The Customhouse facing out to the Iron Pot area of Napier's Inner Harbour served the Napier from 1895 to 1953 when the department was moved into the city. Subsequently, several Government departments used the building.
Later, because of its age and poor state of repair, the Customhouse was threatened with demolition. The Hawke's Bay Harbour Board stepped in, purchasing the building and overseeing its restoration.
In August 1989, the Harbour Board set up a trust to administer the building and the Customhouse was presented to the citizens of Napier and Hawke's Bay for use as a meeting place and future maritime museum.
The building is not the city's original customhouse. After Napier was declared a customs point of entry in 1855, a combined customhouse/post office was erected on the corner of Milton and Battery Roads.
A wharf search shed was opened in Waghorne Street, Ahuriri, in 1856. Then, in 1864, a new customhouse was built opposite the wharf search shed office. The restored building in Customhouse Quay opened in 1895.
The iron try-pot near the Customhouse is typical of those used by whalers for trying out (melting down) blubber. The resultant oil was poured into casks while waste from the cooking process was used to stoke up the fire beneath the try-pot.
Several small whaling stations operated along Hawke's Bay's coastline during the 1880s. These were strategically located to spot and capture whales on their migratory paths.
The Customhouse Location Map
Customhouse Quay, Ahuriri