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Facelift for former Chief Post Office

MEDIA RELEASE 10 October 2008

Facelift for former Chief Post Office

Christchurch’s 130-year-old former Chief Post Office, the oldest building in Cathedral Square, is set to get a nearly $90,000 facelift.

The Christchurch City Council’s Heritage Grants and Covenants Committee has approved a grant of just over $43,000 for exterior repairs, painting and cleaning of the two facades facing the Square. In line with the Council’s heritage policy on Group 1 listed buildings, this is half the required amount, the other half being funded by the property owner.

The former Chief Post Office functioned as a Chief Post Office for 113 years. Originally known as the Government Buildings, it housed the immigration, customs, and public works departments in addition to the Chief Post Office. The foundation stone was laid on 14 May 1877 and the building, built at a cost of £1400, opened two years later.

In 1881 the first telephone exchange in New Zealand was installed in the building where it remained until 1929.

In 1992 the interior was demolished in the course of constructing the seven storey Telecom building behind, leaving only the original facade that remains today.

The architect was W H Clayton who, in 1863, moved from Tasmania to Dunedin where he set up in partnership with William Mason, the pair becoming two of the most prominent architects in New Zealand at the time.

In 1869 Clayton was appointed colonial architect and as such was responsible for designing post and telegraph offices, courthouses, customhouses, government department offices and ministerial residences. His Government Building in Wellington (1876) is the largest timber-framed building in the Southern Hemisphere.

The former Chief Post Office is described as masonry building in Italianate style with richly textured ornamentation combining classical and Venetian Gothic elements. Clayton combined classical arched windows on the ground floor with Venetian pointed arches on the first floor, while a clock tower with the British Coat of Arms rises above the main entrance.

Grants and Covenants Committee chair Cr Helen Broughton said the grant was further demonstration of the Council's commitment to the City's heritage.

“While there has been a recent focus on redevelopment through intensification in the central city , the Council remains committed to protecting the city's heritage buildings, she said".

Other heritage projects to gain recent Council support include New Regent Street, the Public Trust Office, Lyttelton’s Grubb Cottage and the Tea House at Riccarton Park.


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