only too small but on loan. The campaign for a separate fever hospital intensified.

Scarlet fever occurred mostly in children aged 4 to 8 years. In the last decades of the nineteenth century, fatality rates for scarlet fever were very high amongst children and it had overtaken diphtheria as the major cause of death from an infectious disease. Louis Starr’s paediatric text, published in 1894, described scarlet fever as the most widely disseminated of the childhood infectious rashes and the most dreaded of all the diseases of children. In 1902 there were 35 deaths in Dunedin from scarlet fever compared to 9 in Auckland and 9 in Wellington. Scarlet fever patients were kept in hospital for six weeks and only allowed to speak to visitors through the window for fear of the contagion.

In Dunedin, the image of a suffering child was used to engender compassion and to produce a moral imperative to take action. While Dunedin children gained their own purpose built ward at Dunedin Hospital in the new Victoria Jubilee Pavilion in 1899, children with ‘fevers’ were still nursed at home. The problem was when they became so ill that they needed specialist attention. No alternative place was available for their care. Those agitating for appropriate accommodation in a fever hospital summoned up persuasive visions of these sick children. Newspaper editorials and letters to the editor spoke about the suffering of children and the need for urgent action.

The colour had been drained from the wan little faces and lay in one hectic spot on each pale cheek. Flaxen hair lay tossed on the makeshift for a pillow, and wasted hands lay listless on the coverlet.

During the controversy over the first fever hospital sick children were seen as particularly vulnerable patients and their inadequate care especially reprehensible. The example of one sick child housed at the first fever hospital, whose neglect resulted in the Dunedin City Corporation being taken to Court, caused the local authority to be brought to task for failing in its duty. Another example came in 1899 when one doctor wrote to a newspaper urging the provision of a fever hospital. His argument was based on the experience of a choking two year old child, who was thought to be suffering from a ‘fever’. Refused admission to hospital, tragedy was only barely averted. Further examples appeared in newspapers connecting the suffering of the sick child with the moral imperative to relieve it. The Karitane Hospital, forerunner of the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society, was established in 1907 to care for sick and undernourished babies and is one example of the results of this moral campaign. The establishment of the Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital, then, can be seen as part of this groundswell towards specialised services catering for children. While the hospital was not confined solely to child patients, it was still part of the advance in children’s health which was part of a Western world trend.

By August 1904 negotiations over the site for the infectious diseases hospital were ongoing, but were centred around access to land around Pelichet Bay, at the edge of what is now Logan Park, but which was Lake Logan. The Defence Department refused to surrender a portion of the land it used as a rifle range for a fever hospital. The Hospital Board negotiated with the Department for two years. Finally in December 1906 the Defence Minister sanctioned a portion of Pelichet Bay to be leased to the Health Department at a small rental as a site for the hospital for a period of 21 years.

In February 1907 Dr James Mason, Chief Health Officer, visited Dunedin to provide impetus to the erection of the hospital. He held a meeting of delegates from local bodies in the Town Hall concerning cost allocation. Dr Mason said the Government would contribute half the cost of erecting the hospital, making a pound for pound subsidy on the amounts received from local bodies. Assuming the hospital cost £2500 and the City of Dunedin was contributing £533, the local bodies would contribute between £7 and £92. Several local body representatives ‘declined absolutely’ to contribute funds to the hospital. The matter was left in the hands of the courts to settle. The magistrate favoured the local bodies and in June the Department of Health issued a directive to the Board to build, equip and maintain a hospital. By August there was still no agreement. There were also ongoing problems with the lease of the land although in August the government assured the Board that they would take responsibility for any problems with the title.

The Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital

The Otago Hospital Board’s architect, Patrick Young Wales of Mason and Wales, submitted a sketch plan for consideration in August 1907. Patrick Wales (1864-1939) was the son of the original partner of the noted architectural firm. Mason and Wales is the oldest architectural practice in New Zealand, founded in 1862, and has been responsible for the design of a large number of notable buildings. After gaining practical experience in the building trade, Patrick Wales became a partner with his father. Designing a number of significant Dunedin buildings including New Zealand Insurance Company, Kempthorne Prosser, Government Life Insurance and the Imperial Buildings, Wales was also architect of a number of Otago Hospital Board buildings.

Wales’ design gave two options for the structure which should, he estimated, take 8 or 9 months to erect. The cost of the building in brick was estimated at £3350 and the cost in wood was around £3000. The cost of roads and drainage had to be added to these totals. The estimated cost of the erection of the hospital, plus equipment and maintenance for one year was £5000. Although a significant sum, one infectious disease case alone could cost hundreds of pounds to treat.

The hospital’s design spoke to newly accepted Victorian conventions of ventilation, proper drainage, water supply and an outside area for the recreation of patients. By the 1880s in England, the vast majority of new hospitals conformed to a basic plan: a series of pavilions placed next to one another, set in attractive grounds. The use of the ‘pavilion plan’ spread throughout the country; it could be either grand (Italianate or Gothic) or ‘cheaply functional’ in style. The principle, of which Florence Nightingale was a leading proponent, provided a greater degree of separation and segregation to impede the spread of disease. Buildings were preferably single storey.

The concept of pavilion architecture for hospitals was one already current in New Zealand hospital design, and had been incorporated into the development of older hospital complexes. In Timaru, for example, in 1880, the additions to the existing buildings were made in the pavilion plan where the narrow buildings were arranged for the maximum of lighting and ventilation.

The second pavilion principle was greatly improved ventilation. Ventilation was achieved by rows of tall, narrow windows. Natural ventilation from doors, windows and fireplaces was the rule. By the early years of the twentieth century the beneficial effects of sunshine and fresh air were added to the principle. Pelichet Bay’s design included verandas to encourage the taking of fresh air, sun rooms for cooler days, numerous tall windows and air vents within the bedrooms, all designed to increase the supply of health-giving natural ventilation.

The third pavilion principle was improved sanitation. Proper drainage and a clean water supply became essential. This principle was the most enduring and perhaps the greatest nineteenth century public health reform and architects’ skills grew to include those of sanitation engineer. The swampy nature of the Pelichet Bay site must have created extra drainage issues for the architect. The requirement for adequate drainage and water supply, however, was included in the specifications and costs. It was not until circa 1949 that the Hospital’s separate drainage system was connected to the town supply.

Wales’ design of Pelichet Bay Hospital emulated this pavilion style. He designed a central block, originally single storied, with adjoining wings. Each of these had a rear pavilion joined by a small corridor. It created physical separation to help impede the spread of disease. The pavilion design met the Board’s approval. The Board then instructed the architect to prepare plans for laying a road to the site and to call for tenders for clearing scrub and surveying the site.

Tenders were called for and R. Meikle was the successful contractor with a tender of £2,500. Meikle had been in the building and contracting business since 1870. Messrs Meikle and Company built several significant Dunedin buildings, including the Dunedin Telegraph Office, the Colonial Bank and Hallenstein and Co. They also erected the Houghton Ward of the Dunedin Hospital. Meikle had already worked with the Department of Health and with Mason and Wales on the Colonial Bank.

Construction was underway by early 1908, although access to the three acre site proved difficult given the swampy nature of the land around Lake Logan. The wooden and plaster building, topped with an iron roof, progressed well but before the hospital could be finished a scarlet fever epidemic resulted in a temporary ‘hospital’ being established on site. Two large army marquees and three bell tents accommodated six children, three sick nurses and one woman. The winter conditions on the sunless side of Lake Logan were less than ideal.

By September 1908 the Pelichet Bay Infectious Disease Hospital was open and immediately put to use. The scarlet fever epidemic had not abated and the need was great. A report on infectious diseases for October 1907-October 1908 noted that there had been 236 cases of scarlet fever, an increase of 65 on the previous year. At first the hospital catered almost exclusively for scarlet fever cases and the Board resisted efforts to admit other infectious disease cases. Legislation, however, enabled the Department of Health to compel local hospital boards to care for other infectious cases such as measles.

The hospital had eight beds and Miss Barbara Smith, previously of the Otago Benevolent Institution, was employed as the matron. Nurses came from Dunedin Hospital, attending by choice but paid at a higher rate as compensation for the risks involved. Dr A. Fitchett was the District Medical Officer, although often the patient’s own doctor continued to attend and charged the Board for their services.

According to one source, a second story for the central block and a morgue, disinfectant room and an extra room for staff were added late in 1908. A photograph taken in February 1909, however, shows the central block was still single storied and there is no indication of the outbuilding housing the morgue. Photographic evidence is scarce, although a photograph taken circa 1920 shows a second story in place. In May 1909 a tender from Henderson Bros, for £62, was accepted for erecting the mortuary and disinfectant room housed in an outbuilding a few metres from the north wing. Another tender from A. Dempster, for £129, was also accepted for asphalting the paths. In September 1909 another quote was accepted to light the Hospital with electricity, which was seen as a great boon to the work there.

In 1910 the newly created Otago Hospitals and Charitable Aid Board (OHCAB) took over administration of the new hospital. The Board established a Hospitals Committee which was responsible for the day to day supervision of Dunedin Hospital and the Infectious Diseases Hospital. By 1910 Pelichet Bay had a twelve bed hospital caring only for those patients who could not be isolated at home. Insufficient patient beds meant temporary accommodation had to be found during mild epidemics from time to time. During a smallpox scare in 1913, temporary shelters were erected once again in the Hospital’s grounds.

As early as 1915, the Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital was under threat. In 1915 local doctors sent a deputation complaining about conditions. Bed numbers were increased to 18 in 1916 and then 20 in 1920 but this did nothing to ameliorate pressure on the Board to erect a better fever hospital on a new site. Dr Thomas Valentine, Inspector General of Health wrote to the OHCAB querying whether they were blocking the erection of new infectious disease accommodation at Wakari Hospital. In response an architect from Mason and Wales is sent to have a look at the new Hanmer Fever Hospital for ideas in May 1916. No action was taken. By 1918, the Hospital treated up to one hundred cases a year but it was often criticised as small and inadequate.

In 1924 the issue erupted again when the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition Company, who were organising a 1925-1926 exhibition on the reclaimed Lake Logan, wanted the hospital removed from the vicinity of their grounds. By then it consisted of 6 small wards accommodating some 16 patients. The Committee appealed to the District Medical Officer of Health, Dr A. R Falconer, who sent their request to the Director General of Health, Dr Thomas Valentine. He in turn urged the Board to consider relocating the hospital to Wakari. Valentine reminded the Board that ‘The Department at various times in the past has placed before your Board its views as to the inadequacy of the present accommodation for cases of infectious disease in the Otago Hospital district…’ Dr Falconer waxed lyrical concerning the need to move infectious disease accommodation from Pelichet Bay.

For many years the fever section has been the Cinderella of your institutions, and I am here tonight inviting good fairies to give her justice… It is an axiom in fever accommodation that it shall be spacious and airy with good sunshine and surroundings that will encourage convalescence. Even the poor from the London slums get far better accommodation in the fever hospitals throughout London than do the Dunedin children… You have a glorified rabbit hutch down at Logan’s Point where you accommodate scarlet fever cases…Is there any sane reason why these unfortunate children who in the public health interest are compelled to go to hospital should be placed in such buildings…It is astounding that…in the City of Dunedin the accommodation for these unfortunate children with infectious fevers should be not only inadequate but entirely unsuitable… There seems in Dunedin to be an entire lack of appreciation of what a fever hospital should be.

Dr T. McKibbin provided a description of the Pelichet Bay Hospital in 1924: ‘the beds always first used for Diphtheria are those at the back of the central buildings cut off from the sun. When these overfill the old nurses’ home is used. When this overfills emergency measures are taken. Recently the former were both overfilled and overcrowded, and then the Chairman, Superintendent and I visited Wakari…the back portion was opened up, fitted, furnished, and occupied a few days later…Wakari is the only portion of this [infectious diseases] accommodation, in which fewer patients should be placed…’

The Board acquiesced to the pressure and closed the Pelichet Infectious Diseases Hospital in 1924, relocating cases to Wakari Hospital. Unhappily for its opponents, this closure proved to be only for the duration of the Exhibition. The Hospital reopened later in 1926. The Director General of Health was displeased - ‘I am certainly of the opinion that your Board was very ill advised in relegating infectious disease cases to Lake Logan.’ Pressure continued from the new District Medical Officer of Health Dr J. Cranshaw. The Board continued, however, to fully support ongoing accommodation at the Pelichet Bay site. Unexpectedly, when Dr Valintine visited the Hospital in 1928 he expressed surprise at its relatively good condition. Given this blessing, it remained. Indeed it was in 1929 that the land was finally bought by the Otago Hospital Board.

Despite Valintine’s sanction, the New Zealand Truth ran an article on the state of the fever hospital which, according to the newspaper, was in sad repair. In an article titled ‘Health, Muddle and Apathy. Some Glaring Instances of Hygienic Torpor in New Zealand’s Medical Stronghold‘ the Pelichet Bay Hospital was ‘badly in need of attention and overhaul…. It is a strange looking barn-like structure perched on the slopes of a scrubcovered hill.’ Close to the Hospital lies what was ‘best described as a private ‘backyard’ garbage dump, a filthy, germ-breeding collection of debris that is scattered around a private residence not a stone’s throw away from the fever hospital buildings…’Truth’ has ascertained, these premises were housing a piggery’. In conclusion the journalist wrote ‘serving the purpose of a fever-hospital in a city which is the very hub of New Zealand’s medical family, its antiquity of design and depressing environments are – to say the least – a disgrace’.

As the Board continued to delay a decision to erect a new hospital, the pressure for beds declined and the furore waned. By now the hospital was reduced to 17 beds and its use still depended primarily on scarlet fever. Between 1928 and 1932 it was often crowded with patients. In the 1931-1932 year it treated 236 cases and the daily occupancy rate was 16.8 patients. Plans to build at Wakari were revived once more but country members of the Board blocked the proposal on financial grounds. Ultimately only a small part of the Wakari hospital was occasionally used for infectious diseases cases. By the mid 1930s plans to accommodate infectious diseases cases at Wakari were finally abandoned and the Pelichet Bay Hospital remained the main infectious diseases accommodation in Dunedin.

During World War Two the Hospital was used quite regularly for infectious diseases. After 1947, however, patient numbers fell and the Board closed the Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital in 1952.

In 1959 it was sold to the University of Otago to be used as flats for married final year medical students.

In 2010 only the second floor of the central block was being used as accommodation for students, with the rest of the building unoccupied. The building’s isolation and seclusion continues, with large trees obscuring the site, surrounded by scrub, and overlooking Logan Park’s sport’s grounds.

Although there were other fever wards and hospitals around the country, such as Wellington’s Chest Hospital, the story of the Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital is particularly notable. It entwines a number of historical strands. From the lengthy public campaign, including government intervention; to the international pavilion plan; to its contemporary links to new child welfare philosophies and organisations, the Hospital’s story is expansive. Perhaps even more singular is that unlike other such institutions, the Pelichet Bay Hospital is not only extant but relatively unmodified. Even after it’s tenure as a hospital ended, it continued to be used for accommodation. The exterior is unchanged and few changes have been made to the interior. This is rare indeed and provides a tantalising glimpse into early nineteenth century fever hospital conditions.

Physical Description


The former Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital is located at the north east corner of Logan Park. Logan Park, once Lake Logan but reclaimed in the mid 1920s, is surrounded on two sides by Signal Hill. The buildings are located at the base of the hill, perched on a small area of flat land above Butts Road, which circles Logan Park. The nearest neighbour is Logan Park High School nestled in a nearby valley and the Caledonian Ground immediately across Butts Road. The building is surrounded by trees and dense scrub. The land immediately surrounding the building is a rough lawn with overgrown plantings.

Exterior Appearance

From the road, the former Pelichet Infectious Diseases Hospital is almost invisible. Walking up the gravel driveway the hospital comes into view, surrounded by dense bush. From the front aspect there is a main, two-storied block with a single story wing on either side. Each of these wings has a veranda. The building is white with green doors and railings.

The main two-storied building has stairs leading up to what appear to be the original double doors. Through these doors there is a hall way with two well-proportioned rooms on either side. Each has a fireplace, perhaps in a 1930s style. The ceilings, which are the same in all the unaltered rooms, show no embellishments, but slope down towards the walls from a central square. There are iron vents which may be opened and closed to allow access to fresh air. The hall is T-shaped. Each end of the ‘T’ has been blocked off to create a single flat.

At the top of the hall and to the left is a room with a fresh air vent and a servery hatch through to the room on the right. This room at the top right of the hall has a substantial mantelpiece and was the kitchen. Beyond this room is a small corridor which leads into a small pavilion now containing bathroom and kitchen facilities.

Returning outside and to the north wing, access to the covered wooden veranda is from steps leading to a gate in the railing. The railing is iron and wire netting. At one end of the veranda is a small sun room with windows facing the original view furnished by Lake Logan. The sun room appears to have originally been a corridor through to the main block (which still exists on the other veranda) connecting the veranda to the central block and the stairway. There are two doors exiting onto the veranda. Through these doors are well proportioned bedrooms which both access a small kitchen, in what was once a corridor, and bathroom facilities beyond in a separate pavilion. This pavilion is separate from the wing, joined only by the narrow corridor. The wing to the right of the central block is a mirror image of the left wing and forms a third flat.

Interior Appearance

At the end of the veranda closest to the central block is a small glassed corridor and door which leads to the staircase to the second floor. The stair case banister is wooden and original. The stairs are covered with carpet. There are two windows in the stairway, one of which is cut across by the stairway. This indicates the second story was added at a later date.

The staircase enters out onto what was once a sizeable landing which has been converted into a lounge for the upstairs flat. There are four bedrooms to the north which overlook the rear of the property. The windows are original. One bedroom also overlooks what was once Lake Logan and is of a substantial size. Another of the bedrooms has an impressive fireplace and wooden mantel. This may have been the nurses’ quarters originally. To the south is a kitchen and bathroom facility with few original features. The doors to the bedrooms have original door handles and decorative door plates.

Returning downstairs and to the rear of the property behind the central block, is a small rectangular building. It consists of two small rooms; one is now storage space and the other appears to be the old laundry. It contains two concrete sinks and on the outer wall is a small door. On the exterior wall at the same spot there is a square gravel area from which something has been removed. The remains of coke/coal are embedded in the ground and in the lining of the wall, so it appears a coal chute or fire to heat the water was once here.

At the rear of the wings are small corridors which link to separate pavilions. These are placed on an angle to the corridor and form an interesting aesthetic feature. These pavilions now contain kitchen and bathroom facilities but would have once been separate wards.

To the north of the hospital, and separated by a few metres, is a small wooden outbuilding with a pitched iron roof. It is rectangular in shape and partially obscured by bush. A green door provides access to a room at one end of the building. The room is small and currently used for storage. The glass in the window is opaque. On the west elevation and obstructed by overgrown bush are two more doors. These are locked and currently inaccessible. From the hill behind the east elevation three windows are visible along the length of the building and all are opaque. This building was probably the morgue, disinfectant room and an extra room for staff which were added later, around 1908.

Directly behind the hospital is an unrestrained ‘wall’ of hill which is at least six meters high. Behind this is a steep slope of mown grass which is edged by bush.

The hospital has been used for student accommodation since the 1950s. Currently only the flat upstairs is tenanted. The others are said to be damp and prone to mould. Currently the University acts as a landlord to mostly international students and the old hospital is considered to be unsuitable for these students. It is also removed from campus and slightly isolated.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1908 -
Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital opened.

Second storey added to central pavilion.

1952 -
Hospital closed.

1959 -
Hospital sold and reused as student accommodation.

Construction Details

Timber framing and cladding, corrugated iron roof, plaster.

Completion Date

31st March 2011

Report Written By

Susan Irvine

Information Sources

Angus, 1984

John Angus, A History of the Otago Hospital Board and its Predecessors, Otago Hospital Board, Dunedin, 1984

Archives New Zealand (Dun)

Archives New Zealand (Dunedin)

Otago Hospital and Charitable Aid Board, 3 April 1916, Otago Hospital Board, Buildings, Drainage, Water Supply, Sites - Dunedin Hospital - Alterations, Renovations - Treatment of Infectious Diseases (Hospitals at Lake Logan and Wakari), DAHI D274 10d OHB 8/1

Knight, H. & N. Wales, 1988

Hardwicke Knight and Niel Wales, Buildings of Dunedin: An Illustrated Architectural Guide to New Zealand's Victorian City, John McIndoe, Dunedin, 1988

Postgraduate Medical Journal

Postgraduate Medical Journal

Cook, G.C., ‘Henry Currey FRIBA (1820–1900): leading Victorian hospital architect, and early exponent of the 'pavilion principle', 2002 78: 352-359.

Medical History

Medical History

King, Anthony, ‘Hospital planning: revised thoughts on the origin of the pavilion principle in England’, Oct 1966, 360-373

Medical History Supplement

Medical History Supplement

Lomax, E.M., ‘Small and special: the development of hospitals for children in Victorian Britain’, 1996, (16): 1–217

Social History of Medicine

Social History of Medicine

Lomax, Elizabeth ‘The Control of Contagious Disease in Nineteenth-Century British Paediatric Hospitals’, Social History of Medicine, 1994, 7(3):383-400

Pediatric Research

Pediatric Research

Shulman, Stanford T., ‘The History of Pediatric Infectious Diseases’, January 2004, 55(1):163-176

Nursing Praxis in New Zealand

Nursing Praxis in New Zealand

Wood, P.J. ‘The sick child, humanitarian narratives and the getting of hospitals: an historical research brief’, Nov 1996, 11(3).

Other Information

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

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.