Devonport’s Masonic Tavern: Is It Worth Saving?


The future of Devonport’s historic Masonic Tavern is back before the Environmental Court this week and the local noise about it is loud, as you’d expect from a community that is passionate about its heritage.

The 114-year-old tavern is one of the city’s oldest and was once a top live music venue.

According to its owners, it’s falling into disrepair and the proposal is for the site to be re-used for apartments and a cafe but there’s talk of restoring the facade to its original look.

They have argued that too much investment would be needed to bring the present building up to scratch and comply with the latest building codes and the present business wasn’t making enough money. The local council approved the plans.

MASONIC REGULARS: Drink up, closing time nears!

Local groups argue strongly against the proposed demolition of historical parts of the building.

Appearing before the court this week on the opposition benches include the Masonic Friendly Society, which is campaigning to save it, Devonport Heritage, neighbours and the Historic Places Trust.

In fact, a call is being made for the whole site’s heritage to be saved, not just the street corner facades, which developers say would be keep in the new design.

It’s interesting but co-incidental that this resumed hearing comes only a few days after parties managed to find a way to save another very old Auckland pub, the Freemans Bay Bird Cage.

The Bird Cage was saved because it was in the path of the new Victoria Park tunnel and there was likely to be public controversy if it was wiped off the map solely because of a major motorway improvement.

But the Masonic is in the category of a privately - owned building in which the owners insist they have economic reasons not to be able to afford to continue keeping the building or business in its present state.

And someone is going to have to front up with money to not just keep the historic building but also keep in functioning as a business or spend enough to make it a viable business of some sort.

Or someone will have to fund it as some form of historic building.

We’re no doubt seen more and more of these dilemmas.

The Queen St St James Theatre is in a similar holding pattern in which no-one will move and either save it and restore it to its old charm or demolish it. It decays by the day while no party can find the money needed.

I’m appalled that the St James is so visible in the city’s main street and allowed to decay and no-one seems to be able to come up with a financial plan to do anything about it.

Back in Devonport, just a kilometre down the road from the Masonic, opposite the Ferry terminal, sits the beautiful landmark, the historic Esplanade Hotel, which has been under threat from time to time.

Part of that building was in fact made into apartments in 1996.

Esplanade has already had apartment conversion

An earlier Devonport heritage fight was the save the old Victoria cinema. The Victoria Theatre Trust, now holds a 33-year lease to run the local landmark as a cinema and performing arts centre.

I doubt that, come November, under Auckland’s new secret-city, no-one is going to commit ratepayers’ money to save or restore such old buildings.

EARLIER: Bird Cage saved

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  1. curtissd says:

    I agree that the it should be turned back and kept to what it once looked like. Great building and an icon.

  2. ingolfson says:

    Yet Jon C raises a fair point - as long as it is private property, we can’t just expect people to go for something that may offer them much less return. Preventing them from profiting from their own property would be a form of theft even, if the building had no heritage protection at the time they declared that they wanted to change it.

    I’m not sure what the best way is here, seeing that Councils obviously don’t have much money set aside to purchase such properties. And the Masonic tavern is in a part of Devonport that sees maybe 10% of the foot traffic as the Esplanade building that Jon showed in the last picture, so its not like a little freshup alone will just make it into a roaring business success as a cafe or whatever…

  3. jarbury says:

    The building could be easily retained in its entirety while 9 apartments are developed on the site. That seems like a decent balance of an outcome.

    Though I must say…. after spending about 8 days in the environment court on this matter I’m sick to death with it.

  4. Robin Coleman says:

    Thought this site was about trains.

  5. Jon C says:

    @Robin Welcome.,Check out the about section! It’s about being passionate about improving our cities, of course that includes better public transport, which is where I started from! I don’t think anyone should get too upset about the odd diversion.

  6. Graham Edwards says:

    It’s an ugly building and why was it allowed to be changed years ago in the first place….
    The other buildings are better looking and deserved to be kept…the Masonic is not even busy….and most people who are fighting for the masonic don’t drink

  7. Gregg B says:

    Half of you here talk sh*t, the Masonic in it’s current form, is a historic valued building!..WE HERE don’t want more ‘souless’ GREED BASED apartments..alot of tourists come to Devonport for the village atmosphere and ALOT of us don’t want to loose that..Sorry Graham, but myself and others, do drink there, so don’t know what you base ‘last line’ of your statement there, on. lol


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