The hundred-year-old Papatoetoe Town Hall (part 2)

On 27 February 2018 Papatoetoe will celebrate the centenary of one of its most iconic buildings, the Papatoetoe Town Hall. A centenary dinner will be held in the hall and stories and photographs from residents and community groups who have used the building over the years will be on display (contact for details).

This is the second part of a history of the hall. Read about the early years in The hundred-year-old Papatoetoe Town Hall (part 1).

Papatoetoe Civic War Memorial

The section where the library stood was an obvious site for development, and Papatoetoe Borough Council decided to develop a war memorial building there. The makeshift library building was thus removed and, during an impressive open-air ceremony held on 8 October 1955, the Papatoetoe Civic War Memorial was opened in its place. This was a dignified two-storey building housing a new and much expanded public library downstairs, and a meeting room or ‘concert chamber’ and new Borough Council offices upstairs. A roll of honour listing the men of the Papatoetoe and East Tamaki districts who had given their lives during the First and Second World Wars was unveiled during the ceremony. The Papatoetoe RSA clubrooms were also part of the complex, but had their entrance at the rear of the building.

View of the Papatoetoe Town Hall with the new Civic War Memorial building alongside, 1957. Auckland Libraries Footprints 07036, courtesy of Papatoetoe Historical Society.

Two years later the Papatoetoe Town Hall was itself upgraded, with a new stage being installed and a supper room being added behind it. The building was formally reopened on 12 September 1957.

Aerial view of central Papatoetoe, 1957. The intersection of Rangitoto Road and St George Street is seen towards the upper right, with the Papatoetoe Town Hall some way along St George Street. Auckland Libraries Footprints 01453, courtesy of Papatoetoe Historical Society.

‘Louts and fighting gangs’

Almost since its opening the town hall had been a popular venue for dances. In or around 1960 local service clubs began organising regular Saturday night youth dances. These were a great success for some years, but in the 1960s reportedly began to attract a rough element (described in one newspaper as “louts and fighting gangs”). In December 1968, because of problems with violence and bad behaviour, Papatoetoe Borough Council forbade any more public dances at the hall (the ban was lifted five years later).
Otherwise the town hall continued to be used for a variety of purposes. On 1 October 1979 a public meeting was held there to protest against the Government’s proposals to wind down Auckland’s rail services. On 19 October 1986 the newly formed Papatoetoe Assembly of God held its first service in the town hall (the assembly used the town hall until 1989 when it moved to the former Christian Science temple in Carruth Road). On 30 September 1986 a function was held to farewell R.H. (Bob) Bob White, who was retiring from politics after 21 years as Mayor of Papatoetoe.

Trevor Penman, youths and a motorcycle outside the Papatoetoe Town Hall, ca 1965. Note: using this photograph does not imply these particular young people were involved in the bad behaviour mentioned in the text. Auckland Libraries Footprints 02565, reproduced here by courtesy of Mrs Gladys Penman.

Later developments

During the 1970s substantial changes were made to the civic centre complex. In March 1974 the RSA moved from its snug space at the back of the building to more substantial premises in Wallace Road. Less than five years later, the library also moved out, taking both the Papatoetoe and East Tamaki roll of honour and the civic centre’s memorial status with it. The new Papatoetoe War Memorial Library, also situated in Wallace Street, was formally opened on 26 February 1979.
The old town hall remained unchanged for several years. However, in 1980 its frontage was given a makeover when the brick sections were plastered over and painted. A major renovation in 1986 included the installation of a ramp to replace the steps at the front entrance.

Papatoetoe RSA clubrooms at the rear of the Papatoetoe Civic War Memorial building, ca 1973. Auckland Libraries Footprints 01503, courtesy of Papatoetoe Historical Society.
Scaffolding covers the front of the Papatoetoe Town Hall, 1980. Photograph originally published in the Central Courier, 8 July 1980, p. 15 reproduced here with acknowledgement to Fairfax Media. (Auckland Libraries Footprints 00327).

In 1989 Papatoetoe City amalgamated with Manukau City. The old Papatoetoe City Council chambers remained intact, being used for used for Papatoetoe Community Board meetings and other committee meetings. Offices that had been developed in the former library continued in use as a Manukau City Council ward office. The Town Hall itself continued to host a variety of shows, exhibitions and social events. Given that one of the first events ever held in the hall had been the inaugural concert  of the Papatoetoe Orchestral Society, it seems fitting that on 17 April 1994, the newly formed Manukau Civic Orchestra (later renamed the Manukau City Symphony Orchestra) also held its inaugural public concert in the hall.
Papatoetoe has grown and changed vastly over the century since the Papatoetoe Town Hall was first opened. Nonetheless, the hall itself remains today what it has always been: a vital part of the local community’s social, cultural and recreational life.

Author: Bruce Ringer, Auckland Libraries South Auckland Research Centre


The quote describing the town hall in its early years comes from the article ‘Papatoetoe Town Hall’, Pukekohe & Waiuku Times, 8 August 1919, p. 1. Other information comes from a range of newspaper articles which are referenced on Manukau’s Journey and for the most part accessible via Papers Past; also from the Papatoetoe Road Board and Town Board minute books, held by Auckland Archives. See also: Ivy F. Smytheman and Albert E. Tonson, Our First Hundred Years: An Historical Record of Papatoetoe, 1962, p. 59; Bernard Gadd, City of the Toetoe: A History of Papatoetoe, Palmerston North, 1987, pp. 52-3, 55, 65, 73, 80,86, 101-2.