Historical Significance or Value
The building is of special historical significance as one of the early soldiers' clubs that arose at the beginning of World War One and was probably the first purpose built soldiers' club in New Zealand. It is unclear just how many soldiers' clubs were operating in New Zealand at the time the building was erected. However, it is known that other early clubs, such as Wellington, were in rooms that were fitted up rather than built new and that many associations were still seeking permanent premises between 1917 and 1920.
Soldiers' clubs provided facilities for returned men, such as a place to read or to play billiards. They also played an important role in assisting returned men in their transition from military to civilian life. The erection of the building during World War One is telling of the desire of the community to provide such a facility, while its closure as a Soldiers' Club by the late 1920s to early 1930s is telling of the gradual decline in numbers requiring the club until the advent of World War Two.
Aesthetic Significance or Value:
At the time it was constructed the design of the building was noted to have been distinctively different from the external appearance of many other public buildings in Napier. While the appearance of the building has been affected currently by superficial additions (the fire escape and rope on the pillars from the Mussel Boys tenancy), the aesthetic significance of the place of return for soldiers is apparent. A sense of place has been created by the Napier Soldiers' Club. Located alongside the War Memorial and at the head of Marine Parade, a civic promenade tucked against the residential edge, the sea-facing building promotes a sense of home and community.
Architectural Significance or Value:
The Napier Soldiers' Club is an excellent example of the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright and other architects of the Prairie school on the work of architect Louis Hay. At the time Hay designed the building he had worked in private practice in Napier for approximately 7 years; a period during which architectural historian Peter Shaw describes Hay as gradually moving away from 'the large scale English domestic revivalist timber building he had learned in the Natusch office, towards the more modestly scaled American craftsman bungalow'. Hay's enthusiasm for Wright can be seen in the design of the long low roof and his use of horizontal detailing. Hay would go on to use one of 'obviously Wrightian' details in the building, 'a motif of horizontal parallel lines', 'on door frames at Hinerangi' (1919) and 'on pilasters framing a fireplace at Waiohika' (designed 1920 completed 1926, Register No 7187).
As contemporaneous accounts of the building suggest, the design was unusual at the time with other architects not looking to the work of Wright until the mid 1930s and adopting some of these practices after World War Two. One exception to this was American architect Roy Lippincott, a contemporary of Wright, who worked in New Zealand between 1921 and 1939. Though Hay is well known for his work following the 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquake his earlier buildings, such as the Napier Soldiers' Club, contributed to the establishment of a strong tradition of innovative architecture in Napier in the 1920s, a tradition that is credited as 'setting the pattern' for post earthquake reconstruction.
The building also has architectural interest because Hay displayed a commitment to the Napier Soldiers' Club beyond the normal services of an architect. He provided his services for free and worked closely with the Napier Soldiers' Club Committee and contractor to ensure that the building he designed could be built within the Committee's budget. Hay also contributed to fundraising for the building, acting as musical director for one fundraiser.
It should be noted that Hay was also responsible for designing extensions to the building in 1930 enabling it to change functions and operate successfully as a hotel for many years.
Social Significance or Value:
Though the building was designed to serve only a part of the Napier community, returned soldiers, the wider community contributed to its erection and helped to furnish it. The community was also involved in public events in celebration of the building, the laying of the foundation stone on the first commemorations of ANZAC Day and the opening ceremony. The building demonstrates the commitment of the Napier community at that time to those who served in World War One.
Following its completion the building became a meeting place for returned men, where they could use the facilities provided or catch up with likeminded individuals.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:
The building is representative of the early clubrooms that were erected or fitted up for returned soldiers during following both World Wars and that today form a New Zealand institution.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:
A number of notable locals contributed both time and money towards the establishment of the Napier Soldiers' Club. They include the Mayor of and MP for Napier, John Vigor Brown, the proprietor of the Masonic Hotel, Frank Moeller, benefactor, J H Coleman and architect, Louis Hay.
The building is closely associated with World War One, an event which had an intense impact on New Zealand. The building was built for those that had served during World War One. The foundation stone for the building was laid on the first commemorations of ANZAC Day in April 1916 and it was completed during World War One.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place:
A number of notable citizens and the wider Napier community contributed towards the erection and furnishing of the Napier Soldiers' Club. They also took part in public events associated with it. Contemporaneous accounts indicate that at the time of its opening the building was held in esteem by those it was designed for, the returned soldiers. In more recent times the local Returned Services Association voiced their affection for the building as where it all began.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:
Though Hay is well known for his work following the 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquake his earlier buildings, such as the Napier Soldiers' Club, contributed to the establishment of a strong tradition of innovative architecture in Napier in the 1920s, a tradition that is credited as 'setting the pattern' for post earthquake reconstruction.
(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place:
Though the Napier Soldiers' Club was not expressly named as a memorial to those who took part in World War One the function the building performed, the laying of the foundation stone on ANZAC Day and the contribution of the community to its erection, casts it in this light. It was fortunate to have been erected when it was as by the end of World War One such 'utilitarian monuments', which had the support of the NZRSA 'had been thoroughly discredited'.
(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places:
With other early soldiers' clubs fitted up in pre existing buildings and many local associations still seeking permanent premises between 1917 and 1920 the Napier Soldiers' Club in Marine Parade is probably the first purpose built soldiers' club in New Zealand.
As contemporaneous accounts of the building suggest, the design was unusual at the time with architects, other than Hay, not looking to the work of Wright until the mid 1930s and adopting some of these practices after World War Two. One exception to this was American architect Roy Lippincott, a contemporary of Wright, who worked in New Zealand between 1921 and 1939. There are few contemporaneous examples of this style in New Zealand.
Summary of Significance or Values:
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, e, g, h, j.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category I historic place.
The building is representative of the early clubrooms that were erected or fitted up for returned soldiers during following both World Wars and that today form a New Zealand institution. It is of special historical significance as probably the first purpose built soldiers' club in New Zealand. The building is closely associated with World War One, an event which would have an intense impact on New Zealand. Though it was not expressly named as a memorial to those who took part in the war the function the building performed, the laying of the foundation stone on ANZAC Day and the contribution of the community to its erection, casts in this light.
The Napier Soldiers' Club is an excellent example of the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright and other architects of the Prairie school on the work of architect Louis Hay. Hay's enthusiasm for Wright can be seen in the design of the long low roof and his use of horizontal detailing. The design was unusual at the time with other architects not looking to the work of Wright until the mid 1930s and adopting some of these practices after World War Two. Though Hay is well known for his work following the 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquake his earlier buildings, such as the Napier Soldiers' Club, contributed to the establishment of a strong tradition of innovative architecture in Napier in the 1920s, a tradition that is credited as 'setting the pattern' for post earthquake reconstruction.
The Napier Branch of the National Reserve, a group that functioned throughout New Zealand to aid the war effort, began operating a Soldiers' Club in Napier in approximately November 1915. The National Reserve intended that the club be used 'more in the form of a recruiting office' and regular notices appeared in local newspapers throughout 1915-1916 advising Napier residents of the number of men that had enlisted at the club (conscription was not introduced until 1916). The club, which initially occupied premises in the Council Chambers, was open to those who had enlisted for active service, those on leave from camp, and returned soldiers (the first hospital ship of wounded soldiers from Gallipoli having arrived in Wellington on 15 July 1915). Within three months of opening the club had proved so successful that new premises were desired and the public were appealed to for funds. Prior to the opening of a new purpose built soldiers' club in Marine Parade in December 1916 it seems the club continued to occupy its temporary premises in the Council Chambers.
Napier Soldiers' Club Committee:
The group responsible for the establishment of Napier's first purpose built soldiers' club was the Napier Soldiers' Club Committee. The Committee was set up as a sub committee of the National Reserve in January 1916 to manage the affairs of the existing Soldiers' Club. The Committee consisted of J Lipscomb[e], F. Stopford, F Moeller and J Vigor Brown. J Lipscomb[e] and Frank Moeller, the proprietor of the Masonic Hotel, were appointed as joint honorary secretaries and treasurers, while John Vigor Brown, the then Mayor of and MP for Napier, acted as chair of the Committee. Brown occupied a leading place in Napier's public life for over two decades following his election to the Mayoralty in April 1907. He was Mayor of Napier between 1907-1917, 1919-1921 and 1927-1933 and MP for Napier between 1908 and 1922. Another prominent local, J H Coleman, who was well known as a pioneer sheep farmer, sportsman and clubman, joined the Committee at their request in April 1916.
In February 1916 the Committee decided to take the necessary steps to have the Napier Soldiers' Club incorporated. They were advised by the Club's solicitors, Messrs Sainsbury Logan Williams, that it was necessary for the Club to become a 'separate entity apart from the National Reserve'. As a result the National Reserve passed the following resolution on 4 March 1916:
That the Sub-committee of the Soldiers [sic] Club appointed by Resolution of January 8th., be a separate entity, having sole and independent possession charge and control of the finances and property and all other matters relating to the Soldiers [sic] Club, and independent entirely of the National Reserve of New Zealand.
In October the Club's solicitors advised the Committee that the Napier Soldiers' Club had been duly incorporated on 26 October 1916.
Purchase of Land:
In addition to managing the affairs of the existing soldiers' club, for example securing a telephone and caretaker, upon its formation the Committee immediately took steps towards establishing a new purpose built clubhouse. At only their second meeting in February 1916 they resolved to purchase an allotment of land facing Marine Parade for 1000 pounds for the site of the new clubhouse. The minutes from this meeting indicate that the land (Part Lot 4 Deeds Plan 427 and Part Lot 1 Deeds Plan 40) was purchased from William Henry Lean. Lean and his wife had taken over the Marine Parade Private Hotel, located nearby at 5 Marine Parade, in 1914.
It is not known who owned the land prior to William Henry Lean, when he purchased it, and what structures, if any, he or previous owners may have erected on the land. The records relating to the ownership of the land prior to 1931 are unavailable, likely due to the fire at the Hawkes Bay Registry after the 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquake. It is known that no buildings appear on the land in street indexes in the years immediately preceding the purchase by the Committee. There is also no mention of the need to demolish existing buildings to make way for the new building in the Committee's minutes. Historic photographs from the late 19th to early 20th century indicate that there were domestic buildings on adjoining properties on Marine Parade which may have extended onto this piece of land and an advertising billboard also appears in its approximate location.
Fundraising and Foundation Stone:
In April 1916 the public were invited to attend two events in association with, and to raise funds, for the new club. On 8 April a Grand Patriotic School Fair was held in aid of the Napier Soldiers' Club and the School Games Club. Among the attractions at the fair were stalls, fortune telling (by scientific methods), novelty races and events, and the Napier City Band was in attendance. Later in the month on the 25 April, the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landings, the foundation stone for the new club was laid as part of massive ANZAC Day celebrations in Napier. In its front page spread of the day's celebrations The Hawkes Bay Herald reported that:
The celebrations will go down as one of the most memorable demonstrations in the history of the town. The weather was fine and the sun intermittently shone, warming an otherwise chilly day. Napier was gay with bunting, while the influx of visitors for the Easter holidays added to the large crowds present at the various functions.
Celebrations on ANZAC Day 1916 were not limited to Napier. The article in The Hawkes Bay Herald also reported events held in other parts of the Hawkes Bay and around New Zealand. In Australia state and local commemoration committee organised activities, the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee (ADCC) in Queensland was particularly active and saw morning church services held throughout the state. Gallipoli veterans 'who remained and served with the New Zealand Division in France or with the training depots in England' were among those who marked the day overseas, in their case with ‘parades, followed by sports and a few beers'. In Cairo ANZAC troops waiting to go to the Western Front ‘marched through the crowded streets to honour their fallen comrades'.
The events in Napier began at 2pm ‘with special intercessory services at the Municipal Theatre and Anglican Cathedral'. At approximately 3pm a large group proceeded from Clive Square to the Marine Parade Band Rotunda, increasing the numbers gathered for the demonstration at the Rotunda to at least 10,000. The Mayor, John Vigor Brown, gave the first address. A returned soldier, Sergeant W Newsum, was also among the speakers. He spoke about his experience as a returned solider in Napier and about the new Soldiers' Club, commenting that:
Napier had given the lie direct to the statement that people had no time for returned soldiers. Napier had treated them splendidly. The new club to be erected was to be one of the finest clubs in the Dominion.
Following the demonstration the Hawke's Bay Pipe Band led the way to the site of the new club where the foundation stone was hung suspended on a platform. Again Mayor Vigor Brown addressed the crowd, which still numbered in the several of thousands. He stated that the club ‘was going to be a place of rest and comfort for returned soldiers' but focused his address on the public's contribution to the club, by way of subscriptions, and the contribution of particular individuals. He thanked fellow committee members, Mr F Moeller, Mr J T Lipscomb, Mr F J Stopford, and also a Mr H Lotham, for doing ‘yeomans' work' in relation to the club. He also thanked ‘the ladies' who had laboured ‘manfully', highlighting the splendid work of Mrs Lowry and suggesting that the whole of the community should be grateful ‘for the work she had done'. Mayor Vigor Brown then laid the foundation stone with a silver trowel that had been provided for the occasion by Mr J T Lipscomb.
Another Committee member, Mr J H Coleman, then addressed the gathering. He appealed to the crowd to assist with further funds for the new club outlining how:
Thousands of men had gone forward to Gallipoli to uphold the honour of the Empire and it was only right that when they returned they should have somewhere suitable to associate in. By the new club the Napier people would show in some small way that they appreciated the splendid services of the soldiers who had gone to fight their battles.
He expressed hope that the club would be completed within three months and that it would be free of debt. He went on to acknowledge the generosity of the architect, Louis Hay, for providing his services free of charge and for the considerable time he spent altering the plans when it was found that the tenders for building were so high. At the end of the ceremony the National Anthem was sung and cheers were given for the returned soldiers, Mayor Vigor Brown, Mrs Lowry and others. In the evening the celebrations continued with a concert at the Municipal Theatre.
As J H Coleman highlighted in his ANZAC Day address architect Louis Hay was responsible for designing the Napier Soldiers' Club and provided his services for free.
James Augustus Louis Hay (1881-1948), who would become one of Napier's best known architects, first moved to Napier in 1895 attending Napier Boys High School. An articled pupil of the architectural firm C T Natusch (1896) he later moved to the practice of Walter Finch and then was employed by the Department of Lands and Survey in Invercargill (c1904). In 1906 he returned to Napier and within three years set up his own architectural practice. Other than a brief period of employment in Sydney in 1908, Hay was to remain in Napier for the rest of his life with most examples of his work found in Napier, Hastings and other parts of Hawke's Bay.
There is no discussion in minutes of the Napier Soldiers' Club Committee of Hay's appointment as architect for the Napier Soldiers' Club. At the time Hay designed the building he had worked in private practice in Napier for approximately 7 years; a period during which architectural historian Peter Shaw describes Hay as gradually moving away from ‘the large scale English domestic revivalist timber building he had learned in the Natusch office, towards the more modestly scaled American craftsman bungalow'. The chair of the Committee, Mayor Vigor Brown, would undoubtedly have been very familiar with Hay's recent work. Hay was friends with Vigor Brown's son Charles and wife Mary, who was Hay's typist between 1912 and 1915. In 1915 Hay designed a house for Charles and Mary; the Vigor Brown house is described as Hay's most ‘interesting' and ‘adventurous' bungalow. It remains unclear whether Vigor Brown or the Napier Soldiers' Club Committee approached Hay to design the Napier Soldiers' Club and he offered his services for free, or whether Hay approached Vigor Brown or the Committee and volunteered his services.
In providing his services for free it may be that Hay experimented in his design of the building. Certainly there is a suggestion that his initial design proved too expensive to build and that he altered the plans as a result. On the 15 April 1916 the Committee considered that the tenders it had received for the building were too high and decided to go back to the builders that had furnished the two lowest tenders to see if they could provide amended prices. Although the builders may have been willing to reduce their tenders in order to get the job, J H Coleman's comments in his ANZAC Day address suggest that when it was discovered the tenders were too high Hay also altered the plans, allowing the builders to recalculate their tenders. Hay would have needed to have made rapid changes to his plans with the Committee able to consider amended tenders only 5 days after it had met on the initial ones. As Hay's plans of the building from this period have not been found (they too may have been destroyed in the fires resulting from the 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquake) it is not known what changes he made to his initial design. However, the process did result in a significant saving for the Committee: the lowest tender came down 500 pounds, from 3250 to 2750 pounds. At their meeting on 20 April 1916 the Committee accepted the lowest amended tender of 2750 pounds from W M Angus and the building likely got underway in May 1916 following the issuing of the building permit.
Fundraising in aid of the building continued throughout 1916. One reported event was ‘a successful and thoroughly enjoyable kitchen tea' held by Mrs Collins in August. Guests brought items that would be of use in the new Soldiers' Club including kitchen utensils, pans, buckets and scrubbing brushes. Later that month The Hawkes Bay Herald reported that the building was approaching completion and that despite interference from bad weather it was hoped the building could be occupied at the end of the following month. In the article the building was described as:
...an original and altogether pleasing style of architecture. The tiled roof, with the projecting eaves, gives the structure the attractive cosiness of a bungalow. There is nothing of the plain and almost forgiving external appearance about the building that unfortunately many of the Napier public buildings present.
However, the building was not completed by the end of September 1916. Indeed on 19 September 1916 Louis Hay attended a meeting of the Napier Soldiers' Club Committee to explain why the building was going to cost approximately 320 pounds over the contractors estimate. Hay advised that he and the contractor had not settled on the costs but that the work still to be done was indispensible. The Committee agreed and J H Coleman and F Moeller were asked to arrange for some further work to proceed with the cost left to them to agree upon.
Hay's ongoing involvement with the building was not limited to providing architectural advice to the Committee. In October 1916 Hay, a noted flautist and member for many years of two Napier orchestras, acted as musical director for a performance of ‘My Sweetheart' at the Municipal Theatre held in aid of the Napier Soldiers' Club and the ‘Soldiers' Xmas Gift Fund'.
In the same month The Hawkes Bay Herald reported that it was hoped to open the building at the end of that month. It gave an even more detailed description of the building showing that it was close to completion:
A more picturesque and at the same time comfortable style of building it would be hard to find in Napier. Its original and pleasing style of architecture immediately catches the eye. The two pillars on either side of the flight of steps leading up to the entrance and the pretty little garden plates in front set off the building splendidly. Already the linoleum has been laid down inside the building and is quite in keeping with the outward appearance. Leading off the main hall (quite an imposing affair) there is the secretary's office, the card-room, luncheon room with its bar, reading room and an ideal billiard room. The later is splendidly lighted from the ventilated glass roof, and is to be comfortably fitted up with lounges, etc. A huge open fire place completes the general cosy effect. Then the billiard room can be enlarged by opening sliding doors which separate it from the reading room. On the right hand side of the building is a balcony which opens from the luncheon room by glass sliding doors. This balcony is to be cosily fitted up and can be used as a lounge or smoking room. In the basement there are lavatories, elaborately fitted up and including shower, bath, hot and cold water, locker room, etc. At the rear of the building are the caretaker's apartments.
Both of the descriptions of the Napier Soldiers' Club that were given in The Hawkes Bay Herald as the building neared completion highlighted the originality of Hay's design. Hay's design of the Napier Soldiers' Club, which exemplifies the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright and other architects of the Prairie school on Hay's work, would have been unusual at the time with other architects not looking to the work of Wright until the mid 1930s and adopting some of these practices after World War Two. One exception to this was American architect Roy Lippincott, a contemporary of Wright, who worked in New Zealand between 1921 and 1939.
Architectural historian, Peter Shaw, who has written and curated an exhibition on Hay, comments that Hay ‘indulge[d] his enthusiasm for Wright' in the Napier Soldiers' Club - characteristic details include the long low roof and horizontal detailing. Shaw suggests that Hay had previously used one of the ‘obviously Wrightian' details he used in the Napier Soldiers' Club, ‘a motif of horizontal parallel lines', ‘on door frames at Hinerangi' (1919) and ‘on pilasters framing a fireplace at Waiohika' (designed 1920 completed 1926, Register No 7187). However, as will be discussed below, the Napier Soldiers' Club was actually completed by the end of 1916, not 1920 which Shaw suggests, and therefore predates both these buildings.
Hay would go on to play an important role in the reconstruction of Napier following the 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquake and he is often better known for his commercial buildings dating from this period (National Tobacco Company Building, 1933, Register No 1170; AMP Building, 1933, Register No 1107). However, his earlier buildings, such as the Napier Soldiers' Club, contributed to the establishment of a strong tradition of innovative architecture in Napier in the 1920s, a tradition that is credited as ‘setting the pattern' for post earthquake reconstruction.
In November 1916 notices began to appear advertising for staff at the Club. The Committee wanted ‘a man with knowledge of billiards and to assist generally at the premises' and a working housekeeper, preferably a soldier's dependent. Presumably the Committee found suitable staff as by the end of the month Committee member F Moeller advised The Hawkes Bay Herald that an official opening ceremony for the new Soldiers' Club would take place on the 9th of December.
Two notices appeared in The Hawkes Bay Herald on the day of the opening ceremony. In one the ‘Returned Soldiers and the Committee of the Napier Soldiers' Club' invited the people of Hawkes Bay to be present. In the other ‘the Napier Returned Soldiers' Association' invited all returned men to be present and requested that they wear uniform. The Committee and the Association were two distinct organisations, the Committee, as noted above, having stemmed out of the National Reserve, the Association being made up of returned men.
A history of the first fifty years of the New Zealand Returned Services Association (NZRSA) suggests that ‘the idea of an association of returned soldiers', such as the Napier Returned Soldiers' Association (RSA), ‘was probably discussed by the men in Egypt and Gallipoli and almost certainly on the hospital ships returning home'. It notes that ‘by the end of 1915 several local returned soldiers' clubs and civilian organisations designed to assist the soldier, had sprung up around New Zealand'. Though the Napier RSA was not incorporated until 4 December 1916, Napier was among the centres represented at the meeting in Wellington on 28 April 1916 at which of the national body of Returned Services Association was founded. The first President of the Napier RSA, Colonel W Tweedie, was among the ‘local men' who spoke at the opening ceremony for the new Soldiers' club.
Committee member J H Coleman conducted the opening ceremony. He thanked the public for responding well to his appeal to give favourably to the Napier Soldiers' Club made on the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone. He also thanked F Moeller and his wife, proclaiming them ‘the father' and ‘fairy godmother' of the club. He called on F Moeller to speak. Moeller appeal to the crowd for further funds towards the upkeep of the club explaining that approximately 500 pounds would be needed per year for its upkeep of what he described as ‘one of the finest clubs in Australasia'.
Colonel W Tweedie was the next to speak. He paid tribute to Mrs Lowry and Mrs Moeller for their fine work. On behalf of the men he represented, the returned soldiers who were lined up opposite the Club entrance, he presented each lady with a gold brooch in the shape of keys in remembrance of the day's events.
Mayor Vigor Brown was the last to speak. He reminded the public of their responsibility to contribute financially to the war effort and drew particular attention to the contribution J H Coleman and other gentlemen were making to the patriotic funds. Mayor Vigor Brown called on Mrs Lowry ‘to unfurl the flag' and while this was done the band played the national anthem. Miss Caldow then sang ‘Till the boys come home'. Following an encore by Miss Caldow, Mayor Vigor Brown inserted the key into the club, sprung open the doors and hundreds of people streamed in. Those who attended were reportedly ‘unanimous in their high praise of the building and its furnishings'.
Purpose and operation of the club:
During his speech at the opening ceremony Moeller described the club as a monument to the ‘brave soldiers who returned maimed and crippled from the front' and ‘to those gallant fellows who had fallen on the field of battle'. The Napier Soldiers' Club was not expressly named as a memorial to those who took part in World War One, like Hastings' Fallen Soldiers' Memorial Hospital or Auckland's War Memorial Museum. However the function the building performed, the laying of the foundation stone on ANZAC Day and the contribution of the community to its erection, casts in this light.
At this time there were a range of views in the community on what would be a suitable memorial to those who had served and the many wounded, disabled or killed in the ‘Great War'. Some were opposed to the erection of ornamental memorials arguing that the money should instead be spent on wounded soldiers or finding work for returned soldiers. The NZRSA was among those that supported initiatives ‘to care for the soldiers that survived' including the provision of soldiers' clubs and homes for disabled soldiers. There was also support for the erection of memorials in the form of needed community facilities such as halls or libraries. It was perhaps fortunate for the returned soldiers in Napier that the new Soldiers' club was completed by December 1916 as by the end of World War One such ‘utilitarian monuments had been thoroughly discredited'. This was in large part due to the work of Sir James Allen, and his son-in-law and assistant in the Ministry of Defence, William Hugh Montgomery.
Allen was Minister of Defence during World War One and acting prime minister in the first few months of 1919 when debate on the subject of memorials was at its height. Allen and Montgomery advocated for the use of ornamental memorials convincing the Government and New Zealanders that useful memorials ‘would detract from their idealistic purpose and be out of keeping with the self-sacrificing spirit of war service'. This approach was to be in stark contrast with the attitude of the Government following the Second World War when it provided subsidies for memorials on the condition that they were useful community assets such as halls or maraes.
Soldiers' clubs may have been a marker of a community's respect and gratitude but from the perspective of the NZRSA they also played an important role in assisting returned men in their transition from military to civilian life. As the Manager of the Wellington Returned Soldiers' Club, J L Fox, explained in a 1919 issue of Quick March:
In the Returned Soldiers' Club [the returned man] finds men who have toiled with him, shared with him the same hardships, and what is more, have already settled down in civilian life. In that institution he discovers the various agencies established for his repatriation, and is further able to have a discussion of problems in which he is vitally concerned. Thus gradually he gets nearer to things actual and resumes his status as a civilian. The process continues as more men come back and pass through the same experience.
It is unclear just how many soldiers' clubs were operating in New Zealand by the time the Napier Soldiers' Club was erected. The club initially provided for by the National Reserve near the beginning of the First World War appears to have been amongst the earliest clubs to be established. The club in Marine Parade that followed it approximately a year later may have been the first soldiers' club to have been purpose built.
It is known that a club operated from hired rooms in Lambton Quay, Wellington from approximately the same time as the National Reserve opened their club in temporary premises in Napier. As in Napier their first premises soon proved too small. In July 1916, as those in Napier built a purpose built club, the Wellington Returned Soldiers' clubhouse Society (Incorporated) moved to leased premises next door at 292 Lambton Quay.
Both clubs offered returned soldiers similar facilities. The facilities described in The Hawkes Bay Herald as the Napier Soldiers' Club neared completion in 1916 indicated that visitors could read, play cards or billiards, and have lunch or a drink. While at the Wellington Returned Soldiers' Club in 1919 visitors were said to be able to ‘have a quiet rest or chat, a read, a write, a game of billiards, or a little music'.
During the period between 1917 and 1920 Quick March, the newsletter of the Returned Soldiers Association, was replete with attempts by other local associations to secure or build permanent club rooms. Among the communities known to have purpose built a soldiers' club during this period was the ANZAC Club and the Manawatu Patriotic Society in Palmerston North in 1917 (Soldiers' club Building, Category II, Register No 1269). However, though there appeared to be a great eagerness on the part of local associations to secure permanent premises, clubs in the form of the purpose built facilities of Napier and Palmerston North or large buildings such as those leased in Wellington, may not have been appropriate for all areas. An article in Quick March in 1919 advocated for the Association to develop a policy on clubs noted that:
The work of the Association is repatriative, and its needs in the direction of premises must vary very considerably in different towns and localities. In some cases only a meeting room is necessary; in others facilities are needed for recreation or sleeping accommodation; in others again the local situation may justify the erection of a building, which may serve a thoroughly necessary purpose, under suitable control for many years to come.
The reports given by local associations in Quick March suggest that nevertheless many associations were still trying to secure a permanent club by 1919 with the comment was made that the ability to do so was ‘a matter of great importance to associations throughout New Zealand'. A room was set aside for a Soldiers' Club in the Kaeo War Memorial Library (Register No 7393, Category II historic place) that was completed in 1920 and an RSA building was completed in Dunedin the same year.
Despite their combined celebrations on the opening of the building it is known that there were some difficulties between the Napier Soldiers' Club Committee and the Napier Returned Soldiers' Association which resulted in the Association ‘holding aloof altogether from the club' for a period. The Committee and the Association ‘amicably settled' their differences sometime in 1917 and began working under a joint secretary. They reportedly agreed that the Association would make an annual contribution to the club in return for all members of the Association being admitted ‘without further subscription to the privileges of the club'. In 1924 the building began to be listed in street directories as the Soldiers' Club and Office of the RSA.
In July 1930 those responsible for the Club reportedly sold the building to hotelier, Henry Bodley, ‘because of lack of support'. Although street directories continued to record the presence of the Soldiers' Club and the Office of the RSA at the Marine Parade address until 1932, the Hawke's Bay Herald reported that Bodley had the building altered and opened for building as a private hotel by 2 October 1930. The Napier RSA experienced a resurgence in membership following World War Two and in 1947 purchased the former Foresters Hall in Dickens Street as clubrooms (RSA Building, Register No 2806, Category II historic place). In 1991 the Napier RSA moved to their present premises in Hastings Street. The building, previously occupied by the Education Board, required significant alterations to turn what was essentially a block of offices into suitable clubrooms. Though they have had a number of clubrooms over the years it appears the Napier RSA still value the former Napier Soldiers' Club in Marine Parade as the place where it all began. In 2001 the Hawkes Bay Today reported that the Napier RSA had approached the owners of the building and their solicitors asking for the foundation stone. The president of the Napier RSA, Jim Blundell, advised that this was because:
The building and the foundation stone was an important piece of RSA history, it was the first club of its type and the RSA movement grew out of it.
Today such clubrooms are a New Zealand institution. They can be found across the country with many of those used today built by RSA members during the 1950s. In a documentary on the New Zealand Returned Services Association presenter Kevin Milne comments on New Zealander's perceptions of the RSA clubrooms as they today and the purpose they were originally set up for:
The picture of old timers quietly supping a cheap pint at the local RSA is probably our strongest notion of the RSA clubrooms but these places were built for the youth that returned from two world wars to have somewhere to relax with likeminded individuals.
As noted above the property was sold to hotelier Henry Bodley by public auction on 15 July 1930, and although it did not begin to appear in street directories as a private hotel until 1933 it was being used as this by October 1930. In 1930 Bodley had plans drawn up by the original architect for the building, Louis Hay, altering and adding to the building. The work was submitted in at least two plans, perhaps in case one set of changes was not approved. The plan submitted on 9 October 1930 shows the wall between the kitchen and laundry removed and a servery added to this area. The plan submitted on 20 October 1930 shows the wing added to the west of the building creating 10 additional bedrooms.
Building after building in Napier's central business district (CBD) was destroyed or significantly damaged by the earthquake that struck the Hawkes Bay on 3 February 1931 or by the fires that broke out in three of Napier's chemist shops immediately afterwards. The key construction material for the Napier Soldiers' Club, as with a number of buildings constructed in Napier in the early twentieth century, was reinforced concrete, and so was only slightly damaged in the earthquake. It was also located just outside of the area worst affected by the subsequent fires.
The building was initially purchased from Bodley by builders, James Warmby and Williams Henry Laughten Williams in 1938. Hotelier Roy Barber purchased it from them in 1946. Both owners continued to run the building as a private hotel. The building was transferred to the Public Trustee in 1954 and remained with them until 1994. For some of this period the building continued to operate as a private hotel but by the 1990s the building was operating as a restaurant. The Hairy Cactus which served ‘original type Mexican food' operated in the building between 1994 and 1998. Following the end of this tenancy the owners applied for and received an Art Deco improvement grant to repaint the exterior. The building then operated as the Deco City Diner serving ‘Hawke's Bay cuisine with an American flair' between 1998 and 2000. In 1998 the owners were presented with an Art Deco award for 39 Marine Parade in recognition of ‘Preservation of an Historic Napier Building'. The most recent restaurant to occupy the building was Mussel Boys. In 2008 the building is not currently operating as a restaurant but is used in part for budget accommodation.
The only major alteration to the building since the additions and alterations designed by Louis Hay in 1930 was the addition of a deck to the left front side in 2001.
The Napier Soldiers' Club is on the corner of Marine Parade and the pedestrian street east end of Seaview Terrace. Across Marine Parade to the north-east are Norfolk Pines of Marine Parade and, behind, the swimming pool complex and the beach of the coastline. The Napier Soldiers' Club sits tucked against the south-east corner of Bluff Hill, facing out to Hawkes Bay.
The Napier Soldiers' Club is positioned on Marine Parade where the intersection opens out. The War Memorial is a few metres away. Immediately to the building's south, the steps of Seaview Terrace drop steeply from a row of pre-1900 houses above. The Te Pania Hotel sits below surrounded by open landscaped greens. Beyond the hotel is the central business area of Napier with commercial and civic buildings which form the Napier City Centre Historic Area.
Behind the Napier Soldiers' Club the hillside is a cliff edge, high and precipitous. Residential buildings above can be seen when viewed at a distance. Along Marine Parade to the north the built edge of the street includes houses and apartments of one or two storeys and occasionally more.
The Napier Soldiers' Club is a domestic-scale building, with a homely atmosphere. The design of the building shows a marked influence of the works of Frank Lloyd Wright dating from the early 20th century. Wright's Prairie Houses presented a redefinition of the home, broadly aligning the house to the ground through long low roofs and using geometrical forms with a simplicity and openness. The design of the Napier Soldiers' Club shows the characteristics of the Wright's designs in scale, form, material and detailing.
A foundation stone, indicating a date of 1929, is to the left of the front entrance. A flagpole, which appears to date from the opening of the building, is also to the left of the front entrance. The entrance is directly up from Marine Parade footpath via two flights of steps, with columns and planters either side. It is flanked by large window openings, decorative columns and lintels. Thus the building faces out to sea across Marine Parade and is set above the moderate bustle of the roadway.
The form of the building is a two storeyed structure of several overlapping low-pitch hipped roofs with broad eaves. The building is distinctive in its deeply recessed verandahs, strongly horizontal eaves and balustrading, and forceful vertical columns and window forms separating the two. The rising entrance has an arranged symmetry while the building itself is one of asymmetrically presented overlapping forms.
The upper level is the inhabited level and sits above footpath height by around 2 metres above a series of basements. The entrance doors are centrally positioned and are marked by an overhanging porch roof supported on exposed double rafters over outsized tapering columns. A small octagonal motif decorates the porch roof.
Viewed from Marine Parade, the main roof section corrugated and hipped with a small roof light above, laps over the porch roof. To the right, an extension to the building from the 1930's overlaps the roof. The broad soffits, with their box gutters, project the building beyond its footprint.
To the left of the entrance, part of the building is pushed forward. Here, windows and columns are expressly detailed. Columns between individual sashes are large and robust with square-edged detailing at the head. The columns are designed with an exaggerated entasis.
To the right the built form recedes and smaller windows are back behind a terrace. Further to the right the 1930 extension pushes forward to the footpath edge with two casement windows of the bedroom wing above garage doors. The eave overhangs the footpath. A low garden wall runs around the boundary to the south side of the building.
Around the building to the south the building eaves continue low over exterior walls. A pair of doors (recent joinery) lead out onto a small irregular-shaped concrete terrace.
Further round the west face of the building faces directly into the bank of the hillside. The ground is at first floor level so that access to the building is direct. Windows are simple and sparing. There is no decorative banding however the roof eaves of the original part of the building continue. A timber framed, panel-lined building that serves as a laundry outhouse has been constructed in the small space between the building and the bank. The north face of the building (the 1930 extension) is similarly confined by its proximity to the boundary and neighbouring buildings. It is stucco with no decoration, limited joinery and no eave overhangs.
Generally, walls are rendered plaster finish, evenly rough. The strong structural features of the Marine Parade-view window and porch columns are smoothly finished. The sills to the windows and the terrace balcony are smooth concrete. On the east and south faces of the building, the two faces that can be seen publically, are patterns created by a raised smooth narrow band forming decorative rectangular shapes. These occur either side of the windows and on the front face of the building and terrace walls, truncated at window openings.
The whole impression of the Napier Soldiers' Club on Marine Parade is an asymmetrically layered building, confidently proportioned - robust, solid and substantial but nevertheless residential in scale.
Internal Appearance - Upper Level:
The main entrance to the building is through a pair of panelled timber doors with a top light, opening into a small lobby and through a further pair of timber panelled doors to the hall beyond. Both pairs of doors are typical of doors throughout the building: a wood grain finish; panels narrow and horizontal, panel mouldings deep and rounded; glazing to a single large panel; a glazed top light and brass hardware. The interior entrance doors have obscure etched panels with the letters NSC entwined in the finish.
The hall is a long, wide and tall (almost 4 metres) space that runs the full length of the building, narrowing and sidestepping towards the end. The ceiling is panelled and battened with bulky beams resting on pairs of half square columns with square-molded capitals. Large opal pendant lights hang from the centre of ceiling vent panels. Walls are painted and wallpapered with a timber trim at door height. Skirtings are simply bevelled but tall. Doors are Oregon, panelled, with simply-molded architraves.
Billiard and Reading Room:
Opening to the left, through a single panelled and glazed door with top light, is the (originally named) Reading Room. Full-width, full height, bifolding panel doors lead on to the (originally named) Billiard Room. The rooms are similarly finished and, together, form a large function room which may be divided.
The Reading Room has five impressive sash windows overlooking Marine Parade (the part of the building showing great presence on the outside). Each window comprises a long clear-glazed redwood sash and a square upper sash of leadlight amber cathedral glass. A brick fireplace with a massive concrete mantelpiece projects into the room on the south. Ceilings are panel and batten throughout. The floor is matai. Walls have a frieze rail, and trim timbers are simple.
The Billiard Room has a simple panel ceiling however its ceiling beams are expressed and resting on tall half-columns at the walls. Column capitals are decorated with the rectangular channel mouldings found elsewhere (between the Marine Parade windows and on the Hall columns). At the far west end of the room a bar runs the length of the wall. A door leads to the rudimentary kitchen.
Across the hall, to the north, are a series of 6 rooms, originally accommodation rooms. While their use has altered and early wall changes added walls to convert a sitting room to more bedrooms, the layout of the walls remains. The original arrangement may have been 4 bedrooms, a communal room and a bathroom. The current layout closely reflects that of the original building. However, in 1930, changes added further bedroom space on a modest scale before adding the northern wing of the building - a building extension running the full length of the Napier Soldiers' Club from the footpath edge to the bank of Hospital Hill. It provides accommodation in 10 simply appointed rooms with two bathrooms and an extra toilet at the rear. Between the addition and the original building is a large semi-exterior hall with stairs leading to the basements.
Internal Appearance - Lower Level:
Beneath most of the building is an extensive series of basements, formed from the structure needed to support the upper level. The ceiling is low and the rooms are generally unlined, showing the structure. Access is via a single door (on the south west corner), the stairway and the garage doors on Marine Parade. One room has been used as a boiler room.
25 April. Foundation stone laid
9 December. Building opened
New wing added
Verandah added to left front side
Reinforced concrete, Corrugated iron, Plaster, Timber panelling and doors.
8th June 2009
Report Written By
Imelda Bargas, Alison Dangerfield
M. D. N. Campbell, Story of Napier, 1874-1974; Footprints Along the Shore
Chris MacLean and Jock Phillips, The Sorrow and the Pride: New Zealand War Memorials, Wellington, 1990
M Wright, Quake Hawkes Bay 1931, Reed Books, Auckland, 2001
Peter Cooke, 'All formed up: a history of Wellington Returned & Services Association 1916-2007', Ngaio Press: Wellington, 2008.
Jonathan King and Michael Bowers, Gallipoli Untold stories from war correspondent Charles Bean and front-line ANZACs: A 90th Anniversary Tribute Random House New Zealand: Auckland, 2005.
Christopher Pugsley, ANZAC The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, Hodder Moa Beckett Publishers Limited: Auckland, 1995
Alistair Thomson, ANZAC memories: Living with the Legend, Oxford University Press Australia: Melbourne, 1994
N P Webber, The First Fifty Years of the New Zealand Returned Services Association 1916-1966, Hutcheson Bowman & Stewart: Wellington, 1966.
A fully referenced Registration Report is available from the NZHPT Central Region 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.