Sunday, 30 November 2014

Mercury Theatre - the original Kings Theatre, Auckland - designed by Edward Bartley

Leisure industries thrive in boom years. In the early 1900's John Fuller, a Devonport resident, was enjoying great success in the entertainment business. 
With his sons, Fuller had taken over Abbott's Opera House and brought several touring companies to Auckland. He then expanded into moving pictures- the entertainment phenomena of the century.. 
In 1910 he engaged Edward Bartley to design a small theatre for both live performances and cinema. The site was a sloping one in Pitt St, one block back from Karangahape Rd. 

One of the architect's primary concerns was fire safety, as it had been in his theatre for Abbott's Opera House. 
New technology and materials were now available to combat fire. 
Asbestos slates were used as wall lining and the stage was backed by an asbestos curtain. The stairways were ferro-concrete and all fire escape exits lead out to ground level, a safety feature made possible by the sloping site. The theatre was designed for a capacity of 1800 people. 

The builder, W. Hutchinson placed a successful tender for erection of the building of just under £8,000, which was exceeded somewhat by final completion (refer Auckland Star 23 feb 1910 p2 col 4.)
Concept drawing NZ Graphic 13 April 1910
NZ Herald 26 Nov 1910

 Opening night at the Kings Theatre, on 28 November 1910, was a feast of the latest movie entertainment but it was as a home for small theatrical companies that the venue was later best known as the Mercury.

The Observer 3 Dec 1910

The theatre is a listed building, Historic Places Trust Category 2

Stained Glass, Ng Building, K Rd, a former entrance to the Kings Theatre BFA 2013

Refer also NZ Building Progress 1 April 1910, 1 June 1910, 8 Nov 1910
For splendid coverage of the theatre highlights here see:
The theatre is reputedly haunted:
On the Norman Ng building and the former theatre entrance see :