Today marks ten years since the demolition of the building at 2 Gladstone Quay, which was the Museum’s home for thirty years. The building dated from 1912, when it was built on land in the approximate location of the early town hall, after a fundraising campaign through private and government means. As seen in this early photo, it was something of a showstopper in the Edwardian baroque style. The original function was as the Seamen’s Institute Centre; alongside the Sailors’ Home on Norwich Quay (1883) it provided accommodation for sailors and a venue for shore recreation. It housed the Government Shipping Office and Mission Quarters and had a social hall for dances and concerts, a library and reading room, and a billiard room for ships officers.
From the Lyttelton Historical Museum's inception, spear-headed in 1969 by Baden Norris, the collection had been housed and exhibited in the former Shipping Company Headquarters on Hawkhurst Road. In the late 1970’s, concerned about the fire risk in that wooden building and with the collection expanding, Baden Norris approached the Lyttelton Borough Council for better facilities. In February 1980, with assistance from the Lyttelton Round Table, the Lyttelton Watersiders Union, the Lyttelton Harbour Board Union, Sinclair Melbourne, Lyttelton Borough Council and the Union Steamship Company the then vacant premises were secured. In February 1980, with assistance from the Lyttelton Round Table, the Lyttelton Watersiders Union, the Lyttelton Harbour Board Union, Sinclair Melbourne, Lyttelton Borough Council and the Union Steamship Company the then vacant premises were secured. On the 23rd February 1980 the Museum was opened in its new quarters by Mayor Mel Foster, a major supporter of the project. The building was badly damaged in the September 2010 earthquake and then further damaged beyond repair in the devastating February 2011 earthquake.
We are eternally grateful to the Lyttelton Volunteer Fire Brigade and staff from the Air Force Museum of New Zealand for rescuing the Museum’s precious artefacts in an emergency recovery operation. It was very sad to see the old building being demolished in September, following another earthquake in June 2011 which had a significant impact on Lyttelton. However, having been gifted the site on London St by the Christchurch City Council, and with our fundraising campaign well under way, we look forward to the day when we can see the bold new design enliven the main street of Ōhinehou Lyttelton and provide a venue for telling the stories of the town and Whakaraupō Lyttelton harbour.