The Watch

Former Apia Courthouse

Samoa

2016 World Monuments Watch

Located in the Samoan capital on Upolu, the Apia Courthouse was built in 1902 by the German colonial power that governed the islands of Upolu and Savai’i from 1900 to 1914. It has been used as an administrative center since then, while New Zealand ruled Samoa, and after the nation’s independence in 1962. The building is intimately associated with the country’s modern history: It was here that the German flag was lowered and the British flag was raised on August 30, 1914, a day after troops from New Zealand seized Samoa in the month that followed the outbreak of World War I. (The flagpole survives, but it is broken). And it was in front of this courthouse that Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III, the leader of Samoa's Mau movement, was fatally shot by New Zealand police on December 28, 1929. The event, known as Black Saturday, was a turning point along the country’s road to independence.

Today, the two-story timber frame building is one of the last surviving colonial structures in the South Pacific. Thanks to international assistance, a new, modern courthouse was constructed in Apia in 2010. The old courthouse lost its former function and was emptied. Since 2012, part of the building has been occupied as the headquarters of the police band, after their own building was damaged in a cyclone. Together with a handful of other civic buildings, the former courthouse is one of Apia’s main landmarks, but limited upkeep and the lack of plans for reuse are threatening its survival. The recent loss of Samoa’s original Fale Fono, or parliament house, as well as the country’s first hospital, both dating from the same period as the former courthouse, are cautionary tales that have spurred civil society into action. The government has now challenged the Apia Courthouse Trust to restore the building and find a new, viable use for it. The 2016 World Monuments Watch urges every effort for the building’s preservation through local mobilization and international collaboration.

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