Remuera Historic Heritage Sites

 

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Trinity Methodist Theological College transformation to Church of Scientology

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Remuera Heritage and Parnell Heritage had a joint visit to 136 Grafton Road to learn about the history, heritage restoration and recent work done to the building. Robin Byron of Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga led a large group through the 3 storeys of the now Church of Scientology and its surrounds. 136 Grafton Road was built as the Methodist Theological College in 1929 after it was previously located at Dunholme in Remuera

In 1844 Governor Fitzroy had granted 6 acres and 300 roods of land on the corner of Grafton Road and Carlton Gore Road to the Reverence Walter Lawry of the Wesleyan Mission. The site was to be used for a Wesleyan Native Institution for the training of Methodist Maori teachers and students. In 1866 the first Grafton Road Methodist Church was built on the site. In 1870 a parsonage was built nearby and an old church building from Remuera was moved there to become a Sunday School. In 1884, the 1855 church was moved to another part of the site to serve as a schoolroom and a new church was built. 

The building of a new Methodist theological college had been on the Methodists' agenda since the closure of Prince Albert College in 1907. The college had been a secondary school with a theological department but was badly affected by competition from the free place system introduced into public high schools. In 1911 a block of land was purchased in Epsom as a possible site for the new college, and in 1912 a building committee was created to be based in Auckland. World War One interrupted the scheme, and the 1920s saw a new focus on the future of theology and evangelism for the church. The decision to build the new college at Grafton was heavily influenced by the site's proximity to the university of Auckland and the need to improve the theological educational base of the church. [1]

It wasn’t until 1925 that a national competition was held to build a theological college to replace Dunholme in Remuera. It had to provide accommodation for 50 resident students, a principal’s residence, a tutor’s residence and playing grounds. The Dunedin architects James Hodge White and Leslie Douglas Coombes won the tender to design a building in the Collegiate Gothic style, similar to that of the University of Otago and Otago Museum. 

Remuera resident Charles Walter Ravenhall of C W Ravenhall Ltd was the builder who built the original building at Grafton Road. He was the main contractor and also built a number of old buildings around Auckland including Minto Rd Power Substation, St Davids Church in Khyber Pass, First Church of Christ the Scientist in Symonds St, Dilworth Orphanage in Papatoetoe, the original Waikumete Crematorium, Wesley Methodist Church in Mission Bay, and many of the schools throughout the region with his four sons in the business with him.The complex was officially opened in 1929 by Lucy Caughey, as the main benefactor her husband, Andrew Clarke Caughey, had died in 1928. 

With the red brick and white Oamaru stone, its inner cloisters and quadrangle, and its elegant dining hall, common room and library enhanced by rimu wood panelling and oak shelving, the building looked back to the style and spirit of the colleges of England, especially Oxford and Cambridge universities. Trinity College was the centre of Methodist education until 1972 when the college integrated with St John’s in Meadowbank. The Auckland Technical Institute and Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design took over until 2007 when the property was bought by the Church of Scientology for $10 million. A further $6 million was spent on seismic strengthening and restoration to transform the building into a new headquarters which opened in 2017.  

The stonework required extensive repair and the library has been restored to its original function. The Church used its global design firm, US-based Gensler, to create the colour palettes and Heritage New Zealand’s Robin Byron provided conservation and restoration advice. The New Zealand project team included heritage architect Dave Pearson, Canam Construction, specialist stonemason company Architectural Building Conservation and Macmillan Slaters and Tilers for lead and copper restoration. [2] 

DPA Architects won a 2018 Gold Award from the Registered Master Builders New Zealand Commercial Projects Award for the Heritage/Restoration category. 

The building is a Category B (01670) on Auckland Council’s Historic Heritage Schedule and is listed as Category 2 on the New Zealand Heritage List (Number548).

References

[1] Thompson, Susan. Informed minds and warm hearts: Trinity Methodist Theological College 1929-1941. In Wesley Historical Society (new Zealand), Proceeding No. 70, June 2000.

[2] Divine intervention. Heritage New Zealand. Issue 146. Spring 2017. P 30-33

Images

[1] Church of Scientology

[2] OPENING OF TRINITY COLLEGE AUCKLAND NEW THEOLOGICAL TRAINING CENTER OF METHODIST CHURCH OF NEW ZEALAND. Auckland Libraries Sir George Grey Special Collections Auckland Weekly News 19290307-7 March 1929.

[3+] Remuera Heritage