Two heritage warehouses, refurbished to 5 Green Star standards, have a whole new life to offer the city. 

The refurbishment of the Hayman Kronfeld Building marks the beginning of an exciting new phase for two venerable heritage warehouses. Read on for more about their history and bright futures. 

In late 1882, the Auckland economy was in the doldrums. Forty years after Ngāti Whātua chief Apihai te Kawau had offered 3,000 acres of land to Governor Hobson to establish a new capital in Auckland, the growth around the city's port felt like it had come to a halt. The collapse of the City Bank of Glasgow in 1878 triggered a financial contagion that dried up credit available to New Zealand from London banks. A related economic slump in Australia reduced demand for New Zealand exports, ending a boom in the trans-Tasman supply of native timber, kauri gum and Coromandel gold.

At the same time, the Auckland Harbour Board was completing the reclamation of 5,000 acres of land from the Waitematā Harbour and offering new sites for lease on Customs Street. A railway reserve was created between Customs and Quay Streets, and work on the Auckland Railway Station was under way. The board presumed this would mean building sites would be quickly occupied, but much of their new land remained bare. 

It wasn't until 1898 that Henry and Lachlan Hayman of the English trading firm Hayman & Co secured the lease for three lots on Customs Street.  The company had been established in Birmingham in 1854, and had opened a New Zealand branch in Dunedin during the Otago gold rush. By the mid-1930s it would have branches in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill.

The PG Hayman & Co. warehouse in Customs Street East opened in April 1900. It was designed by archtect John Currie – an Irish immigrant who arrived in New Zealand in 1874) – and is a building in the Victorian Italianate Palazzo style (the photograph below shows it soon after completion). On the ground floor there was a strong room to contain the jewellery department, as well as a tobacconist, a crockery area, a pharmacy, a department devoted to musical goods, and areas selling stationery, saddlery, brushware and other household items.

In the 1930s the Haymans renovated the building to create an entry arcade with terrazzo flooring. After they sold the building in 1935, it stopped being used as retail premises, going on to house a clothing factory, the art dealers John Cordy Ltd, Lloyd’s Shipping Register, a surveying firm and, in the 1980s, the Sofrana shipping company, who had naming rights to the building.

One of the most notable features of the refurbished building is the reinstatement of its heritage pediment (you can see a 'before' shot from the 1980s without the pediment below left, and the reinstated pediment below right). The hefty original brick and plaster structure was removed decades ago as an earthquake risk. By the early 2000s, the building had fallen into disrepair, but it – along with its neighbours in the Britomart precinct – were protected as part of Auckland Council’s plan to bring rail back to the centre of the city and allow new development above the station site. During the building’s refurbishment, the team at Liquidstone in west Auckland spent months reconstructing the pediment using archival photographs as a guide. The reinstated version is made from glass-reinforced concrete, meaning it weighs less than the original. It is also fastened much more firmly in place.

Five years after the opening of P.G. Hayman & Co Warehouse, architect John Currie was called on again, this time to design a new building on the neighbouring site for Gustav Kronfeld, a successful trading merchant who grew up in Prussia, and lived in Australia and the Pacific before arriving in Auckland with his Sāmoan wife, Louisa (Gustav and Louisa are pictured below in an image supplied by the Kronfeld family. For cultural reasons, copying or reproducing the image of them and those of their family requires specific permission). The letters G KRONFELD, visible from the port when the building was first completed, can still be seen today.  

Kronfeld's business flourished, and the family lived in a large villa named 'Oli Ula on nearby Eden Crescent. (You can read Gustav and Louisa's great-great-granddaughter Emily Parr's account of the family history at this link. Emily is also an artist, and created the work in the photo below that hangs in the Galway Street window of the building). But his German ancestry led to him being erroneously suspected of 'trading with the enemy' during World War I, and he was interned  in a prisoner of war camp on Motuihe Island for four years as an 'enemy alien'. The warehouse was sold in 1917, and Gustav died at 'Oli Ula in 1924.  Before she died in 1939, Louisa gifted the couple's Pacific taonga, which remain in the collection of Te Papa today. Many of Gustav and Louisa's descendants were able to attend the reopening of the building. 

The buildings' refurbishment has seen the two structures linked to become a single address, the Hayman Kronfeld Building. Designed by PeddleThorp Architects, the buildings are now linked with a glass lift core. The main lobby, with its floor of recycled brick, popular Daily Bread coffee counter, and artist Shane Cotton's monumental work 'Ahuitaiti's Algorithm' (below left) faces The Britomart Transport Centre and the revamped shared space of Galway Street. 

The Hayman Kronfeld Building is already the winner of awards from the Auckland branch of the NZ Institute of Architects and the Property Council of NZ. It is targeting a 5 Green Star rating from the NZ Green Building Council (you can read our interview about the joys and challenges of refurbishing heritage buildings with development director Campbell Williamson at this link). The building has also been seismically strengthened. Its heritage features have been carefully blended with state-of-the-art ventilation and lighting systems, as well as the latest technology to monitor use of water and electricity: all the performance advantages of a contemporary building with the textures that are such an important part of the history of the city and this place.