Truby King Harris Hospital (Former)

79 Every Street, Andersons Bay, Dunedin

  • Truby King Harris Hospital (Former).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Heather Bauchop. Date: 4/08/2014.
  • Truby King Harris Hospital (Former). Queen Elizabeth visiting the hospital in 1953 (Archives New Zealand Reference: ADEU 16391 SANS22 7/135
    Copyright: Archives New Zealand.
  • Truby King Harris Hospital (Former). Salmond and Salmond’s elevations and sections for the Truby Harris Hospital (Copy NZHPT file 12009-1267).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 9659 Date Entered 26th February 2015 Date of Effect 27th March 2015


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 22115 (RT OT13D/651), Otago Land District, and the building known as the Truby King Harris Hospital (Former) thereon. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the List entry report for further information).

City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 22115 (RT OT13D/651), Otago Land District


The Plunket Society’s Truby King Harris Hospital (Former), built in 1938 to a design by Arthur Salmond, is an early example of Modernist architecture in New Zealand and reflects the Plunket philosophy emphasising hygiene and fresh air. The hospital provided a haven for mothers and babies. The Truby King Harris Hospital (Former) has special historical significance as the site of the first Plunket Society’s Karitane Home for Babies, and as the Plunket Society’s sole training hospital for Plunket and Karitane nurses until the 1960s. The building has special significance as an early example of Modernist architecture in New Zealand, epitomising the Modernist ideals of hygiene and fresh air in its design with its elevated setting, flat roof, balconies and terraces, and expanse of windows; the architecture expressing Plunket’s own philosophy. The hospital was eventually closed in 1978.

Founded in Dunedin in 1907 by Frederic Truby King, The Society for the Promotion of Health of Women and Children, more commonly known as the Plunket Society, opened its first hospital on this Andersons Bay site in Dunedin in 1910. Dunedin businessman and philanthropist Wolff Harris donated the land and buildings for the ‘Karitane Home for Babies.’

The Plunket Society gathered much popular support, and by the end of the 1920s, there were six Karitane hospitals in New Zealand – Auckland, Wanganui, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill. The hospitals provided advice and support for mothers and their babies, where there were feeding problems or where babies were failing to thrive. The Plunket philosophy emphasised routine, hygiene, fresh air, and diet. Growing from its Dunedin base, Plunket established a network of hospitals and community clinics throughout the country and became the mainstay of advice for predominately Pakeha mothers in the twentieth century.

In 1938, the ageing hospital was demolished and replaced with Arthur Salmond’s design for a new hospital in the Modernist style. The design was appropriate, befitting Plunket’s emphasis on health, hygiene and fresh air. In 1978, Plunket made the decision to close the Karitane hospitals because they cost too much to run, and because of a change of focus towards community-based care.

In 2014, the hospital is being converted into apartments, with an emphasis on community living.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Truby King Harris Hospital (Former) has special historical significance. The site links back to the founding of the Plunket Society’s first hospital and Wolff Harris, the generous benefactor who donated the land and buildings for the hospital. The subsequent development of the modern facilities reflects the changes within Plunket and the expanding scale of their operations, as well as fitting within the social idealism of the 1930s, and the concern for the health of women and children.

Aesthetic Significance or Value

The former Truby King Harris Hospital has aesthetic significance. The building is on a prominent elevated site in Andersons Bay, overlooking Dunedin. The distinctive form of the building, with its streamlined, rectilinear Modernist design gives it visual appeal.

Architectural Significance or Value

The Truby King Harris Hospital (Former) has special architectural significance as an early example of Modernist architecture in New Zealand. Its careful design and detailing employ Modernist detailing, epitomising the Modernist ideals of hygiene, fresh air and sunshine in a hospital setting. The hospital was built at the same time as the Berhampore Flats in Wellington (Category 1, List Entry 7432) and shares the flat roof, balconies and concrete construction of this building.

Cultural Significance or Value

As the national headquarters for the training of Plunket nurses, the Truby King Harris has special cultural significance. It was the foundation for the Plunket ideas and associated culture of childrearing that has been a defining element in New Zealand’s identity in the twentieth century. Up until the 1960s, all Plunket nurses were trained at this hospital, and took the values and culture of that training to the community, promulgating Plunket’s ideals of routine, diet, and fresh air.

Social Significance or Value

The Truby King Harris Hospital was the community centre for Dunedin’s mothers and babies who needed support and care. For forty years it provided a place where mothers could share advice and experiences. For the hundreds of Plunket and Karitane nurses who were trained in Dunedin, the hospital had special significance as a place of work and a place where their professional community was formed. The hospital is still remembered with affection by those who were looked after there, and who worked there.

This place was assessed against, and found to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, e, g, and j. It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category 1 historic place.

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

The Truby King Harris Hospital reflects the important theme of child and maternal welfare in the twentieth century in response to the alarming child mortality rates of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Society for the Promotion of the Health of Women and Children, later known as the Plunket Society, was founded in Dunedin in 1907, with the first Karitane Home for Babies, opened three years later on this site. The Truby King Harris Hospital represents the Plunket’s history of institutional care. Plunket instilled a philosophy where routine, hygiene, diet and fresh air were paramount to the health of mothers and babies, and by extension, the health of the nation. The building’s history in the later years of the twentieth century, and the closure of the facility in 1978 reflect the move to community-based care that saw the closure of other large institutions, and the creation of Plunket family centres.

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

The history of Truby King Harris Hospital is closely associated with Frederic Truby King, the founder of the Society for the Promotion of Health of Women and Children, commonly known as the Plunket Society. Truby King has become an icon for the movement that he founded, and the Society, though not without critics, has become a New Zealand icon itself. The hospital was a key feature in the ideas around maternal and infant health and welfare that developed in the twentieth century. The Truby King Harris Hospital is also associated with prominent Dunedin architect Arthur Louis Salmond.

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

The former Truby King Harris Hospital has strong community associations. Many hundreds of women and children have been through the hospital, and a similarly significant number of Plunket and Karitane nurses have been trained there. The new owners have reached out to the community and invited them to share their experiences of the institution, and have been delighted by the enthusiasm, and the offers of historical information relating to the history of the place.

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

The former Truby King Harris Hospital shows significant technical accomplishment in its design. It is an early example of Modernist architecture in New Zealand and its design elements epitomise Modernist detailing – including flat roofs, balconies, terraces and construction details such as steel windows.

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

The Truby King Harris Hospital has rarity value as the only Karitane Hospital complex built in an architecturally progressive form, reflecting the ideas and philosophies of Modernism – the building demonstrating the philosophies of health and hygiene. The Truby King Harris Hospital was also the first of the country’s Karitane hospitals, and the only national training hospital for twenty years.

Summary of Significance or Values

The Truby King Harris Hospital (Former) has special significance as the site of the first Plunket Society’s Karitane Home for Babies, and as the Plunket Society’s sole training hospital for Plunket and Karitane nurses until the 1960s. It is also an early example of Modernist architecture in New Zealand, epitomising the Modernist ideals of hygiene and fresh air in its design with its elevated setting, flat roof, balconies and terraces, and expanse of windows; the architecture expressing Plunket’s own philosophy based on routine, hygiene and fresh air.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Formation of the Society for the Promotion of Health of Women and Children

The health of infants was one of New Zealand’s major concerns of the early twentieth century, and with good reason: more than seven in 100 New Zealand children were dying in infancy. Illnesses such as gastroenteritis, tuberculosis, diphtheria and polio struck the young. And with the deaths of children, politicians expressed concern about the future health of the nation. Premier Richard Seddon called for the country to ‘save the babies’ as children were ‘‘social capital’ – the ‘building blocks’ of the nation and the country’s future defence force.’

So it was that Sir Frederic Truby King, superintendent at Seacliff Lunatic Asylum, became interested in the welfare of infants. His interest was spurred when he and wife Bella adopted Mary, a delicate infant. Bella challenged him to find a suitable milk formula for Mary. He studied artificial feeding for infants and devised a recipe for ‘humanised milk’ and established a routine under which Mary thrived. Truby King advocated breast feeding, and where that was not possible, the use of this ‘humanised milk.’ Encouraged by his success, he trained Joanna MacKinnon, one of his Seacliff staff, in his infant feeding methods and routines. He hoped to prove to the medical world and the wider community that his methods could lead to lower infant death rates and healthier children. Joanna MacKinnon took the method to Dunedin families, and alerted Truby King to the poor state of foster homes.

King called a public meeting on 14 May 1907, at which the Society for the Promotion of Health of Women and Children was formed to help mothers and to save babies from disease and malnutrition. As a doctor, he believed a system of good nutrition and regular routines would reduce the death rate among babies and children, and safeguard the nation’s health. Truby King won over a group of Dunedin women who formed the Society for the Promotion of Health of Women and Children – the inaugural meeting was held on 23 May 1907. The make-up of the officers of first committee shows how wives of the wealthy and influential played important roles: president Kathleen Hosking was wife of a magistrate; vice-president Ella Ritchie was wife of the general manager of the National Mortgage and Agency Company; Susanna Joachim was wife of the managing director of the country’s largest coal company; and treasurer Sarah Cohen was wife of an Evening Star editor. Planning meetings were held at Olveston, the home of committee member Mrs Marie Theomin. Truby King suggested setting up a licensed home to care for infants, as well as a maternity home for mothers in Dunedin. He offered his own holiday house at the small seaside town of Karitane, north of Dunedin, as the first licensed home or ‘Karitane’ hospital for sick, malnourished or premature babies. He equipped the hospital, while the community supplied baby clothes and the Taieri and Peninsula Dairy Company provided free milk. This community support was a key in the Society’s working.

Establishment of the ‘Karitane Home for Babies’, Andersons Bay

A sub-committee of Society women set about finding a suitable place in Dunedin for the maternity home. Mrs Leslie Harris, daughter in law of philanthropist Wolff Harris, arranged for the Society to lease one of the family’s homes in Andersons Bay/Puketahi. Wolff Harris became a life member of the Society, gifting the Andersons Bay property to the Society in 1910.

Puketahi (‘one hill’, also spelled Puketai), the Maori name for area overlooking South Dunedin’s flat land, was a commanding site overlooking the neck of the Otago Peninsula. Puketahi was on the Maori trail from the peninsula via Tomahawk to places south of Otepoti/Dunedin. Andersons Bay sits above the narrow neck of land, across which waka were dragged for sea journeys. European settlers too enjoyed the situation. James Anderson is the settler who gives his name to the modern suburb of Andersons Bay – settling in the district in 1844, before the founding of Dunedin. Following later were settlers like Wolff Harris who lived in the area. Harris was a Polish Jew, who came to Dunedin in 1857 and, with Adolf Bing, founded Bing Harris Company, a warehousing and manufacturing firm which road the crest of the golden wave of 1860s Dunedin. Harris later retired to a comfortable London life, but continued his Dunedin philanthropic interest, including funding a chair in Physiology at the Otago Medical School, and the later gift of a home for the Karitane hospital.

The Andersons Bay property was perfectly situated – a healthy setting with a generous section, sloping garden and fresh air. The hospital known as the ‘Karitane Home for Babies’ was opened on 13 December 1907. Their motto was ‘Save the Babies’ and their mission to ‘give a chance for a healthy life to babies who are brought into the world either without a home at all or under conditions that would not allow their being properly nurtured and cared for.’

All Society baby-care homes took on the name ‘Karitane’. The Dunedin Karitane Home took babies and children under two years, who were not being treated in the hospital system. The facilities at Andersons Bay were limited; the house was a six-bedroom villa on three acres (1.21 hectares) of land with associated outbuildings. The two sunny front rooms were converted to ward space, and the stable became the nurses’ home. The hospital became known as the Karitane-Harris Hospital in honour of Wolff Harris and Truby King. Care was based on the system of ‘humanised milk, regular feeding and plenty of fresh air, sunshine and exercise.’ Humanised milk was a modified form of cow’s milk mimicking the make-up of breast milk, where infants could not be breast fed. Truby King’s system was taken up in many parts of the world.

Growth of the Plunket Society

By May 1908, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin had branches of the new society. Victoria Plunket, wife of the then Governor-General, became patron and the society became known as the Plunket Society. Children’s health became an issue of ‘national safety and national progress’ in the early years of the twentieth century. This was brought to the fore with the First World War where, as a government poster put it, ‘The Race marches forward on the feet of Little Children.’

Six Karitane hospitals opened in New Zealand, providing support for new mothers and their babies who were ‘failing to thrive’. In 1918, the Christchurch Karitane Hospital opened, and the following year, Wanganui opened its own Karitane Hospital. Wellington’s new Karitane Hospital opened in 1926. Auckland’s Karitane Hospital opened in October 1924, while Invercargill’s opened in the mid-1920s. Each of the hospitals accommodated some 30 babies and 10 mothers, and was staffed by matrons, nurses and honorary visiting paediatricians.

Plunket built up a system of nurse training; qualified nurses trained in maintaining health and preventing disease. Lord and Lady Plunket instigated the programme, with the aim of training health visitors who would instruct mothers in infant care, free of charge. Each hospital also had a number of Karitane nurse trainees, who carried out the bulk of the nursing work. Before the 1960s, only Dunedin’s Karitane hospital trained Plunket nurses. By 1931, there were 129 Plunket nurses, who made close to 200,000 calls on mothers and babies at home. Over 623,000 mothers and babies visited Plunket rooms that year. New Zealand’s infant death rate was the lowest in the world.

Plunket Rooms

Crucial to the Society’s work was the network of Plunket Rooms. The first Plunket Rooms were established in public buildings. Later, communities built their own Plunket Rooms – with local fundraising and labour. Historian Linda Bryder writes that Plunket has often been heralded as ‘New Zealand’s most successful voluntary organisation and certainly its most famous.’ Plunket’s care was focused on Pakeha women, with Plunket having an ‘uneasy’ relationship with Maori mothers. It was not until the 1980s that Plunket was seen to serve Maori, Pacific communities and other ethnic groups, despite there being recognition that Maori and Pacific families had poorer health.

Supporting Plunket nurses were the Karitane nurses. Karitane nurses were also trained in Dunedin. ‘Karitane Bay Nurses’ (later known as Karitane nurses or Karitanes) specialised in the ‘practical care of babies and young children.’ Karitane nurses were not registered nurses and were available to work in private homes, where their care was known as ‘casing’. Karitane nurses played an ‘important part in spreading the Plunket message and improving the health of New Zealand families.’ Karitane nurses and Karitane hospitals were ‘mutually dependent.’ Karitane nurses made up the majority of the staff, carrying out the practical everyday care of babies and children, as well as looking after mothers in the Mothercraft units. Plunket nurses mainly worked in the community. Until 1964, when Auckland began a training course for Plunket nurses, Dunedin’s Truby King Harris Hospital was the only place where training was offered.

By 1928, the Plunket Society had 64 branches with Plunket nurses and 500 sub-branches that nurses visited. Mothers and babies made nearly 500,000 visits to Plunket Rooms that year, and nurses made 180,000 home visits. ‘Plunket’ had become a household name. As Plunket’s honorary secretary wrote in 1916, ‘Ours is essentially a woman’s mission – a woman’s society appealing to women.’ Historian Erik Olssen has argued that Plunket’s aims fitted into the capitalist framework, turning out self-controlled citizens, governed by the clock.

Construction of the new hospital

In 1934, Dunedin’s Karitane Home changed its name to the Truby King Harris Hospital to recognise Truby King’s role in founding the society. Like its founder, the hospital building was ageing. The facilities were out of date and cramped. The Plunket Society decided they needed a new hospital to provide modern accommodation for mothers and babies, and good training facilities for Plunket and Karitane nurses, befitting the centre of Plunket’s New Zealand operations. As with most of Plunket’s work, the community helped raise the money.

Dunedin architectural partnership Salmond and Salmond were commissioned to design the hospital. Arthur Louis Salmond (1906-1994) drew the plans for the building. Salmond, articled in his father James Louis Salmond’s office, entered the Auckland University College School of Architecture in its first intake of full time students. Salmond’s work was in the modern Beaux Arts tradition, taught in the Auckland School. Beaux-Arts encompassed geometrically ordered planning and simplified classical façade organisation. Winning a travelling scholarship to Britain and Europe exposed him to Modernist work. When he returned to Dunedin in 1933, he put into practice the Modernist ideas – shown in his 1933 house for T.K. Sidey in City Rise and on a larger scale in the 1938 Truby Harris Hospital.

Modernism was ‘a cultural movement that in architecture and applied design involved the integration of form with social purpose. It also attempted to create a new classless and hygienic lifestyle with socialist values.’ The new hospital had many of the ‘principal architectural signatures of modernism’: flat roof, balcony, white or light painted concrete construction, standardised factory constructed window systems, and terrace. Like nineteenth century sanatoria, fresh air and sunlight were also important in the design of Modernist hygienic architecture.

Architectural historian Margaret Campbell writes that ‘early twentieth century modernism occurred at a time when the notion of healing by symbolic association rather than the application of scientific methods was still relatively unchallenged. Superstition, myth and subjectivity partnered modernist functional lifestyles that emphasized purity, hygiene, fresh air and sunlight. Modernist design embodied the clean, white world that was so craved for after the carnage and filth of the First World War.’ This view was particularly relevant for hospital architecture – with the emphasis on hygiene, cleanliness, light and fresh air. Salmond’s design with its terraces and balconies, factory-produced steel-framed windows flooding the premises with light and air, and its orientation to the sun and view fits into this Modernist framework.

Salmond designed the hospital to work with the elevated site, and the design follows the natural curve of the terrain. The building is asymmetrically organized in a shallow arc. The plans show a long, low two-storey building oriented to the sun. The ground floor housed offices (the ward sisters’ office, the nurses’ duty room, the matron and tutor sisters’ offices), wards (including an isolation ward, premature ward, weaklings ward), kitchens and bathrooms, stores and the like. The administration, work areas and staff accommodation were nearest the street, while the wards and individual rooms were contained in a longer wing extending towards the north. The north end of the building terminates in a broad roof terrace, with the rooms on the first floor set back to allow an open gallery from the mother’s sitting room to the roof terrace.

The Governor General, Viscount Galway, opened the new building in December 1939. The Otago Daily Times described the hospital as of ‘modern design, with every facility for the care and treatment of babies, and stands on a fine site where a maximum of sun and fresh air may be obtained.’ The contractor was A. E. Silver.

As the national headquarters for Plunket training, the Truby King Harris Hospital had some important visitors. Queen Elizabeth visited the hospital in January 1954, with a picnic on the lawn for the many supporters. Historian Jock Phillips writes that it was at Dunedin, and in this visit to the hospital that ‘the Queen’s role as symbolic mother reached new heights.’ The Queen Mother, as Duchess of York, had opened the Wellington Karitane hospital and had been patroness of the Mothercraft Training Society opened in London by Truby King. The Queen had received a copy of Plunket’s text Modern Mothercraft, so Phillips writes,’ the ‘Queen’s visit to the society’s founding hospital was a highly symbolic moment.’ The visiting children were scrubbed and shining, and the hospital decorated to mark the occasion. Walking past the Plunket and Karitane nurses, the Queen entered the hospital ‘all freshly painted with walls of off-white tinged with pink and woodwork of eau-de-nil and pale blue. She saw the premature babies, visited the ‘weakling ward’, watched a sister doing the weekly procedure of weighing a baby and writing up the results in the Plunket book, and spent time with toddlers playing with their prams and in the sandpits.’

Troubled times for Plunket

In the 1960s, the Karitane hospitals were in financial difficulty, and there was some pressure to close them. Historian Gordon Parry writes that Plunket attempted to ‘trade their way out of trouble’ – by publicising their work and improving facilities they hoped to increase public interest and patronage. New facilities were opened - a new hospital (on the grounds of the old) was built in Auckland, a new Nurses’ Home was constructed in Wellington, and a new hospital was built in Christchurch. Additions were made to the Wanganui and Dunedin hospitals, while the Invercargill hospital had been modernised in the 1950s.

By the 1970s, the Karitane hospitals were no longer supporting themselves. The hospitals reflected an earlier time when costs were lower, and also a different clientele. In the 1970s, babies were admitted because of social rather than health reasons. Weak babies, or those that failed to thrive, tended to stay in the neo-natal units of public hospitals, and those in Karitane hospitals were often those from poor families or where mothers were not coping. Plunket was lending large amounts of money to the hospitals. Some clinicians argued that the hospitals should be replaced by smaller, neighbourhood units. Paediatric advice was more widely available, and there was less need for residential care. In March 1978, a special meeting of the Society voted to close the hospitals.

There was a good deal of conflict and bitterness about this decision. In Dunedin Karitane trainees held a protest march supported by parents and children. Despite protests, by 1980, all the hospitals were closed and sold, with the proceeds going towards establishing Karitane family centres. Plunket continues to operate today – some Community Karitanes are employed, working closely with Plunket kaiawhina (Maori health workers). Contact with parents is now through the home, Plunket clinics, Plunket family centres, preschools, marae or other community facilities.

Closure of the hospital

The Truby King Harris hospital closed in July 1978 and was later sold. In the 1990s, the building was used as a rest home (Andersons Bay Home and Hospital) and later as backpackers (Every Street Lodge). The current owners bought the building in 2013. They are converting it into apartments. Their plans show that the communal spaces will be maintained, and the central axis of the interior plan will remain readable. They have removed many of the exterior service accretions, emphasising the simplicity of the original design. Their idea is to create a connected community in a world where people are increasingly isolated. The new owners have opened the building to the community and have been inundated with interest and community support. They have found that many people have valued connections with the building, whether it be because they worked there or they spend time there as young mothers or as small babies.

Physical Description

Current Description


The former Truby King-Harris Hospital sits on an elevated corner site in the Dunedin suburb of Andersons Bay, with a spectacular view over the city, the south coast, and the hills beyond. The long low building, set into the hillside, is partially screened from the street by hedges. Entrance is via a sweeping drive from Every Street. On the Albion Street front is the former laundry.

The Hospital

Salmond’s work was strongly in the modern Beaux-Arts tradition as taught under Knight at the Auckland School of Architecture. This involved a concentration on geometrically ordered planning and simplified classical façade organization. Salmond was aware of current Modernist work in England and Europe and was able to put it into practice in Dunedin on his return in 1933 in a house for T.K. Sidey. This was a two storey flat roofed house with a roof terrace built in 1936 on Tolcarne Avenue, City Rise. Similar forms and details were used for the Karitane Hospital including metal framed windows, roofless profile and flat roof terraces.

The Karitane Hospital was designed for an elevated site in Andersons Bay, Dunedin. The plan follows the natural curve of the terrain with the building organised asymmetrically in a shallow arc. The administration, work areas and staff accommodation are nearest the street while the wards and individual rooms are contained in a longer wing that extends to the north. Wards and nursing facilities were located on the ground floor while mothers’ bedrooms were arranged on the upper level. There was a small service lift for delivering meals and equipment but no public lift. The north end of the building terminates in a broad roof terrace and the rooms on the first level are set back to allow for an open gallery from the mother’s sitting room to the roof terrace. The first floor projects over the entrance and provides a protective shelter to the main door. The jettied part is supported on rectangular columns while a double height window offset to the left allows light for the main stair. These Modernist features are carefully integrated into the design that avoids the formalist organisation of Beaux-Arts planning for a more flexible outcome based on light, climate and circulation. The rooms do not face directly north but rather north-west allowing for controlled sunlight. The south end of the building houses functional rooms and carries fewer window openings.

The exterior treatment of the main elevations is plain stucco over poured concrete but the surfaces are relieved by shadow lines formed by projecting hoods over the window openings matched by a sill beneath. The windows are generous but not the continuous bands favoured in European Modernism. The openings are proportioned in a classical manner within the load bearing walls. A parapet moulding is used to cap the wall. Unusually, all roof surfaces are flat allowing for a very low profile to the building as a tall parapet was not needed to disguise a pitched roof.

The current plans see the building converted into apartments – with new electrical and plumbing services, underfloor heating and insulation. The central axis and main room layouts remain readable, and the main communal spaces are being retained. The windows have been restored.

Comparative Analysis

Opening in 1910, the Truby King Harris Hospital was the first of six Karitane hospitals in New Zealand. The others were located in Christchurch (the Lady King Karitane Hospital, opened in 1917), Wanganui (the Stewart Karitane Hospital, opened in 1919), Auckland (the Auckland Karitane Hospital, opened in 1924), Invercargill (Truby King-Hunt Karitane Hospital, opened in 1926), and Wellington (Sir Truby King and Lady King Karitane Hospital and Mothercraft Home, opened in 1927). Apart from Wellington’s Sir Truby King and Lady King Karitane Hospital and Mothercraft Home, they were all substantial residences gifted to the Plunket Society. The other Karitane hospitals also saw phases of alterations and additions in the twentieth century as Plunket modernised their facilities. In Christchurch, Auckland, and Wanganui, new wings were added in the 1960s. Invercargill was partly demolished and rebuilt in the 1950s. All six Karitane Hospital buildings survive, although none are used for their original purpose.

Lady King Karitane Hospital, Cashmere, Christchurch (1917)

The Christchurch Karitane Hospital opened in 1917. The Babies’ Hospital Committee decided to buy a property owned by trustees of the late Colonel Richardson. The single storeyed brick residence had ten rooms, and was set on four and a half acres of ground. The building was altered to suit its function as a Karitane hospital, and a nurses' home was built at the western end of the building. In 1962, it was decided to build a new Karitane hospital next to the old. The old building accommodated the toddlers’ wing and nurses’ home. The hospital was located just off Cashmere Road. In later years, the hospital was converted for residential use, and remains in residential use in 2014.

Stewart Karitane Hospital, Wanganui (1919)

The first Karitane hospital in the North Island opened in Wanganui in 1919. Like Dunedin, Wanganui Plunket had a generous local benefactor. John Stewart donated his residence on the corner of Campbell and Plymouth streets, to the Plunket Society. The building was a large two-storied house with a verandah. Stewart’s will allowed the interior to be altered to suit a hospital, but the exterior was to be retained as it was. The Mildred Newcombe Memorial block, housing the nurses’ home was opened in 1930, and a second storey added in 1940. In 1966, a new baby block and Mothercraft centre were opened. The hospital was sold in 1980. In 2014, the original hospital building remains, and provides backpackers’ accommodation.

Auckland Karitane Hospital (1924)

Like Dunedin and Wanganui, Auckland’s first Karitane Hospital was a large old home gifted by a wealthy benefactor – Andrew Caughey (of the drapery business Smith and Caughey). He gifted his large kauri homestead – a house of 16 major rooms and several bathrooms, which also included an octagonal tower. It was set on two acres of grounds. After alterations, the hospital opened in October 1924. The house remained a hospital and nurses’ home until 1962. In 1962, a new hospital was built, and the old hospital became the nurses’ home. In 1981, following the closure of Karitane hospitals, the property became the home of the Hebron Christian College.

Truby King-Hunt Karitane Hospital, Invercargill (1926)

Invercargill’s Karitane Hospital opened in December 1926. The hospital, at Waikiwi was donated by Sir William Hunt. William Hunt (1867-1939), was an Invercargill partner and managing director in Wright Stephenson and Company, and had significant involvement in public affairs. He and his family lived at their home, Bainfield, until moving to Wellington when the head office of the firm shifted there. When he left, he gave his home to the Plunket Society. Hunt was also the chair of the Karitane Products Society.

A new wing was built, the Massey Wing. By 1948, the hospital was considered out of date, and most of the old hospital was demolished to make way for the new facility. The new building was finished in 1955. The hospital closed in 1979. Since that time, the former hospital has been incorporated into the Bainfield Park Residential Home, which provides rest home care.

Sir Truby King and Lady King Karitane Hospital and Mothercraft Home (1927), Wellington

Truby King himself donated the land for Wellington’s Karitane Hospital, alongside his home in the suburb of Melrose. The hospital was the only one of the first generation of hospitals to be purpose built. Truby King supervised the improvements to the grounds. Also on the grounds was the Karitane Products Society Factory that manufactured the infant formulas Karilac, Kariol and Karil. The Wellington Karitane hospital complex is entered on the New Zealand Heritage List as the Truby King Historic Area, Wellington (List Entry 7040) and includes Truby King House, Truby King Mausoleum, Karitane Products Society Building (Former), Karitane Maternity Hospital (Former), garden walls, gates and paths, glasshouses, and remaining trees planted by Sir Truby King. The Karitane Products Society Building (Former), Truby King Mausoleum and Truby King House are also separately listed as Category 1 historic places (List No.’s 4431, 4430 and 4427).

The significance of the Truby King Harris Hospital

The six Karitane hospitals all tell the story of Plunket’s operations in these pioneering and iconic New Zealand institutions but the Truby King Harris Hospital is of special significance within the group. It is the only hospital complex built in an architecturally progressive form, the building reflecting the Modernist philosophies of health and hygiene. The Truby King Harris Hospital was also the first of the country’s Karitane hospitals and the only national training hospital for twenty years.

The Truby King Harris Hospital is a significant early example of Modernist architecture in New Zealand carried out at a similar time to the government’s first modern housing project, Berhampore State Flats in Wellington (List No. 7432, Category 1 historic place), with which the building shares a number of salient characteristics. These include the use of flat roofs, balconies and reinforced concrete construction. The hospital predates the Berhampore Flats by one year. It is a carefully designed and detailed building that employs practical features associated with Modernism while avoiding the avant garde rhetoric of parallel designs such as Tecton’s Finsbury Health Centre (1938), in central London.

The Truby King Harris Hospital was seen as embodying the modern approach, fitting into the context of the welfare state and the progressive Labour Party policies of the 1930s. Modernist architecture between the wars was characterised by a ‘preoccupation with cleanliness, health, hygiene, sunlight, fresh air and openness’, and these concerns are epitomised in the Truby King Harris Hospital. The openness of Modernist hospital architecture has links with the sanatorium movement – it too emphasising fresh air and sunshine. Modernist hospital design firmly moved hospitals from their nineteenth century association with grime and death, and made explicit connection between ‘hygiene, function and modernism.’

The Truby King Harris Hospital sits within the Modernist milieu, with the design elements including the cubiform shape, balconies, sun galleries, the plain wall surfaces, and the window design that characterised the Inter War Modernist style. Its design fits within the social idealism of the 1930s, rather than looking back to the early twentieth century origins of the Plunket Society, identifying the organisation with its social progress and welfare ideals. These were reflected in the Modernist preoccupation with racial health and progress and social control.

Construction Professionals

Salmond and Salmond (architectural partnership) – Arthur Salmond (architect)

Arthur John Salmond (1906-1994) was an articled pupil in the Dunedin office of his father James Louis Salmond. He entered the Auckland University College School of Architecture in 1926 in the first intake of full time students. The school was headed by Cyril Roy Knight, an Australian who trained at the Liverpool School of Architecture. Thirty-one at the time of his appointment, Knight had served in the First World War with the Australian Field Engineers and stayed on in England to study at Liverpool University. He excelled there, gaining first class honours with a BArch, and was a finalist in the Rome Prize, the top architectural scholarship available to citizens of the empire. Salmond’s drawings were part of a set sent to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) whereby the Auckland School was recognized by the RIBA and its fellow teaching institutions in Britain.

In his final year of Architecture School, Salmond was awarded the New Zealand Institute of Architects’ Travelling Scholarship enabling him to travel in Britain and Europe. He studied at the Atelier at the Architectural Association School in London where he achieved high results and the praise of Arthur Mewes Davis, patron of the Atelier and doyen of British architectural education. Salmond travelled extensively in France and Northern Europe, mainly by bicycle. He kept a journal and recalled visiting the buildings of Le Corbusier while in France. Salmond was the President of the New Zealand Institute of Architects from 1961-1963. Arthur Salmond died in 1994.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1938 -

1978 -
Hospital closed

2014 -
Conversion to apartments

Construction Details

Concrete, brick, steel, glass

Completion Date

11th February 2015

Report Written By

Michael Findlay and Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Chapman, 2003

Lloyd Chapman, In a Strange Garden: The Life and Times of Truby King, Penguin Books, Auckland, 2003

Parry, 1982

Gordon Parry, A Fence at the Top: The First 75 Years of the Plunket Society, Royal New Zealand Plunket Society, Dunedin, 1982.

Bryder, 2003

Linda Bryder, A Voice for Mothers: The Plunket Society and Infant Welfare 1907-2000, Auckland University Press, Auckland, 2003

Powell, 2007

Joyce Powell, A Suitable Job for Young Ladies: The Karitane Story 1907-2007 [Karitane Hospitals and Nurses New Zealand and Overseas 1907-2007], Heritage Press Ltd, Palmerston North, 2007

Sullivan, 2007

Jim Sullivan, I was a Plunket Baby: 100 Years of The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society (Inc), Random House and Plunket, Auckland, 2007

Other Information

A fully referenced New Zealand Heritage List report is available on request from the Otago Southland Office of Heritage New Zealand.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero 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.