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Thomas H. Bates: Architect
Thomas Bates’ Work in Context
The three individuals who have most affected the present cityscape of New Plymouth are the surveyor, Frederic Alonso Carrington and architects, Frank Messenger and Thomas Bates.
Carrington was responsible for the city’s location and the present street pattern of the central area.
Bates’ buildings, also substantially located within this area, remain, even today, major high-profile structures in the city.
His near-contemporary colleague, Frank Messenger (1865-1945) also in his time had a major effect on New Plymouth’s skyline. Messenger’s mainly wooden commercial buildings have , however, long-since been demolished and his impact is now seen mostly in the dozens of wooden bungalows in the suburbs established in the early 20th century. Although over 300 surviving Messenger-designed buildings were identified by local architect Ian Prichard in 1994, many are of this domestic type and not as overtly visible as Bates’ commercial structures.
During his life Thomas Bates did not design many domestic residences and most of those he did are usually large two-storied California bungalow-type. Many appear to have been completed for friends or business acquaintances.
Bates’ commercial buildings were, from the beginning, largely brick or reinforced concrete and thus a large percentage have survived although many may be threatened in the future as maintenance costs become increasingly high and building standards become stricter.