Read our timeline of events.
1872 Following a conversation between the Hon. E.C.J. Stevens and Sir Julius Vogel, the first bill providing for a Public Trust Office is introduced by Vogel. The idea is for the state to back an institution which can provide a trustee who is permanent, solvent, and qualified to act, an uncommon combination in the early years of settlement in New Zealand.
1872 A redrafted Public Trust Bill proposed by Vogel becomes law.
1873 The Public Trust Office is established. The first state-backed institution of its type in the world, it, becomes the model for similar systems in England, Canada, Australia and Fiji.
1876 A start is made on reclaiming the the Thorndon shoreline, where the Public Trust Office Building will eventually be built.
1894 Government architect John Campbell is approached to prepare plans for the Public Trust Office Building. Concerns are raised over its proposed location – alongside Government Buildings.
1899 The annual Appropriation Act includes authority for the erection of a building and the provision of office accommodation for the Public Trust Office, the cost being met by the Office from accumulated profits.
1904 Reid Brothers of San Francisco is commissioned to prepare plans for a building on the Lambton Quay site on which the Public Trust Office Building will eventually sit.
1905 John Campbell prepares plans dated October 1905 for the Public Trust Office.
1906 Following the devastating San Francisco earthquake, John Campbell redraws his plans to incorporate a steel frame. The successful tender for construction is submitted by J. and A. Wilson – £40,780 (more than $6.5 million in 2015).
1907 Building work begins on the Public Trust Office.
1909 On Wednesday 9 June, the Public Trust Office Building is officially opened by Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward.
1911 The building is illuminated and decorated for the coronation of King George V.
1917 The Public Trust renovates the building to designs by Crichton and McKay, installing a lift, emergency stairs and a luncheon room for the female staff at a cost of £9678 ($1.2 million).
1919 Robert Triggs, the Public Trustee, requests authority to buy additional buildings in Stout and Ballance streets to accommodate his growing staff.
1922 Further renovations to the building are undertaken.
1923 An earthquake cracks plaster in the building.
1926 In May an immense beam above the Legal Branch’s work area falls down – probably as a result of damage during the 1923 earthquake. Fortunately this happened at the weekend and no staff were injured.
 Press, 12 May 1926, p. 6
1926 More vaults are added to the building; these are designed ‘to stand intact if the whole building collapsed’.
1927 The beams above the Legal Branch and the concrete floors are strengthened, with ‘light angled furring’ added to the steel around the girders.
1932 On 11 May the Public Trust Office Building is one of many in Wellington attacked by an angry mob of unemployed workers. Two windows are smashed and a chisel is hurled into the building. Staff close and lock the vaults in case of invasion, but the mob moves on without further incident.
 Evening Post, 11 May 1932, p. 9; Press, 11 May 1932, p. 12
The Public Trustee has a great deal of difficulty finding suitable replacement windows.
1942 Major damage is caused in Wellington by two large earthquakes centred in Wairarapa. Amazingly, the Public Trust Office Building suffers only minor plaster cracks.
1944 The flat roof at the rear of the building is reroofed.
1945 Vaults in the building are repaired.
1953 The building is decorated for the royal visit. A cement render applied to areas of the Tonga Bay granite is later found to have degraded the granite.
1980 The Public Trustee (with the concurrence of the Minister, Hon. Derek Quigley) sells the building, with provision for the Office to continue in occupation until its new building, under construction on an adjoining site, is completed.
1982 The Public Trust moves out of the building and into its new premises next door. This leaves the Public Trust Office Building empty and with an uncertain future. Calls to demolish the building meet with a public outcry. The Minister of Internal Affairs issues a protection notice for the building.
1982 A heritage order is placed on the building by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (now Heritage New Zealand).
1983 Riddiford Holdings purchases the building and undertakes major re-strengthening and minor refurbishment, using engineering firm Smith Leuchars and consulting architect Keith Wilson. The work includes the addition of a garage door and ramp to the basement for car parking, and the separation of the building into tenancies. This work costs approximately $3 million.
1985 On 2 June, the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council (now known as Creative New Zealand, Arts Council of New Zealand) leases levels 2, 3 and 4 of the Public Trust Building.
Alexander Associates purchases the building.
1990 The Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council purchases levels 2, 3 and 4 of the building from Alexander Associates.
1991 The Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council takes up a tenancy on the ground floor of the building.
1994 A mezzanine floor is added.
2003 Wellington barrister Stephen Kós QC purchases the first floor of the building, with the intention of establishing barristers' chambers there.
2006 Extensive renovations designed by Philip Porritt of Jasmax are carried out for the barristers’ chambers.
2007 A new set of barristers' chambers, Stout Street Chambers, opens on the first floor. Members include Stephen Kós QC, Mary Scholtens QC, Justin Smith and Les Taylor.
2009 The building is now owned by a body corporate comprising Creative New Zealand: The Arts Council of New Zealand (Levels 2, 3 and 4, part of the ground floor (tenancy 3) and 10 basement car parks); Stout Street Estates Ltd (Level 1 and four basement car parks); Julian Parsons (part of the ground floor (tenancy 1) and one basement car park); Muturangi Trust (part of the ground floor (tenancy 2) and one basement car park. It is occupied by the Arts Council; Stout Street Chambers; Cahill Solicitors; Shannons electrolysis and Beauty.
2013 At 5.09 p.m. on Sunday 21 July a magnitude 6.5 earthquake centred in Cook Strait, about 20 kilometres east of Seddon in Marlborough, strikes Wellington city. Goods fall from supermarket shelves and plate glass and masonry fall from downtown buildings. Seismic activity continues and there is a 6.6 magnitude quake at 2.31 p.m. on Friday 16 August. Centred 10 kilometres south-east of Seddon, close to Lake Grassmere, this causes significant damage to buildings in Seddon and nearby towns. It is felt strongly in Wellington and much of central New Zealand. Following advice from structural engineers Dunning Thornton, the building is closed.
2014 The building is purchased by Cheops Holdings Ltd (Maurice Clark).
2014 Strengthening and refurbishment begins.
2015 On 27 October the building is reopened by the former Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Hon. Maggie Barry. The Ministry for Culture and Heritage occupies Levels 1 to 4.
2016 The Public Trust building wins two awards for 'Heritage' and 'Interior Architecture' in the New Zealand Institute of Architecture Wellington 2016 Awards.
2019 The Ground Floor Public Trust Hall was opened by Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern after 11 months of renovation.
Updated on 26th August 2020