Iconic Napier building at 61 Tennyson Street sold

Historic Hawke’s Bay building bought by heritage buff

An iconic Hawke’s Bay property with a storied history dating back to 1886 has been bought by a former Napier man with a passion for preserving heritage.

The Sainsbury Logan & Williams building on the corner of Tennyson Street and Cathedral Lane was sold this month in a deal brokered by Colliers International.

It is the first time in more than 130 years that the property has not been owned by partners of the long-established law firm.

The buyer, Stephen Matthews, grew up in the Hawke’s Bay, attending Onekawa School and Colenso High School. He now lives in Auckland but eventually plans to resettle in the Hawke’s Bay.

Colliers International Broker Dan Walker, who transacted the sale with colleague Cam Ward, says he is thrilled to have found a buyer with such a strong affinity for Napier’s heritage.

“When Stephen asked me to show him some properties, his passion for heritage became apparent straight away.

“He owns several vintage cars, including a 1927 Chrysler once owned by his grandfather, and has previously refurbished and restored a heritage home in Plimmerton.

“I took him to see the historic Sainsbury Logan & Williams chambers, which was then owned by two current and two retired partners of the firm.

“The owners were looking to divest to ensure landlord and tenant separation, providing the ideal opportunity for Stephen to put in an offer.

“We negotiated a deal that both parties were happy with, and Stephen couldn’t be more delighted with his purchase.”

The premises sold for $2.65 million, representing a yield of 6.15 per cent on $163,000 annual rent.

Matthews says he’s thrilled to have the opportunity to help preserve Napier’s past.

“The Sainsbury Logan & Williams chambers is a special building in a special location, right in the centre of Napier’s Art Deco quarter.

“Owning a heritage building certainly comes with challenges, but the vendors have done well to preserve the character of the building while also investing significantly in earthquake strengthening.

“A building has to be functional, and it’s important that tenants are able to use and enjoy the space. There’s a delicate balance between preserving heritage and ensuring a building is fit for purpose, and I’ll do my best to achieve that.”

The property comprises three separate but interconnected buildings, each with a unique history.

The distinctive corner building at 61 Tennyson Street was built after the original chambers, dating back to 1886, were all but destroyed in the February 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake.

The only surviving parts of the original building were the strong room, which was protected by a heavy door more than a foot thick, and a smaller ancillary.

The strong room preserved hundreds of land titles and other documents that would have otherwise perished in the fires that raged through Napier following the quake.

These were used to reconstruct the documents at the Lands and Deeds Office in Napier, all of which had been destroyed.

To rebuild after the quake, the law firm engaged Finch & Westerholm architects, who incorporated the surviving strong room into the new design.

Completed in 1932, the building is an amalgam of architectural elements including an Italian Renaissance-inspired façade, Louisiana-style metalwork and a tiled parapet with a clear Spanish Mission influence.

It still retains many of its distinctive Art Deco features including a Terrazzo tiled entranceway and a cupola with lead lighting.

The adjoining Munster Chambers building on Tennyson Street was completed in 1933. A shamrock graces the Art Deco façade as a nod to the Irish roots of the North Island’s former name, New Munster. The law firm purchased Munster Chambers in 1977.

The final addition came in 1992, when Sainsbury Logan & Williams purchased the Anglican Church’s former office building to the rear on Cathedral Lane.

All three buildings are now interconnected. Munster Chambers was joined to the main building in 1981 and the Anglican Church office in 2007.

The buildings are now in good hands, with Matthews able to draw on his experience of owning and living in historic Turville House in Plimmerton, Porirua, north of Wellington.

Located high on a hill at 75 Motuhara Road, the house was built between 1907 and 1910 by Sir George Troup, who was then the chief architect for NZ Railways.

It shares many design features with Dunedin Railway Station, which Sir George also built in 1907. He later went on to become Wellington Mayor from 1927 to 1931.

Matthews and his wife Gayle O’Brien bought the house as a project and spent nine months restoring and renovating it over 2004 and 2005. The couple sold up in 2017 when they moved to Auckland.

Matthews also has an affinity for vintage cars, having owned several 1920s Chryslers.

One of these was a 1927 model owned by his grandfather, who sold it in 1968. Matthews and his brother Martin bought it back when it was listed on Trade Me in 2016.


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