Chief Post Office
The former Chief Post Office building, opened in 1879, is situated at 31 Cathedral Square in the southwest corner of the square.
Originally the post office was situated in Victoria Square along with other civic services. However by the 1870s these services began to relocate and it was eventually decided to build a new post office in Cathedral Square.
The building was designed in the Italianate style in 1875 by William Henry Clayton who held the title of Colonial Architect. The foundation stone was laid on 24 May 1877 and on 14 July 1879 the Post Office officially opened.
As well as the Post Office, the building also housed other government departments including Immigration, Customs and the Public Works. The building was also the site of the first telephone exchange in New Zealand, which opened in 1881. The construction of the Government Buildings in 1913 was followed by the relocation of the government departments, leaving the Post Office and the Tourist Department as the main occupants (the Tourist Department would remain in occupancy until the 1950s).
The clock in the tower of the building was installed in 1879 and its bell, which marked the hours, remained in operation until the 1930s. The bell returned in 1974 for the Commonwealth Games, but fire damage in the 1980s forced it to be decommissioned.
Further additions were made in 1907 to the western end of the northern façade of the building. In 1929 the telephone exchange vacated the building, relocating to a new building on Hereford Street which was built to meet the Post Office’s need for working space.
In 1968 the government started the construction of the new post office building at 53 Hereford Street. Following the completion of the new Hereford Street site in 1981, it was decided that the former Chief Post Office building would continue to still serve both the Post Office and Telecom.
The building later became privately owned, and from 2000 to 2011 an i-Site Visitor Information Centre was located within. Another attraction was the Southern Encounter Aquarium. Starbucks Coffee was also an occupant. In 2008 the Lotus Heart restaurant was opened in the upper floor.
The building was closed after the 22 February 2011 earthquake. Despite the damage, earthquake repairs to the building commenced in 2018.