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 Room resolutely remains anchored in Durham Lane as the best pub in the CBD, 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 in the heart of Auckland City.
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.