New Zealand’s First Passenger Lift – May 1905

With the completion of the Royal Exchange Building in May 1905, it not only boasted of being Christchurch’s handsomest building but it also had New Zealand’s first passenger lift.

Named after one of the building’s tenants – the Royal Exchange Assurance Company – it was also home to McKenzie and Willis, and the offices of various doctors, lawyers and accountants. It was mostly known as the home of the Royal Cafe.

In April 1928, the Exchange was converted into a movie house and became known as the Regent Theatre Building. It was able to host an audience of 1600 people and had the largest screen in both New Zealand and Australia.

The last chapter of this heritage treasure was when it was further converted into the Southern Encounter Aquarium. When this adventure was taken over by the Orana Wildlife Trust in 1999, the opportunity to view New Zealand’s national icon was available when North Island Kiwi were added to the mix – along with Tuatara and numerous native Geckos and Skinks. The Aquarium became known as the Southern Encounter Aquarium and Kiwi House. This wonderful attraction was sadly closed for good with the 22nd February 2011 earthquake and the loss of the building later to demolition .

* Image courtesy of Jane Resture

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