It’s easy to spot the distinctive pinky-peach building on the corner of Mt Albert and Mt Eden Road. However, its significance to the area’s heritage is not immediately obvious.
On October 13, people can be a part of recreating an iconic image of the building’s opening from the 1950s.
“Heritage buildings are an important part of our collective story and we’re very fortunate that we’re able to continue to use the Mount Roskill Municipal Chambers,” says Harry Doig, Puketāpapa Local Board Chair.
The building’s existence and use hold much value for historians and has evoked passion in those that advocated for its restoration.
1880s and before
The site where the building stands has been associated with local government in the Mt Roskill area since 1885. Prior to that most of the former Crown reserve lands at the corner of Mt Albert and Three Kings (Mt Eden) Roads, vested in the Mt Roskill Road Board in 1888, was unused, broken, littered with rocks, and overgrown with gorse and briar. The board leased the land to farmers for grazing, and with agreements to help clear the ground.
The building was at the heart of the old Mt Roskill borough which stretched from New Windsor to Royal Oak. In the era when Auckland had boroughs, it was formed and operated as the Mount Roskill Highway Board in 1867. It became the Mt Roskill Road Board in 1883.
1900 – 1920
Until about 1912 the board area was largely known for its dairy farming, pig farming, poultry raising and market gardening. Until two educational landmarks were developed – Wesleyan Church's Three Kings Native Institution and Mount Roskill School – and Mt Roskill declared an 'Educational District'.
In 1911, the Road Board proposed to build a Coronation Hall at the corner of Mt Eden and Mt Albert Roads, in honour of the coronation of King George V. The hall, designed by Onehunga architect J Park, would have been either concrete or wood, with total cost (including levelling the site) at £1,000. Nothing more was recorded in the newspapers about the project beyond that year.
Watch a video that tells the full story:
1920 – 1940
Plans for the building of a full municipal centre at the corner site seemed to have been first raised in 1923. By April 1934, plans had been prepared by architects H L Massey and C Garrett for new municipal buildings to be built at the corner site. These plans included municipal offices, a 600-seat hall, supper room, and four shops. The Road Board’s application for a Government loan for the project, however, was declined. A proposal for a municipal building in May 1939 was abandoned after 1940 due to war conditions.
1940 – 1960
In August 1945, it was announced that architects Gummer and Ford had designed a combined large public hall, municipal offices, a shopping centre and seven club rooms to support the clubs utilising the sports facilities on the reserve for the Road Board. The only part of this scheme that remains visible today is the grandstand terracing to the north of the corner site, backing onto Mt Eden Road. This, however, as with the other proposals since 1911, did not go ahead, perhaps due to post-war building supply controls, but there was also some ratepayer objection to the cost of the project, which apparently had spiralled up to as much as £90,000.
In 1947, during the war years, Mt Roskill Road Board was renamed and became Mt Roskill Borough Council.
A decade later in 1957, the chambers were built. In September 1956 Mayor Keith Hay laid the foundation stone for the new building, which was designed by architect Stephen G. Wright. The building housed the Mt Roskill Council chambers, a mayoral office and administrative departments.
The new Mount Roskill Borough Council comprised of a Mayor and eight (later increased to ten) councillors. Management of council's affairs was vested in the Town Clerk, who was responsible for day to day administration and coordination of the council's five departments: Engineering, Town Planning, Inspectorate, Treasury and Secretarial.
In 1950 the Borough Council decided at the end of the year not to proceed with another proposal, but under a new mayor, Keith Hay, the council applied to the Local Bodies Loans Board late in 1954 for approval for a £35,000 loan.
Approval for the main municipal office building was eventually received after a separate hall had been built in 1956. That year architect Stephen G Wright had received a tender from McLeod Construction of £32,915. Wright had been a resident in the district since c. 1933 and was also the architect for the Mt Roskill War Memorial Hall, the accompanying memorial at May Road and Roskill Sheetmetal Works at 907 Dominion Rd. The contract with McLeod Construction was approved in July that year.
On 29 September 1956, Mayor Keith Hay laid the foundation stone for the new building. Reference was made at the time to past issues between the Borough Council and the Building Controller. The new building was officially opened by the Minister of Internal Affairs on 15 June 1957.
1960 – 1980
The original building was two storeys, with basement garage and storage space. It was built with reinforced concrete columns and beams, concrete block panels to outside walls, wooden floors, and fire-resisting roofing fabric. The lining was with pinus radiate dados, fibrous plaster above, and fibrous plaster ceilings. All the offices on the ground floor faced north, with the entrance on the south-east corner of the building.
Space was allowed for the Council’s typists, Town Clerk and Assistant Town Clerk, and Borough Engineer’s offices. On the first floor was the Council chamber, committee room, Mayor’s office, staff room and duplicating room. The building was extended over the course of the 1970s and 1980s, with the deck space enclosed in 1988 by glass panels.
1980 – 2010
The Mt Roskill Borough Council building served the borough’s residents as the physical point of contact with the council in terms of transactions from paying rates through to applying for building consents until amalgamation with Auckland City Council in 1989.
Even after amalgamation, the building became the Eden-Roskill area office, and so remained a local focus in terms of the council’s contact with the district’s community. In 1997, the area office was closed and converted to become offices for Metrowater, until the 2010 amalgamation and creation of Auckland Council.
2010 – present time
The building was used for a time by Puketāpapa Local Board as their offices until black mould was discovered in the newer sections of the building, and the chambers were mothballed in 2012. It was effectively a leaky building due to shoddy renovations in the 1990s.
In 2016, after a campaign led by Puketāpapa Local Board, the Mt Roskill (Puketāpapa ) Historical Society and the local community, Auckland Council agreed to fund the restoration project which involved removal of the affected extensions including the 1988 panels enclosing the original deck space, bringing the chambers back to public use once again.
Work began in late 2016 to remove the problematic 1990 addition and install a new lift, new roof, new air-conditioning system and new toilets, as well as a structural upgrade and internal refurbishment.
“It is hard to believe that it was almost exactly four years ago that we began the campaign to save our Borough Council Building at Three Kings. the Historical Society organised a 1000 strong petition of local residents in support of saving the Chambers.
Puketāpapa Local Board contributed in a big way and took a stand in favour of restoration,” says Garth Houltham, President of the Mt Roskill (Puketāpapa ) Historical Society. “This is significant from a historical point of view.”
The Mt Roskill Municipal Chambers Open Day is set to be a fun, free, family-day with guided tours by the local historical society, a brass band and a food truck.