Some Wellington buildings

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Maori waka house 1 (3)

‘You can’t beat Wellington on a nice day’ – you’ll often hear a Wellingtonian say that! When it’s not a nice day, we’re probably living up to our epithet as the ‘windy city’. The two images above, taken on a ‘nice day’ around Wellington’s harbour, show – on the left – the historic St Gerard’s Church (1908) and Monastery (1932) on the hill in the distance (Mt Victoria) with boat sheds in the foreground; and on the right, the 2011 Te Raukura or Wharewaka (waka house – that’s a waka (canoe) in front). Next to the wharewaka is the Wellington Rowing Club building dating from 1894. The waterfront has a mixture of historic and newer buildings.

Surrounding the harbour and CBD are Wellington’s suburbs, including the one I live in – Island Bay on the south coast. There is an island in the bay – its Maori name is Taputeranga and we have a marine reserve around this part of the coast – click to see photos on the Friends of Taputeranga Marine Reserve website.


But Island Bay is also the name of the suburb. In the 1890s there was a racecourse in Island Bay and not much else. It was the extension of the Wellington tram network in the early 20th century that opened the suburb to housing development – and why most of the houses are of the Californian Bungalow style, which was popular in the 1910s, 20s and early 30s….


Despite its relative newness we have one Category 1 listed historic building in Island Bay – Erskine College (1905-6) – formerly a Catholic girls college, but currently not used and its future is under a cloud. It has a wonderful chapel inside.

Erskine Erskine College

We also have the Home of Compassion. In 1907 the Sisters of Compassion under Mother Aubert opened their new building – before this they were based in Jerusalem, Whanganui River (see my earlier post on Jerusalem). The 1907 building was demolished some time ago – a friend and I went to the pre-demolition sale and I bought a lectern and she a prayer stool! The newer building has a serene chapel (opened in 1990) that looks out on to the bush-covered hill behind, with stained glass windows designed by late-Island Bay artist John Drawbridge (1930-2005). I also like the light-well over the lectern.

HOC chapel 1 HOC chapel 2 HOC chapel 3 HOC chapel 4

Another south coast suburb is Lyall Bay; much of the housing is a similar era to Island Bay, but it also has a new retail complex and Wellington’s airport (although that area is also called Rongotai). This view looks east across Lyall Bay with the south coast on the right and the harbour on the left.


In 1939/40, roughly where the retail complex now is, were the NZ Centennial Buildings – this exhibition celebrated 100 years of the 1840 founding of New Zealand and the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Although the complex contained some wonderful Art Deco buildings, it was designed to be temporary and they’ve all long gone. The architect of some of the buildings was Edmund Anscombe and you can click on his name to go to a short video that he shot at the exhibition.

NZ Centennial Exhib buildings

New Zealand Centennial Exhibition buildings, Rongotai, Wellington. Negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 1/4-048873-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

If you’d like to see some more photos of historic Wellington buildings, check out the website of Historic Places Wellington.


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