Historic tea party at Government Buildings

Department of Conservation —  17/08/2015

By Amy Brasch, Partnerships Ranger

Last month, we invited the public to look around Government Buildings Historic Reserve during Wellington’s 150th birthday weekend.

Old Government Buildings.

Old Government Buildings

Wellington marked 150 years as our capital city on 25 July. Over the two days of the Capital 150 weekend, several iconic buildings around Wellington opened their doors to the public.

DOC and Victoria University hosted a spectacular ‘Two-Day Tea Break’ in the Government Buildings Historic Reserve at 15 Lambton Quay — the largest wooden building in the Southern Hemisphere.

The crowds exploring Old Government Buildings.

The crowds exploring Old Government Buildings

Around six thousand visitors joined the party and were rewarded with tours, tea and biscuits and era-appropriate entertainment.

The entertainment began outside, with classic cars dating from the 1930s to 1950s parked in front of the building.

Visitors were invited to take photos and get a close-up look at the vehicles, which were provided by the Wellington branch of the Vintage Car Club.

Vintage cars.

Vehicles from the Vintage Car Club

Upon entering the building, visitors were given the option of joining the free guided tours or doing a self-guided tour.

Ranger Mike Deavin giving a tour of the Old Government Buildings.

Ranger Mike Deavin giving a tour of the Old Government Buildings

The hourly tours attracted 60-70 visitors each. Tours ended at the famous Cabinet Room, where actors in period costume put on a show around the large wooden table, passionately debating the topic of women’s suffrage.

 Actors in period costume during the suffrage debate.

Actors in period costume during the suffrage debate

After the tour, visitors were able to enjoy a leisurely tea break, which included free tea and biscuits, under the hanging staircase – one of the buildings’ most impressive architectural features.

A tea break at Old Government Buildings.

Tea break

Built in 1876, the building once housed our entire public service and, for 56 years, was also the home of Ministers’ offices and the Cabinet room.

The old Cabinet room.

The old Cabinet room.

In 1994, DOC managed a two-year restoration of the buildings.

Today, most of the building is leased to Victoria University School of Law.

The ‘Two-Day Tea Break’ event was run in partnership with Victoria University’s programmes, which included lectures, poetry reading, a play, and art displays.

Learn more about the Government Buildings Historic Reserve on the DOC website.