Albemarle Hotel

A classic Edwardian building with an eventful past and a promising future – Wellington’s ‘grand old lady’, the Albemarle Hotel is set to have a makeover thanks to her owners and the Council.

The elegant Edwardian style facade of the Albermarle Hotel.
The Albermarle Hotel's facade

A rich past

The Albemarle Private Hotel was built in 1906 as a temperance hotel. Prominent local architect, James Bennie, designed the three storey hotel in a classical Edwardian style. A tangible reminder of the social history of the Cuba, Vivian and Ghuznee Street red-light district, the Albemarle has remained a local icon following the transformation of the area into Wellington’s famous inner city slice of bohemia.

Earthquake prone and in need of attention, the Albemarle Hotel was vacant for some time. Falling in love with the character the building brings to the city and its rich history, a well-known Wellington family trust bought the property fully aware of the extent of work needed to make it economically viable and operational, while respecting its heritage values.

A promising future

The trust proposes to adaptively reuse the building as a café, bar and restaurant, a use that is compatible with its past as a hotel.

Seismic strengthening works will be essential to ensure the building can continue to be used.

The applicant worked closely with the Council’s City Planning team and heritage advisors to gain the resource consent to undertake the proposed works. A pre-application meeting with Council officers helped highlight any issues early so they could be addressed before starting work on the application.

The original technical drawings of the Albermarle Hotel.
Original architectural drawings

Quick bites of history

The Albemarle Private Hotel was built as a temperance hotel. Nineteenth century social reformers formed temperance societies in an attempt to reduce the use and abuse of alcohol which was seen as a cause of poverty, ill health and immorality.

The hotel was built in 1906 at the height of the Edwardian building boom in the Cuba Street area, due in part to the electrification of Wellington’s horse-drawn tram system in 1904 and a sharp rise in the city’s population.

The hotel appears to have generally served a working class clientele of tradesmen. During WWI many of the hotel residents were listed in the ballots and called up to serve in the armed forces. The professions of Albemarle Private Hotel residents noted in these ballots include labourers, engine drivers, butchers and tinsmiths. The building was later listed as a boarding house in 1950-1951, and finally as a massage parlour, at a time when the area around Cuba, Vivian and Ghuznee Streets was known as Wellington city’s Red Light District.

The most notable personality associated with the property during these years was Clare Hallam (1885-1976), a property owner and boarding-house keeper who made her name and fortune from her willingness to rent boarding house accommodation to homeless alcoholics and others who struggled to find long-term housing.

The building has remained relatively unchanged for over 100 years and contributes to the sense of place and continuity of the Cuba Street Heritage Area.

By working closely with the applicant, the Council has ensured a viable long-term future for the building without compromising its important heritage qualities.