Located in Wellington, New Zealand, the Old Bank Arcade is a Victorian-style shopping arcade housed within the former Bank of New Zealand building, a Category I historic building. The Bank of New Zealand was established in 1861, opening a branch in Wellington the following year. When the bank’s head offices were transferred from Auckland to Wellington in 1894, the construction of a permanent bank building was commissioned under the supervision of New Zealand architect Thomas Turnbull.
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Construction of the building took approximately two years, with the new building being opened for business in 1901. Throughout the 20th century, three more buildings would be constructed to house the bank’s head offices within Wellington’s central business district, though the original Turnbull building was the only one officially commissioned by the bank itself. As an example of Edwardian Baroque architecture, the Old Bank Arcade building is considered one of Turnbull’s greatest career achievements and one of the best examples of Classical design throughout New Zealand.
Though Turnbull had originally designed a four-story building plan for the Arcade, the financial constraints of the upstart corporation limited construction to three stories, with the bank’s public branch hosted on the ground floor of the building and its chief offices located on its upper levels. The bank utilized the Turnbull facility until 1985, when it was relocated to its second premises within the city. A decade later, as renovations were being completed on the historic bank building to convert it into a shopping arcade, further remains of the Canadian shipping vessel Inconstant were uncovered buried beneath the building site. The vessel, colloquially known as “Plimmer’s Ark,” had been shipwrecked in 1851 and converted into a warehouse and ship chandlery facility throughout the latter part of the 19th century. Timber recovered from its upper decks was incorporated into the construction of Turnbull’s design, but the ship’s lower hull, previously thought to have been destroyed in an earthquake at the Harbour, was lost until the 1997 renovation and has become a major archaeological excavation site within the city today.
Shops and Attractions
Today, the Old Bank Arcade is operated as a Victorian-style shopping arcade, offering a variety of cafe-fare dining options and fashion, lifestyle, and specialty goods retailers. As a historic landmark in the greater Wellington business district, the building was categorized as a Category I historic place by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, a designation given to sites of outstanding historical and cultural significance within the country. As a prime example of Classical architecture within the Australasian region, the building has been described as one of the largest of its type within the former British colonies of the southeastern Pacific.
The building is designed according to the Edwardian Baroque school of architecture, featuring an outer shell of brickwork, pressed metal ceilings, and timber flooring created from the remains of Plimmer’s Ark. The three-story building is flanked by giant Corinthian columns separating its upper levels and round-headed and columned windows throughout its rooms. An animated musical clock, originally designed as part of Turnbull’s master plan for the building, is visible within the former banking chamber area, showcasing vignettes of the city’s colonial history on every hour to a backdrop of thematic music and recorded historical narration.
A variety of speciality boutiques are showcased throughout the arcade, including the high-end beauty retailer L'Occitane, the environmentally-conscious personal care brand Lush, and jewellry boutiques Shalla Jewellers, Tory and Ko, and The Gold Exchange. Fashion retailers include Ricochet, Sills + Co, Taylor Boutique, I Love Paris, and Ruby. A number of retailers offer grooming and tailoring services, including Shampoo Plus, Perfect Look, and Spa Express, while Masters and Turner Travel Associates provide local and international travel planning information. Gourmet groceries and prepared foods are sold at Smith the Grocer, while de Spa Chocolatier offers handcrafted chocolates and other desserts. Dining options include international chain Starbucks, local coffee shop Mojo Coffee, and the vegetarian and vegan cuisine bistro Higher Taste Restaurant.
The arcade is open to the public seven days a week, with individual retailer hours varying. As a cultural landmark in the downtown Wellington business district, the Old Bank Arcade is an anchor institution of Lambton Quay, which serves as a major commercial thoroughfare for the city. In addition to the street’s high-end and specialty retailers, it is home to a number of major tourist attractions, including the famous Beehive building of the New Zealand Parliament. The Wellington Cable Car funicular car incline also boards at Lambton Quay and travels up to the neighborhood of Karori, providing access to city attractions such as Zealandia and the city’s Botanic Garden.
237/233 Lambton Quay, Wellington, 6011, New Zealand, Phone: +64-49-22-06-00