The Original South Canterbury Sailors' Rest came into existence about 1880. It was run by an ‘energetic committee of ladies’ with the object of providing entertainment and attending to the welfare of overseas and coastal sailors! After a recorded public meeting, it was felt that the old building had more than served its time, and it was decided that the matter of erecting a new and up-to-date building should be put in hand. Messrs Walter Panton and Son, well known and well regarded Timaru architects of the time, generously provided their services to the committee free of charge. The Harbour Board gave a site for the building, in addition to £100 in cash, an additional £100 was given by The Borough Council. This left a remaining sum of £3000 to be raised for the completion of the proposed replacement, the greater part of it was quickly raised by subscriptions.
Early in 1924 the work of erecting the Hew building, that we see today, was commenced. The building consists of two storeys, on the ground floor being the seamen's quarters. The building was completed a few months later, and was officially opened by the then Governor-General, Admiral of the Fleet Viscount Jellicoe, on October 15th, 1921, in the presence of several thousand spectators. Mr P. J. Rolleston, M.P., speaking at the opening ceremony, remarked that it was ‘singularly appropriate that one of the last official acts performed by the Governor- General before his retirement should be the opening of an institution for the benefit of the sailors he loved so well’. He hoped that the men who used the Sailors' Rest would remember with pride that it had been opened by the greatest sailor of modern times.