The Peter Black Conservatory was originally constructed as a New Zealand centenary memorial project. Conceived in 1939 as a winter garden, the Conservatory was designed to give a taste of exotic foliage for visitors to the Victoria Esplanade.
The original Begonia House cost £3,500 in 1941. The main glasshouse was built in 1951 and is still in use today. The lathe house entry was added in mid 1980s after the porchway of the time was extensively damaged when a motor vehicle was deliberately driven into it!
After 52 years of service the main glasshouse area was overdue for refurbishment. The thin 3mm glass planes were breaking regularly and a danger to staff and visitors alike while many of the structural elements were degrading. In late 2013 Council was forced to close the glasshouse due to concern about its safety. After considering options of relocating unused glasshouses from Massey University and new commercial options a refurbishment of the existing glasshouse was settled on.
The refurbishment involved a good clean up, sandblasting, repairing and repainting the steel work. A complete overhaul of the glass with new longer and thicker panes capable all but eliminating previous risks. Timber work has been refurbished and where required has been replaced, the staff workshop has been re-clad and electrical systems replaced. Heating systems refreshed and new paths and a misting system has been installed.
The refurbishment presented an opportunity to bring the informational signage up to spec and tell people about Peter Black, whom it named after as well as showcase some of the interesting facts of special plants and the conservatory.