New Zealand Maritime Museum

Northern Steam Ship Company


The Northern Steam Ship Company Building

The company was experiencing times of economic prosperity during the 1890s and increasing business meant that it became necessary for new premises to be built on Quay Street in 1898, opposite the wharf used by their steamers. The general idea of the offices was suggested by the manager, Charles Ranson and architect, Arthur P. Wilson was commissioned to design the building and it is one of the few remaining examples of his work.

The building cost the Northern Steam Ship Company £6000 to construct. In 1899 the company moved from the Palmerston Buildings on Queen Street into their new two-storeyed brick building with dark green painted joinery. On the Quay street façade there are two main entries. The central doorway gave direct access to the main office and floor above. The eastern doorway allowed access from the wharves to the warehouse in the rear of the building. There was a raised wooden boardwalk so passengers could go across to the steamers in wet weather without having to walk through mud.

  The original 2-storey building.  Auckland Star Supplement Exhibition Number 1 Dec 1898.

The original 2-storey building
Auckland Star Supplement Exhibition Number 1 Dec 1898.

The building contained the public office, office space for the manager and other staff, the telephone room and the boardroom. The interior of the building was completely divided in two by an east-west masonry wall located halfway between Quay and Tyler Streets. It had high ceilings and on each level the floor above was supported by fine cast iron columns. In the 1940s major interior work was carried out and many of the original features were lost. The third floor of the building was added in 1921 to provide accommodation and room for a laundry where the washing and repair of the company's linen took place. The details of the original building, including the window sizes and plasterwork were copied with only the slight difference in brick colour indicating the new addition.

Originally the building stood alone on newly reclaimed land. The site was leased from the Auckland Harbour Board. The land on the other side the building was their yard until the 1950s when they roofed it over as a garage in an attempt to complete with trucking firms that were taking their business. When the company ceased trading the building reverted to the Auckland Harbour Board. In the late 1980s, developments for the Britomart site were being proposed which included the possible demolition of this building; as a result the Historic Places Trust stepped in and gave a "B" classification to the building in August 1988.

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