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138-144 King Street - Plunket Rooms

Building Details

Building name: Plunket Rooms
Address: 138-144 King Street
Construction date: 1928
Architect: LG West and Son (Ernst West)
Architectural style: Neo-Georgian
District Plan Category: 1
Building number: 19
Heritage NZ Category: Nil


The Plunket Society was established in 1907 by Sir Frederic Truby King (1858-1938) and his wife Bella, under the patronage of Lady Plunket, wife of the Governor-General of the time. The movement caught the imagination of the New Zealand public. The society established clinics all over New Zealand and manufactured its own infant food products. The Palmerston North Plunket Rooms were purpose-built for the society and erected in 1928 on Iand donated by the Borough Council. They have remained in the society's hands ever since and continue to perform largely the same function.


The building is designed in the Neo-Georgian style with typical details such as a symmetrical facade, Classical order (to the front porch), six light double hung windows, rusticated quoins, brick construction, box eaves, plinth, and breakfronts (projecting bay). The interior planning corresponds with the symmetry of the exterior, with symmetrically located rooms either side of a large main room. The interior has a simple painted timber panelled ceiling, cornice, architraves and skirtings.


Ludolph Georg West (1846-1919) was born in Denmark and arrived in New Zealand in 1868. He quickly went to the North Island and settled in Palmerston North. He married the daughter of a Johnsonville settler called Bannister. His first wife died in 1891 and he remarried in 1894. It was some years before West set up in practice as an architect but, in conjunction with his son Ernst Vilhem, he was responsible for a large number of Palmerston North's buildings. Among those still standing designed by the practice are the Former Club Hotel (1905), the Manawatu-Kilwinning Masonic Lodge (1908), the Old Soldiers Club (1917), the Church of Christ. Scientist (1931), Ward Brothers Building (1935). George West (he Anglicised his name) was Mayor from 1886-87, a borough Councillor and a prominent freemason. His son Ernst was a borough Councillor 1921-25

Summary of Heritage Values

The building is a symbol of Truby King's concern for the health of children and mothers.

The building is intimately associated with both Truby King and the Society he founded as well as the architects for the building, LG West and Son.

The building is a good small scale example of a Neo-Georgian building, with consistent detailing and planning.

The interior design and fittings and the exterior are largely authentic while the building is a good representative example of the Neo-Georgian design. It contributes significantly to the Streetscape.

The building has good economic, functional, educational, and social values.

Statement of Significance

The importance of the Plunket movement in improving infant health in New Zealand has been long recognised. These rooms have been providing continuous infant care in Palmerston North since 1928. The building's neo-domestic Georgian style was very fashionable in the 1920s and 30's and this is a competent and attractive example of that genre. The building is significant for its use values, consistent clear design and style, its association with Truby King, the Plunket Society, and the local borough council, which donated the land.

Building Permit Plans, PNCC (Microfilm file), 296/156
Building Permit Register, PNCC, Archives Series 4/13/1, granted 11/7/28
NZHPT Buildings Classification Report· Truby King House, Melrose, Wellington
PNCC Council Minute Book 1925·27, Archives Series 1/1/1, Volume 12, page 245, 16/8/26