‘Ignored’ toilets recognised as significant heritage building

A Heritage New Zealand adviser is flush with excitement, after an "ignored" historic site in Dunedin was recognised as culturally significant.

The 111-year-old toilets known as the Manor Place Conveniences have been placed in category2 on the Heritage New Zealand list.

This is the second-highest rating for Heritage NZ, and is given to places of historic or cultural significance.

The toilets have been closed for nearly 40 years.

Heritage NZ assessment adviser Alison Breese said the former toilet site was the last one of its kind in New Zealand.

"These toilets are really significant in their ordinariness.

"They were just a common, run-of-the mill urinal.

"Most of them have been demolished or upgraded," Ms Breese said.

"It’s always been ignored, which means it has survived."

Ms Breese said the Dunedin City Council, which owns the toilet site, would be looking at further works to preserve it.

"It could be shoring up the fittings of the structures.

"It’s been on a slope since the 1960s," she said.

Ms Breese, a former archivist for the council, nominated the toilets as a possible heritage site in 2019.

"So it’s come full circle for me," she said.

"I always thought it had a chance of being heritage-listed because it is kind of quirky.

"A lot of people don’t know that it used to be a urinal."

Heritage New Zealand assessment adviser Alison Breese celebrates the Manor Place Conveniences...
Heritage New Zealand assessment adviser Alison Breese celebrates the Manor Place Conveniences being recognised as culturally significant. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
A small brick octagonal structure, the Manor Place Convenience was built by the council as a urinal in 1912.

Its sole use was as a public urinal from 1912 until its official closure to the public in 1976.

During this time, it was the target of vandalism, which was routinely fixed by the council.

"There are significant values in it architecturally.

"It also tells a story in our public sanitation history," Ms Breese said.

According to the Heritage NZ report, after a narrow escape from demolition in 1976, the urinal was used exclusively by council transport bus drivers.

They offered it back to the council in 1985 to be used again as a public toilet but it never reopened, with both entrances bricked up after this time.

"Its design is identical to the old Octagon underground toilet that got demolished in 1989.

"It’s a link to all the toilets that were demolished," Ms Breese said.

She said she hoped to incorporate the toilet site into a heritage walk for Ōtepoti Dunedin Heritage Festival, which runs from October 5 to 15.

"I’m keen to hear about any stories that relate to this site.

"Historic toilets are kind of my passion.

"I’m known as the ‘loo lady’," she said.