What is a prominent building?
A building can be prominent for many reasons. It could be:
- its age, architectural style, or visual impact
- associated with an important event or person
- registered locally or nationally as a heritage building, or a beloved local landmark
- disliked by the community, but it is noticeable and it is remembered.
Council Archives are a rich source of information about buildings that shape our city.
What is a heritage building?
A heritage building is one which has been listed by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga as regionally or nationally significant. It can also be a building which has been listed by Council as locally significant.
Both lists are included in the Lower Hutt District Plan chapter 14F.
How does a building become heritage listed?
People or groups can make a submission to Council to nominate a building for heritage status. If we approve the submission, we'll add the building to the District Plan.
If Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga registers a building in the city on their heritage list, it will also be included in the District Plan.
Why do some buildings have names?
A building’s owner may select a name for their building. Private homes and commercial buildings can be named. All buildings must now have a street number. Previously, names have been used instead of street numbers. Council has no control over building names (except for Council owned buildings) but we can offer advice.
Here are some stories about a few of the memorable buildings in Lower Hutt. Do you recognise them?
Lighthouse Cinema: 52 Beach Street
The Lighthouse Cinema building was originally built as a hall for the Petone branch of the Labour Party in 1927. It was the first hall built by the Labour Party in New Zealand. The architect was Mr W. V. Wilson and the design is an example of the Stripped Classical style used between the two World Wars.
The original building was a large, open hall with a stage. Except for alterations in 1949, the Labour Party did not make many changes before selling it in 1979. The next owner was the Presbyterian Church who then sold the building to the Cretan Association of New Zealand in 1985. After adding another floor in 1994, they sold the building and it became a cinema in 2002. The cinema building is heritage listed in the District Plan.
Plan of Labour Hall for the Petone Branch NZLP, 1927 [ARCH78034-2]
Eastbourne Bus Garage: 493-495 Muritai Road
The Bus Garage was built in 1939 for the Eastbourne to Wellington omnibus service run by the Eastbourne Borough Council. The building was designed by Wellington architects Mitchell & Mitchell and built by D. Daily Ltd. It included a garage, workshops, paint shop, offices, and three flats above. There were minor alterations in 1956 and a concrete block extension was built on the south side.
The building was transferred to the new Hutt City Council in 1989 after local government amalgamations. Council created the Eastbourne Bus Company in 1991 to operate the bus service until it was sold to Cityline in 1994 who continued using the bus garage. After an uncertain few years, the building was renovated as part of the Korohiwa development in 2010. The building has been listed by Heritage New Zealand and in the Lower Hutt District Plan.
Plans of bus garage for Eastbourne Borough Council, 1938 [ARCH74909-1]
Petone Settlers Museum – Te Whare Whakaaro o Pito-one: The Esplanade
The Wellington Provincial Centennial Memorial building was designed by architect Horace Massey after a national competition. It was built in 1939 to commemorate the arrival of the first European settlers in 1840, and opened by the Governor-General in 1940.
The building was made up of a central hall with bathing pavilions on both sides. Its design has been described as a combination of Stripped Classical and Art Deco elements. The bow of the sailing ship Aurora (the first ship to arrive with New Zealand Company immigrants) is represented on the street side of the building. The memorial hall featured eight murals painted by James Turkington which were painted over in the 1970s and later restored. The building also featured an etched glass window depicting the meeting between Māori and Pākehā.
The building was used as changing rooms until the Petone Settlers Museum was established in 1977 in the western side of the building, adding the eastern wing in 1979. Major refurbishment work took place during 1988 and more internal alterations in 2005. In 2006, vandals smashed four of the window panels which then had to be replaced. The building has been listed by Heritage New Zealand and in the Lower Hutt District Plan.
Wellington Provincial Memorial floor plan, 1939 [ARCH33283]
Gibson Sheat Centre: 1 Margaret Street
The Gibson Sheat Centre is on the corner of Queens Drive and Margaret Street. It was originally built for the Hutt Valley Electric Power Board in 1952. It was designed by well-known architects King, Cook and Dawson. The Board, now known as the Hutt Valley Energy Board, sold the building in 1987. Since then it has housed a number of commercial offices, shops and cafes. The changing tenants and their needs have also led to frequent additions and alterations to the building. Briefly known as ESTV House (Energy Source Television), the building has been known as Gibson Sheat House since at least 1993. The rounded corner facing the intersection remains and the foyer still opens to the beautifully curved staircase.
Hutt Valley Electric Power Board Administration Building, 2nd floor, 1964 [BP24352_LH-1]
Wainuiomata Community Hall and Library: 1C Queen Street
The Wainuiomata War Memorial Community Hall was built in 1961 and included a small area for a volunteer run library. Hutt County Council took over the library service in 1970, and built an extension on the west end of the hall in 1974 to double the library space.
Council built a second building on the site in 1984 to house the council chambers and administration. The library moved to this building in 1991 and there were more building alterations in 1995. Initially used as a council service centre in the 1990s, it is now a community centre where groups can meet.
Library additions to memorial hall, 1972 [ARCH2510]
Rona House: 33 Rimu Street Eastbourne
Sitting on the corner of Rimu Street and Marine Parade, Rona House is a seven storey building holding 28 flats with carports on the ground floor. It was designed by Associated Architects Richard Cockcroft and Hall Wagstaff, and built in 1964 by Cubitt Wells Ltd. There have not been many alterations to the building, but in 1972 five carports were enclosed. Named Rona House, it was envisioned as the first in a new style of development in Eastbourne. However, its disconcerting visual impact and the effect on nearby properties polarised the community against tall buildings, leading to height restrictions in the building by-laws.
Flats at Eastbourne for Site Improvements (NZ) Ltd, south west elevation, 1964 [BPA23261-2]
Avalon Studios: 41 Percy Cameron Street
Avalon Studios opened in 1975 and became the centre of television broadcasting in New Zealand. The studios had 23,000 square metres of floor space, and its 10 storey tower became a visual landmark in the Hutt Valley. After Television New Zealand (TVNZ) was established in 1980, most functions started moving to Auckland. The tower and part of the site was sold in 2004. TVNZ sold the remaining space in 2012. It is now a privately owned and operated film and television studio while the tower houses a number of businesses. The building also houses Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision Archives which includes the TVNZ Archive.
Avalon TV Studios, 1979 [ARCH44726-1]
Lower Hutt Town Hall and Civic Precinct: 30 Laings Road
A prominent buildings list is not complete without the Lower Hutt Town Hall. But the town hall doesn’t stand alone, it is part of a civic precinct planned and built in the 1950s. This includes the Council Administration building, the Little Theatre and War Memorial Library, and the St James Church - all surrounded by Riddiford Park. The plain, rectangular concrete buildings are typical of the post-World War II modern style.
The Town Hall and Administration building were designed by architects King, Cook and Dawson and officially opened in April 1957.
The modern St James Church was dedicated in 1953 and replaced an earlier church burnt down in 1946. It was also designed by the Structon Group to fit in with the planned civic buildings.
The War Memorial Library and Little Theatre came next, opening in February 1956. They were designed by the Structon Group in a similar style to link the buildings together. After World War II, there was a strong preference for war memorials to actively benefit the community. The large Leonard Mitchell murals in the library foyer commemorate those lost in war.
The original Horticultural Hall sat on the east side of the town hall. Built in 1936, it was burnt down in 1957 and a new hall completed in 1959. This was demolished in 2016.
There were a great many additions and alterations to the buildings, with perhaps the most visible change in 1965 when an extension was added on the west side of the Administration building. In 2016 the Town Hall and Administration building were earthquake strengthened and given a total refurbishment which completely changed the interior of the Administration building. A modern events centre added on the east side of the Town Hall extends the complex. This was completed in 2018.
Lower Hutt Town Hall and clock tower, circa 1960 [ARCH73441-2]
Council Administration Building, circa 1960 [ARCH73441-3]
Little Theatre and War Memorial Library, circa 1960 [ARCH73441-4]
St James Church, 1966 [ARCH74114-15]
What information is available?
For historic information about buildings have a look at:
- The Archives – for building plans, specifications, or correspondence
- Historic aerial photographs show the building’s size and shape, and what surrounds it. Earlier photographs show what was on the site before the building was erected
- The District Plan.
How do I search?
Start by searching the Archives online for free. Many of the items in the archive have been digitised and are available to be viewed online.
The original records used to produce the online database are held in the Council Archives. If the records you'd like to see have not been digitised, you can make an appointment to visit the Archives. Digitisation can be requested, but it will depend on the format and condition of the original item.
For more information about heritage buildings and the District Plan, email firstname.lastname@example.org.