Historic Place Category 2
Allot 50 Sec 17 Village of Onehunga (CT NA52B/872), North Auckland Land District
Extent of Registration
Extent includes the land described as Allot 50 Sec 17 Village of Onehunga (CT NA52B/872), North Auckland Land District, and the buildings and structures known as Onehunga Post Office (Former) thereon, and their fittings and fixtures.
Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)
The Onehunga Post Office (Former) is a distinctive brick building, located in a prominent position on the main street of the Auckland suburb of Onehunga. Erected in 1901-2, the building is an early example of the Edwardian Baroque post offices designed by Government architect, John Campbell, during a nationwide boom in post office construction in the early twentieth century.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Onehunga was occupied by a number of Maori tribes, including Te Waiohua and Ngati Whatua. The Government established a military settlement for the Royal New Zealand Fencibles at Onehunga in 1847 partly to protect the southern approaches of the colonial capital at Auckland. Soon afterwards a post office was opened in the community, and following the settlement's development into the largest port on the Manukau Harbour the office was referred to as 'the chief medium of communication between Auckland and the south'. On the 6th of May 1901, the Public Works Department contracted William E. Hutchison to construct a more substantial post office on Government land on the corner of Princes and Queen Streets - the two main thoroughfares in the settlement. It was commissioned during a post-office building boom between about 1900 and 1914, as part of the Liberal Government's government development programme.
The new structure was erected in a prominent position amongst other public buildings, which included an adjoining police station and courthouse, and the Onehunga Borough Council building on the opposite side of Princes Street. Construction was completed on 3rd February 1902, at a cost of £1898 and the building was officially opened on 14th February 1902, by Sir Joseph Ward, then Minister of Railways and Post and Telegraph. Ward remarked during his opening address that the Onehunga Post Office 'from the first..had been a very important office, and still held that distinction'.
The post office was designed by architect, John Campbell (1857-1942), who was in charge of the architectural design of government buildings in New Zealand between 1899 and 1922. Campbell designed many notable structures, including the Public Trust Office in Wellington (Record No. 224, Category I historic place), the Chief Post Office in Auckland (Record No. 101, Category I historic place) and the Dunedin Law Courts (Record No. 4374, Category I historic place). Under his leadership, Edwardian Baroque became the official architectural style for government buildings. The Onehunga Post Office was one of the first in which Campbell incorporated Baroque elements, signifying the emergence of an Edwardian Baroque style that he was to develop and repeat as part of the hallmark appearance of post offices throughout New Zealand. Campbell's designs for small post offices also reflected his standardization of government architecture during this period.
The imposing two-storey building was constructed of cavity brick, demonstrating the existing government policy of building ‘substantial and commodious brick buildings in the more important towns'. Its hipped, corrugated iron roof featured cast iron cresting. The main Queen Street façade included a central gable and three bays, with pilasters and pediments incorporated into a string course and a rusticated door surround. The building contained a public office and private residence, which was common practice for commercial buildings at the time. The Post Office rooms were located on the ground floor at the front of the building, while the postmaster's living quarters were located upstairs and in a single level addition at the rear of the main offices. Two outbuildings were also constructed at the rear of the main building, housing wood, coal and what appears to have been a laundry.
The building operated as a Post Office for over 70 years, serving as a focal point for the local community and providing essential public services, including mail delivery, banking and telegraph facilities. In 1975, a new post office was opened on the opposite side of Queen Street (subsequently known as Onehunga Mall). The earlier post office was then for the most part vacant until 1983, when it was sold to a private owner who opened a shop and accountant's office there. It was threatened with demolition in the early 1990s, but survived due to community support. In 1994-5, the main building was refurbished by a new owner and opened as a café with residential accommodation above. It remains in use as a café, with its outbuildings employed as bathroom and other facilities.
The Onehunga Post Office (Former) has aesthetic significance as a well-preserved landmark building on a prominent corner site in Onehunga's main shopping precinct. The building has architectural value as an early example of Government architect John Campbell's use of the Edwardian Baroque style, which became a hallmark of early twentieth-century post offices in New Zealand. The building has historical value for reflecting the importance of Onehunga as a communication centre between the Auckland area and places further south at the turn of the twentieth century, and for reflecting an era when state institutions played a central and highly visible role in the lives of its citizens. The building has social significance as a focal point in Onehunga since its construction and as a valued building in the Onehunga community.
The following text is from the original Proposal for Classification report presented to the Board 1 July 1993.
The Onehunga Post Office was designed by John Campbell (Government architect) and completed in 1902, being one of many buildings built as part of the development of postal and government services under the Liberal Government. It is now the oldest surviving building in the business centre of Onehunga.
The Edwardian Baroque style of this building is similar to many other post office buildings of comparable size and function, combining both office space and residential accommodation.
- Addition: 1922 (circa) - 1929 (circa)
- Demolished - Other: 1983 (circa) - 1994 (circa)
- Modification: 1994 (circa)
- Modification: 1998 (circa)
- Original Construction: 1901 (circa) - 1902 (circa)
- Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives
- Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol.2, Christchurch, 1902
- Historic Places in New Zealand,J. Mitchell, 'A Continuous Presence in Onehunga', No.18, December 1987, pp. 3-4
- J. Mogford, The Onehunga Heritage, Wellington, 1989.
- Peter Richardson, 'An Architecture of Empire: The Government Buildings of John Campbell in New Zealand', MA Thesis, University of Canterbury, 1988
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Northern Regional office
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