Historical Buildings Walking Tour, Wellington

Historical Buildings Walking Tour (Self Guided), Wellington

When immigrants first arrived in New Zealand they brought their beliefs. Most of the first settlers were Christians. The second church built in Wellington, in 1855, still stands today and is a great historic site. This self-guided tour will help you explore the churches and other religious monuments of Wellington.
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Historical Buildings Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Historical Buildings Walking Tour
Guide Location: New Zealand » Wellington (See other walking tours in Wellington)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Wellington Railway Station
  • Old St Paul's
  • Sacred Heart Cathedral
  • New Zealand Parliamentary Library
  • Old Government Buildings
  • Turnbull House
  • Old Bank Shopping Arcade
  • Antrim House
  • St Mary of the Angels
  • Academy of Fine Arts
  • Wellington Museum, Bond Store Building
Wellington Railway Station

1) Wellington Railway Station

Wellington railway station is the main railway station serving Wellington, and is the southern terminus of the North Island Main Trunk, Wairarapa Line and Johnsonville Line.

The station opened in June 1937, replacing the two previous Wellington termini, Lambton and Thorndon.

The station was registered on 25 September 1986 as a Category I Historic Place.

In the office entrance to the station, a roll of honour lists 450 members of the New Zealand Railways Department who lost their lives in World War I. (Transcript of the names with links to their records on the Auckland War Memorial Museum's Cenotaph database.) As many as 5,000 of the department's permanent staff, out of a 1914 workforce of 14,000, enlisted during the war, and many casual workers also served.

The roll was unveiled by Prime Minister William Massey in the Railways Department's head office in Featherston St on 30 April 1922. It originally listed 446 names, including two out of alphabetical order at the end, presumably late additions. Four names were added later, including those of three men who died after the war.

When the station opened in 1937, the memorial was moved along the road to its present location.

Wellington railway station featured prominently in the 1981 film Goodbye Pork Pie, in which the protagonists drive a Mini through the station concourse in order to escape pursuing police officers.

The station was used in a 2009 TV advert in the United Kingdom for train ticketing company TheTrainLine, where a large flock of sheep use the facilities.

In May 2014, the station foyer was used by celebrity chef Nigella Lawson to film a commercial for Whittaker's a local chocolate manufacturing firm.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Old St Paul's

2) Old St Paul's (must see)

Old St. Paul's is an Anglican church. The church was completed in 1866 in the Gothic Revival architectural style. The architect was Reverend Frederick Thatcher, the vicar of St. Paul's in Thorndon.

A south transept, designed by Christian Julius Toxward, was added in 1868 to protect the church from high winds. He also designed a north transept and an extension of the north aisle in 1874 and a choir vestry in 1882.

The Diocese moved to the new St. Paul's Cathedral in 1964. The New Zealand Government purchased Old St. Paul's in 1967 and restored it in order to avoid demolition.

The church now displays flags in the nave that represent the Royal Navy, the New Zealand Merchant Navy and the United States Marine Corps. The interior of Old St. Paul's has memorial plaques, specifically for those who died in World War I.

The church is now a historical site and an event venue managed by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 11am-3pm (except on some public holidays and for special events)
Sacred Heart Cathedral

3) Sacred Heart Cathedral

The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Sacred Heart and of Saint Mary His Mother, better known as Sacred Heart Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral.

The first church to be built on the Hill Street Site was St. Mary's Cathedral, blessed and opened in 1851. It was gutted by fire in 1898, during repainting. Because the Catholic population of Wellington was then mostly based in the Te Aro and Newtown areas, it was decided that a new cathedral should be erected in that part of the city and a 'serviceable church in brick' built on the site of the old cathedral.

However the new church, called the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, was rather grander than this. Its foundation stone was laid in 1899 and the building blessed and opened two years later. The money to build Sacred Heart was taken from the fund for the new cathedral. The new cathedral was never actually built. In 1983 the Basilica was elevated to the status of a cathedral by Cardinal Thomas Williams.

Sacred Heart Cathedral has a strong music tradition. There are two instrumental (piano, guitars, organ) and vocal ensembles to lead congregational hymn-singing for at least one Sunday Mass each week.

The boys' choir was made up of about 15 boys from the neighbouring Sacred Heart Cathedral School. Each boy received a scholarship which paid for weekly individual vocal tuition and theory lessons. The boys sang an occasional Choral Mass during school term.

The Cathedral Grand Organ was situated in the choir loft and the console in the whispering gallery. It was designed and built by Arthur Hobday in 1905 and had been revised and enlarged since with the changing needs of the cathedral.

Inside the Cathedral at the entrance are small statues of the Four Evangelists. These originally stood under the first High Altar of the present cathedral. Near the sanctuary is a statue of St Brigid, patron of St Brigid's Church, Wadestown, which was closed in 2007. Behind the cathedra in the sanctuary is a bronze and enamelled Processional Cross designed and made by Graham Stewart for the visit of Pope John Paul II to Wellington in 1986. The sanctuary contains some important mosaics. Beneath the Stations of the Cross is a set of fourteen bronzes, Mater Dolorosa, designed by Wellington sculptor, Eve Black, depicting Mary's sorrow as she witnessed her son's journey to the Cross and Grave
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
New Zealand Parliamentary Library

4) New Zealand Parliamentary Library

The New Zealand Parliamentary Library, known until 1985 as the General Assembly Library, is the library and information resource of the New Zealand Parliament. The present building was completed in 1899.

The first General Assembly Library was a small room shared with the Auckland Provincial Council. It contained 750 volumes in 1860. The library then moved to a cottage behind Parliament's main building, and the collection grew to 4000 books. After Parliament moved to Wellington in 1862, some books were sent down on a ship, White Swan, which was wrecked on the Wairarapa coast. Many parliamentary papers and reference books of the inchoate library were lost.

In subsequent years, it became common to blame the wreck of the White Swan for failure to produce documents which it was "thought inexpedient to produce". The library then moved to six large rooms behind Parliament in Wellington.

The earliest catalogue was an author catalogue published in 1867. The next was a classified catalogue, published in 1872. In 1880, the library contained 18,562 works, and by 1897 it held close to 40,000 volumes.

It was New Zealand's finest library and source of overseas ideas, philosophy and literature for representatives and staff. NZ Premier and poet Alfred Domett supported access for some non-parliamentarians, although the offering of this privilege had its opponents at different times. The writer Katherine Mansfield had borrowing privileges when parliament was not in session, accessing books by Heinrich Heine, Nietzsche, a translation of Bushido by Dr Inazo Nitobe, the English poets, Ibsen, Maeterlinck, and a book on the psychology of women.

The current library building occupied by the Parliamentary Library in Wellington was completed for the General Assembly Library in 1899. It is the oldest of the extant buildings in the Parliament complex. The library was originally designed as a three-storey building by Thomas Turnbull in Gothic Revival style. It was fire resistant, being constructed of brick made at Mount Cook gaol with an iron firedoor separating the then General Assembly Library from the main entrance section. The fireproofing saved the General Assembly Library from the fire of 1907, which destroyed the rest of the wooden parliament buildings.

The building is registered with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust as a Category I heritage structure.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Old Government Buildings

5) Old Government Buildings

The Government Buildings Historic Reserve or Old Government Buildings, was built in 1876. It is the largest wooden building in the Southern Hemisphere, and the second-largest wooden building in the world.

It was built to house New Zealand's public service, and now houses the Victoria University of Wellington's Law School. The building, is classified as a "Category I" historic place, that is places of special or outstanding historic or cultural heritage significance or value.

The building was commissioned in the early 1870s by the Fox Ministry, partially in anticipation of the abolition of the provincial governments. It was originally planned to have the building constructed in concrete and timber, but the cost of concrete at the time led to a decision to build in timber alone. The Italianate, Neo-Renaissance style was usually the domain of stone buildings, thus the building is designed to mimic stone.

As an important symbol of nationhood, the building was constructed to resemble an Italian stone palace to help convey its strength and stability in the expanding empire. The timber is native kauri, which could not be replicated because New Zealand's remaining public kauri forests are permanently protected. If the building had been constructed out of stone as planned, it may not have survived subsequent earthquakes, as it is situated near a major fault line. The architect was William Clayton.

The building has 143 rooms, 64 toilets, 126 fireplaces and 22 chimneys. When it opened in 1876, after 22 months of construction, and at a cost of £39 000, it was easily the largest building in the country and is now considered to be one of New Zealand's most important historic buildings.

The government buildings were formally reopened in January 1996 after the Law Faculty of Victoria University signed a 50-year tenancy that year and became its new occupants. Its restoration is considered a landmark government-initiated heritage conservation project. The grounds are open to the public, and contain examples of rare native New Zealand flora. The public may view the displays on the ground floor and the Cabinet room on the first floor, but the rest of the building is leased to the Victoria University School of Law.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Turnbull House

6) Turnbull House

Turnbull House is a historic building in Wellington. It was built in 1915 as the residence of Alexander Turnbull and to house his private library, later bequeathed to New Zealand as the Alexander Turnbull Library. It is listed by Heritage New Zealand as a Category 1 historic place. Turnbull House is situated across the road from The Beehive, and is now completely surrounded by the much larger buildings which form New Zealand's Parliamentary Precinct, including Bowen House, the Treasury Building, Parliament House and The Beehive.

The collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library are in the custody of the National Library and are normally held in its Wellington building. It is charged under the Act to: “Preserve, protect, develop, and make accessible for all the people of New Zealand the collections of that library in perpetuity and in a manner consistent with their status as documentary heritage and taonga” and “Develop the research collections and the services of the Alexander Turnbull Library, particularly in the fields of New Zealand and Pacific studies and rare books” and “Develop and maintain a comprehensive collection of documents relating to New Zealand and the people of New Zealand.”

Turnbull collected the works of John Milton extensively, and the library now has holdings of Milton's works which are "ranked among the finest in the world" and "good collections of seventeenth-century poetical miscellanies and of Dryden material, along with fine sets of literary periodicals."

The House's architecture is a mix of Queen Anne and Scottish baronial architecture and was designed by architect William Turnbull (no relation). The building's design incorporated three large library rooms to house Turnbull's large collection of books, maps, and documents. The outbreak of World War I delayed construction of the house until late 1915. After Turnbull's death in 1918, the house was purchased by the government in 1920 and opened to the public as the Alexander Turnbull Library. The library stayed in the building until 1973 when the collection was incorporated into the National Library of New Zealand.

After many years as a meeting and conference venue, the building was closed to the public in 2012 due to earthquake risk. Investigations have taken longer than expected but strengthening work is intended to be completed before a 2023 deadline.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Old Bank Shopping Arcade

7) Old Bank Shopping Arcade

Old Bank Shopping Arcade is located in a building that was previously occupied by the Bank of New Zealand.

The property consists of four buildings built between 1883 and 1904. The most prominent is the Bank of New Zealand building (no. 1) on the wedge-shaped corner of Lambton Quay and Customhouse Quay. It was designed by Thomas Turnbull for the Bank of New Zealand and is located on the site of Plimmer's Ark. Built by T Carmichael, it is a brickwork shell with timber flooring, pressed metal ceilings and plaster decoration. The Bank of New Zealand operated a branch on the ground floor of this building from its opening in 1901 until 1984.

The banking hall was described by the New Zealand Mail of 1901 as "a handsome, lofty room, said to be one of the largest of its kind in the colonies". This building is classified as a "Category I" ("places of 'special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value'") historic place by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

Opened in 1999, the shopping arcade has exclusive boutiques, many of them owned by local New Zealand designers. You will also see an animated clock that tells the historical story of Plimmer's Ark. There are cafes and restaurants too.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Antrim House

8) Antrim House

Antrim House was completed in 1905 for Robert Hannah (1845–1930) and his wife Hannah Hannah (1852–1928). Robert Hannah was an Irish immigrant from County Antrim.

The building is classified as a "Category I" historic place by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

Features of the structure corresponded to the earlier tastes for Queen Anne and Second Empire styles, as seen in the heavy interior cornices, the original though lost upper iron detailing and the central tower. The structure itself is mainly of kauri and heart totara, lying on concrete foundations.

Until the leaving of the Hannah family from the residence, Antrim served as exactly as intended: a display of not only taste and wealth of a self-made man. The central location served to highlight this, while the original garden on the sloping site in front of the house helped to enhance the features and the property itself. Inside, visitors found gas piping, electric lights, and the modern convenience of a piped bathroom. Paired with pressed-zinc ceilings, stained glass lead lighting, and turned features, Antrim House epitomised what was considered both modern and high taste.

With the Hannah family departing the house in the 1930s, its central location and size worked against it. The house had fallen from fashion, and subsequently became a boarding house; a fate that many grand houses in urban areas have shared. During this time, the building suffered its largest ignominy; the fire of 1940. Features that had survived the departure of the Hannahs were now lost to this, and in reconstruction much of its decorative originality was not replaced: two examples are the asymmetry of the originally symmetrical windows on top of the tower, and the oddly placed Art Deco styled arch above the formal stair.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
St Mary of the Angels

9) St Mary of the Angels

St Mary of the Angels is a Catholic church. The church was used by Archbishop O'Shea as his pro-cathedral (1936–1954). It was the site of the funeral of Suzanne Aubert in 1926 and is well known for its church music tradition.

The building, is classified as a "Category I" ("places of 'special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value'") historic place by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

The first Catholic Church built on the site of St Mary of the Angels was a small chapel ("the chapel of the Nativity") built by Father O'Riley in 1843. It was blessed and dedicated by Bishop Pompallier on a visit to Wellington in the next year. This building was gradually enlarged and was completely replaced by a large wooden church in 1874. Fr O'Riley named this building "St Mary of the Angels" after the Portincula chapel which was precious to St Francis of Assisi.

This church was extended until it was badly damaged by fire in 1918 and then demolished. The present building was opened and blessed on 26 March 1922 by Archbishop Redwood and a solemn pontifical Mass was celebrated by Bishop Liston of Auckland. A sermon was preached in the evening by Bishop Whyte of Dunedin.

Plans for the church were prepared by architect Frederick de Jersey Clere in 1919. Architecturally, the design is traditional Gothic of French influence. The front facade was said to have been modelled on that of the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in Brussels. The structure is reinforced concrete and brick with a timber roof supported by concrete arches with steel tie rods. Its construction was innovative in that it was 'the first occasion ferro-concrete was used for a church of Gothic design'.

The church is noted for its collection of stained glass windows, especially in a continuous series completely around the clerestory interrupted by the rose window above the narthex, a window of the crucifixion above the high altar and two spacious banks of 15 windows, one finishing the north transept (fifteen decades of the Rosary) and one finishing the south transept (the life of St Joseph). These windows flood the liturgical spaces of the church with light.

The church also houses an extensive collection of statuary, including a reduced, marble, copy of Michelangelo's Moses and life-sized representations of the Pietà and the Holy Family. In the transepts, the Our lady and St Joseph side altars are of brown-mottled marble and include prominent statues of Our Lady of the Rosary (in Dominican habit with blue veil) and Saint Joseph, with votive candle racks in front of each of them. Other large statues in various parts of the church include the Sacred Heart, St Vincent de Paul, St Marcellin Champagnat and St Peter Chanel.

The Gothic marble high altar and tabernacle, in front of a blue backing, includes a sculpted, reredos with statues. The altar was detached from the reredos and moved forward in the 1960s in the implementation of the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council (the celebration of the Mass facing the congregation). This altar is fronted by a carved, Last Supper set under an incised arch along its width. The ornate columns in the sanctuary are topped by marble statues of angels.

St Mary of the Angels is renowned for its Gregorian Chant which began in 1905. With the opening of the present church in 1922, a choir of 70 voices sang Mass under the direction of Edward Healy. The organ of the church is a unique instrument, originally built in 1958 by George Croft and Son Limited from Auckland, but extensively redesigned in 1984 to Max Fernie's specifications.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Academy of Fine Arts

10) Academy of Fine Arts

The Academy of Fine Arts is located in a historic building - the Wellington Harbour Board Wharf Office Building (also known as Shed 7). Located on Jervois Quay it was erected by the Wellington Harbour Board. The building, is classified as a "Category 1" ("places of 'special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value'") historic place by Heritage New Zealand. The building currently houses the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts and 25 luxurious inner-city apartments.

The Academy's Whitmore Street property had housed the national art collection as well as the Academy's permanent collection. During the transition to the new National Art Gallery all art belonging to the Academy was transferred into the national collection, despite some opposition.

The New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts (also referred to as the Wellington Art Society) was founded in Wellington in July 1882 as The Fine Arts Association of New Zealand. Founding artists included painters William Beetham and Charles Decimus Barraud. The association changed its name to the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts in 1889. The Governor-General of New Zealand is the traditional patron of the Academy.

The Academy of Fine Arts goal is to support the development of fine arts in New Zealand and to preserve works of art by local artists. It hosts original exhibitions of outstanding New Zealand artists throughout the year.

Artists who have exhibited their work at the Academy include Gottfried Lindauer, Frances Hodgkins, Charles Goldie, Rita Angus, Ralph Hotere and John Drawbridge.

Operation hours: Daily 10 am - 5 pm.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Wellington Museum, Bond Store Building

11) Wellington Museum, Bond Store Building

Wellington Museum occupies the Bond Store, a historic building on Jervois Quay on the waterfront of Wellington Harbour. It was commissioned in 1890 by the Wellington Harbour Board to replace wooden buildings from the 1860s, designed by Frederick de Jersey Clere in the French Second Empire style, and completed in 1892.

The building was owned by the Wellington Harbour Board, but in 1989 some property owned by the WHB was transferred to the Wellington City Council.

The building, now known as the Bond Store, is classified as a "Category 1" ("places of 'special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value'") historic place by Heritage New Zealand

The conversion of this building into a museum building was completed in 1999.

The museum started in 1972 as the Wellington Maritime Museum of the Wellington Harbour Board. In 1989 with the reorganisation of local bodies throughout New Zealand, the Museum was transferred to the Wellington City Council and expanded in scope to include social history of the region. An entire floor of the museum still remains dedicated to Maritime history and culture of Wellington. It is run by the Museums Trust.

The museum has four floors covering the history of Wellington. Celebrating the city's maritime history, early Māori and European settlement, and the growth of the region, the museum seeks to tell Wellington's stories and how the city has evolved over its 150 years as capital of New Zealand. A giant cinema screen stretching between the ground, first and second floors shows a series of films about Wellington.

There are three theatre areas: one tells Māori legends using a pepper's ghost, the other is a memorial to the sinking of the Wahine ferry in Wellington harbour and located on the top floor a Wellington Time Machine. A new exhibition space, The Attic, opened in late 2015 after extensive refurbishment and restoration to the top floor.

Opening Hours: Daily 10 am – 5 pm.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

Walking Tours in Wellington, New Zealand

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Creating your own self-guided walk in Wellington is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Wellington Introduction Walking Tour

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Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and the country's second-largest city after Auckland. It also has the distinction of being the world's windiest city by average wind speed.

The city was designed by Captain William Mein Smith in 1840. He was the first Surveyor General for Edward Wakefield's New Zealand Company. The name comes from Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles