Before construction of a bridge in 1879, the bank building held a prominent position in the new town, immediately above the Ferry landing.
The corner of Hood and Victoria Streets has been known as "Bank Corner" for many years. The bank was the centre of town well into the 1930's until the city's commercial focus shifted northwards with the city's growth and it played a large part in the city being developed on the west side of the river, rather than the east. E. Mahoney and Son designed many of the BNZ buildings throughout New Zealand. Many of the designs credited to Edward Mahoney after 1876 may well have been the work of his son Thomas, so this would include the BNZ building in Hamilton.
The builder, Edward Messange of Hamilton who also built the BNZ in Te Awamutu began construction on April 9 1877 and completed the BNZ in late March 1878. Trading began in early April 1878.
The cost of the building was 3900 pounds. This greatly exceeded Edwards tender of 2769 pounds 10 shillings, and probably contributed to his eventual bankruptcy.
The design aided in making a statement about the confidence in the economic future of Hamilton. Apparently well founded, this confidence has been influential in Hamilton's development into the city it is now.
The first manager was James Hume, born in Selkirk, Scotland in 1837. Mr Hume served in Hamilton's bank building from 1878 to 1898 and lived on the premises. The Humes were looked upon as respected residents and this is seen by a quotation taken from the Waikato Argus, September 6, 1898.
The building has undergone several major structural changes. The Hood Street facade lengthened in 1908 by 30 feet, increasing the space in the banking chamber and included a separate office for the bank accountant.
These alterations and additions were completed on February 20, 1909 at a cost of 2901 pounds 6s.6d. On October 6 1932 work began on extensions to the Victoria Street facade by 20 feet and installing a central heating system at a cost of 2927 pounds 3s.3d.
The more recent history of the bank corner is that on 22 June 1966 the main branch of the BNZ was transferred to a new building in Garden Place adjacent to the Post Office. An agency remained trading in the bank building until 1986, over 108 years of banking.
Investigation into making the building an art and culture centre for the city showed that structural work would be necessary to meet the building codes relating to fire and earthquake.
A protection notice was issued in April 1987, 110 years after the building began its life, to prevent destruction or removal of the building so as to avoid the loss of this character building.
In 1988 plans were submitted to redevelop the bank into a restaurant and a marketplace, however nothing substantial resulted.
In early 1994 the building began its new life as a Bar and Brasserie aptly named "The Bank" let by Richard Bate. Recycled Kauri was the timber used for the bar and came from within the building; the stationery room in 1908 is now the kitchen and the courtyard dominated by fruit trees and established plants, provided a haven in the city for customers. The original safe is a keg room and stores a different but also invaluable necessity. The former "subdued cream" external colour was close to the original and took over 1000 litres of paint and the earthquake strengthening which took place used nearly 1 kilometre of steel cable.
By late March 2009, The Bank underwent another transformation and is what you see today. The two toned paint used on the outside of the building gives The Bank a more modern feel and coupled with the ebony stained bar and furniture along with new lighting creates a more relaxed, personal and intimate environment for our customers to enjoy. The courtyard has now been raised to be on the same level as the rest of the building and is covered overhead to allow customers the options of dining outside without worrying about the weather. A fireplace has also been added as well as two gas heaters to keep them warm.
The Bank is a reference point to the city, a landmark and is part the visual living memory of the people of Hamilton. It has a very important collective social value to Hamiltonians, so therefore we all have a responsibility for the preservation of its heritage.