News | 25 January 2024
Share on social

Dominion Building Dome restored to former glory

Situated on the curved corner of Victoria and Mercer streets, the Dominion Building is a prominent heritage building in Wellington’s townscape and the historical home of the Dominion newspaper and printery for almost fifty years.

Work commenced in January 2023 to restore the leaking dome on top of the building, and thanks to the Wellington City Council Built Heritage Incentive Fund, it is now back to its former glory.

Archive image of the Dominion Building on Mercer and Victoria Street.
Dominion Building, 30 July 1953. Wellington City Council Archives, 00340-491.

The Dominion building was purpose built as a printery and offices for The Dominion newspaper in 1926-28, designed in a Chicago-inspired architectural style by the prominent local firm of Crichton, McKay and Haughton and constructed by Mitchell and King.

At the time, the building was one of the biggest in the city and rivalled the Evening Post, whose building was erected around the same time on Willis Street.

The building served The Dominion until 1976 before the paper’s owner moved it to the Evening Post Press House. It was then sold to Renouf Properties in 1984 before being later sold to an Asian investor in 1994.

Parts of the building were then converted into apartments within that year. Designs were prepared by Athfield Architects and considerable changes were made to the building, including a wholly glazed addition to the roof. 

Close up of the Dome on top of the Dominion Building.
Original state of the Dome.

The top three floors were set aside as apartments, thirty-one in all, and the remaining floors were stripped to be used as offices. The work was completed in 1996.

Howard Tong has been a resident at The Dominion since 1996 and a Body Corporate member again in recent years, and has loved living in the apartment in the central city with his wife Jenny. 

The Body Corporate worked closely with Wellington City Council and Heritage New Zealand to get partial funding for the restoration work with the owners in the building making a significant contribution to demonstrate their support in preserving the heritage of the building and to restore upper-level cladding issues that were causing leaks into the building.

Howard says that initial surveys were done using drones in 2022, confirming the need to complete remediation work, which then kicked off in January 2023.

“Copper was removed, and this revealed compromised timber and rusted steel nails. The final work involved adding bespoke window frames for the lantern immediately under the spindle. By the end of July 2023, the work was complete. 

“The wrap was removed but the scaffolding was left in place. Once it was confirmed that the Dome was watertight, the scaffolding was removed, revealing the fine craftsmanship of all involved.”

The Dominion Building on Mercer Street and Victoria Street.

Howard says that the Built Heritage Fund has been valuable in assisting the restoration.

“We are grateful for the support of the Council and are proud that this significant work has now been completed. Site visits by the Council's Heritage team allowed them an opportunity to view, at close hand, the craftsmanship of the carpenters who replaced decaying Oregon timber and they were also able to meet the contractor Hartmut Reichelt who used 1.5 tonnes of copper to completely replace the old copper.”

Cultural Heritage Manager Noël Luzzi says that Council wants to contribute to safe and resilient buildings and maintain their heritage values.

“The Dome restoration illustrates the importance to support such exemplar works. They not only create value to our heritage, they also enable us to maintain and develop specific methods, practices and savoir-faire that are critical to preserve the values of heritage buildings in New Zealand.”

The Built Heritage Incentive Fund has been replaced by the Heritage Resilience and Regeneration Fund to continue to support owners of heritage buildings in Wellington city. Learn more about the fund on our website.

To find out more about the history of the building, you can visit the commemorative display, which has been made with the old timber and copper from the Dome, in the commercial foyer of the building during opening hours.