Masonic Hotel History

Art Deco Masonic Hotel has recently undergone a major interior refurbishment which has seen the establishment of Emporium Eatery & Bar and renovations to all 42 accommodation rooms. This achievement was recognised at the 2014 Hospitality New Zealand Awards for Excellence, where the hotel won Best New/Redeveloped Accommodation Hotel.

The hotel has a colourful history, which we like to embrace by offering genuine Art Deco flair to our guests’ experiences here in Napier.

The first Masonic Hotel was opened on the present site by Proprietor Joseph Gill on 14th September 1861. In 1875 the hotel was extended to cover the complete section, the proprietor at this time was Mr A Dalziell.

On May 23 1896 Masonic Hotel was destroyed by fire. The fire bell was not rung until 15 minutess after the fire started, a little after 10pm, even though the fire station was within 100 feet of the front of the hotel. Tenders were called for within a month of the fire and the Masonic was rebuilt in 1897 by Mr C Fleming McDonald in what was to become the grandest hotel in Napier. The architect was Mr Stanley Jeffreys. The building was originally three storeys with a single storey building alongside housing the stables and in 1906 a two storey extension was added. The extension had a promenade roof with an area of 18,000 square feet. It was one of the largest and most elaborate, up to date hotels in New Zealand at that time. In the 1931 Hawke’s Bay Earthquake the Masonic Hotel was destroyed, mainly by the fire that followed rather than by the earthquake itself. There were two main earthquakes thirty seconds apart with the biggest reaching 7.9 on the Richter scale.

After the earthquake a temporary corrugated iron building was erected to serve the patrons while the new hotel was built. The 1932 Masonic hotel was designed by Wellington architect W J Prowse. It is a simple symmetrical structure, enlivened only by its elaborate upper storey wooden pergola facing the sea and it’s conspicuous “MASONIC” in Deco capitals of red lead light in the canopy at the entrance of the hotel.

The exterior structure remains basically unchanged from when it was first built. 

Photos and history by Don Wilkie.