TG Macarthy Trust Building Cuba Mall

The TG Macarthy Trust Building was designed in 1897 and remains reflective of the Victorian era in which it was built. It has survived a century of earthquakes and Wellington weather, keeping most of its original detailing with a classical facade, made up of round-headed windows and flat pilasters.

T.G. Macarthy Trust Building post-work

The project

Rupert Curry is the current owner of the TG Macarthy Trust Building and he strongly believes in the importance of preserving the heritage of New Zealand. Before Rupert bought the building the upper floors were vacant for decades, with last recorded occupancy of a dance studio in 1990. The ground floor was previously tenanted by Cheapskates.

In its years of emptiness, the building had deteriorated, with holes in the floor and ceiling. The higher floors were boarded up and became a popular home for Wellington’s pigeon population. Rupert explained that they’d initially needed to use ladders to access the upper floors.

In just 2 years, Rupert and his team have transformed the building along with the adjacent building at 54 Cuba Street. This was made possible by Wellington City Council and the Build Heritage Incentive Fund, which provided a grant to seismically strengthen and conserve the original building for future generations.

T.G. Macarthy Trust Building pre-work

The building sits in a distinctive ‘lozenge’ shape on the Cuba Street Extension. This extension was created by Wellington City Council in 1882, who reclaimed the land and sold it to private business owners. This small part of Cuba Street became a booming construction site and several buildings went up in the same year. To this day, the buildings on lower Cuba Street all mirror each other in a distinct Victorian design and style.

The history

The building is named after its original owner, TG Macarthy, who was a well-known businessman and benefactor. Originally from London, he moved to New Zealand and quickly gained respect in the business community. He owned this building along with multiple breweries, hotels and other urban property in the area, as well as directing two mining companies.

It was originally designed as a shop premises – with an office, kitchen, dining room and amenities behind. In its early years it was solely occupied by restaurateurs, but after its modifications  in 1904 the building was used for a diverse range of purposes and changed with the capital’s demands. 

These modifications consisted of a third story and 25 extra rooms, aiding itself to be used as a boarding house. The building has a rich history, also serving as a grocer, teahouse and the “Central Coffee Palace” in the past century.

The building is now home to popular bar/restaurant Highwater, with room for retail in the other ground floor space. Office spaces above include tenants Story Box and Digital Nomads.