Tales about the historic Bath House building from creation until the 1960s will be shared with the community.

On August 13 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.

Rotorua Museum events and engagement co-ordinator Tori Williams says staff wanted to celebrate the 111th birthday of the Bath House building by celebrating its history.

She says Ann will share stories specifically focusing on the first 50 years of its opening.


The community will be able to gain knowledge of the building's history and how it was in the Bath House 111 years ago, she says.

"It's great to share with the community stories that aren't talked about and are only known by a few people.

"Rotorua has a lot of history. The Bath House building itself has been through so many changes, first a bathhouse, then nightclub and now a museum.

"As long as you keep talking about history, it is still recognised and alive and the community is able to learn about the area they live in."

The free talk will include some birthday cake to celebrate the 111th anniversary of the Bath House opening (August 13, 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.

Bath House building. Photographic Collection, Rotorua Museum of Art and History. Photo / Supplied
Bath House building. Photographic Collection, Rotorua Museum of Art and History. Photo / Supplied

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 plan to draw the rich ill and famous to the southern healing hot spot.

However, 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.

The details
- What: The first 50 years of the Rotorua Bath House Talk
- When: Tuesday, August 13, 5.30pm
- Where: Te Rūnanga Tea House, Government Gardens
- Cost: Free