Originally commissioned as a catalogue sales warehouse for a company called Laidlaw Leeds, Heritage Auckland’s Hobson Street building turns 100 this month.
When the business owner, Robert Laidlaw, was called up to WW1 he sold the company to the Farmers Union Trading Company, but was soon asked back as general manager of what was to become ‘Farmers,’ one of the largest stores in New Zealand.
In 1930, a bold deco building façade was installed along with a roof top tearoom.
Also in the 1930s Hector ‘the parrot’, a sulphur crested cockatoo (and a female), was gifted to the store by an old lady who could no longer care for the bird. Hector became a popular figure and there were many ‘Hector’s sales’ run in the bird’s honour. The cockatoo’s memory continues in the hotel’s Hector’s restaurant, located in a seven-storey atrium, once the location of the store’s escalators.
The Hobson St store closed in late 1992 followed by an ambitious transformation into the Heritage Auckland Hotel, opened in July 1998. Alongside its modern hotel facilities, the building retained many of its early features. Polished wooden floors, exposed beams, and timber pillars all point to the building’s hard-working pedigree.