The hoardings are up, but there's a lot of work going on behind closed doors
Designed by architect William Fielding, the building, which was called Press House and often referred to as the Evening Post building, has stood on the same spot of 82 Willis Street since 1928. As a building with historic and cultural value it has received funding from the Council’s Built Heritage Incentive Fund to support current seismic strengthening work.
In 2002, the Evening Post merged with its competitor the Dominion to form a morning paper called the Dominion Post, and the building has since been renamed Zephyr House which is currently occupied by a mix of commercial tenants.
Work on the ground floor begins
In 2012, the current building owners were notified that the building fell below the 33% New Build Standard required by the 2004 Building Act, and it needed to be earthquake strengthened or face demolition.
The building’s Body Corp Chairman, Graeme McInteer says that even with the Council’s support the costs of earthquake strengthening are high – but worth it in the long run.
“Heritage buildings are important so that future generations can see and touch the architecture of the past without having to refer to books and videos,” says Graeme.
Zephyr House received $60,000 in funding from the Council’s Built Heritage Incentive Fund for seismic strengthening work to bring the building up to 90% of the NBS, which is planned to finish at the end of 2014.
Press House was a good representative example of a Chicago style office building when it was first built in 1928, and is probably the best remaining commercial building designed by William Fielding, a well-regarded local architect.
The building was once held in high public esteem for its association with the Evening Post, a politically neutral daily newspaper, and although the Evening Post is no longer, and the building has received some modifications over the years, the overall form, fenestration, and detail on the façade reflect most of its former glory.
The seismic work involves the installation of K-Frames from the street to level four, each installed on micro-piles that extend well into the ground. There is also the construction of additional concrete ‘shear’ walls to assist with the strengthening.
Although the heritage of the building wasn’t of major importance initially to Graeme, being involved with the seismic strengthening has really piqued his interest.
“This process has given me a heightened awareness of issues relating to the survival (or not) of historic buildings. While their survival is certainly a desirable outcome, a realistic economic view must also be maintained.
“Luckily Zephyr House has been able to be strengthened at a cost the owners felt was a good investment,” says Graeme.
Evening Post on Stewart Dawson Corner in 1885
The Evening Post was founded by Henry Blundell and his sons in 1865, with Blundell senior the first editor of the paper, which was originally located on Willis Street near what is now known as Stewart Dawson’s Corner.
Ownership of the Evening Post passed to Blundell’s sons, Blundell Bros, after his retirement in 1874, and was a family owned business until 1972 – although Blundell’s three daughters weren’t involved in the running of the paper.
Wellington’s Evening Post newspaper was published from various offices on Willis Street for its tenure, but the majority of that was based in Press House on 82 Willis Street.
The election results in 1928
It was designed by English born immigrant and architect William Fielding, whose other projects included the Congregational Church in Cambridge Terrace (1916) and the Methodist Church in Hataitai (1928).
Fletcher Construction was the main building contractor, and had to work around clear specifications from the owners that “...it is imperative that a thoroughfare shall be maintained between the hours of 2 and 5pm each week day for the transmission of papers from the printing house to the trams in Willis Street.”
As the source for the most up-to-date news available at the time, the Evening Post building also used its façade to host large billboards with the latest election news and results in the 1930s.
In 1972, the Evening Post was bought by the owners of the Dominion newspaper, Wellington Publishing Company, and the two papers were housed at 82 Willis Street until the papers merged into the one morning paper, the Dominion Post, in 2002.
The Dominion Post was bought by Fairfax media in 2003, and has since moved to premises in Boulcott Street, but 82 Willis Street is still remembered fondly as Press House or the Evening Post building – depending on whom you talk to.
Front offices of the Evening Post in Press House in 1956
The Built Heritage Incentive Fund
The fund helps with conserving, restoring, protecting and caring for Wellington's heritage-listed buildings and objects. Our current focus is on earthquake strengthening. Find out if your project is eligible for funding.
Images courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library.