The first 50 years of the Rotorua Bath House

Tuesday 20, August 2019 | Community |

As the Museum moves into the next phase of its journey we look back at this unique building, its chequered history and how it came to be one of the most photographed buildings in New Zealand.

On Tuesday 13 August 2019 at 5.30pm local history enthusiast and experienced Museum guide, Ann Somerville, will share some of the unknown or not talked about stories and the reasons the grand dream of a South Seas Spa was unsuccessful.

This free talk will take place at Te Rūnanga Tea House and include some birthday cake to celebrate the 111th anniversary of the Bath House opening (13 August 1908).

Ann has had a long association with Rotorua Museum. She joined the staff in 1990 and held several roles until her retirement in 2013. Today the Bath House presides over Government Gardens. It started with a grand dream; “As a spa Rotorua has no superior in the world” trumpeted James Cowan in 1903. The New Zealand Government made its first significant investment in tourism and backed the ambitious plan to draw the rich ill and famous to the southern healing hot spot. Alas the dream turned into a nightmare as nothing went as planned.

Ann will trace the natural hazards and international events that saw the building ALMOST written off as a wreck in the 1960s. 111 years ago the designers and architects of the Rotorua Bath House could not have foreseen the extent of discussion, debate and changes to their building.

For further information contact Rotorua Museum, phone 07 350 1814 or email You can view Ann’s presentation here: The first 50 years of the Rotorua Bath House.