Historic Place Category 2
Sec 3 SO 45136 Sec 1 SO 58571 Blks X XI Orahiri SD, Gaz 90/159/3370
European exploration of the Waitomo Caves and their glow-worm attractions, dates from 1877 when a local government surveyor, Fred Mace, floated into the caves on a raft. Tourist interest grew steadily in the late 1800s but it wasn't until 1904 that an accommodation house, built by prominent local Maori Tane Tinorau and his wife, was established. That same year the Government nationalised the caves as a tourist feature.
In 1905 the Tourist and Health Resorts Department bought Waitomo House, as it was known and its success persuaded them to improve accommodation. Timber for the 1908 structure was brought into the area on horse-drawn carts, and special facilities were provided for water and electricity since it was remote from town water and power supplies. Water was pumped from the Waitomo Stream and fed back up the slope to the hotel, and electricity was generated by a dynamo powered by a petrol driven motor engine.
With the new portion completed in 1928 the Waitomo Hotel could provide accommodation for up to one hundred visitors. The hotel was promoted as a health resort as well as a tourist attraction, in keeping with the fashionable health movements popular here and overseas.
The hotel continued to operate as a popular tourist venue until the Waitomo, Ruakuri and Aranui Caves were closed to the public in 1970s as a direct result of the harmful effects of air pollution on the fauna of the caves and the damage caused by the constantly lapping water eroding the limestone.
At the turn of the century the Waitomo Caves were an important early attraction in the growing New Zealand tourism industry. Under the control of the Tourist Department, the caves and nearby hotel were, for many years, the most profitable of the department's many enterprises. The earlier portion of the Waitomo Hotel has been closely associated with the renowned caves for over eighty years, and as such is one of the first hotels built by the Tourist and Health Resorts Departments to encourage tourists to visit New Zealand.
The Edwardian structure (1908) looks back to the previous century for influence and it espouses a typically Victorian picturesque style with asymmetry as one of the guiding principles. In contrast the concrete additions (1928) have a Spanish Mission influence. This style was popularised and modified in the early 1900s but was based on the mission churches built along the Californian coast in the 1700s. The style became popular in Auckland and other parts of New Zealand especially with the construction of R. Atkinson Abbott's Auckland Grammar School (1916). This was characterised by the use of arches, colonnades, tile roofs, overhanging eaves, and roughcast walls to imitate the thick adobe walls of Californian missions.
These two buildings represent the work of two different eras of Government architecture and are fine examples of their respective styles.
The hotel is positioned upon the crest of a hill and is the central and pivotal building in the Waitomo Village complex. It commands good views and is also visible from quite long distances.
1908 Structure - The balustrading and octagonal turret
1928 Structure - The shaped gables
Government Architect's Office, under auspices of;
1908 Structure - John CAMPBELL (1857-1942)
1928 Structure - J.T. MAIR (1876-1959)
The Waitomo Hotel consists of two separate structures which although similar in height are distinctly different in character.
The timber structure (1908) is a large Edwardian villa, having verandahs at ground and first floor levels continuous on two facades. There is a two-storeyed bay window on the rounded corner. The bay is continued beyond the roof to form an octagonal turret which has an eight-sided pavilion roof. On the gambrel roof there are three dormer windows behind a continuous elaborate balustrade. This balustrade is repeated at ground floor level and is slightly different from that at first floor.
The main facade has a large gable on the left side framing a two-storeyed section of the building which protrudes slightly. This is possibly an addition as its scale is not compatible with that of other elements such as the dormers or the turret.
The major part of the complex is the 1928 addition, a two storeyed Spanish Mission style building. It is a considerable contrast with the earlier building in style and character.
The ground floor of that part of the building has a colonnaded verandah. An open timber awning extends above the first floor balcony. The facade is enlivened by use of shaped gables which mark the entrances to the building. While the two parts of the building are very different two adjoining gables of a similar scale help unite the structure.
- Balustraded balcony added between dormers at roof level
- Section of the ground floor verandah filled in
NOTE: Interior modifications not known
- Addition: 1927 (circa) - 1928 (circa)
- Original Construction: 1908 (circa)
The original portion (1908) timber framed, clad with shiplap weatherboards. The roof is corrugated iron. The major addition (1928) is plastered reinforced concrete with a tiled roof.
- R. Arrell, Waitomo Caves: A Century of Tourism, Waitomo Caves Museum Society Incorporated, 1984.
- Vaughan Morgan, A History of Waitomo, Maori and Pakeha Side by Side, Outrigger Publications: Hamilton (n.d.: c1983/4).
- Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives,1908, 1910, 1912, 1914, 1915, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929
This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.
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