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The National Tobacco Company Building, like much of the city of Napier, was built to replace an earlier building after a devastating earthquake hit the town in 1931. Gaze at the exquisite rose motifs and subtle vine patterning of its façade as well as the rows of perfectly receding rectangular forms. Step through the door to explore a sumptuous marble interior.
After being founded in the early 1900s, the National Tobacco Company was suddenly without a headquarters following the Hawke’s Bay earthquake in 1931. Despite the urgency of the situation and the dire economic environment of the era, company owner Gerhard Husheer was not willing to compromise and sent back the first set of plans from architect Louis Hay demanding something more elaborate. See the result of Hay’s redesign, which successfully marries elements of both art nouveau and art deco.
Study the cream and pink façade and the elegant arch above the entrance. Examine the delicate floral motifs, some of which resemble the raupo bulrush, a plant native to New Zealand. Higher up, wrapping around the corners at either end of the building’s front, are grapevines. These reference the region’s wine-producing heritage.
All of these elements draw the observer’s eye toward the gorgeous wooden door at the centre. Before heading inside, enjoy a stroll around the building’s perimeter. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that the style and decoration of the main façade is not repeated to the same extent on the rest of the building. Elsewhere, the design is much simpler.
The complex remains a working factory; however, visitors are welcome to enter the main foyer. Ascend the small staircase leading inside and find yourself in a room with a striking marble dado. The most impressive feature here is the grand, domed skylight. Notice how the light from this fills the whole room.
The National Tobacco Company Building is in the Ahuriri district, a 5-minute drive north of central Napier. Feel free to visit the building at any time, though the foyer is only open to the public during normal working hours.
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