The Bath House in Rotorua was opened in 1908 as a spa where visitors could “take the waters” from the city’s extensive network of thermal springs. It was the New Zealand government’s first major investment in tourism.
This rather grand half-timbered building, built (for some reason) in the Elizabethan Revival style, was designed by Dr Arthur Stanley Wohlmann — a balneologist (expert on medicinal springs) appointed by the government to advise on the development of New Zealand’s thermal areas into spa-style resorts.
In 1947, management of the building was transferred to the government’s Health Department, and the facilities continued to be used for medicinal purposes until the 1960s.
Rotorua Museum opened in the south wing of the Bath House in 1969; Rotorua Art Gallery opened in the north wing in 1977. In 1988, the museum and gallery combined to form the Rotorua Museum of Art and History.
In late 2016, the building was assessed as not meeting New Zealand’s new earthquake standards, and closed indefinitely.