History & heritage  |  21 Feb 2020

The owners of two important heritage buildings in Christchurch’s city centre could receive financial help from Christchurch City Council to restore them.

The Sustainability and Community Resilience Committee will consider reports next week which recommend the Council approve grants of $900,000 for both the former State Insurance building at 116 Worcester Street (pictured above) and the Wellington Woollen Mills building at 96 Lichfield Street.

Both properties are classed as ‘Highly Significant’ buildings in the Christchurch District Plan

Money for the grants would come from the Central City Landmark Heritage Grant Funding Scheme, which the Council set up after the earthquakes to help owners retain, repair and strengthen the central city’s remaining historic buildings. 

Supporting the restoration of these buildings is consistent with the Council’s Heritage Strategy, which focuses on identifying, protecting and celebrating the city’s heritage and taonga.

To date, grants of more than $13.5 million have been made to 12 different heritage restoration projects.

Dating back to the 1930s, the former State Insurance building in Worcester Street was designed by renowned architect Cecil Wood, in association with Paul Pascoe.

It has art deco influences and was first used as offices for the State Fire and Accident Insurance Company and for the Lands and Survey and Lands and Deeds Departments.

The building was damaged in the earthquakes but has changed hands since then. The new owners - 116 Worcester Street Ltd - want to fully upgrade it and restore its historic façade, including the original coat of arms. They plan to use the refurbished building for living and rental accommodation.

The former Wellington Woollen Mills building in Lichfield Street is registered by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga as a Category 1 building and dates back to 1920.

It was designed by architect William Gummer, whose firm Gummer and Ford, was responsible for many significant buildings around New Zealand including the Auckland Railway Station and the former National Art Gallery and Museum in Wellington.

Designed in a pared-down classical style, it was one of the first commercial buildings in Christchurch to feature glass curtain walling.

The building’s Lichfield Street façade is currently fully scaffolded and hidden behind protective mesh. The new owners of the building - Wool House Investments Ltd - plan to repair the quake damage to the building and seismically upgrade it.

If the Sustainability and Community Resilience Committee agrees to give heritage grants to the owners of the two buildings, it will be on the condition that full conservation covenants are registered against the property titles. 

Read the report on the former Wellington Woollen Mills building.

Read the report on the former State Insurance building.