Wellington's Old Public Trust Building restoration complete video

Stuff.co.nz

Wellington is to have one of its prized heritage buildings re-opened with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage confirmed as tenants. A restaurant by British chef Jamie Oliver had earlier been confirmed as a tenant.

One of Wellington's oldest residents has finally received the makeover it deserves.

The heritage-listed Old Public Trust Building has endured a lot since it was first built in 1908 - from earthquakes, to threats of demolition, to attempted (and failed) restorations.

But now, 107 years on, its has undergone a $10 million restoration, all thanks to Wellington developer and engineer Maurice Clark.

Wellington developer Maurice Clark described the restoration of Old Public Trust Building as one of his most difficult ...
ASHTEN MACDONALD/FAIRFAX NZ

Wellington developer Maurice Clark described the restoration of Old Public Trust Building as one of his most difficult projects.

Clark said the earthquake strengthening and restoration of a heritage building was not an easy task, but the end result was well worth it.

The Edwardian baroque style building, which was completed in 1909 by government architect John Campbell, is Wellington's only surviving building made of a true New Zealand granite.

This building is one of the very few category one listed buildings in the capital and ranks alongside Old St Paul's Cathedral, which was saved from the wreckers in 1966 after a groundswell of public opinion.

The Old Public Trust Building on Lambton Quay has been fully restored.
CHRIS SKELTON/FAIRFAX NZ

The Old Public Trust Building on Lambton Quay has been fully restored.

The design was a semi-official style for police stations, courthouses and post offices throughout the country.

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Clark wanted to stay true to the style of the building and made every attempt to replicate the damaged detailing, he said.

"I've done a fair amount of heritage buildings so I knew it would be a major task.

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"We've tended to every crack in the building, we've bolted some loose bits back on, we've steam cleaned the whole building."

When Clark bought the building in January 2014 and stripped it back, he found quite a lot of damage, he said. They were forced to pull up the original matai floor .

"Because of the strengthening and because we had two strong points at each end we had to lift it all and pour a big concrete slab."

When he first took on the job, he had concerns about the facade on the outside and knew strengthening the building would be a big job, Clark said.

"[It was] far more difficult than the original engineers first thought.

"But everything is now locked together with concrete and it's all been taken down to the new foundations."

Clark described it was one of his most difficult projects to date.

The restoration work was undertaken by Clark's construction firm McKee Fehl, with architects Warren & Mahoney. The two companies also collaborated on the restoration of Defence House across the road on Stout Street.

The Ministry of Culture and Heritage will move in on Tuesday and its ground floor tenant, a Jamie Oliver restaurant, will open early next year.

Ministry of Culture and Heritage chief executive Paul James said they were delighted to be moving into the Old Public Trust Building.

"It seems fitting that an agency with the word heritage in their name should come into a building like this ... It's a beautiful building and it played a really important part in the life of Government in the early years."

The building would become their home for the next 15 years, James said.

HISTORY OF THE BUILDING

* The New Zealand Government was the first in the world to start a Public Trust Office in 1872

* In 1904, the government paid the then outrageous sum of £1400 to San Francisco's Reid Brothers architectural practice to provide expertise on the design and construction of the riveted steel frame - the building is New Zealand's first steel frame building

* In 1926, a girder crashed down in the legal branch, apparently the result of damage caused in a 1923 earthquake. Nobody was killed, as it happened on a weekend, but staff were instructed not to sit under the girders until the building was strengthened in 1927

* After the severe 1942 earthquake, the building was checked again. It suffered only minor plaster cracks which were attributed to the deliberate and acceptable movement of the building's expansion joints

* In 1975, a public campaign successfully saved the building from demolition

* In 1984, Riddiford Group strengthened and upgraded the offices, and spliced a large addition on to the building

* The 2013 Seddon earthquake, the largest in the city since 1942, caused the Creative New Zealand to move out after plasterwork cracked

* After the building's body corporate (Creative New Zealand; Stout Street Chambers; Julian Parsons and Reedy Holdings) commissioned an assessment by engineering firm Dunning Thornton, they decided to sell the building to a party better placed to strengthen the building

* In 2014, Maurice Clark bought the building. He was labelled a "hero" for taking on one of Wellington's largest heritage strengthening projects.

 - Stuff

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