Christchurch City Council owns and looks after some of the city’s heritage buildings and sites on behalf of Christchurch’s citizens.

Addington Water Tower

Addington Water TowerLocated on Clarence Street, Addington, the tower is listed as an Historic Place Category 1.

After the earthquakes

A Detailed Engineering Evaluation (DEE) report concluded that the tower is not considered to be earthquake prone.

As part of the DEE process further investigation of the tower’s structure will be undertaken. The purpose is to confirm the strength and capacity of the building in terms of a percentage of New Building Standard (% NBS).

Investigations of structural elements of the building will include:

  • Concrete wall investigation: removal of a section of concrete to determine if steel reinforcing bars are present
  • Foundations investigation: removal and replacement of floorboards to gain access to foundations for inspection of  the condition and size.

There is more information about the Addington Water Tower on the Heritage New Zealand website.(external link)

Find this and other heritage points of interest on our heritage map.

Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings

The Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings (1858−1865) is a masterpiece of one of New Zealand’s most distinguished Victorian architects B.W. Mountfort.

The buildings were the finest example of Gothic Revival architecture in New Zealand prior to their severe earthquake damage. They are also the only remaining purpose built provincial government buildings in the country.

Sections in timber and stone were built around an internal courtyard and linked by flagstone corridors.  There are two debating chambers, one in timber and one stone; the stone chamber which remains in part, collapsed in the February earthquake was considered the finest Gothic Revival interior outside England.

A programme of careful deconstruction to secure the building along with weatherproofing and retrieval and storage of material has been undertaken.  The buildings are currently closed to the public.

Listed as Historic Place Category 1.(external link)


Timber buildings

Photo of the timber corridor with a flagstone floorThe earliest timber buildings were relatively plain. The Council Chamber, where the councillors regularly met, was at the heart of the buildings as well as being the most impressive. You can still admire its arched ceiling of native timber and the galleries for the press and public at either end. Something to look out for particularly is the fine tracery on the bay window on the south side.

In 1859, work began on the second group of buildings. The province was better off financially and could afford something more elaborate and spacious. The result was a building of strong Victorian Gothic Revival style.

These first two timber buildings were connected by a long, low-ceilinged corridor, paved with flagstones and still has an atmosphere suggestive of the hushed cloisters of Medieval monks.

 


Stone Chamber and Bellamys

By 1861, the numbers on the ProvincPhoto of a carving of a bearded manial Council had swelled to 35 making it a tight squeeze in the small Timber Chamber. Benjamin Mountfort drew up plans for a new chamber along with social and dining facilities (giving them the same name, Bellamy’s, as those in London’s Westminster), and accommodation for a housekeeper.

With these buildings, Mountfort used a variety of local stone as the main building material. The Stone Chamber is in a High Victorian Gothic style and the stonework is magnificently elaborate.

As Canterbury historian John Wilson said, 'the interior of the Council Chamber is the building’s greatest glory'. There is a double-faced clock, encaustic (inlaid) tiling, beautiful stained glass windows, and carvings done in Christchurch by William Brassington.

Visitors can share Brassington’s sense of fun by searching for heads, birds, a cat, frog and other creatures. The timbers used in the interior of the Stone Chamber include native kauri and rimu.


Council and provincial building history

Photo of the historic Council chambersBritish colonisation of New Zealand occurred as a series of planned settlements. The Canterbury Association, a group with strong connections to the Anglican Church, brought their first group of migrants out in 1850.

There were already five settler communities in other parts of the country but they were very scattered and means of communication and transport were slow. It was decided that each province would be largely self-governing. In effect, six miniature Parliaments were set up to govern a country of fewer than 50,000 settlers.

The Provincial Councils took themselves very seriously, modelling their hierarchies on the British 'Mother of Parliaments' at Westminster.

Three years after establishment, Christchurch was still a straggling village. In 1853, elections were held for the position of Superintendent and later, for the twelve-seat Council.

Only men over the age of 21 who owned property were eligible to vote (it was a good 40 years before New Zealand became the first country in the world to give women the right to vote). There were no secret ballots and no restrictions on treating the voters, so elections were very festive occasions.


Building a home for the new Council

The Provincial Council first met in temporary accommodation but plans for a permanent building began almost immediately. Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings (1858 to 1865) were designed by Benjamin Mountfort, Canterbury's leading Gothic Revival architect. Although the style of the buildings looks back to Europe, they use local stone and timbers. They sit beside the meandering Avon River, telling the story of Christchurch's early European settlement.

On the 6th of January 1858, the foundation stone was laid for the Provincial Council Buildings. The day was declared a public holiday with a procession through town and a nine-gun salute.

The buildings were first used by the Council in September 1859.

Historical significance

Because of the buildings' great architectural and historical significance, the Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings have been given Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga's highest classification. They are also identified as a significant heritage place for listing and protection through Christchurch City Council's District Plan.

Interpretation centre

Formerly there was an Interpretation Centre within the buildings. The buildings are currently closed as they suffered significant damage in the Canterbury earthquakes but there are a number of interpretation panels outside the building for your interest.

Further information

There is more information about the history of these buildings on the Christchurch City Libraries website.(external link)

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Christchurch Hospital Nurses Memorial Chapel

Completed in 1928, the Christchurch Hospital Nurse's Memorial Chapel is located on Riccarton Avenue by the Christchurch Hospital. 

Try this ‘The Nurses’ Memorial Chapel was dedicated as a memorial to New Zealand Nurses who died in WWI and the influenza pandemic which followed in 1918.  It is significant as the only memorial chapel in NZ commemorating women who died in war or the pandemic, and is likely to be the only purpose-built memorial chapel in the world commemorating nurses who died in the Great War.  It was also New Zealand’s first hospital chapel.  As well as being a general memorial to nurses, the building holds a number of individual memorials to local, national and internationally known medical names. It also provided hospital patients and staff a place for spiritual contemplation as well as a place for baptisms, weddings, funerals and regular service. 

Building
The idea of building a memorial chapel at Christchurch Hospital began soon after the Marquette disaster during WWI. The Marquette was a transport ship that was torpedoed while crossing the Aegean Sea on 19 October 1915. Among the 741 people on board were 36 nurses from the New Zealand Army Nursing Service and staff from the New Zealand medical corps. Of the 10 New Zealand nurses who perished, three had trained at Christchurch Hospital.  At a local memorial service held for those lost in the disaster, a collection was taken with the intention of building a memorial chapel at Christchurch Hospital in honour of all 10 nurses. This idea was met with enthusiasm from the public and supported by the North Canterbury Hospital Board and members of the nursing community.

Architecture

The late Gothic Revival chapel was designed and supervised free of charge by prominent Christchurch architect John Goddard Collins in 1927. Construction was undertaken by Williamson Construction; William Williamson described it as the 'finest building he ever built'. The interior was very much inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, incorporating significant sculptural elements and the vivid contrast of extensive timberwork and an Oamaru stone chancel arch. The oak carving in the sanctuary was mostly executed by Frederick Gurnsey and his apprentice Jake Vivian. An influential and gifted sculptor, many of Gurnsey's works can be found around Christchurch and feature in the Christchurch Cathedral and Bridge of Remembrance. There are nine stained glass windows - four by Veronica Whall, a prominent English stained glass artist, -three thought to be by The Glass House in London, and three are from the former St Mary's Anglican Church in Merivale. 

A detailed publication listing the building's most significant architectural elements can be downloaded from the Christchurch City Libraries website(external link).

Earthquake and rebuild

The Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 damaged the chapel and it was closed. Restoration work began in 2017 with internal brick sections being replaced with sturdier masonry block, the basement re-clad and the two gable ends and sanctuary arch deconstructed and repaired. Amazingly, all nine stained glass windows remained intact and have since been restored following the extensive building renovations.

Setting

Originally the chapel was connected to the main hospital and accessed via the main corridor, but this changed when the old hospital buildings were replaced in the 1980s and 1990s. Threatened with demolition three times in the wake of hospital expansion, it now stands within a hemispherical garden between Riccarton Ave and the hospital access road. Maintained by Botanic Gardens' staff, the garden holds approximately 27 varieties of heritage rose as well as perennials and medicinal herbs. Each rose in the garden has been donated by friends and relatives in memory of someone associated with the hospital and nursing.

Nearby in Hagley Park is the Bandsmen's Memorial Rotunda, also the first of its kind in New Zealand. This memorial to bandsmen who died in WW1 is often seen as a 'brother' site to the chapel.

For more information about the Nurses' Memorial Chapel, both the district plan(external link) and the Friends of the Chapel(external link) website are great resources.

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Cuningham House

Cuningham HouseBeginnings

The largest and oldest of the Botanic Gardens display houses, Cuningham House, originally known as the Winter Garden, opened to the public in 1924. The building was funded by a bequest made to the Botanic Gardens by Mr C.A.C Cuningham, a Christchurch law clerk, on his death in 1915.

Use

Well stocked with an array of tropical plants, many were hand picked by Botanic Gardens Curator at the time, James Young, while on a dedicated plant sourcing trip to Australia. The jungle-like collection included orchids, breadfruit, guava, paw paw, date and sago palms and new kinds of bananas, some of which still survive today some 80 years later.

Architecture

With its symmetrical facade, Tuscan columns and Italianate balusters, Cuningham House firmly falls into the style of a Neo-Classical glasshouse. Local architectural firm Collins and Harman modelled the design of the building on the Reid Winter Gardens at Springburn Park in Glasglow.

Cuningham House was considered an improvement because of its reinforced concrete structure and in this way differs from a number of glasshouses built at a similar time. Adding to the classical nature of the building, local resident George Scott donated four Italian marble statues from his Opawa estate to be displayed although the remaining statues have since been removed for preservation.

Form

Cuningham House is divided into two main sections, a lower house on the ground floor and an upstairs gallery for plants that have high light requirements. The central section on the ground floor allows for the growth of taller species. The Rosary, redeveloped in 1934, was specifically designed to suit the form of Cuningham House with the circular design creating an axis with the entrance and making it a focal point. Later, rose covered archways were constructed along the pathway, framing the conservatory and creating one of the most photographed views in the Gardens. 

Significance

Cuningham House is of significant cultural and heritage value to the Botanic Gardens. Not only does it offer a practical way to display indoor plants but it provides continuous interest throughout the seasons when other displays may not be at their best. The conservatory also gives us an interesting glimpse into post war society where a fascination with the exotic, other-worldliness of the jungle is tempered by a need for the stability and order provided by the Neo-Classical structure it is housed in. 

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Godley House

Godley House

Godley House, Diamond Harbour’s iconic heritage building and destination was badly damaged by the Canterbury earthquakes and has since been demolished.

Background

Godley House was built in 1880 by Mr Harvey Hawkins on land purchased from Mark Stoddart, who lived in nearby Stoddart Cottage. As well as being a family home and pleasure ground, the property was famed for its lavish parties, where boatloads of people would arrive from Lyttelton on Hawkins' steam launch, Waiwera. After a bad financial run, Hawkins went bankrupt, the house was put up for sale and the contents auctioned off in 1896. With no buyers for the property, it reverted back to the Stoddart family, who were the secured creditors.

Anna Stoddart and three of her daughters moved into Godley House in 1896. Here they helped to manage the farm and were known for hosting members of the art community, the house described as being "a mecca of many artists, botanists and sundry guests." When Anna died in 1911, the remaining members of the Stoddart family sold the Diamond Harbour estate to the Lyttelton Borough Council and Government and it was used as a hotel, restaurant and conference centre up until the September 2010 earthquake.

Download a short history of Godley House [PDF, 3.8 MB].

Deconstruction and demolition

The 4 September 2010 earthquake damaged Godley House significantly but the building was considered to be repairable. After the 22 February 2011 earthquake however, hopes of restoration were dashed as two independent reports from structural engineers concluded the building was unsalvageable and advised demolition. On 11 September 2011, a wake was held for Godley House and the Diamond Harbour community and visitors from around the region turned out to farewell the historic home. Through careful deconstruction recorded by an archaeologist, a lot of heritage fabric was saved.

Archaeology 

When the large concrete foundations on the southern side of the building were removed, a number of features were found beneath them including a fireplace foundation, concrete pathways and brick footing. This footing changes previous ideas about the layout and development of the south side of the house and it is now believed to have been extended in two parts. Two rain water tanks were also found, one dating back to the nineteenth century and the other likely to be its twentieth century replacement. These were constructed from concrete and brick and were left in-situ with a cover made of corrugated iron. The second tank was probably built in 1919 and contained reinforcing steel. The presence of these tanks shows us how a lack of water on the site was dealt with. 

Sixty artefacts were excavated from Godley House, all glass and metal. The glass artefacts were all alcohol bottles likely to have contained dark beers such as porters and stouts, or spirits. A number of different sizes were found ranging from pint (60 to 70 millimetres in base diameter) to the larger quart (75 to 88 millimetres in base diameter). All bottle sizes found correspond directly to quantities in which beer and spirits were sold both retail and wholesale. Quarts of beer would have sold for 6 to 9 pence per bottle (depending on the beer) and pint bottles would have cost about half that. Maker's marks were found on three black beer bottles although none could be identified to a manufacturer, one has however been found on other nineteenth-century sites in Christchurch. Other bottles included case gins and ring sealed wine and beer bottles. 

The one metal item found was a lead roofing nail. It has a rectangular cross section suggesting cut manufacture commonly used prior to the 1970s before the use of wire nails increased in popularity. It's possible the nail was used in construction of the house though the house was built in 1870.

The artefact composition is unusual because of what is absent. Nineteenth century domestic excavations usually produce large numbers of ceramics, food remains (animal bones) and other glass items like food related jars and non-alcoholic bottles. Knowing the domestic history of Godley House, it is a reasonable assumption to assume the family deposited their waste elsewhere on or off the property. Why the particular assemblage was deposited close to the house and without any other waste is unknown but it is unlikely that it is an accurate representation of the occupants and their activities. Based on bottle manufacturing methods, the bottles found were likely to have been deposited after the 1860s. 

Future plans for the site

The Godley House grounds are currently being used for community events. The Council will work closely with the local community and key stakeholders to look at all future options for the development of this historic site. 

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New Regent Street

New Regent StreetThe street is significant as the only commercial street in New Zealand to have been designed as a coherent whole and is one of the best examples of Spanish Mission style architecture in New Zealand.

A plaque notes the role of Arthur Stacey(external link) in the street's development.

New Regent Street's architectural style and continuous facade give it high public recognition and landmark significance(external link) and it was described at its 1932 opening by Mayor DG Sullivan as "the most beautiful street in New Zealand".

The buildings are listed on the Christchurch City Plan as Group 2 heritage buildings and are registered as a historic area and a Category 1 building with Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga(external link).

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Old Municipal Chambers (Our City O-Tautahi)

our city otautahi

The Old Municipal Chambers was completed and opened in 1887 and was the first Queen Anne styled building in New Zealand and the first permanent, purpose-built building designed for the Municipal Council.

Currently closed, the Municipal Chambers were severely damaged in the 2010/11 Canterbury earthquake sequence. The building was protected, weatherproofed and stabilised in 2014, and the Council is regularly inspecting, monitoring and maintaining the building until repair, strengthening, reconstruction and restoration work commences.

History

The building was designed in 1885 by London born Samuel Hurst Seager, who was a young, newly qualified architect at the time. Seager emigrated to New Zealand with his parents and three sisters in 1870 and went on to became an important and major contributor to Christchurch’s architectural development in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Seager’s design was selected as the winning submission for a design competition for the proposed Christchurch Municipal Chambers. The building’s Queen Anne style was unlike any other building in a city, which was dominated by the conventional Gothic and Renaissance Revival styles.

With its rich history and abundant interior and exterior decorative qualities, this beautiful heritage building within its picturesque setting along on the banks of the Avon River is an important contribution to the city’s identity and sense of place.

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Old Stone House

Background

The Old Stone House was built in 1870 by Sir John Cracroft Wilson to house the native Indian and Eurasian employees who travelled with him to New Zealand from India. Born in India himself, Wilson was educated in England and returned to India to work as a magistrate.

In 1854, with his health in decline, Wilson had taken extended leave and travelled to Australia. Not finding Australia to his liking, he continued on to New Zealand where he took leases out on three Canterbury stations and purchased 108 hectares of swampy land he named Cashmere after his favourite Indian region of Kashmir. After undertaking work to drain the swamps and build his Cashmere estate, Cracroft, Wilson returned to India and left the running of the Cashmere estate to his son.

In 1857, after seeing action in the Indian Mutiny, Wilson returned to New Zealand with his family and more native Indian and Eurasian employees. Initially, his employees lived in huts on what is now Shalamar Drive but many struggled with the cold Christchurch weather. To help, Wilson built them the large stone house to live in communally, making The Old Stone House the home of the first Indian community in Christchurch. Little is known about the construction of the Old Stone House, the stones were probably taken from a quarry on Marley's Hill and the architectural style is that of English vernacular. 

Although Wilson died in 1881, the family continued to run the Cashmere estate despite a period of requisition by the military during the Second World War when the building was used to house the Signals Section of the Combined Head Quarters Southern Command. Workers still lived in the Old Stone House until the 1950s, when subdivision of the section and better farming technology reduced the need for so many employees. The building was then often vacant or used for storage. 

Restoration

In 1966, Sir John's descendant gave the Old Stone House to the Student Christian Movement, who had made use of the building in the years before. Members restored the building but the interior was gutted by fire in 1971 leaving only a shell. In 1972 the Cracroft Community Centre was founded and fundraising began to restore the building. Much of the work was done by volunteers, including sourcing roof materials from other local historic buildings, cutting decorative boards, pointing stonework and landscaping. By the late 1970s the Old Stone House was open to the public with a slightly altered layout that gave the main room a cathedral-style ceiling.

Well used by the community, it was also a popular venue for weddings until the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2011 when it closed after sustaining damage. It re-opened in February 2018 and resumed its status as a community and event venue. 

Find out more or book the Old Stone House.(external link)

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Rose Historic Chapel

Formerly St Mary's Convent Chapel, located on Colombo Street, the chapel is listed as an Historic Place Category 2.

The Rose Historic Chapel in Colombo Street reopened in July 2018 after two years' careful restoration work.

The collapsed gable walls were restored, the roof and foundations strengthened, and the stained glass windows were reconstructed and reinstalled. 

The heritage-listed Rose Historic Chapel, formerly known as the St Mary’s Convent Chapel, was built in Colombo St in 1910 and was the first of six church designs the Luttrell brothers, Alfred and Sydney, undertook as the unofficial Diocesan architects for the Roman Catholic Church.

The chapel, which featured an outstanding collection of stained glass windows, was bought by Christchurch City Council in 1996 to ensure its retention.

There is more information on the listing at Heritage New Zealand(external link)

Book the Rose Historic Chapel for an event(external link)

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Sign of the Bellbird

Sign of the BellbirdRadical conservationist and liberal MP Harry Ell envisioned a Summit Road that would link the scenic reserves and walking tracks in the Port Hills.

To provide refreshments to weary walkers, 14 rest and tea houses were planned to be staged at regular intervals along the Summit Road. 

In the end, only four rest houses were ever built:

The first of these four rest houses, The Sign of the Bellbird, close to the summit crest of Kennedy's Bush, New Zealand's first established scenic reserve, started life in 1913 as a caretaker's cottage. Within a year a tearoom had be added and accommodation in huts and tents was on offer. The Bellbird also functioned as a post office and telephone bureau.

The Sign of the Bellbird was designed by Samuel Hurst Seager, a prominent local exponent of the Arts and Crafts movement which advocated an authentic architecture of place. Consequently Seager sought to harmonise the Bellbird with its landscape by building it of locally quarried volcanic stone with a slate roof.

The cottage was occupied between 1913 and 1942 by a number of caretakers including Harry and his wife Ada. By 1942 the effects of the Second World War had taken their toll on the Bellbird. Motoring restrictions in particular had resulted in all-time low sales and a temporary closure was agreed when the last caretaker left due to ill health. 

The isolated location of Sign of the Bellbird made it an easy target for vandals and over the years the building fell into disrepair. Eventually it was demolished and materials from the ruins were used to partially reconstruct the building as a shelter. This has proved popular with walkers, cyclists and picnickers in the area. 

In 2015 a fire gutted the shelter's roof(external link). This was replaced in 2017.

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Sign of the Kiwi

sign of kiwi building

Located on Dyers Pass Road and Summit Road, the building is listed as an Historic Place Category 1.

The historic Sign of the Kiwi serves as a popular café for visitors and a beloved feature of the rugged Port Hills landscape.

Sign of the Kiwi was one of four rest houses to be built around the Summit Road as part of Harry Ell's plan to provide access to those out walking the scenic reserves of the Port Hills. 

Designed by Samuel Hurst Seager, the building is a fine example of the arts and crafts style as it blends in seamlessly with the natural landscape, using local volcanic stone of varying colours. The other three rest houses were Sign of the Takahe, Sign of the Packhorse(external link) and Sign of the Bellbird.

Opened in 1917, Sign of the Kiwi operated as a tea room, hostel and toll house. Between 1920 and 1926 Harry Ell and his wife Ada lived in the cottage with Ada running a successful tearoom and Harry working as the tollgate keeper. During the 1920s motorists began to complain that the tollgate meant they were paying road maintenance tax twice and the Heathcote County Council eventually removed it.

During the Second World War the rest house was closed. In 1948 it was taken over by the Christchurch City Council and later used as a custodian's residence. Renovations began in 1986–1987 and eventually saw the building reopen as a tearoom in 1996. With the added visitor information centre, Sign of the Kiwi was popular with residents and tourists alike until the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010–2011 put it temporarily out of commission.

Closed for nearly six years after the earthquakes, the Sign of the Kiwi was repaired and strengthened to 67 per cent of the New Building Standard during 2016. The building reopened as a cafe and visitor centre in January 2017 only to be immediately threatened by the Port Hills fires. Fortunately it survived unscathed and reopened again in March 2017.

There is more information about the Sign of the Kiwi's heritage significance in the Statement of Significance for the Christchurch District Plan(external link) and in the Heritage New Zealand listing.(external link)

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Sign of the Takahe

Sign of the Takahe

The Sign of the Takahe on Hackthorne Road is a well-known landmark in Christchurch and is highly significant both architecturally and aesthetically as an example of 20th century Neo-Gothic romanticism.

One of four historic rest houses constructed for those walking the scenic reserves of the Port Hills, the Sign of the Takahe is a part of Harry Ell's legacy to Christchurch. 

Designed to be the entrance to the Summit Road, this rest building was envisioned as a great Gothic-style teahouse.

Construction began in 1918 and the partially completed Tram Terminus Rest House, as it was then known, opened for business in 1920, with the lower section operating as the tram terminus and tearoom to try and offset building costs.

Argument, financial difficulty, depression and war were to delay its completion for almost three decades.

Ell was able to hire a number of skilled craftsmen thanks to government-funded work schemes during the Great Depression. These men produced the fine detailed carving in both wood and stone that typify both the interior and exterior of the Sign of the Takahe.

Working within a very tight budget, incredible ingenuity saw ornate friezes carved from packing cases, local Hillmorton stone quarried and hand-chiselled on site, tools made from scraps and huge kauri beams salvaged from an old bridge and used in the living area. 

The interior of the Sign of the Takahe is full of heraldic symbols: coats of arms of Canterbury settler families, governors-general and prime ministers grace the walls alongside English shields, while the dining room contains a fireplace that is an exact replica of one in historic Haddon Hall in Derbyshire.

When Harry Ell died suddenly in 1934, his workers (known locally as Ell's Angels) continued construction, until the outbreak of the Second World War, under the direction of leading Christchurch architect J.G. Collins.

In 1942 the Christchurch City Council purchased the building and it was finally completed in 1948, some 14 years after Ell's death. Collins was instrumental in shaping the final design and created an outstanding example of a neo-Gothic style building. Christchurch City Libraries website provides further information on Sign of the Takahe.(external link)

The other three rest houses built by Harry Ell were Sign of the Kiwi, Sign of the Packhorse(external link) and Sign of the Bellbird.

After the earthquakes

The building suffered moderate damage in the form of cracking to stone masonry walls and the loss of several parapet stones. 

The treasured facility at 200 Hackthorne Road, a restaurant and function centre, closed following the February 2011 earthquake and has now been repaired and strengthened to 67 per cent of New Building Standard.

There is more information about the Sign of the Takahe's heritage significance in the Statement of Significance for the Christchurch District Plan(external link) and in the Heritage New Zealand listing(external link).

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