Remuera Historic Heritage Sites

 

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The old Remuera Post Office

Monday, March 07, 2016

The old Remuera Post Office, built in 1914, is a historic landmark building on the corner of Remuera Road and Victoria Avenue in Remuera village.  The first post office in Remuera had been in a small store on the main road below the corner of Orakei Road in December 1895: the postmaster was a Mr A H Trubshaw. In 1900 a telephone office had been opened in Mr Probert’s store on Remuera Road and successfully carried on by J Nairn, A Mayall and R Rae, the latter in a private dwelling near the corner of Green Lane. On June 13th 1910, a post and telephone office was opened in a shop in 375-377 Remuera Road with a Mrs Hyde in charge. (A history of changes. Auckland Scrapbook, Sept 1990, p75. Auckland Libraries.)

The Post & Telegraph Department had already bought the land for the new post office. It originally bought the Remuera site of 21.38 perches (540.76 sq. metres) on the corner of 360 Remuera Rd and Victoria Avenue in 1909 for £690. In later years the Dept. disposed of three small pieces of that land – the first in 1913 to Council to provide a splay for the corner; and in 1952 to the Council for a women’s toilet and in 1953 for a men’s toilet. [1]

The early 20th century had seen rapid advances in the delivery of mail, by the Main Trunk Line railway (completed in 1908), by ship to the Pacific, Canada and USA, motor vans (1909) and by cable across the Pacific for telegraph communications in 1902. [2]

The Remuera Road Board had high expectations of the new post office and was very disappointed with the design and size proposed for the post office for Remuera. In the opinion of the board, the Post & Telegraph Department should “design a building worthy of such an important site and suitable to the requirements and growth of such a progressive district.”[3] The Board wanted a size and design similar to that of the Ponsonby Post Office.

The objection to the plans of the proposed post office at Remuera was referred to the Postmaster-General (the Hon. R. H. Rhodes) who said "I am often told that we are putting up too elaborate post offices, but as soon as we propose to put up a less elaborate building there is an outcry." Mr. Rhodes stated that he was obtaining a report upon the matter.[4]

The architect was Claude Ernest Paton in the office of the Government Architect John Campbell. [5] Campbell had successfully established Edwardian Baroque as the official architectural style for government buildings in New Zealand in the early twentieth century.[6]  Paton had also been involved in the design of the Auckland Chief Post Office in Queen St in 1912.  It was a 2QP style brick building (two-storeys of permanent construction materials). [7] The design included a clock tower and accommodation for the postmaster/mistress. “The construction will be brick, faced externally with stucco and roughcast of a cream colour. A small clock tower is provided, the top coming to the same level as the peak of the roof, which will be covered with Marseilles tiles.”

The new Post Office building and clock tower was completed in 1914 by S. I. Clarke and Son for the Public Works Department at a cost of £1917[8] and opened for business at the end of March 1915.[9]

The Auckland Star reported of the new post office:

The mail room is 30ft. long by 22ft. 6in. wide, 'and there are also a telephone room, postmaster's room, and telephone bureau box. The letter boxes are placed in the vestibule. The postmaster's residence upstairs comprises a large sitting-room, two bedrooms, kitchen, scullery, and bathroom. The external design of the building is plain, but attractive, and the small lead-roofed, clock tower greatly improves its appearances. [10]

In 1915 the town clock formerly located at the old Stock Exchange building in Queen Street on the site occupied by the New Zealand Insurance Company's building, was offered to the Post and Telegraph Department for erection over the Remuera Post Office, provided the' department would bear the cost of erection and maintenance’. The recommendation was adopted but nothing came of it. [11]

In 1922 the Postmaster-General, the Hon. J. G. Coates, received a deputation in Auckland from Mr. J. S. Dickson, M.P. who introduced a number of Remuera residents who desired that the tower at the Remuera post office, should be raised about ten or fifteen feet so that a clock might be installed. He explained that the residents were prepared to contribute several hundred pounds for the clock if the Minister would authorise this alteration. This decision was delayed but the installation of a slot machine telephone box was approved immediately.[12] 

In December 1922 Mr Dickson M.P. explained to the Remuera Post Office Clock Committee that while the Government was willing to increase the height of the post office tower by 10ft, which was estimated to cost about £160, the residents needed to find the £300 for the clock. It was stated that the City Council was prepared to look after the clock once it was in position. The meeting decided to raise the £300, and collectors were to wait upon residents after the vacation. [13]However nothing more was reported on this fund raising attempt and it was 40 years later before the clocks were installed.

Clocks on two faces were finally installed in 1962 thanks to a gift from Norman Berridge Spencer, chairman of the Auckland Transport Board, President of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and a long-time resident of Remuera for 70 years. The clocks commemorated the pioneers of Remuera in former Remuera Road Board days and Mr Spencer’s gift was praised by Mayor Dove Meyer Robinson as “a timely gift”.[14] 

The clock tower itself survived an attempt to have it removed in 1936 in response to an effort to remove towers from a large number of post offices throughout the Dominion. In a statement setting out the position, the Director- General of the Post and Telegraph Department stated that clocks and bells were being handed back to the citizens concerned, noting that in recent earthquakes towers have aggravated the damage to buildings.[15]

A small building extension was made in 1937, necessitated by the decentralisation of the postmen’s delivery and also by the growth of the district.[16] By the time the postmaster of 15 years Mr James Gearey had retired in 1936, the staff had grown from six members to 17, 11 of whom were postmen.[17]  In 1949 the upstairs accommodation which had been the living quarters for the postmaster was absorbed for post office operations, when a separate house was purchased elsewhere for the postmaster. [18]



Further alterations were made in 1973 following the relocation of the Post Office Savings Bank to separate accommodation at 346 Remuera Road. [19]  The Remuera Post Office moved around the corner to 378 Remuera Road in 1973.
 In 1975 the Post Office acquired from M. & J. Cole for $305,000, additional land, which included tenanted shops in Remuera Road adjoining the 1914 building, for a future new post office building. The Post Office plan was to centralise all operations including the Post Office Savings Bank and the postmen who were now housed in the former Remuera telephone exchange building in Dilworth Avenue. 

The Post Office rebuilding did not occur but a major redevelopment did happen in 1991. N Z Post undertook a redevelopment of the entire block to provide more retail outlets, onsite parking for 71 cars and space for its Post Shop/Kiwibank and external tenants, covering more than 2074 square metres. [20]

The official opening was conducted by Mrs Beverley Graham of the Remuera Garden Club and Mr Ian Farrant, Chairman of N Z Post Properties. Tenants were the National Bank, Trustbank, ASB Bank, John Leech Gallery, Medlab Ltd and a New Zealand Post Shop. Developers were Brierley Developments and the architects for the complex were Craig Craig Moller who ensured the original brick building and clock tower were retained as an integral part of the new development. A green of toning similar to Wylie’s Chemist across the road which was a ‘rich green colour’ and the general atmosphere and colour throughout Remuera, was used with brick red as an acknowledgement of the building’s brick, and blue to tone in with both colours. Beverley Graham of the Remuera Garden Club offered to donate a fountain to add to the atmosphere of the complex’s garden rest area by the rooftop carpark.[21] Image: Remuera Post Office 2013.

N Z Post sold the Remuera Post Office in 2009, along with 6 other properties around the country. The Remuera 2,319sq m property was the largest,  with seven tenants including banks ASB and The National Bank. NZ Post declined to identify the buyer at the time. [22]
In 2013 the National Bank, the main tenant in the old building, was replaced by the ANZ Bank which had taken over the National Bank in 2003. The building was repainted in ANZ blue colours with heritage tonings in 2014Exterior lighting to highlight the clocktower was installed in 2015 by the Orakei Local Board. 

Plans in 2016 by current owners Loris Properties include the demolition of the first storey of the attached 1990s buildings and replacement with two new storeys in a cube design for commercial use – the old post office building will remain. It is proposed to replace the existing solid verandah with a glazed transparent canopy to give visibility to the historic character building. 

Image: Remuera Post Office 2015.



[1] Clulee, Ivan. Post office buildings in the Auckland Province. Handbook No.78. Postal History Society of New Zealand. 2011. P13.

[2] Robinson, Howard. A history of the Post Office in New Zealand. Wellington, R E Owen, Government Printer, 1964

[3] Remuera Post Office. Proposed new building. Unsuitable for suburb. Road Board’s protest. New Zealand Herald, Volume LI, Issue 15635, 15 June 1914, Page 8

[4] New Zealand Herald, Volume LI, Issue 15655, 25 June 1914, Page 8

[5] Stacpoole, J. English architects influencing early 20th century Auckland building and Auckland architects 1900- 1930.  Auckland Libraries research File 442.

[6] Peter Richardson. 'Campbell, John', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 30-Oct-2012. URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/2c3/campbell-john

[7] Clulee, Ivan. Post office buildings in the Auckland Province. Handbook No.78. Postal History Society of New Zealand. 2011. P13

[8] Letter from Under Secretary Public Works Department Wellington to Secretary, General Post office, Wellington. 7 September 1914. Archives New Zealand 130413.

[9] New Zealand Herald, Volume LII, Issue 5883, 1 April 1915, Page 6

[10] Remuera Post Office. Auckland Star, Volume XLV, Issue 200, 22 August 1914, Page 8

[11] Local and General news.. New Zealand Herald, Volume LII, Issue 5883, 1 April 1915, Page 6

[12] New Zealand Herald, Volume LIX, Issue 18107, 3 June 1922, Page 6

[13] New Zealand Herald, Volume LIX, Issue 18278, 20 December 1922, Page 8

[14] New Zealand Herald 28 February 1962 in Auckland Scrapbook Oct 1961, p281 (Auckland Libraries).

[15] Auckland Star, Volume LXXV, Issue 20, 25 January 1944, Page 4

[16] Auckland Star, Volume LXVII, Issue 281, 26 November 1936, Page 9

[17] Auckland Star, Volume LXVII, Issue 229, 26 September 1936, Page 12

[18] Clulee, Ivan. Post office buildings in the Auckland Province. Handbook No.78. Postal History Society of New Zealand. 2011. p13

[19] Ibid. p13.

[20] Ibid. p14.

[21] New complex retains old charm. N Z Herald, 7 June 2016, Section 2, p6, in Auckland Scrapbook, September 1990, p76 (Auckland Libraries).

[22] National Business Review 12 May 2009