Sunday, March 20, 2011

Concept 2 - Fever Hospital

Looking at Place and Memory,

After developing my initial concept on constructed realities, i found myself at a dead end and just did not have enough interest in the subject for it to be substantial.
So i took a step back and decided to look at an area that has much more interest to me. I am very interested in abandoned places and the certain aireness that lingers around. So i have decided to investigate the wellington fever hospital, tucked away in mt vic.

Here is a brief description of the hospital from

Crichton and McKay
Masonry and Timber
Category II reference 5376
Map 6 Ref 9 & 23 Part of Chest Hospital Heritage Area
Town Belt
Former Chest Hospital; Fever Hospital; Wellington Polytechnic Conservatorium of Music
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Statement of Significance

The Fever Hospital, built by the Wellington Hospital Board has historic value for the insight it gives into the treatment of infectious diseases in the 1920s, since its planning, and architectural features such as sun porches and verandahs attached to wards, are indicative of medical requirements that were current at the time but do not apply today. Several other hospital-related uses and, in recent times, its upgrading for use by the School of Music of the Wellington Polytechnic, have added to its historic interest. There is technical value in the original fabric of the building, significant parts of which remain intact.

Although originally a building of some aesthetic value, and the work of important Wellington architects Crichton and McKay, today the building has an air of neglect. It has suffered from ill-sited additions and its setting, while pleasant enough with the open space of the Town Belt on one side, is degraded by the ruinous condition of the former Nurses Home on the main entrance side. These aspects will no doubt change in time, while its significant heritage value persists through the historical/medical interest attached to this example of a now redundant building type.


This building was built as a fever hospital, by the Wellington Hospital Board, and it was completed in 1920. It replaced the first fever hospital (1911) which had been converted to a diphtheria ward. The treatment of infectious diseases steadily improved during the latter part of the 19th century. The concept of isolation was well understood by this time and the building of fever hospitals was evidence of a gathering understanding of the need to fight disease.

Crichton and McKay, who had gained many commissions from the Hospital Board, were asked to prepare designs for the new hospital in 1917. It was to be built on land appropriated from the Town Belt in 1872, on the flanks of Mt Victoria. It was sited above the hospital near the top of the hill, a relatively remote site that would have aided the isolation of fever victims. Access was difficult, with no formed road to the hospital until the 1930s.

The tender of E.S. Knight, for £25,500, was accepted and the permit issued in February 1918.1 Construction seems to have taken a very long time, as did the fitting out: the foundation stone was laid on 1 August 1918 and the building was occupied on 17 January 1920, although it appears not to have had a formal opening. The building was closed for repairs in 1934 or 1935 when the leaking asbestos roof was replaced with corrugated iron.

In the 1940s tuberculosis replaced infectious diseases as the principal threat to community health. Large numbers of cases absorbed much of the hospital's capacity. Sonja Davies, who later contracted TB herself, worked there during World War II. After the War, consideration was given to upgrading the hospital but, by 1949, it was thought unnecessary to have the fever hospital so far from the main hospital. By 1953 just four patients were accommodated there. The hospital briefly reopened in 1957 for patients from Ewart, the chest (former infectious diseases) hospital

After an inspection in 1969 it was decided to repair the building and reopen it as a "Temporary Chest Hospital". A new ward was added in 1973, with the hospital finally closing in 1981. In 1987, after considerable refurbishment, the building was reopened as the School of Music for the overcrowded Wellington Polytechnic. Today the building is empty.


The former Fever Hospital consists of a main administration block with two wings, each with four wards. Verandas and sun porches were built on the north end of the building and at the end of the wings.

The building is designed in an Arts and Crafts version of the Queen Anne style, rather simplified. The detailing of the building is domestic in scale, clearly designed to provide familiarity and comfort to the hospital setting. Typical features of the style, demonstrated in the Fever Hospital, are asymmetrical facades and complex roof lines, as well as decorated gable forms, half-timbering effects, bay windows and wide verandas, and Art Nouveau leadlight windows. The construction is load-bearing brick-cavity masonry on reinforced-concrete foundations and piles. Window joinery is timber, and the roof cladding is corrugated steel.

The original plan takes the shape of a 'V', with the reception and administration at the apex. The interior of the 'V' forms a courtyard surrounded by open verandas. A small two-storey wing projects north from the apex, giving a 'tail' to the 'V'. This wing housed the kitchen, dining room, sewing room and store on the ground floor, and bathing and dressing rooms on the upper floor.

The interior is spartan, with walls of plain painted plaster and ceilings of plaster and battens. The interior and exterior verandas feature exposed timber strip flooring.

The Hospital forms part of a coherent group of hospital buildings designed by Crichton and McKay in a similar style which also includes the Nurses' Hostel (in poor condition) and Parkview Clinic. It is noted that these buildings have been assessed for their heritage value and there is further information held on file.

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