When Sir Joseph Ward opened the new Post & Telegraph Office on 16 October 1902 he commented that it was “superior to any other Post Office in the colony”. More than 1,000 people attended the opening ceremony which was preceded by a civic luncheon at the Rutland Hotel. The new building had taken 16 months to complete at a cost of £5,114. It was designed by John Campbell, the Government Architect, and built by Nicholas Meuli who was also responsible for the interior fittings and the cedar-topped tables for the telegraph room.
The telegraph system became an important part of the post office business in Whanganui after the first telegram was sent here in 1869 by the Premier, William Fox. In 1876 a submarine cable to Wakapuaka in Nelson made Whanganui the North Island link to the international cable network. Whanganui’s post and telegraph business grew rapidly and by 1912 it was the fifth busiest post office in New Zealand with savings bank and other services for local citizens.
This was the second post office on this site, the previous one having been erected in 1869 with later additions including a clock tower in 1881. The new building also had an impressive domed clock tower on the corner above the main entrance. This tower and the pediments were dismantled in August 1931 following the Napier earthquake.
When the new Post Office was opened in Ridgway Street in 1940, other government departments moved into the old building and remained there until the mid 1980s. Today the building houses the Ceramic Lounge and Orange café, a hairdresser and other businesses. It is still an important meeting place in the heart of Whanganui.