Wellington Central Fire Station

Wellington Fire Station, 2 Oriental Parade

2-38 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay, Wellington
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  • Constructed

    1937 - 1937

  • Architect(s)

    Mitchell and Mitchell

  • Builder(s)

    Unknown

  • The Wellington Central Fire Station is a good representative example of inter-war public building architecture. The building is notable for its size and scale, for its symmetrical main façade, and for its prominent clock tower.

    The building has historic value for its 70 year association with the Wellington Fire Service. The building is also associated with the Wellington Town hall, as the clock in the tower was originally donated to the town hall in 1922 before being transferred to the fire station in 1932.

    The fire station is a local landmark, and the building’s size and scale, the prominent clock tower and symmetrical main façade make a strong contribution to the streetscape of Kent Terrace.

  • close History
    • There were many fires in Wellington’s early history, the result of the combination of timber building construction, a total reliance on fires for cooking and heating, the absence of a reliable water supply and no organised fire-fighting service. Wellington’s first fire engines were run by insurance companies but they were generally directed to fires in buildings insured to individual companies. The first organised brigade, the Wellington Volunteer Fire Brigade, was established in 1865. A second, rival brigade, the Central Volunteer Fire Brigade, appeared in 1867.

      A relatively poor success rate and inter-brigade rivalry led to the municipalisation of the volunteer brigades in 1880. The two brigades worked from separate stations in Manners and Brandon Streets, with the latter the first combined headquarters. From 1885 the Manners St station became the brigade headquarters until the first central fire station was built in Mercer St in 1901, on a site now occupied by the Michael Fowler Centre. Under Superintendent C.A. Woolley, appointed in 1932, the service planned new, much larger headquarters. Architect C.H. Mitchell, of the firm Mitchell and Mitchell, was engaged to prepare designs for a site on Oriental Parade then occupied by Clyde Quay School.

      There was considerable opposition to the proposal but the service had its way and the school built anew on land in Elizabeth Street, Mt Victoria. Mitchell planned a building on two levels with the main station on Oriental Parade and the married men’s flats behind. The building was designed to hold nine fire appliances and to provide accommodation for 21 married men and 33 single men. It was constructed by W.R. Bodell and Co. at a cost of £49,877 and was officially opened by the Governor General, Lord Galway, on 1 December 1937.

      The Mercer Street station became a traffic office before being demolished in 1957. The building’s clock was that donated by John Blundell, of the newspaper publishing family, and previously placed in the tower of the Wellington Town Hall in 1922. After 10 years the clock had to be removed to make way for the demolition of the tower. A new home was found for it in the fire station and it remains a public landmark and facility to this day.

      The building itself remains the home of Wellington’s fire service, and in 2012 it was announced that the New Zealand Fire Service would spend at least $1 million to seismically strengthen the central Wellington station.


    • Modifications close
      • 1936
      • Wellington Central Fire Station (00056:170:B15032)
      • 1968
      • Additions and alterations (00058:545:C26169)
      • 1972
      • Additions and alterations (00058:796:C35809)
      • 1984
      • Additions and alterations (00058:0:C64887)
      • 1988
      • Business alterations (00059:201:D9551)
      • 1990
      • Business additions and alterations – glazed entrance (00059:404:E20785)
      • 2004
      • Refurbishment of fire station (00078:2412:112266)
      • 2008
      • Interior fit out, air conditioning and ventilation additions (00078:2702:182242)
      • 2012
      • SR256204 , RC - a Res.Con, 1. Land Use: Strengthening of fire station (heritage building)
      • 2013
      • SR281051 , aBLDG CONSENT, 3.2 - Commercial - Heritage Building - Wellington Central Fire Station including separate archive building at rear - New Seismic strengthening concrete shear walls, Fire safety upgrade work, minor internal alterations.
    • Occupation History close
      • 1937
      • Wellington Fire Board
  • close Architectural Information
    • Building Classification(s) close

      Not assessed

    • Architecture close

      The main block of the Central Fire Station fronts onto Oriental Parade with a symmetrical facade and a central tower set well back. Behind this main block there are two wings of two-storey flats overlooking the rear car park. The style of the building is a functional version of Moderne, with some minor Art Deco touches.

      The main building has a prominent central entrance, conceived as a shallow bay with five appliance access doors. The piers of the ground floor are continued through the first and second-floor levels as plain pilasters. Deeply recessed windows and spandrels fill the rest of this central component which is capped by a stepped parapet, acroterion, and flagpole. The tall vertical window bands light up the vehicle court behind and demonstrate the functionalism of the design.

      The two wings on either side of the centre are a model of plain design, with metal window joinery and a regular pattern of window spacing. String courses above and below the windows tie the composition together somewhat. The line of the parapet is decorated by a zigzag line. The square clock tower carries the profiles and ornament of Art Deco.

      The interior of the Central Fire Station, plain and utilitarian, is largely intact, with some simplified Art Deco detailing. Modifications have been made to some of upstairs accommodation.

      This is a functional and rational building in reinforced concrete. In style, it is almost perfectly poised between the historicism of earlier decades, and styleless simplicity of the Modern Movement. Architectural precedents have been followed in the design of this building, and simplified, but no real departures have been made.

    • Materials close

      Reinforced concrete structure

    • Setting close

      The Wellington Central Fire Station is situated on Kent Terrace at the end of Wakefield Street. Its broad façade dominates the beginning of Kent Terrace and its clock tower is quite prominent. These features allow it to be viewed from quite a considerable distance along Wakefield Street. On the building’s southern side, along Kent Terrace, stands the Bats Theatre (1923). To the north the building is separated from the multi-storey Bay Plaza Hotel by an access way.

  • close Cultural Value

    The Wellington Central Fire Station is a good representative example of inter-war public building architecture. The building is notable for its size and scale, for its symmetrical main façade, and for its prominent clock tower.

    The building has historic value for its 70 year association with the Wellington Fire Service. The building is also associated with the Wellington Town hall, as the clock in the tower was originally donated to the town hall in 1922 before being transferred to the fire station in 1932.

    The fire station is a local landmark, and the building’s size and scale, the prominent clock tower and symmetrical main façade make a strong contribution to the streetscape of Kent Terrace.

    • Aesthetic Value close
      • Architectural

        Does the item have architectural or artistic value for characteristics that may include its design, style, era, form, scale, materials, colour, texture, patina of age, quality of space, craftsmanship, smells, and sounds?

        The Wellington Central Fire Station is a good representative example of inter-war public building architecture. The building is notable for its size and scale, for its symmetrical main façade, and for its prominent clock tower.

      • Townscape

        Does the item have townscape value for the part it plays in defining a space or street; providing visual interest; its role as a landmark; or the contribution it makes to the character and sense of place of Wellington?

        The fire station is a local landmark, and the building’s size and scale, the prominent clock tower and symmetrical main façade make a strong contribution to the streetscape of Kent Terrace.

    • Historic Value close
      • Association

        Is the item associated with an important historic event, theme, pattern, phase, or activity?

        The building is associated with the efforts undertaken by Wellington’s fire service, since over the past 60 years the combat against some of the city’s largest fires has been directed from this station.

      • Association

        Is the item associated with an important person, group, or organisation?

        The building has historic value for its 70 year association with the Wellington Fire Service. The building is also associated with the Wellington Town hall, as the clock in the tower was originally donated to the town hall in 1922 before being transferred to the fire station in 1932.

    • Scientific Value close
      • Archaeological

        Does the item have archaeological value for its ability to provide scientific information about past human activity?

        The building is located in the Central City archaeological site reference NZAA R27/270.

    • Social Value close
      • Identity Sense Of Place Continuity

        Is the item a focus of community, regional, or national identity? Does the item contribute to sense of place or continuity?

        The building has had few intrusive modern alterations or additions and contributes to the sense of place and continuity of the Oriental Parade/Kent Terrace streetscape.

      • Sentiment Connection

        Is the item a focus of community sentiment and connection?

        The building will have sentimental value to both current and former members of Wellington’s fire service.

    • Level of Cultural Heritage Significance close
      • Authentic

        Does the item have authenticity or integrity because it retains significant fabric from the time of its construction or from later periods when important additions or modifications were carried out?

        The building has retained a significant amount of its original fabric, therefore it has authenticity.

      • Importance

        Is the item important for any of the above characteristics at a local, regional, national, or international level?

        The building is important on a local level due to the architectural value that it adds to the Wellington townscape and because of significant role that it has played in the history of the city’s fire service.

    • Local / Regional / National / International Importance close

      Not assessed

  • close Site Detail
    • District Plan Number

      16/ 234

    • Legal Description

      All DP 10776 (2001 Inventory)

    • Heritage New Zealand Listed

      2/Historic Place 3654

    • Archaeological Site

      Central City NZAA R27/270

    • Current Uses

      unknown

    • Former Uses

      unknown

    • Has building been funded

      No

    • Funding Amount

      Not applicable

    • Earthquake Prone Status

      124 Notice

  • close Additional Information

Last updated: 6/28/2017 4:26:17 AM