The Hibernian Building was built for H. Nimmo and Sons in 1930 and for many years was known as Nimmo’s Building. It was built on the corner of Willis and Bond St, the latter a small lane once known as Customhouse Street, which had linked Willis St with the sea before reclamation.
Hamilton Nimmo (1863-1947) was born in Ayr, Scotland. His father was a composer and piano salesman and his mother a performer. After working for his father he started his own business selling and tuning pianos. In 1906 he and his wife and two sons emigrated to New Zealand. They settled in Wellington and opened a business selling pianos firstly in Kilbirnie and then Kent Terrace, before building the Willis Street premises.
The estimated cost of the building was £24,166 and it was completed in July 1930. Nimmo’s business expanded in the 1930s to include the sale of radios, and R.H. Nimmo soon led a group of local businessmen to establish the first private ‘B’ licensed radio station in New Zealand.
Wellingtonians could by then tune their radios to 2YA9, provided by the semi-public Radio Broadcasting Company of New Zealand that operated a network of radio stations throughout New Zealand, funded by radio dealer’s licence fees and radio receiver licences. But the opening of the new radio station, 2ZW, was a significant local event officiated by the mayor T.C.A. Hislop on the 20th May 1931. Hislop said that the new station was a “credit to the country” as it was equipped with the second most powerful radio equipment in New Zealand and could be heard from North Cape to Bluff. The Evening Post also reported that 2ZW was unique in that it was the first in Wellington to broadcast studio concerts, rather than the mere “records and speech” offered by 2YA.
It is interesting to note that 2ZW also broadcast the results of the 1931 elections to “New Zealand and Australia” in conjunction with the nearby Evening Post newspaper. The Nimmo’s building on Willis Street was known, for a while, as the home of 2ZW, and Nimmo’s offered the “complete radio service” of broadcasting, sales, service and repair. The well-known radio personality Maud Ruby Basham (1879–1963), better known as Aunt Daisy, worked very briefly as a presenter for the station in 1932, but the station was purchased by the government in September 1933 and closed on 4 December that year.
Nimmo’s continued to operate as a music shop but by 1938 had expanded to offer a range of records and record players. During the build up to WWII Nimmo’s advertised the hours that the radios in the shop would be tuned to receive to the “war news”, partly as advertisement of sets for sale, but partly also as a public service.
Nimmo’s, which had become a well known Wellington institution, closed in 1985 and the building was sold to the Catholic Hibernian society, who continues to own the building.