In 1861, whilst the rest of New Zealand was being settled; a nondescript block building goes up in the thriving commercial centre of the far-flung British colony of Auckland.
One hundred and fifty years later, the Bluestone Store resolutely remains anchored in Durham Lane, surrounded by high-rise apartments and offices.
It is now one Auckland's oldest commercial buildings, and referred to as The Bluestone Room. Located on Durham Lane, just off Queen Street, it’s a superbly restored heritage building, with a stone floor entranceway, exposed native Kauri beams, wood panels atop bare volcanic stonewalls and rustic furnishings.
A plaque in the floor also records that it was the site of Auckland’s first well, it’s still there for customers to peer down into the crystal clear water, so there’s definitely history when it comes to quenching the thirsts of inner city Aucklanders.
Combining this history with modern craft beer and a gastro pub, The Bluestone Room is a true hidden gem.
Named for the distinctive basalt volcanic stone - quarried and carted from Mt Wellington - the store has the Historic Places Trust's highest degree of protection as a category one building. It is also listed as historically significant by Auckland City Council, on both its operative and proposed district plans, and forms part of the Midtown Walk, as part of Auckland City Heritage Discovery Walks.
It is one of the city's oldest examples of a small 19th-century warehouse. The store survived the wrecking ball, which demolished the neighboring His Majesty's Theatre in the 1980s, a site now home to the 24-level CityLife Auckland Hotel. With the history it has, this place must have some ghosts.
A timber house was probably the first building on this site. The land was first listed by European settlers in 1842 in a crown grant.
The building's history shows that Levy & Goldwater was the building's first owner. Bernhard Levy and Nathan Goldwater were storekeepers requiring a warehouse for their goods.
The scoria building was designed by architect Reader Gilson Wood, born in Leicestershire, England, in 1821. He emigrated here in 1844, fought in the New Zealand Land Wars and was appointed Colonial Architect in 1849.
In 1865, Levy & Goldwater leased the building to auctioneers Charles Emmison Knapp and Morton Jones for £40 on a 99-year term.
By 1878, confectioner Edward Waters was listed on valuation rolls as the occupier of the building, followed by agricultural merchants Jakins & Wilcox, who advertised in the New Zealand Herald in 1870, selling malting barley, salt, butter, rye grass and bone flour.
New Zealand Insurance bought the stone store in 1882, but sold it four years later to Auckland merchant J. Craig, who owned it until 1919 when he sold it to department store owner John Court. During Craig's ownership of the building, the lease was taken over by Samuel Carey Brown of the adjacent Brown's Mill, who probably used the building as a storeroom for the coal he used to run his mill's engine.
Between 1911 and 1922, Kempthorne Prosser used the building for manure storage. Then it became a warehouse for John Court's department store. In 1936, it was sold to Kiwi Polish (NZ), who operated a factory and shop from the premises.
In 1963, L.W. Twist bought the building and had his customs agency on the first floor. He leased the ground floor to Top Twenty Promotions, who put a coffee bar in, then later transformed the building into a Night Club.
Originally named "The Top 20" which was re-named Radio Hauraki's "1480 Village", it then became "Club Bo-Peep" and then "Granny's" Nightclub - with Grandpas Bar upstairs.
Tommy Adderley – NZ’s “Mr Rock and Roll” ventured into club ownership and operated the building as Bo-Peep nightclub, and as The Bo-Peep it was unlicensed, everybody was drinking “coke” there was a lot of under the table passing of little bottles of Rum...but no bar!
He then refurbished it and re-opened it as Granny's. This became the permanent home for The Headband. Granny's launched a number of successful bands over the years including Dragon, Ragnarok and the Paragons.
As Granny's, it was also owned by Human Instinct drummer Maurice Greer. During 1970 The Human Instinct (including Billy TK) played 3 nights a week residency at Club Bo Peep, on one occasion with guest band The Game (1970 Battle of the Bands Auckland Winners).
When The Rolling Stones visited NZ during the 1970s, Keith Richards’s delighted a surprised crowd upstairs in Grandpas Bar with an impromptu performance after the concert.
However, by the end of 1977 it was largely derelict. In the early months of 1978 it was - and the word should be applied very loosely - 'refurbished' as Zwines, Auckland's second dedicated punk venue (the first, Hugh Lynn's Diamond Dogs in Queen Street, was short lived) where the Scavengers held a long residency. By then the building had a quite a history - so the rumor went – even Auckland's first jail?
But by the early 2000s, the block building was a cumbersome obstacle in a gravel-lined car park. They had paved the old Radio New Zealand studios across the road in Durham Lane to put up a parking lot, but the historic old stone building was still there.
Broken and deserted, the place which Max Merritt opened in the mid 60’s and where Larry's Rebels, the Pleazers and the La De Das started their careers was now gutted and doubled as a workers' lunchroom, dwarfed by surrounding hotels and parking buildings.
In early 2003, quantity surveyors Kingston Partners estimated $445,000 was needed to fix its rusted and leaking roof, repair mortar, do carpentry and fix the brickwork. So in June, owners Rheingold Parking, lead by Randolf Baxter, undertook to carry out the restoration of the building in accordance with the conservation plan prepared by Dave Pearson Architects.
Since then, it has been earthquake strengthened and fully refurbished as a bar and restaurant downstairs, with a function room on the upstairs first floor. The interior was craftfully redecorated by Rolly Doyle, (who also set up Takapuna’s Copper Room) and Ross Vickers (Danger Danger in Whangarei) and officially opened by Helen Clark the PM at the time.
During 1987, two weeks into her role as the Minister of Conservation, Helen Clark saved the property by issuing a protection order, her first action as the Minister, a plague in the corner of the bar commemorates this.
As reviewed in September 2011 by stuff.co.nz The Bluestone Room comes in number one spot as one of Auckland City’s Happiest Bars.
The regulars are mainly inner-city workers drawn to the hidden away watering hole near their offices. The extensive gastro menu offers food matches to the full range of Monteiths Craft Beers available on tap, including seasonal offerings. With pub quiz on a Wednesday night, wine tastings and liqueur sampling on Mondays, Thursday and Friday sees The Bluestone Room adopt its traditional role as a place for kicking back after work. Well known as the home of the unique Chilled Beer Tower, and with at least 40 different wines also available by the glass, big screen TVs make sure it’s a popular choice when The All Blacks, Blues or the Warriors are making Aucklander’s proud, anxious or both.
The Upstairs Function room possesses it's own magical atmosphere, basking in old world charm and the most amazing history. The room has been designed with versatility in mind, and can cater to a host of function styles including corporate events, award dinners, cocktail parties, conferences, fashion shows, private parties, anniversaries and weddings. Forming an integral link to Auckland of old, The Bluestone Room’s Kiwi-pioneering theme encompassing state-of-the-art audio-video technology and lighting creates a wonderful atmosphere for all occasions.
With its low ceilings and acres of faded heritage wood in the downstairs bar, The Bluestone Room is definitely more of a winter pub. There are a couple of outdoor tables out the front, but you’re better off sharing a big table inside or parking yourself in a leather armchair in front of the fire.
Avoiding the hustle and bustle of pubs on Queen St, The Bluestone Room is definitely worth searching out in it’s out of the way location up Durham Lane. And if you do still feel thirsty after a couple of drinks, it’s OK, after all you’re right above the spot that quenched the thirsts of Auckland’s pioneers so many decades ago.
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