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Heritage Auckland Building Centenary Afternoon Tea

Heritage Auckland Building Centenary Afternoon Tea Sunday 12 October

Celebrate Heritage Auckland’s Hobson St building 100th year over an afternoon tea in the historic roof-top Grand Tearoom during the Auckland Heritage Festival. The tea will be presented on Sunday the 12th of October with vintage touches and opportunities to re-live yesteryear. Tickets are $65 per person ($60 senior concession). Ticket includes the afternoon tea with a glass of bubbles or juice, plus a gift. The afternoon includes a short entertaining history of the building by historian, Ian Hunter, and the chance to win a prize for the best historic costume or hat.

For bookings and information call 09 9797438 or email Website

For Auckland Heritage Festival (27 September to October 12) information visit


Often associated with the Farmers, many don’t know the Heritage Auckland’s Hobson Street building was first built as a warehouse for entrepreneur Robert Laidlaw’s mail-order company. Laidlaw established his business ‘Laidlaw Leeds’ in 1909 and was based originally in rented warehouse space.

His business was the fastest growing in New Zealand so in 1912 he bought the Hobson St land and commissioned the building at a cost of £38,000, opening it in winter 1914. In 1918 he was called up to WW1 and sold to the Farmers co-operative trading company, but returned as general manager to spearhead decades of innovation.

He transformed the building in to a retail store in 1920 and the ‘Big Store’ legend began. Following, was the opening of the famous children’s playground and the first free bus service to the store in 1922.

In 1930, a deco façade was installed on the building and the stunning roof-top tearooms created, now the hotel’s Grand Tearoom.

At that time Hector ‘the parrot’ actually a sulphur crested cockatoo (and a female), was also gifted to the store by an old lady unable to care for it any longer. Hector became an icon, yet had quite a temper, snipping at staff given the chance.

Robert Laidlaw’s most enduring legacy was created in 1934 with the Farmers Christmas parade which has been a highlight for generations of Auckland children.

The Farmers Hobson St store closed in 1992 but the story of the building didn’t end there. An ambitious transformation into the Heritage Auckland was completed in July 1998, followed by a contemporary Tower wing in Nelson St in 1999.



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