For more than eighty years, the Women’s Rest Rooms in New Plymouth has served local women and those from further afield. The building is firmly a part of the region’s cultural heritage and its form and function contribute significantly to the local community and urban landscape.
The Rest Rooms’ construction followed pressure from women, from urban and rural communities alike, to replace the aging public toilets on Courtney Street. A new site on James Lane was selected and architects Griffiths and Stephenson were contracted to design a building.
The result was a building in bungalow form with a flat gable at the front and access from the side. Built in concrete, the Rest Rooms contains toilet facilities, rest areas, and a ‘mothers with infants’ room. There are also caretaker’s quarters, originally occupied by a live-in caretaker and now used for administration and storage. The interior was (and to a degree still is) simple but tasteful, with Art Deco influences in the decoration.
The Rest Rooms’ layout and design reflected many ideas about women in public spaces and fits within other examples of such constructions in New Zealand in the interwar period. The form and function are similar to other extant women’s rest rooms around New Zealand, namely those in Auckland, Whanganui, and Marton.
For many decades, the Rest Rooms’ history was uneventful. Then in 1995, mayoral candidate Lynn Bublitz suggested demolishing the building. Although his proposal was met with significant disapproval and may have lost him the election, ten years later Bublitz was appointed project manager for the Huatoki Plaza, which included the Rest Rooms. Again it was suggested the Rest Rooms be demolished, but public outcry and a 3,500 strong petition ensured the building was incorporated in the Plaza’s development.
This conservation plan outlines the history of the Rest Rooms, assesses its historic significance, and makes recommendations for the future conservation of the building.
This project was completed as a placement for the requirements of the Museum and Heritage Studies postgraduate diploma at Victoria University.