Old Government Building
The most imposing building in the parliamentary and government quarter is the Old Government Building (1876) at the north end of Lambton Quay. Like the other buildings in this area, it stands on the old seabed that was thrust upwards in the 1855 earthquake and proved a welcome addition to the narrow strip of level ground fronting the harbor. Although this massive four-story building in Italian Renaissance style looks as if it were built in stone, it is in fact wholly of wood - the second-largest wooden building in the world. The architect, WH Clayton, son-in-law of the then prime minister Sir Julius Vogel, used kauri, rimu and matai wood, which turned out to be so expensive that the government dispensed with an official opening ceremony. The building originally had 22 chimneys but these were removed as an earthquake risk. In front of the building is a statue of the Labor leader and prime minister (1940-9) Peter Fraser.
Parliament Buildings (Beehive)
Parliament buildings North of the Old Government Building is an even more remarkable building, the modern circular structure popularly known as the Beehive, which houses ministerial and government offices and the Cabinet Room. Built in 1964-81 to the design of the British architect Sir Basil Spence, it is still the subject of controversy. Next to it is Parliament House (1922), built of granite and Takaka marble from the South Island. The chamber in which Parliament sits is modeled on the House of Commons chamber at Westminster. There are conducted tours of the building on weekdays. The chamber of the upper house, which was abolished in 1952, is now used only for the state opening of Parliament.Here too is the General Assembly Library Building, a two-story neo-Gothic building (1897). In the gardens are statues of Richard John Seddon, prime minister of New Zealand 1893-1906, and John Ballance, leader of the Liberal Party and Seddon's predecessor as prime minister.
North, past other government buildings, is the National Library (opened 1987.) The nucleus of the national collection was formed by the Alexander Turnbull Library, previously kept in Turnbull's old house in Bowen Street, near the Beehive. The library now has over 250,000 volumes, including a very valuable and almost complete collection of accounts of travel and discovery in the south Pacific. In the fine Reading Room is a mural by the Maori artist Cliff Whiting depicting the separation of Mother Earth and Father Sky.
The Thistle Inn is Wellington's oldest hotel. Originally built in the 1840s, it was rebuilt after a fire in 1866.
The National Archives display important documents bearing on the history of New Zealand. They include letters written by Captain Cook, the petition that led to women getting the vote and the Treaty of Waitangi itself. The National Portrait Gallery is housed in the same building.
Old St Paul's Church
Beyond this is Old St Paul's Church (1866; Anglican), perhaps the finest of the churches built for Bishop Selwyn by Frederick Thatcher. Externally a plain white wooden building in neo-Gothic (Early English) style, it has a charming interior in which the beauty of the wood is enhanced by the use of light. Originally Thorndon's parish church, it became Wellington's cathedral until it was superseded in 1972 by the present cathedral opposite the National Library.
Katherine Mansfield's Birthplace
From the north end of Mulgrave Street, Murphy Street continues northwest passing the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Park (presented to the city by her father). It crosses the urban expressway and runs into Tinakori Road, at the far end of which (No. 25) is the plain wooden house, very much in the style of old Thorndon, in which Katherine Mansfield was born in 1888. The house, which was built by her father in the year that she was born, has been restored to its original condition and is now a museum.
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