Petone Settlers Museum

The Petone Settlers Museum was constructed in 1939 to commemorate the centennial of the Wellington Province. It marks the arrival in Petone of the first New Zealand Company immigrant ship the ‘Aurora’ in January 1840.

The building serves as a memorial for the whole of the Wellington Province and was originally a bathing pavilion.

A national competition was held to design the building. The winner was the Auckland-based architect Horace Lovell Massey (1895-1979).

Photograph of an architects drawing of the Wellington Provincial Centennial Memorial, opened at Petone in 1940. Architect H L Massey. Photographed by John Dobree Pascoe in 1940.
Alexander Turnbull Library (Ref: MNZ-1951-1/2-F).

The building consisted of a central Hall of Memories, flanked by two changing rooms for beach-goers. The focal point of the building is an arched etched-glass window on the north façade, which depicts the first meeting of the New Zealand Company Settlers with the local iwi Te Āti Awa. A relief representing the prow of the ‘Aurora’ protrudes from the base of the window.

Stained glass window in the Wellington Provincial Centennial Memorial, latterly the Petone Settlers Museum, Petone, photographed in 1956. A stone replica of the prow of the ship Aurora juts out at the base of the window. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand (Ref: PAColl-7171-75).

The building was opened by Governor-General, Lord Galway, on 22 January 1940.

Opening of the Wellington Provincial Centennial Memorial, Petone, taken 22 January 1940 by Sydney Charles Smith. Alexander Turnbull Library (Ref: 1/2-049193-G).

In 1977 the building was converted to a museum and is now known as the Petone Settlers Museum/Te Whare Whakaaro o Pito-one.

The Museum focuses on Māori and Pākehā settlement of the Wellington region and collects, cares for and shares our social history as well as showcasing other topics of local interest.

The Petone Settlers Museum operates alongside the The Dowse Art Museum. To find out more about the Museum and their current exhibitions, visit their website.

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