Irvine & Stevenson buildings (part two)

Built: 1929 (rebuilding of structures erected 1882-1888)
Address: 59-67 St Andrew Street
Architects: Miller & White
Builders: Ellis & Glue
The 1920s neo-Georgian facade of this building disguises its industrial origins as Irvine & Stevenson’s nineteenth-century factory complex. In my last post I looked at the company’s shop and office buildings next door, on the corner of George and St Andrew streets, which were designed by J.A. Burnside and built in 1882. Irvine & Stevenson were one of New Zealand’s leading producers of preserved meats, jams, soups, starch, and other (mostly food) products. By 1919 the company had nine subsidiary factories in other parts of New Zealand and it remained a large player in the food industry until it wound up in 1977.

To begin with, old buildings on the site were used for factory activities. They were replaced in stages, beginning with a two-storeyed bacon factory/curing house designed by Burnside in 1882 and completed in 1883. Later development can be pieced together (though not with complete confidence or clarity) from a surviving company ledger. Between the curing house and the shops were a double cottage and brick stables, which were fitted with gas in 1884. In 1886 ‘sheds’ were demolished and replaced with a smoke house for sausages. The cottages were then replaced with a new jam factory building, built between January and June 1888. This was likely designed by R.A. Lawson, as the ledger shows that fees of £33 10s 6d were paid to him in connection with the project in June 1888. The contract price was recorded as £634.

In 1891 Irvine & Stevenson acquired the jam company Peacock & Co., and all jam production moved to their factory in Moray Place, which became known as the ‘no.2 factory’. In 1894 the St Andrew Street factory was described as having 100 x 66 feet of floor space on each of its two storeys. Activities on the site at that time included bacon curing, sausage making, tea blending, coffee and pepper grinding, and washing powder manufacturing. The company purchased Keast & McCarthy’s large brewery in Filleul Street in 1896 and afterwards consolidated most of its Dunedin manufacturing on that site.

The buildings (in the box at left) as they appeared c.1895. W.R. Frost photograph.

A late 1880s view, showing Irvine & Stevenson’s buildings behind the A. & T. Inglis store. They include the tall chimney stack and the building immediately to its right. Ref: Te Papa O.002091.

With the old jam factory no longer required, that portion of the St Andrew Street complex was converted into a freezing plant with insulated rooms and a large engine ‘of the compressed air type with enormous pistons’. There were few such facilities in Dunedin, and a writer for a promotional piece observed in 1895:

Messrs Irvine and Stevenson have on their premises power refrigerating machinery, which is used partially for the curing of bacon, and also for providing cold storage for the city. A glance into the chambers reveals that the contents are surprisingly miscellaneous. Lake Wakatipu trout, caught months previously, and fish of many other varieties, wild ducks, hares, pork, mutton, veal, large numbers of the omnipresent rabbit – these are awaiting shipment to some distant part; and in separate chambers are stored large quantities of butter belonging to various local factories.

The freehold of the St Andrew Street property was purchased in 1916 and in the 1920s soda crystals (for laundering) were still being produced there. The buildings eventually became surplus to requirements for production purposes but they were kept as an investment property for the I&S Trust, the property arm of Irvine & Stevenson which operated as a separate company for some decades. In 1929 the refrigeration plant was removed and the old buildings were rebuilt with structural strengthening (steel and concrete), a new brick facade, new shops and shop fronts, and altered roof lines. A curious dogleg vehicle access and yard remained, and old slates were also reused. The style chosen for the facade was freely interpreted Georgian Revival and the architect was Eric Miller (1896-1948) of Miller & White. The building is similar in style to another Miller & White design, built for W. Duke & Sons, at the corner of King Edward Street and Hillside Road in South Dunedin. A larger brick-faced building Miller designed was the South Block (now Hercus Building) of the Otago Medical School, completed in 1948.

Miller & White drawing for the 1929 work (elevations and sections), Hocken Collections MS-2758/0378.

StAndrew_S14-550b

Miller & White drawing for the 1929 work (sections and floor plans), Hocken Collections MS-2758/0378.

In September 1929 the finished buildings were described in the Evening Star newspaper:

A building with a rather striking and dignified appearance is that just constructed by Messrs Ellis and Glue in St Andrew Street. The structure referred to is situated on the site used at one time as a bacon curing factory by Messrs Irvine and Stevenson. Now this firm has converted the building into four modern shops on the ground floor with two spacious rooms upstairs which are now being utilised by Mr J.W. Finch, of the Octagon Billiard Parlours, as an up-to-date billiard parlour. The extensive alterations were constructed about six months ago by the contractor, who first of all was called upon to shift about 1,000 bags of pumice and a large quantity of charcoal. The finished building shows a new brick front, with the curtains on the windows of the top floor giving it a homely appearance. The shops below are fairly large, and are given quite an impressive finish with terrazzo around the basements and piers of the windows. The doors and other woodwork are in oak, while the ceilings and walls are tastefully designed in fibrous plaster. The billiard parlour, which has been leased for a period of ten years, is divided into two rooms, with five tables in each, and it is intended to make further provision for another table. Messrs Miller & White were the designers of the building, which cost something in the vicinity of £5,000.

IrvineStevenson_1936Letterhead

A 1936 letterhead for Irvine & Stevenson. By this date the company had stopped using the St Andrew Street buildings for manufacturing. Hocken Collections AG-200-11/04/1319.

The Dunedin Cue Club in 2014.

The Dunedin Cue Club in 2014.

A billiard parlour or pool hall has been operating continuously from the upper floor since 1929. For many years named the Grand Billiard Parlour, it later became the Grand Billiard Rooms, and then the Grand Snooker Centre. In 1998 it became the Dunedin Cue Club and it currently also offers internet and gaming facilities. Director Mark Peisker kindly showed me around and said that one of the tables is thought to have been there since the hall opened 85 years ago.

Downstairs, a cycle shop was the first occupant of the shop at no. 59. Originally Ernest Packer Stevenson’s Cycle Works, it became Knight’s Cycle Works in 1951 and later diversified into prams and children’s nursery goods. In 1969 the business moved to the shop at no. 67 as Knight’s Nursery Centre and it closed around 1991.

Other tenants have included the Laurier Floral Studio (at no. 61 from 1938 to 1970), and the T.W.T. Engineering Co. (at no. 67 from 1939 to 1959). The Presbyterian Social Services Association (now Presbyterian Support Otago) Opportunity Shop opened at no. 59 in 1972. It later expanded into the shop next door and is still there today. The other retail businesses currently in the building are Paint the Town Red (boutique fashion clothing) and Rockshop (musical instruments and audio).

The I&S Trust relinquished its last interests in the property in the early 1960s and for many years it was owned by the Butler Family. It may be considered part of the Larent Buildings that front George Street (but do not include the corner site which is on a separate title). The unspoilt St Andrew Street facade demonstrates how a relatively modest building can have a distinctive street appearance while still being in scale with and sympathetic to its surroundings. The square-paned windows with their timber frames are a particular delight, and I seldom walk past this building without appreciating it. You might also spare a thought for Dunedin’s rich industrial past and eight decades of billiards as you wander by!


Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 22 October 1873 p.2 (James Irvine, ham and bacon), 18 January 1882 p.2 (auction of leasehold), 20 January 1883 p.2 (description of George Street buildings), 3 June 1887 p.1 (opening of pork and provision shop), 19 May 1894 supp. (description of Irvine & Stevenson premises), 27 January 1908 p.7 (freezing plant), 20 November 1919 p.10 (‘The Preserving Industry’); Evening Star, 3 September 1929 p.2 (description of rebuilding work)

Other references:
Irvine & Stevenson’s St George Co. Ltd records, Hocken Collections UN-016
Leading Business Establishments of Dunedin: Being a Series of Illustrations and Descriptive Letterpress (Dunedin: Otago Daily Times and Witness Co., 1895)
Stevenson, Geoffrey W., The House of St George: A Centennial History 1864-1964 (Dunedin: Irvine & Stevenson’s St George Co. Ltd, [1964])
Baré, Robert, City of Dunedin Block Plans (Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, [1889])
Jones, F. Oliver, Structural Plans of the City of Dunedin NZ, ‘Ignis et Aqua’ series, [1892]
Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters’ Associations of New Zealand, block plans, 1927
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans

Irvine & Stevenson buildings (part one)

Built: 1882
Address: 186-198 George Street
Architect: John Arthur Burnside (1857-1920)
Clerk of WorksJohn Wright

An 1890s photograph by W.R. Frost. The grocery store and two other shops face George Street under the verandah. At the left of the image are the factory buildings.

‘St George’ was one of the most successful brands to come out of Dunedin, becoming a household name throughout New Zealand as well as exporting to overseas markets. Irvine & Stevenson’s St George Company produced jams, soups, tinned meat and fish, other preserved foods, and household products such as laundry crystals. In terms of buildings, it was generally associated with the old Keast & McCarthy brewery site in Filleul Street, where it operated a preserving works from 1897 to 1977. Before that, however, it was based on a site at the corner of St Andrew and George Streets, and that’s what this story is about.

In the early 1860s James Irvine owned three grocery stores in Kilsyth, near Glasgow. In 1863 he came to Dunedin with his wife, Jane, to start a new life in what was then a booming gold rush town. He opened a shop in Filleul Street, and was one of the first bacon curers in the city. The store relocated to George Street (between Hanover and St Andrew streets) around 1870.

William Stevenson was 23 years younger than James Irvine. He came out from Scotland as a boy, and at the age of 21 became a partner in the grocery firm Stevenson & Ford, which occupied one of ‘several insignificant wooden buildings’ on the corner of George and St Andrew streets. There had been a grocery store on the site since James Wallace opened for business in 1864. Immediately to its south were premises occupied by Robert Brown’s cake shop (established in 1879), and next to this was the Oddfellows’ Hall (erected in 1862). Behind these structures were brick stables, and a double cottage facing St Andrew Street.

Stevenson married Irvine’s daughter, Barbara, in 1881, and the following year the two men went into partnership as Irvine & Stevenson. They opened a temporary shop in the Southampton Buildings (now part of the Golden Centre mall) while a block of three new shops and offices was built on leasehold land occupied by the old Stevenson & Ford store, Brown’s shop, and the Oddfellows’ Hall. The architect J.A. Burnside called for tenders in April 1882, and by the following January the building was complete. Irvine & Stevenson used the corner shop as their grocery store, and beneath it was a large storage cellar. Two smaller shops fronting George Street were leased out: one of them to Robert Brown and the other to the drapers M.W. Green & Sons.

A late 1880s view, showing Irvine & Stevenson’s buildings behind the A. & T. Inglis store. They include the tall chimney stack and the building immediately to its right. Ref: Te Papa O.002091.

Constructed from brick, with a stone foundation and a slate roof, the buildings cost £2,898. An Otago Daily Times reporter wrote approvingly:

Although appearance has not been the main object in view, it must be admitted that the front elevation of the buildings displays an exceptionally neat style of architecture, and that the block is by no means the least creditable of many fine buildings in the city. It is needless to remark that the buildings are of a substantial character, while the dimensions mentioned show that they are commodious.

The architecture was loosely Renaissance Revival in style, showing some of the emerging eclecticism also apparent in James Hislop’s design for the Boot Palace (1885-1886) on the opposite corner. Features included rounded corners to the window heads, and small chimneys integrated with the St Andrew Street parapet. The incised decoration above the windows was uncommon in Dunedin with other examples from around the same time including the Coulls Culling warehouse in Crawford Street (since demolished), and the former Dowson’s building at 305 George Street. The verandah was described as one of the best in the city. It had a glazed roof, and its iron pillars and ornate fretwork were manufactured locally by Barningham & Co.

The appointed builder was Henry Martin, but he met with financial difficulty and his contract was terminated before the project was far advanced. Subsequent work was carried out through various contracts, with John Wright apparently acting as Clerk of Works. A few years before Wright had performed a similar role in the building of the Terminus Hotel, also designed by Burnside.

Behind the shops and offices, a two-storey building was erected for curing ham and bacon. It was completed a little later in 1883 and cost a further £555. Between 1886 and 1887 ‘sheds’ were demolished and replaced with a smoke house for sausages at a cost of £275. In 1888 a jam factory building and a large chimney stack were built on the site previously occupied by cottages. They were likely designed by R.A. Lawson, as company accounts shows fees paid to him in connection with the project, which cost £815.

Label for tinned boiled mutton. Ref: Alexander Turnbull Library Eph-C-MEAT-1900s-03.

Irvine & Stevenson registered their ‘St George’ trademark in 1885, and it’s possible (though perhaps unlikely) that the idea for the name was inspired by the streets where the company buildings were sited: St Andrew and George. The brand symbol was a shield containing the image St George on horseback, slaying a dragon. By 1889 the company was producing 300 cases of jam per week, with stoneware jars from Graham Winter & Co.’s Milton Pottery Works. Jam production moved to the former Peacock & Co. premises in Moray Place, soon after Irvine & Stevenson bought it as their ‘no. 2’ factory in 1891.

In 1894 the original complex was described as having 100 x 66 feet of floor space on each of its two storeys. Activities included bacon curing, sausage making, tea blending, coffee and pepper grinding, and washing powder manufacture. There was also a short-lived diversification into confectionery. The Keast & McCarthy brewery premises were acquired in 1896, and the company opened new preserving works there the following year. A freezing plant was installed with insulated rooms and compressed-air freezing machine with enormous pistons. Industrial operations in the rear buildings continued until the structures were rebuilt as shops in 1929, but I’ll leave this for further discussion in my next post.

The shop on the corner was occupied by Irvine & Stevenson’s grocery store for thirty-one years up to 1913, when the company sold it to focus on manufacturing activities. A grocery store remained on the site for another ten years, first run by McIlroy Bros, and then B.J. McArthur. In 1922 the shop and upstairs rooms were taken by the optometrists Hugh & G.K. Neill, who over time developed the complementary photography business Hugh & G.K. Neill Photographics Ltd. In 1997 Neill’s Camera & Video became Jonathan’s Camera & Video, which expanded into the shop next door. Jonathan’s Photo Warehouse remains in the middle shop today, while the corner site is once again in the hands of the optometrists Milburn & Neill (the current iteration of the old firm), who have now been based in the building continuously for over ninety years.

The corner hasn’t always been a peaceful spot. In 1892 George Street was the scene of demonstrations in support of the Saturday half-holiday movement, and one of Irvine & Stevenson’s plate glass windows was smashed. There were also demonstrations during the Great Depression, and it was at this intersection where in April 1932 protestors stopped the taxi carrying the Mayoress, Helen Black, attempting to pull her out and overturn the vehicle. She had been involved in running a relief depot where there was anger that chits for supplies were handed out rather than money orders. It was also said that there was some resentment towards Mrs Black for handing out relief wearing white gloves – a symbol of privilege. These days any altercations at this location are likely to be of the late night drunken variety.

A 1925 advertisement for Hugh & G.K. Neill reproduced from a Dunedin Choral Society programme.

A view of George Street in 1949, showing a ‘St George Jam’ neon sign on top of the building. Ref: Hocken Collections 96-106 (box 96), reproduced at builtindunedin.com courtesy of Perpetual Trust

The middle shop was originally occupied by a succession of small draperies: M.W. Green & Sons, Carter & Co., and William McBeath, before Irvine & Stevenson put their own retail butchery in the space. For twenty years from 1910 it was occupied by the fruiterer William Carlton Ruffell, whose views on Chinese taking up his line of business reflected some of the racism in New Zealand society at the time. The Evening Post (Wellington) reported in 1920:

A deputation from the Dunedin Retail Fruiterers Association waited on the Dunedin City Council last week in reference to the Asiatic question [...] Mr. H.E. Stephens said one shop had been opened in Dunedin, and they knew the Chinese were feeling for about a dozen other businesses. In the North, the trade was practically run by the Chinese. They were not desirable citizens, for they were not bound by our laws, could work as they liked, and were therefore unfair competitors. In California it was proposed to keep Asiatics from buying or holding land, and it was time something was done here. Mr W.C. Ruffell said what they really aimed at was the elimination of foreigners. They thought New Zealand should be white.

Ruffell’s shop became an outlet of Star Stores for nearly thirty years from 1930. It was then Adkins Foodmarket (1959-1973), Adams Fruit (1973-1987), and the clothing retailer Slick Willy’s (1987-2004), before Jonathan’s took it.

The southernmost shop (present no. 186) was leased by the confectioner Robert Brown in 1882 and was kept by his family for nearly seventy years. In later years it traded as Brown & Son, Brown’s Cafeteria, and Brown’s Cake Shop. It became Jordon’s Milk Bar around 1953, and photographs from the Hocken Collections show a slick American-influenced hangout of the rock ‘n roll era. It was a place where ‘milkbar cowboys’ gathered outside on Sunday afternoons (the Beau Monde was the spot on Friday nights), the coolest among them with Triumph Speed Twin and Thunderbird motorcycles. Inside, Oriental fans were a feature of the decoration. As well as traditional milkshake flavours, the Fla-va-tru range (‘America’s Latest!’) included: Blue Lagoon, Fruti Tuti, Chop Suey (can anyone enlighten me on that one?), Fruit Salad, Yankee Doodle, Smoky Joe, Nutti Cream, Butterscotch, Mint Julep, and Pink Lemonade. A wide variety of chocolates were sold, from Nestlé and Cadbury bars through to Winning Post, Caley’s Majestic, and Cadbury’s Centennial boxes. The snack bar offered spaghetti, baked beans on toast, poached eggs on toast, tomato soup and toast, and hot pies. Jordon’s closed in 1969 and was replaced by the Four Seasons Restaurant, which was in turn succeeded by Buyck’s Restaurant (1975-1980), the Pig ‘n Whistle Restaurant (1980-1982), and the Capri Coffee Lounge (1982-1987). The closure of the Capri ended the space’s role as an eatery after more than a century. Meanwhile, upstairs was dieting HQ, as Weight Watchers had their premises there for twenty years from 1976. The downstairs shop was occupied by Payless Shoes from 1987 to 1996, before the current tenant, Dollar Store 123, opened for business in 1998.

The street frontage of Jordons Milk Bar in 1957, complete with Melody Master jukebox. Ref: Hocken Collections P11-012. Ritchie’s Studio photograph.

The interior of Jordons Milk Bar in 1957. Ref: Hocken Collections P11-012. Ritchie’s Studio photograph.

Staff of Jordons Milk Bar, Yvonne third from right. Ref: Hocken Collections P11-012.

The property arm of Irvine & Stevenson retained a financial interest in the buildings up to 1962. The corner premises went into the ownership of Hugh & G.K. Neil, and the remainder to the Butler Family who named their portion Larent Buildings. I’m unsure why this name was chosen, as I haven’t found any obvious links between the name and the building, but it may have been because it was an investment property and ‘Larent’ is an anagram of ‘Rental’! The first floor windows in this part were replaced in 1970, giving the buildings their present lopsided appearance. The original verandah, cornice, and parapet have also been destroyed and their restoration together with the first floor windows would transform the building from its somewhat awkward and unassuming look to a striking and handsome feature of the street.

So as not to confuse things, I’ll treat the historical development of the old factory buildings separately in the next post. So, as they say:

To be continued….

A recent view

Facade detail showing incised decoration

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 22 October 1873 p.2 (James Irvine, ham and bacon), 18 January 1882 p.2 (auction of leasehold), 20 January 1883 p.2 (description of George Street buildings), 3 June 1887 p.1 (opening of pork and provision shop), 19 May 1894 supp. (description of Irvine & Stevenson premises), 27 January 1908 p.7 (freezing plant), 20 November 1919 p.10 (‘The Preserving Industry’), 8 November 2008 p.6 (‘Recalling Dunedin’s Dark Days’ by Mark Price); Evening Post (Wellington), 28 June 1920 p.6 (W.C. Ruffell)

Other references:
Irvine & Stevenson’s St George Co. Ltd records, Hocken Collections UN-016
Stevenson, Geoffrey W., The House of St George: A Centennial History 1864-1964 (Dunedin: Irvine & Stevenson’s St George Co. Ltd, [1964])
Baré, Robert, City of Dunedin Block Plans (Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, [1889])
Jones, F. Oliver, Structural Plans of the City of Dunedin NZ, ‘Ignis et Aqua’ series, [1892]
Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters’ Associations of New Zealand, block plans, 1927
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)
Thanks to Allan Dick for his memories of Dunedin milk bars.

Note: some occupancy dates may be a year out either way due to reliance on annual directories.

The Haywood Street house – just how old is it?

The story of this house is well known: it was built in or about 1858 and saved from demolition by Dr George Emery (1923-2005), who had it removed from its original location above Moray Place (off View Street) and reconstructed on the lower part of his property in Haywood Street, Mornington. A fine house for such an early date, it really is a marvel of settler craftsmanship. It also has an interesting history of occupation, with those who lived in it including the medical superintendents Edward Hulme and Isaiah De Zouche, and the art dealer Ambrose Chiaroni. It has a Category II registration with Heritage New Zealand.

A question has been niggling me though: was it really built in 1858? I recently attended a very interesting and well-researched talk by Peter Entwisle at the Otago Museum: All Shapes and Sizes – Domestic Architecture in Victorian Dunedin – The Colonial Bay Villa. I won’t summarise the talk here, but the Haywood Street house proved an intriguing and difficult example to place in the development of Dunedin’s domestic architecture, as the pre-gold rush date seemed at odds with a number of its features and influences on local design at the time. Rather than trying to reconcile the style of house to the year 1858, I’ve been wondering if the building has been misdated.

Dr Emery did much good research himself, as did Lois Galer, and early rates records suggest improvements on the site around 1858. The new information I am throwing into the mix is photographic evidence, which suggests that the house as we know it was in fact built a few years later. The image below is dated 1862, and this is confirmed by the presence of the Theatre Royal in Princes Street and the original Otago Boys’ High School under construction. It has been used to illustrate the history of the house before, but through the digital technology of Te Papa’s Collections Online it is possible to zoom in on the detail and discover more. The detail shows the verandah to be only partially constructed, an incomplete chimney, window openings without joinery or glazing, and the general appearance of a building site. An earlier cottage may well have been incorporated into the structure, but it seems that the house in its final form was under construction in the middle part of 1862. This is only four years different from the established date, but they are a significant four years in terms of Dunedin’s history, as they place the house in the thick of the gold rush period rather than ahead of it. It would be interesting to re-investigate the history of the house in the light of this knowledge, taking another look at the land records. This may be of niche interest, but because of the house’s established status as a ‘forerunner’, from an historian’s point of view it’s well worth the trouble of putting it in accurate context.

This little detective exercise is also a good example of the value of institutions making high-resolution copies of images available to researchers. Thank you Te Papa!

1862_FullImage

‘Princes Street, Dunedin in 1862′. Te Papa O.000858/01.

Detail, Te Papa O.000858/01

References:
Galer, Lois. Houses of Dunedin: An Illustrated Collection of the City’s Historic Homes (Dunedin: Hyndman, 1995)

Filleul Street

Filleul Street appears (unnamed) on Charles Kettle’s original street plan, but its development was slow, partly due to the swampy nature of the land. Its name is not one of the many Dunedin took from Edinburgh, and the earliest reference to it in the Otago Witness dates from March 1859. Canon Edmund Nevill (1862-1933) was an historian of place names (a toponymist!), and the following extract is taken from one of his manuscripts held in the Hocken Collections. He refers to James Fulton, the prosperous Taieri farmer and parliamentarian, whose residence Lisburn House still stands at Caversham.

Here follow some place names embodying old stories. The late Dr Robert Fulton told me the first. He said ‘As the story of how Filleul St got its name has not so far appeared in print I detail it here, for I had it from my father James Fulton. In the fifties he and his brother Robert, who lived at Ravensbourne [sic] West Taieri used to walk into town at election times, record their votes, and return home – often with 50lb bags of flour on their backs. On one occasion they came to the Town Board office for some special reason and James Macandrew said “hullo, Jim, you are the very man we want” (Everyone was Jim and Bob and Harry in those days.) “We are naming some of the streets, you have chosen sections in this flag swamp, we’ll call them Fulton St.” “No you don’t Mac” said my father, laughing “here’s Dickey Filleul, call it after him”. The two Filleuls, William and Richard, were great friends of my father, nephews of the Valpys. They went to Oamaru and settled there but were very little in Dunedin. However, the name was given and has remained. The Filleuls were French Hugenots who came to England at the time of the massacre of St Bartholemew (1572).’

The FIlleul brothers , Richard Anthony Filleul and William Gabriel Filleul, were born in Jersey in the Channel Islands and came to Otago in 1849 when still in their teens. They went to the Victorian goldfields in 1852 and after their return were sheep farmers at Papakaio. They both went to England for a time, and Richard drowned when the Lord Raglan sank en route to New Zealand in 1863. William Gabriel Filleul gave up farming later in the 1860s and became Clerk of the Resident Magistrate’s Court in Oamaru. He retired to Nelson where he died in 1902. His wife, Louisa, was fond of riding and it was told in her obituary that she:

…covered great stretches of country on horseback. As a protection against bushrangers, who were haunting the country about Dunedin at the time, she and her cousin carried pots of pepper in their saddle-bags, and it was characteristic of Mrs Filleul that she expressed disappointment that the pepper never had to be used.

The Fulton story has a good provenance, but stories of origin are seldom straightforward and there is a bit more to this one too. Dr Hocken stated that William Filleul told him that he purchased a section at the corner of Moray Place and Filleul Street. Mr Abbott, the surveyor superintending the purchase, said ‘I see this street has got no name, we’ll call it Filleul Street’. Hocken’s information suggests that while the circumstances may have been approximately as Fulton described, the naming was not quite as haphazard as his story suggested. Further complicating things, Robin Mitchell (1954) wrote that the first landowner in the street was Philip Filleul. This would likely be Philip Valpy Mourant Filleul, the older brother of Richard and William, who settled in Tasmania but apparently spent very little time here. A search of land records held by Archives New Zealand would likely clarify which of the Filleuls bought the section.

Filleul Street looking north, c.1880. The intersection with St Andrew Street and York Place is in the foreground. Detail from Burton Bros photograph, Te Papa C.012114.

In the 1860s, numerous small houses and modest commercial and buildings were built. The occupations of the residents named in Stone’s directory for 1884 included labourer, plasterer, clerk, storekeeper, artist, waiter, cook, baker, charwoman, photographer, music teacher, stocking knitter, signwriter, sailmaker, accountant, auctioneer, ironworker, butcher, draper, fruiterer, jobmaster, expressman, dealer, carter, glass engraver, plasterer, crockery merchant, and brewer. Not all of the homes were on the streetfront, with many of the humbler dwellings down little lanes and alleys.

The Liverpool Arms Hotel opened on the upper side of the street, between Moray Place and York Place, in 1869. It was kept by Edmund O’Keeffe, and later by his son Alfred Henry O’Keefe, who went on to became one of New Zealand’s most celebrated early painters and art teachers. The Liverpool Arms lost its license in 1894 and in 1909 became the Anglican Men’s Mission House, run by the Rev. V.G. Bryan King. A newspaper feature published in the Otago Witness gives insight into the lives of some of Dunedin’s most disadvantaged people, though it leaves many questions as to how it was from their own perspective. King told a reporter:

‘Well, yes I am somewhat busy at times, but the work never becomes monotonous. On Thursday afternoon, for instance, I had a man in the “D.T.’s” in here, a destitute woman and her child in the hall, a mad woman creating a disturbance at the front door, and a young man, with something in his eye, asking attention. I simply did not know what to do first, so I commenced operations by evicting the mad woman, and while I was attending to her the “D.T.” patient escaped, and caused me a lot of trouble…’

Mr King had long advocated such a place, and when „it was finally decided to establish the mission he was at some pains to discover a suitable site for it. Eventually he decided on Filleul street, near a quarter where there were houses of a bad reputation. The house he took, indeed, had been one of the most unsavoury in the neighbourhood. It had been tenanted by rogues, vagabonds, gamblers, and half-caste Chinese girls. It was filthily dirty; when it was being cleaned the accumulations of years had to be scraped off the floor with a spade. In an upstairs room some 12 or 14 ferrets had been kept, and long after their removal there remained in the vicinity an odour that very forcibly reminded one of the polecat tribe. But soap, water, paint and paper presently rendered the half-dozen rooms clean and habitable…

Now, Mr King is tall and pale and slightly built. The reporter was curious to know how he fared in [...] unwished-for encounters, and he put the question. Mr King smiled, and pointed to a couple of books lying handily. ‘Ju-jitsu?’ said the reporter. ‘Precisely,’ said the clergyman. ‘My best friend. I learned it long since, and have used it frequently’ [...] ‘I have had some of the biggest wharf labourers in Dunedin tackle me at different times,’ he said, complacently; ‘but I survived. No – no damage.’

The building reverted to residential use in the 1920s and was eventually demolished around 1970.

Detail from the above image showing the Liverpool Arms Hotel.

Four churches were built on corner sites. The old Brethren Hall (later the Beneficiaries Hall) on the Hanover Street corner was designed by J.L. Salmond in 1894. It was Maude’s Fabric Barn for a time and is now the restaurant Miga. The Evangelical Church of Christ stood near the Moray Place intersection from 1910 to 1976. This is not to be confused with the St Andrew Street Church of Christ, designed by David Mowat and opened in 1926. It replaced the Tabernacle in Great King Street, and remains a landmark building  with its Wrenesque tower and a classical styling unusual in Dunedin’s ecclesiastical architecture. On the diagonally opposite corner remains another church building, the former York Place Gospel Hall. It was much modified for re-use by Warwick Grimmer Ltd in 1990.

The Church of Christ, on the St Andrew Street corner.

The Dunedin Brewery was established at the northern end of the street in 1861. It was taken over by Charles Keast in 1870 and he went into partnership with John McCarthy in 1871 to form Keast & McCarthy. The old wooden buildings were removed and a new brewery in brick and bluestone erected between 1873 and 1874. Later buildings included brick offices fronting Filleul Street designed by Louis Boldini (1878), a new malthouse and other buildings designed by T.B. Cameron (1880), and extensive additions fronting London Street designed by Drew & Lloyd (1882). The brewery closed in 1895 and the buildings were taken over by Irvine & Stevenson’s St George Co., which also had factory premises in St Andrew Street and Moray Place. This large company was known for its ranges of jams, soups, preserved meats, and other canned food products. It eventually operated factories throughout New Zealand and continued to be based on the Filleul Street site until it closed in 1977. The buildings were demolished, but a remnant wall can be seen from London Street. Smiths City later developed a store on the site fronting Filleul Street. This closed in 2008 and the building is now partly occupied by Lincraft.

Irvine and Stevenson’s St George Co., in buildings originally erected for Keast & McCarthy’s Dunedin Brewery.

Detail on the Irvine & Stevenson buildings. Photograph taken by Hardwicke Knight in the early 1960s.

An aerial photograph from March 1955 showing some of the housing still on the street at that time. George Street is in the foreground. Whites Aviation Ltd: Photographs. Ref: WA-37713-F. Alexander Turnbull Library http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23527357

There were still many houses in the street in the 1960s but few remain today. The property became attractive to commercial developers and various new two-storey buildings were built in the 1970s. Three two-storey houses from around the turn of the century remain on the slope immediately below London Street, and a single-storey 1890s villa there was demolished only recently to make way for apartments.

The eastern side of Filleul Street is now dominated by multi-storey carparks. The first was built for Gardner Motors in 1969, together with a car sales yard on the corner of Moray Place. It was the first carpark of its type in Dunedin and the architects were Mason & Wales. The Golden Centre followed in 1979 and the Meridian mall in 1997. The mall carparks usefully service nearby shops and businesses, but their appearance and function dehumanise a large part of street. The Wall Street complex, opened in 2009, has a glass frontage at ground level.

The Gardner Motors building became Health Board House in 1989, when it was rebuilt with additional floors of office accommodation. It was transformed from a bland utilitarian structure into a striking example of postmodernism (‘pomo’), an architectural movement that peaked in Dunedin between the mid 1980s and mid 1990s (later than in some other cities). The architect was Ashley Muir of Mason & Wales, and the Otago Daily Times reported that he:

…believes buildings should not be fashionable and says the buildings people like in Dunedin have been there for 100 years [...] He uses Greek and Roman influences because he believes they form part of people’s perceptions of what a public building should be. Public buildings must also have visual texture, like the Dunedin Railway Station, which is ‘full of visual texture’.

The continued role of revivalism in Dunedin architecture might be something good to follow up here another time. I had intended this post to be about a street name but have ended up writing about modern carparks! If nothing else, this shows how much one busy central city street can evolve in a relatively short space of time. No doubt Filleul Street will be further transformed in the future.

The intersection of Moray Place and Filleul Street. A photograph taken by Hardwicke Knight around 1960.

A recent view of the intersection of Moray Place and Filleul Street. The large structure is the rebuilt Gardner Motors carpark building.

A view down Filleul Street from near the London Street intersection.

Newspaper references:
Otago Witness, 19 March 1859 p.2 (early reference to Filleul Street), 17 March 1898 p.35 (biography of W.G. Filleul), 10 November 1909 p.89 (mission house); Otago Daily Times, 1 October 1878 p.1 (Boldini additions to brewery), 3 February 1880 p.4 (T.B. Cameron additions to brewery), 18 July 1882 p.4 (Drew & Lloyd additions to brewery); 2 August 1989 p.24 (rebuilding of Gardner Motors) North Otago Times, 7 August 1902 p.3 (obituary for W.G. Filleul); New Zealand Herald, 7 September 1927 p.12 (obituary for Louisa Filleul).

Other references:
Croot, Charles. Dunedin Churches: Past and Present (Dunedin: Otago Settlers Association, 1999).
Griffiths, George. Dunedin Street Names (Dunedin: the author, 1999).
Hocken, Thomas Morland: NZ Notes. Hocken Collections MS-0037.
Leckie, Frank G. Otago Breweries: Past and Present. (Dunedin: Otago Heritage Books, 1997).
Nevill, Edmund Robert : Papers relating to European placenames in New Zealand. Hocken Collections MS-0160A.
Stevenson, Geoffrey W., The House of St George: A Centennial History 1864-1964 (Dunedin: Irvine & Stevenson’s St George Co. Ltd, [1964]).

Chinese Mission Church

Built: 1896-1897
Address: 58 Carroll Street
Architect: James Louis Salmond
Builders: Crawford & Watson

The church and manse as they appeared when first built. Hardwicke Knight Papers, Hocken Collections, r.6077.

Much has been written about Dunedin’s church buildings, which is the main reason they haven’t been given much attention here, but when I came across the beautiful and previously unpublished architectural drawing of the Chinese Mission Church in the Hocken Colections, I couldn’t resist following it up further. Much of what follows is drawn and condensed from secondary sources, and to anyone wanting to read more I particularly recommend the writings of James Ng and Susan Irvine listed at the end.

The Presbyterian Church of Otago and Southland established a mission to the Chinese in 1868, when Chinese miners comprised nearly five per cent of the provincial population. Early mission activity was lacklustre and only gained momentum following the appointment of Alexander Don as leader in 1879. After sixteen months with the American Presbyterian Mission in Canton, Don came to Dunedin in 1881 where he underwent theological training before beginning his work ministering to Chinese on the goldfields, based for a time at Riverton and later at Lawrence. The urban Chinese population grew significantly during the 1880s, and in 1889 Don moved his headquarters to Dunedin, taking a small hall at the corner of Lees and Jones streets.

The first hall was small and costly to rent, and in 1895 fundraising efforts for a new building began. In the latter part of 1896 and early months of 1897, a new brick church building was erected in Walker (now Carroll) Street, in an area where many Chinese lived and worked. The site was just down from St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (led by Rev. Rutherford Waddell) with which it maintained a close connection. A two-storeyed manse was built at the same time as the church, on the rear of the section, and flats were later built on the adjoining property owned by Don.

J.L Salmond’s architectural drawing. Salmond Anderson Architects Records, Hocken Collections MS-3821/3657.

J.L. Salmond’s modest design with exposed brickwork, cement facings, and a small castellated porch, was built by the contractors Crawford & Watson. It bears some similarity to the larger Brethren hall at the corner of Hanover and Filleul streets that Salmond had designed a few years before. The total cost for both church and manse was £1,227, with about half of the cost of construction funded through subscriptions (both within and outside the Chinese community), and half from the Presbyterian Board of Property.

Alexander Don described the interior: ‘The church is 44ft, by 23ft and seats 160. Eight feet at the rear is cut off by a partly moveable screen for a book and class-room, where the mission stock and library are kept and small meetings held. The dark red dado and flesh-tint ceiling harmonise well with the light green distempered walls. Light from without comes through five windows on the east side, two in front and a coloured one on the north: within from 20 gas jets. The western unwindowed wall is divided by buttresses into four bays, and in one of these is hung the beautiful ant-thetical couplet in Chinese (framed and) presented to the missionary.’

The building opened with an afternoon service on Easter Sunday, 20 April 1897. The service began with the ‘Old Hundredth’ psalm sung in Chinese, and Thomas Chang Luke delivered the sermon on Luke 5:36 with John 20:20. The hymns were the gospel favourites Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus, The Gate’s Ajar for Me, and Jewels. A tea followed, after which there was a meeting in the nearby St Andrew’s hall. Musical items were given by Chan Luke and Wong Hin Ming (Chinese flute), and Wong Wye and Key Chew Leet (harpsichord). More hymns were sung, with ‘the Chinese singing in their own language and the Europeans in theirs’. William Hewitson, William Bannerman, and Rutherford Waddell all gave speeches. Later in the week lantern slide exhibitions showed scenes of China, and viewing the vivid reproductions was an emotional experience for those that had not seen their home country in many years.

Signage and other detail (taken from the photograph reproduced in full above)

From a present-day perspective it is easy to understand why Chinese migrants with a rich and advanced culture, including spirituality of their own, might show indifference or even antagonism towards attempts to evangelise them, especially if they were treated as inferiors. Historian James Ng has led critical re-evaluation of Don and his mission work, stating that though he ‘may be judged as outstanding in moral strength, initiative, determination and perseverance [...] he was not successful in evangelising the Chinese’.  Attendance at the church averaged between twenty-five and fifty in its early years and Don baptised only about twenty individuals. Ng claims that it is ‘doubtful if he ever regarded more than a few Chinese as his equal’, an argument supported by the condescension expressed in some of Don’s writings (although this lessened over time). Susan Irvine, while acknowledging Don’s weaknesses, convincingly argues that ‘In comparison to New Zealand Society, his attitudes were enlightened and he championed the Chinese cause in a racist society’. Both writers agree that Don’s legacy is mixed, but also that he earned friendship and respect within the Otago Chinese community, and spoke out against injustices.

Don left Dunedin in 1913 (though he later returned), and with low numbers the congregation continued largely through volunteer efforts. One of the first of the Chinese-born pastors was Foong Lai Law, assistant preacher to Don from 1909 to 1910, and ‘Evangelist to Chinese in and around Dunedin’ from 1926 to 1931. Some time after the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937 the Government allowed Chinese women and children to come to New Zealand to be reunited with their husbands and fathers. During the Second World War, when Rev. Andrew Miller was minister, language classes were run to help these new migrants, and domestic and social assistance was also offered. Miller died in 1944 and his wife Ellen (Nellie) afterwards continued in a joint leadership role with Rev. George Hunter McNeur. They were succeeded by Yik Tak Fong in 1951.

Eventually the church shed its ‘mission’ status, becoming the Dunedin Presbyterian Chinese Church, an independent Presbyterian parish within the Presbytery of Dunedin. The brickwork on the building was plastered over at some point and the castellation on the porch removed. In 1993 the congregation moved to the redeveloped former North Dunedin Presbyterian Church hall in Howe Street. It continues to worship there and has a membership of about 180.

The old church was turned over to residential use in the 1990s and the conversion saw two new windows installed in the front wall and the original door and surround replaced with recycled elements. The building’s appearance, still church-like and as modest as it always was, gives little hint of its strong historic and cultural significance.

The church in the 1980s, photographed by Hardwicke Knight

The former church in 2014, with flats at left

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 22 January 1868 p.5 (establishment of mission work), 21 April 1897 p.3 (opening of church building).

Other references:
‘Plan for Chinese Mission Hall’. Salmond Anderson Architects Records, Hocken Collections, MS-3821/3657.
‘Register (Fasti) of New Zealand Presbyterian Ministers, Deaconesses and Missionaries 1840 to 2009′, retrieved 21 April 2014 from Archives Research Centre, Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, http://www.archives.presbyterian.org.nz/page143.htm
Cochrane, Donald. ‘The Story of the New Zealand Chinese Mission 1867 to 1952′, retrieved 21 April 2014 from Archives Research Centre, Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, http://www.archives.presbyterian.org.nz/missions/nzchinesehistory.htm
Irvine, Susan. ‘”Teacher” Don: The Mission to the Chinese in Otago’ in Building’s God’s Own Country: Historical Essays on Religion in New Zealand (Dunedin: University of Otago Press, 2004), pp.153-166.
McNeur, George Hunter. The Church and the Chinese in New Zealand (Dunedin: Presbyterian Bookroom, 1951).
Ng, James. ‘The Missioner’ in Windows on a Chinese Past (Dunedin: Otago Heritage Books, 1995), vol. 2, pp.136-191.
Ng, James. ‘Rev. Alexander Don: His “Good Harvest” Being Reaped at Last’ in Otago Daily Times, 24 September 1983 p.24.

RSA Building (Arrow House)

Built: 1920-1921 (additions completed 1938, 1946)
Address: 469 Moray Place
Architect: William Henry Dunning (additions by Miller & White)
Builders: Fletcher Construction Co.

Living in extended peacetime and the relative indulgence of the modern middle class, I find it difficult to imagine how the soldiers who returned from the First World War adjusted to life back in Dunedin, let alone what they had been through on active service. It was only natural that many, though not all, wanted to preserve social bonds they had formed and build new ones based on common experiences. The need for a soldiers’ club was recognised early in the war, and in 1915 a group from the Otago Boys’ High School Old Boys’ Association purchased Atahapara, the two-storeyed former residence of the historian and long-serving local coroner Dr Thomas Morland Hocken (1836-1910).  Here on the corner of Moray Place and Burlington (formerly Macandrew) Street, they began the Anzac Soldiers’ Club, and Hocken’s old residence became known as Anzac House.

The cover of the sheet music for ‘When the Boys Come Home’, a song written and composed in Dunedin about the return of soldiers from the First World War.

A larger national organisation, the New Zealand Returned Soldiers’ Association, formed in 1916 and quickly grew a large membership. In January 1918 a local committee was put together for the purpose of procuring a site and erecting a memorial club building. The architect W.H. Dunning prepared plans for a site on the corner of Moray Place and View Street, and a drive to raise funds was begun. The Anzac Club then bowed out, going into voluntary liquidation and offering its property to the RSA. Dunning’s plans for new buildings on the Anzac House site were approved in April 1919, and in March 1920 a description was published in the Otago Daily Times:

The club will be-a two-storeyed edifice in the modern renaissance style, and will be carried out in brick, finished with concrete. The frontage to Moray place will be 34ft,  to Burlington street 87ft. The entrance will be at the corner of these streets, and will give access to a wide vestibule, on the right of which will be the reading room, with the offices on the left. The hall leading from the vestibule will give access to the canteen and tea lounge on the ground floor, and to the billiard, board, and common rooms, by means of a wide staircase, on the upper floor. The canteen is to be lighted by a dome roof, and will have a cosy inglenook round the wide tiled fireplace. This may also be used later as a supper room in connection with the social hall, which will be built subsequently, or when funds permit. The spacious tea lounge will be 40ft by 24ft in area, and this will give access by French doors to a covered verandah, occupying nearly the whole length of the Burlington street frontage. A very complete kitchen and servery will be attached to the lounge, and also to the canteen. The billiard room upstairs will be sufficiently large to accommodate four full-sized tables. Hot and cold showers will also be provided upstairs; in fact, the sanitary arrangements throughout the building are to be of the most complete and up-to-date character. The hall, which it is intended to annex to the building at a later date, will be provided with a stage and eating accommodation, up and down stairs, for about 400 people. The exterior decoration of the building, without being of a very elaborate order, will be most imposing, and, with the advantage of a wide street frontage, the clubhouse will have a most imposing and monumental appearance, of which our soldiers and the city generally may well be proud.

General Sir William Riddell Birdwood laid the foundation stone on 12 June 1920, and J.H. Walker (chairman of the fundraising committee) officially opened the completed building on 24 June 1921. The Fletcher Construction Co. were the builders and the cost was £8,500.

The building covered a site essentially triangular in shape. The style of architecture was transitional, and reminiscent of other Dunning designs including Barton’s Buildings (Stafford House) and the Albany Street flats. Columns, pilasters, cornices, rustication, and decorative mouldings suggest a stylised take on the Renaissance Revival manner, and the term ‘Renaissance’ is found in reports about both this building and Barton’s Buildings.

The Burlington Street elevation as it originally appeared, prior to additions and alterations.

The original ground floor plan.

Additions were made 1938, when the ground floor social hall was extended down Burlington Street. The steepness of the street and the rock beneath the additions gave a striking effect to the enlarged structure. The architects were Miller & White, who effectively worked in the existing style, possibly based on drawings left by Dunning, who had died some years earlier. The same firm designed more extensive additions in 1944, but these were not completed for another two years. They extended the first floor to the same extent as the earlier addition, making space for another billiard room. At the same time a miniature rifle range and assembly room were built beneath a new roof structure, increasing the height to three storeys, though the top floor was set back and obscured from the street. Existing internal spaces were also rearranged making room for a lounge, women members’ room, committee room, and recreation and games room. The work was carried out by Mitchell Bros and the redeveloped building was opened by Sir Donald Cameron (Mayor of Dunedin) on 18 December 1946. The redevelopment cost a little over £20,000.

A large fire broke out in the early morning of 17 April 1962. The building was so extensively damaged that the Otago Daily Times initially described it as being destroyed. The following day it was reported that ‘apart from repair work, little structural rebuilding will be necessary on the first floor…but the second floor and roof will have to be rebuilt’. The cost of the damage was estimated at £60,000. Extensive reinstatement work was designed by N.Y.A. Wales (of Mason & Wales). A  small corner tower and other masonry and detail at parapet level were removed, and the reinstated rifle range or indoor bowling space on the second floor featured sloping glazed walls. The building was officially reopened on 6 April 1963. Around the same time the RSA acquired the freehold of the land (previously held leasehold from the Presbyterian Church Board of Property).

The next major renovations were carried out between 1971 and 1972 at a cost of approximately $70,000 to $80,000. It was reported that the work ‘will modernise the clubrooms, turning the second floor into an area for social activities and extending the charter activities throughout the first floor, except for the offices and reading room’.  A permit for glassing in the balcony was issued in 1978. After facing a financial crisis, the Dunedin RSA sold and vacated the building in 1996. In 2009 it was extensively refitted as commercial office space for owners Beach Road Limited (Grant McLauchlan). It was subsequently renamed Arrow House after its anchor tenant, Arrow International.

It is many years since the RSA occupied the building, but although it is not an official memorial like the nearby cenotaph in Queens Gardens, it remains a significant built connection to the soldiers who served in conflicts overseas.RSA_MorayPlaceRSA_MorayPlace3Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 23 October 1915 p.5 (Soldiers’ Club House), 14 January 1916 p.8 (Anzac Soldiers’ Club), 29 December 1917 p.8 (sketch plans by Dunning), 24 September 1917 p.4 (liquidation of Anzac Soldiers’ Club), 21 January 1918 p.2 (plans for Moray Place and View Street site), 24 April 1919 p.8 (plans approved), 27 March 1920 p.6 (description), 14 June 1920 p.6 (laying of foundation stone), 19 December 1946 p.8 (opening of new wing), 17 April 1962 p.1 (fire), 18 April 1962 p.1 (fire), 19 April 1962 p.5 (fire), 6 April 1963 p.10 (opening of reinstated and redeveloped buildings), 8 May 1963 p.1 (purchase of land), 28 March 1995 p.1 (future of building to be debated), 13 August 1996 p.4 (RSA vote to sell buildings), 18 February 2009 p.22 (Beach Road Ltd redevelopment); Evening Star, 24 May 1921 p.7 (opening)

Other references:
Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters’ Associations of New Zealand, block plans, 1927
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)

 

Otago Education Board offices (Reed’s Building)

Built: 1897-1898
Address: 33 Jetty Street
Architect: John Somerville (1834-1905)
Builders: Day labour and contracts overseen by Adam Nichol (clerk of works)

Two few years ago this Victorian office building was close to demolition, but Lawrie Forbes took it on and now the building has cheerier prospects thanks to the essential structural and maintenance work he has carried out. It’s for sale again, awaiting the next chapter in a colourful story that has already seen it used as the administrative headquarters for school education in Otago, the head office of a major publishing firm, and the premises of seed merchants, artists, an experimental dentist, and many more besides.

In the mid 1870s a few sheds on stilts occupied the site, which was then on the foreshore where the old jetty (after which Jetty Street is named) met Crawford Street. The city block we know today was reclaimed a few years later, but by the early 1890s there were still no permanent structures on it apart from the Harbour Board’s building. Between 1896 and 1897 the large Agricultural Hall complex was erected, and soon afterwards followed the corner building that is the subject of this post. It was built as office accommodation for the Otago Education Board and was designed by the board’s architect, John Somerville. I haven’t found the original specification, but Somerville detailed his recommendations in a letter dated 16 June 1897. The foundations were to be concrete, the timbers mostly rimu and kauri, and the walls brick. The estimated cost was £2,000. A clerk of works, Adam Nichol, was employed to oversee the construction carried out by day labourers (employed directly by the board) and contractors.

Work began in July 1897 when the Otago Witness described the proposed structure as a plain but handsome one, on one of the best sites in the city, that would ‘complete a block of fine buildings, and add very materially to the architectural beauty of the locality’. The report described the interior arrangements, which at this point were planned around a main entrance on Crawford Street: ‘Entering from this street, there will be a large vestibule (10ft by 16ft), to be used by the public, the business being transacted, as is now the practice at the board’s office, through a sliding window, communicating with the clerks’ room. On the right will be the board room (26ft by 19ft), and on the left the clerks’ office (33ft by 17ft), and off this the strong room will be situated. At the rear will be the secretary’s office (18ft by 17ft), which will communicate with the clerks’ room, and behind this again will be the inspector’s room (23ft by 14ft). A store room for school appliances is provided for in the plans, as also are lavatories, which are to be fitted up on the most modern and approved principles. Ascending the staircase, which is to be 10ft wide, the upper floor will be reached by two flights of stairs. This floor will practically be a duplicate of the ground floor. Two of the rooms are intended for the architect, another is to be used as a store room for the board’s records, stationery, &c, and the remaining rooms are already leased to one of our public bodies. The rooms on the ground floor will be 16ft high, and those on the upper floor 15ft. Ventilation and lighting will also be satisfactorily attended to. The building is to be built of brick with cement facings, and the brickwork is to be tuck-pointed, in keeping with the Agricultural Buildings.’

The architectural style is essentially Renaissance Revival, perhaps transitioning to Queen Anne. Tall, round-headed windows at ground level are a distinctive feature. Pediments (made from Oamaru stone), pilasters, quoins, and other mouldings have been used in a conventional and effective way, though the parapet may be a little heavy-looking for the relatively understated composition and shallow profiles below. The overall effect is dignified and the generous proportions are highlighted by contrast with the neighbouring Harbour Board building.

Facade detail showing profiles.

Controversy plagued the development of the building. The first and most serious row was when Somerville changed the position of the entrance from Crawford Street to Jetty Street (to allow for a better ground floor layout) without getting committee approval. Somerville claimed he acted on the instructions of the secretary, Patrick Pryde, who in turn denied it. Pryde was a divisive and allegedly autocratic figure with strong supporters and detractors among both teachers and elected officials. The committee was already characterised by its squabbling, and the incident set off yet another round of arguing and point scoring. An inquiry was held into the unauthorised alteration, the strained relations between architect and secretary, and the truthfulness of the claims that had been made. This was reported at length in newspapers, with articles including little moments such as: ‘Mr Ramsay made some inaudible remark, to which Mr J.F.M. Fraser replied: I’m not addressing you, Mr Ramsay; you are somewhat too insignificant for me’. The eventual resolution was to reprimand both Pryde and Somerville.

More trouble came about over the bricks used in the building and the way in which they were procured by the architect, with further suggestion of lack of due process. Pressed machine-cut bricks were only produced locally by C. & W. Gore at Wingatui, however, the architect found difficulty in obtaining a sufficient supply at a good price. The cost of brick was about to rise and this led to some urgent decision making. Handmade wire-cut bricks were obtained from three different suppliers (including Shiel’s at Caversham) to begin the building work. The structure was carried up to a ‘considerable height’ with the common bricks, and pressed bricks from Gore Bros were obtained for the later part of the construction. This meant the facades were cemented rather than the outer course of bricks being tuck-pointed and left exposed, which would have matched the neighbouring Agricultural Hall (later His Majesty’s Theatre). A Te Papa image gives a partial view of the building in November 1897, before the brickwork was rendered.

By the end of 1897 building had progressed to the point where plumbing and plastering work was being carried out. Yet more controversy occurred when the clerk of works, Adam Nichol, was dismissed from the board’s service as the project drew to an end. The committee argued about whether or not he should have been retained for further building projects. They had opted to minimise the amount of contract work used on the project and Nichol’s role was consequently more significant than his title might suggest. According to one board member (J.J. Ramsay, a supporter of Nichol’s): ‘If a job of the magnitude of the board’s offices were being carried out by contract a clerk of works would be employed for that job alone at a larger salary than Mr Nichol receives; and yet Mr Nichol has been doing the work of the contractor in addition to that of clerk of works — setting-off the building, making the moulds, selecting the material, and conducting the whole work.’  Nichol died suddenly a few months later, while on inspection work at the goldfields.

The wide main staircase was built with kauri timbers by William Bragg.

The wide main staircase was built with kauri timbers by William Bragg.

Staircase and other woodwork.

A decorated plaster ceiling in the largest of the ground floor rooms. Key and Ashton were the contractors for this work.

On 26 April 1898 the Otago Daily Times reported that ‘Eduction Board officials were busily engaged yesterday and on Saturday last in removing to the new offices between the Agricultural Buildings and the Harbour Board’. The final cost was reported as £3189, which was over a third more than the original estimate. Contractors included William Bragg for the staircase, Key & Ashton for plastering, and Scott & Hodges for plumbing. The Architect’s Department letter books held in the Hocken Collections record detail of the various labourers employed.

The Education Board retained offices in the building for 27 years, and the Otago High Schools’ Office also had rooms. In 1925 it was purchased for £5,000 by A.H. Reed, for his business the Sunday School Supplies Stores, which he had established in 1907. He let part of the ground floor to the Atlas Insurance Company, and upstairs rooms to an accountant and the Otago Council of Sunday School Unions. Gavin McLean, in his history of Reed Books, writes that the ‘debt burden worried the Reeds, but they had good tenants and the Reeds Building, prominently displayed on letterheads and emblazoned with their names, gave them a feeling of security, while stamping their presence firmly on the bookselling and publishing scene’. In 1932 A.W. (Clif) Reed became a partner and opened a Wellington branch, and the firm diversified from predominantly religious publications into secular fiction and non-fiction. The company ultimately became New Zealand’s largest publishing house. A.H. Reed closed the Dunedin office in 1940 but retained ownership of the Jetty Street building for a few more years. A.H. & A.W. Reed (as it was then known) consolidated on its Wellington operations. Alfred was a prolific author in his later years and famously walked from Cape Reinga to Bluff when he was 85 years old (one of a number of walking feats). He died in 1975 at the age of 99.

Cradle roll certificate featuring huia, produced by A.H. Reed. Image kindly supplied by the New Zealand Presbyterian Archives Research Centre.

A.H. Reed in 1956. Ref: Negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. EP/1956/0388-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23103662

In 1945 the building was purchased by John Stuart Skinner (1894-1983), a Gallipoli veteran and prominent Dunedin businessman who served as president of the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce. Skinner was a seed and grain merchant and had established his firm J.S. Skinner & Co. in 1924, with offices in the neighbouring Donald Reid & Co. building. He later recalled: ‘At the end of hostilities Donald Reid & Co. informed me that with staff returning they would require all the upstairs office space and while there was no immediate haste to leave they suggested I look for other premises. As I had been offered Reed’s building next door a year previously I wasted no time in getting in touch with Mr Reed and completed the purchase the same day to our mutual satisfaction at the original price of three thousand five hundred pounds.’ Skinner & Co. vacated the building around 1979  but continued in business until the firm was acquired by Combined Rural Traders (CRT) in 1996. The building was known as ‘Skinner’s Building’ during this time and was still listed under this name in Wise’s directory as late as 1995. Skinner’s tenants included the Atlas Assurance Company (which was in the building c.1925-1958), company agents and secretaries, insurance agents, John Roberts Laidlaw (sharebroker, c.1946-1956), F. Meredith & Co. (indent agents, c.1968-1983), and A.S. Falconer (grain and seed broker, c.1945-1959). Brigadier Alexander Smith Falconer (1892-1966) had served as commanding officer of the 23rd Infantry Battalion in the Second World War.

Doors to first-floor offices.

From the 1980s the use of the building shifted more to residential and studio use. Artists with rooms in the building included Jeffrey Harris, Dave Sarich, Faith McManus, and Fleur Yorsten. Bryan Spittle (of the band Mink) lived in the building in the early 1990s. The experimental dentist Donald Ritchie (1912-1996) also worked and later lived on the premises. He advocated a method he called ‘trace mineral therapy’ to combat tooth decay and had earlier developed a mineral-based powder called Dentamin, which he was not permitted to sell in shops.

Despite many changes of use, the building retains much of its original character. Two ground floor window openings have been lowered to create a second entrance from Jetty Street (at the corner, altered in 1935), and a further entrance on Crawford Street. A pediment has been removed from the Crawford Street facade at parapet level. The interior has decorative ceiling plasterwork, original doors, skirtings, picture rails, architraves etc. (with varnished finishes), and the original generously-proportioned principal staircase with turned balusters and curved rail. Original fireplace surrounds have been removed, but exposed openings or replacement surrounds generally remain. A strongroom is still in place in the first floor, as does a smaller vaulted storeroom. Various internal changes include the addition of mezzanine levels and kitchens.

Lawrie Forbes purchased the building in 2012 and has carried out emergency works to bring the structure to a level of code compliance. Subsidence had badly compromised the south party wall, where the adjoining frontage of His Majesty’s Theatre was demolished in the 1970s. Forbes has significantly strengthened the structure by rebuilding this, and obtained financial assistance from the Dunedin Heritage Fund to carry out the work. What’s next? Take a look at the property listing – you might have some ideas!

Both levels were built with high ceilings.

There were numerous fireplaces, all of which have been modified. This register looks as though it might be one of the originals.

A vaulted store room. There is also a separate strong room on the first floor.

Acknowledgment:
Thanks to Lawrie Forbes (Zealsteel) for providing access to the building.

Newspaper references:
D Scene 16 February 2011 (‘Building may be demolished’); Evening Star, 17 September 1897 (to the editor), 24 January 1898 (editorial); Otago Witness, 25 August 1897 p.36 (Education Board Enquiry), 30 September 1897 p.29 (editorial – ‘twopenny squabbles’), 30 September 1897 p.36 (to the editor), 7 October 1897 p.18 (to the editor); Otago Daily Times, 2 September 1897 p.3 (‘Education Board’), 4 September 1897 p.4 (editorial), 6 September 1897 pp.3-4 (to the editor), 9 September 1897 p.3 (to the editor), 17 September 1897 p.4 (meeting report), 18 September 1897 p.6 (letter to the editor re bricks), 25 September 1897 p.6 (to the editor re bricks), 28 September 1897 p.6 (to the editor re bricks), 22 October 1897 p.4 (to the editor re bricks), 17 December 1897 p.6 (inspector of works), 21 January 1898 p.4 (inspector of works), 3 February 1898 p.3 (to the editor – ‘A Shameful Transaction’), 3 February 1898 p.4 (editorial), 7 February 1898 p.3 (to the editor), 8 February 1898 p.3 (to the editor), 9 February 1898 p.3 (to the editor), 12 February 1898 pp.3, 6 (to the editor), 14 February 1898 p.3 (to the editor), 18 February 1898 p.4 (to the editor), 21 April 1898 p.7 (busyness), 28 October 1966 p.8 (obituary for A.S. Falconer), 20 December 1983 (obituary for J.S. Skinner),  24 September 1996 p.5 (obituary for Doanld Bruce Ritchie), 8 August 2012 p.7 (‘“Huge job” of restoring Reed’s Building starts’), 31 January 2014 (‘Developer to sell historic building he saved’); Tuapeka Times, 28 August 1897 p.3 ‘Dunedin Gossip’), 4 September 1897 p.3 (‘Dunedin Gossip’), 18 September 1897 p.3 (‘Dunedin Gossip’).

Other references:
Stone’s, Wise’s, and telephone directories
Baré, Robert, City of Dunedin Block Plans. (Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, [1889])
Calvert, Samuel, engraver after Albert C. Cook, ‘Dunedin’, supplement to the Illustrated New Zealand Herald, July 1875.
Jones, F. Oliver, Structural Plans of the City of Dunedin NZ, ‘Ignis et Aqua’ series, [1892].
McLean, Gavin. Whare Raupo: The Reed Books Story (Dunedin: Reed Publishing, 2007), pp.19-60.
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)
Otago Education Board, ‘Contract book’ (Hocken Collections AG-294-30/12)
Otago Education Board, ‘Architect’s Department letter books’ (Hocken Collections AG-294-39/09, AG-294-39/10, AG-294-39/11)
Otago Education Board, ‘Scrapbook’ (Hocken Collections AG-294-18/02)
‘John Stuart Skinner: An account of his life written during 1976-1978’ (Hocken Collections Misc-MS-1000)