The Sarjeant Gallery's foundation stone names Edmund Anscombe as the architect, but the real architect was a young man called Donald Hosie.
How did the credit for this beautiful building end up assigned to the wrong man?
In 1912 Henry Sarjeant had left an enormous sum of money to the Borough of Wanganui - the equivalent of many millions of dollars today - to build an art gallery "for the inspiration of ourselves and those who come after us". The council decided to hold an architectural competition to find a suitable design. The competition was advertised across New Zealand and Australia in October 1915, with a closing date of 11 January 1916. Samuel Hurst Seager, a Christchurch architect with expertise in matters of gallery design, was appointed to assess the entries.
Thirty-three designs were submitted, and in May 1916 four were short-listed for the final stage. At this point they were anonymous - the names of the competitors known only to the Town Clerk, George Murch. The clear winner was number 16, revealed to be from the office of Edmund Anscombe in Dunedin.
But there were rumours that the work was not Mr Anscombe's at all, but rather of an articled pupil in his office: Donald Hosie. Mr Seager wrote to George Murch on 12 October 1916:
"As you know I was much surprised to hear that it was Mr Anscombe's design and I have learned since that it is generally known that Mr Anscombe had two designs which were not placed and that a pupil of his prepared the design which has won the prize ... and I understand that his name is Mr Hosie ... it is only fair to Mr Hosie that the credit should be given where it is due ... but it will of course depend on Mr Anscombe's answer. If he claims that it is his, we must make impartial enquiries to find out the exact facts of the case."
The competition rules were explicit - the author of the winning design was to be appointed as architect for the construction of the gallery. Mr Seager wanted to be sure before announcing the result.
On 18 October, Mr Anscombe signed a declaration that "the design of the plans for the proposed Wanganui Art Gallery was my own personal work and the drawings were prepared under my own personal supervision and according to my instructions"
At a meeting with Mr Hosie in Dunedin, he had brought around 100 of his drawings for the gallery, and it was clear that Mr Anscombe had had no part in the design. Yet Mr Hosie was reluctant to say anything against his employer. He said "he did not like to feel that Anscombe should have a chance of saying that he, Hosie, had not played the game while a pupil". Mr Hurst Seager noted "his hesitation was the result of loyalty to Anscombe."
At the hearing later with Mr Anscombe and Mr Hosie present, Mr Anscombe produced "a few of the worst sketches" and claimed "that was all that could be found - that his charwoman had burnt the rest". Mr Seager recorded that, "To shield Anscombe, Hosie told an untruth in stating that he had hunted and could find no more. My promise to him prevented me from exposing the mean trick Anscombe was playing".
On 7 November 1916, Mr Hurst Seager signed a declaration that the author of the winning design was Donald Peter Brown Hosie and recommending he be appointed architect. But it wasn't over yet.
During November and December Wanganui Council sought legal advice as to whether the design belonged to Mr Anscombe as Mr Hosie's employer, and was informed that it was, so the plans could not be used without Mr Anscombe's permission. Mr Hurst Seager sought another legal opinion that directly contradicted this, but to no avail. Council appointed Mr Anscombe, seemingly on the grounds that the design's copyright belonged to him.
In explaining his reluctance to expose Mr Anscombe's deception, Mr Hosie said "he was a young man and would have his chance again".
But on 12 October 1917, just three weeks after the gallery's foundation stone was laid, the 22-year-old was killed in action at Passchendaele.