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)

Thomas Bedford Cameron, architect

Born: Scotland, 1836/1837
Died: Wellington, New Zealand, 8 July 1894

When T.B. Cameron arrived in Dunedin in 1878 he was already an experienced architect in his forties. He worked here for over ten years, but as Hardwicke Knight and Niel Wales tell us in Buildings of Dunedin (1988), ‘apart from the Caversham Presbyterian Church in the 1880s, little is known about him’. A few other things surface from time to time: Cameron submitted the winning entry in the design competition for the Dunedin Town Hall (though R.A. Lawson’s design was ultimately used), and earlier worked in Auckland and Victoria. His role as designer of the Queen’s Arms Hotel (now Empire Tavern) in Dunedin came to notice during the New Zealand Historic Places Trust’s registration of that building in 2012.

What follows is something of a ‘greatest hits’ summary that pulls together a little of Cameron’s story and begins the exploration of his career that is overdue. Although my focus is his Dunedin work, his Auckland career probably produced a greater number of substantial buildings and I would be very interested to hear from anyone with local knowledge or further information about the Auckland and Australian projects listed at the end of this post. Unfortunately, biographical information is elusive. If his sketchy death registration is correct, then Thomas Cameron was born in Scotland in 1836 or 1837. His parents’ names are not recorded on the document, and another blank space suggests that he never married. His middle name, Bedford, is likely a clue to his ancestry, even if he added it when he was a young man to distinguish himself from the many other Thomas Camerons running about the place.

The ‘Star’ newspaper offices (1860), Ballarat. Image: State Library of Victoria H26066, Simon & Bardwell photographers.

The synagogue at Ballarat (1861). Image: State Library of Victoria H2051, Simon & Bardwell photographers.

Former Creswick Presbyterian Church (1861). Image: J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H94.200/1258.

Like some of Dunedin’s other nineteenth-century architects, Cameron migrated from Britain to Victoria, where he worked for a few years before moving on to New Zealand. The earliest documentary reference I found about him was in the Ballarat Star of 13 September 1858, when ‘T.B. Cameron & Co.’ of 1 Bridge Street, called for tenders for additions and alterations to Dr James Stewart’s cottage. I don’t know who the ‘& Co’ were (if anyone), but this tag soon disappeared from Cameron’s notices. If his death record is correct then he would have been in his early twenties at this time, but this is a little difficult to reconcile with a later claim that he had ‘Long practical experience in the Home Country’. In November 1858  he ran the following advertisement:

T.B. CAMERON, Architect &c, 2 Bridge street, Main Road, opposite Humphrey’s Stationery Depot, is prepared to supply plans, specifications, &c, for cottages, shops, warehouses, &c, on the shortest notice, and to guarantee that no building when finished according to the plans will exceed the contract price.

An early project was a hotel with concert rooms in Lydiard Street, built for D. Jones in 1859. Over the next four years Cameron designed many buildings in Ballarat, and also at Creswick, sixteen kilometres to the north. These included the Ballarat Synagogue, which survives today and for which Cameron’s name is still known. Cameron designed the Star newspaper offices, Welsh chapel, Presbyterian church at Creswick, numerous two-storey commercial buildings, and private residences for John Coghill, Theophilus Williams, and others. For a year, from 1861 to 1862, Cameron served as Creswick’s Town Engineer.

In 1864 Cameron moved to Auckland, where he worked for the next thirteen years. He won the design competition for St James Presbyterian Church in Wellington Street, a large Gothic Revival timber building that stood until 1963. He also designed Presbyterian churches at Devonport and Wanganui, the latter being both constructed and destroyed (by fire) in 1868. Cameron was responsible for the design of the Star Hotel in Albert Street, built in 1865, and in 1877 he designed its redevelopment, although only the first stage was completed. Typical features of Cameron’s street elevations were round-headed windows which were relatively wide in proportion to their height. Cameron was briefly in partnership with the architect Arthur W. Burrows from 1865 to 1866.

St James’ Presbyterian Church (1864-1865), Wellington Street, Auckland. The building was demolished in 1963. Image: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-3542.

Royal Mail Hotel, Auckland. Image: James D. Richardson, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-RIC37.

The old Star Hotel in Auckland (right) and what was intended as the first portion of its replacement (left). The hotel was demolished in the early 1980s. Image: Sam Cope (1985) Star Hotel, Albert Street. Copied from postcard lent by H. Hanlon. Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tamaki Paenga Hira, M598.

The only partially realised concept for the rebuilding of the Star Hotel. Image: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A5814.

In 1877, at the other end of the colony, a competition was held for the design of the Dunedin Town Hall, and Cameron entered an imposing classical design with corner tower under the pseudonym ‘In Haste’. In July the Town Hall Committee awarded him first place ahead of prominent local architect R.A. Lawson and seven other entrants. The committee reported that Cameron ‘conformed more nearly to the conditions of the competition than any of the other competitors; and with the exception of the arrangement of the offices for the departments, the design generally possesses considerable merit’. Lawson was appointed supervising architect in September, but as the project had to be scaled back to meet its reduced budget of £7,000, he was asked to make major alterations. The committee had admired Lawson’s front elevations, and agreed that he could adapt his own design rather than Cameron’s. The project was politically controversial, as it was argued that the Town Hall was a luxury the city could do without. Lawson’s finished building included the municipal offices and clock tower, but it would be over 50 years before a public auditorium was added.

Wood engraving of Cameron’s winning design for the Dunedin Town Hall, published in Illustrated Australian News, 3 October 1877. Image: State Library of Victoria IAN03/10/77/156.

Despite the disappointment, or perhaps in part because of it, Cameron decided to move to Dunedin in 1878. There was vigorous building activity in the city and the Town Hall competition would have brought his name to the attention of prospective clients. One of his first commissions was William Gregg’s store and coffee processing building in lower Rattray (now Fryatt) Street. In 1879 he designed two hotels (the Queen’s Arms and the Robert Burns) as well as at least two double-storey houses. Business did not go according to plan, however, as in 1879 Cameron was declared bankrupt with debts of over £600.

The W. Gregg & Co. store and coffee processing building (1878), which still stands in Fryatt Street. The round-headed windows with flanking pilasters are typical of Cameron. Image: advertisement from ‘Beautiful Dunedin’ by W.H. Fahey (1906).

The Empire (originally Queen’s Arms) Hotel in Princes Street. This image was by Hardwicke Knight around 1960, before most of the decoration was removed from the facade.

Detail showing the partially obscured facade of the Robert Burns Hotel (1879). From Hardwicke Knight’s ‘Early Dunedin Photographs’ (1984).

The early 1880s were Cameron’s most productive years in Dunedin. His designs included a three-storey terrace for Mrs Muir in Moray Place, as well as her two-storey house in View Street, and another three-storey terrace nearby for Robert Murray. There were two investment properties for Albert Dornwell, and other commercial work included shops for Denis Heenan and the Woodhaugh Hotel. One of Cameron’s grandest masonry houses was Appin, built for Angus Cameron of the Union Steam Ship Company, and he almost certainly designed Septimus Myers’ large wooden villa ‘Ivanhoe’ in North East Valley, and a similarly proportioned residence for John McCormick in Queen Street. Recurring features of Cameron’s designs from this period include prominent (usually flat) window hoods, and slender curved pilasters that sometime look a little out of proportion to the rest of the building. A few buildings featured square pilasters with circular decorations at the centre of the shafts. The Queens Arms and Robert Burns hotels were given slightly ungainly parapet decoration, but other commercial buildings were elegantly proportioned. Peter Entwisle cites Gladstone Terrace as evidence that Cameron was an erudite and accomplished designer.

Denis Heenan' buildings in George Street, built as additions to a David Ross desogn, and recently identified as Cameron's work by Peter Entwisle. Bold parapet ornamentation has been removed.

Denis Heenan’ buildings (1880) in George Street, built as addition to a David Ross design but with redesigned facades, and recently identified as Cameron’s work by Peter Entwisle. Bold parapet ornamentation has been removed.

John McCormick’s residence (1881), Queen Street. Ornate bargeboards and gothic arches on the verandah are features of this house.

Gladstone (Moray) Terrace, Moray Place. The exterior of the building is well preserved, except that shop fronts have been put in on the ground floor.

Chicksands (1883), the residence of Mrs Amelia Muir. It was designed to compliment Mrs Muir’s terrace next door.

Terrace in Moray Place (1880-1881) built for Robert Murray. The use of decorative wrought iron is striking. The building was demolished in the 1940s. Image: Te Papa O.034104. Burton Bros photographers.

Appin (1881-1882), Leith Street, on part of the site now occupied by University College. The bargeboards were again a bold feature. Image: Muir & Moodie, Cameron family papers, Hocken Collections, MS-1046/452 (S12-614).

Two-storey ‘tenement’ block at the corner of Frederick and Leith streets. The building was demolished in the 1970s. Photograph by Hardwicke Knight.

Woodhaugh Hotel (1881-1882).The original blind balustrades have been truncated, and a small corner pediment removed. The rounded corners of the first-floor windows are unusual for a Dunedin building.

The Caversham Presbyterian Church is the only church building in Dunedin I have been able to attribute to Cameron. This prominent local landmark includes Romanesque features, and was described as Norman in a newspaper report that was likely informed by the architect. These features include a broad low-pitched roof and round-headed windows. The overall impression, however, is of a free (eclectic) style, and the building also draws from Gothic influences and colonial Victorian design, while its steeple is reminiscent of the Neo-Classical designs of Sir Christopher Wren. Knight and Wales found the building charming, though with something of a wedding-cake appearance. Its unique and imaginative design give it special significance among Dunedin’s suburban church buildings. When the foundation stone was laid on 21 October 1882 the minister (Rev. Fraser) said: ‘This is supposed to be an age of culture, and an aesthetic age…Public buildings are the common property of all, and more so are the homes of the people. If this is so, what an influence for good must handsome buildings and beautiful surroundings have upon the minds of the people’.

Caversham Presbyterian Church (1882)

Caversham Presbyterian Church (1882)

If newspapers are an accurate indication, Cameron’s activity declined dramatically from 1885, and he was again bankrupted in 1886. This came with a general slump in building activity during the Long Depression, which led other architects (including R.A. Lawson) to leave Dunedin. Cameron’s later commissions here included a ‘large hall’ in Moray Place in 1888 (possibly the Palace Roller Skating Rink), and an as yet unidentified ten-room villa in 1889. In 1891 he was the successful competitor for the design of the Kaitangata Borough Council chambers, but this project appears not to have been realised.

Around 1893 Cameron moved to Wellington, and the following year he placed second in the competition to design the memorial to the late New Zealand Premier John Ballance. He kept a low public profile and one of the few things I found about him from this period was that he was a member of the Terrace Congregational Church.  After suffering from pneumonia for a week, Thomas Cameron passed away at Wellington Hospital on 8 July 1894, aged 57. Apparently leaving no family, and with no identifiable photograph of him known, his buildings must speak of his life.

Courtesy of Martina and Andrew Kelly.

Ivanhoe, North Road, North East Valley. Image courtesy of Martina and Andrew Kelly.

A recent image of Ivanhoe.

Commercial building (1885) at the corner of Moray Place and George Street. It was demolished in the early 1980s. Original parapet decoration had been removed by the time this photograph was taken by Hardwicke Knight in the 1970s. The Palladian windows are similar to the one used at Appin.

Selected works:

      • 1858. Additions and alterations to cottage for Dr James Stewart, Ballarat
      • 1859. Hotel building in Lydiard Street, Ballarat
      • 1859. Welsh Chapel, Ballarat.
      • 1859-1860. Warehouse for A.H. King, Ballarat
      • 1860. Offices for Star newspaper, Sturt Street, Ballarat
      • 1860. Warehouse for John Webster, Creswick
      • 1860. Shop and residence for Wittkowski Bros, Ballarat
      • 1860. Sexton’s lodge, Creswick New Cemetery
      • 1860. Two shops for Mr Martin, Albert Street, Creswick
      • 1860. Two brick shops for Mader Bros, Creswick
      • 1860. Chapel at Slaughterman’s Hill for Bible Christian Association
      • 1860. Two-storey brick premises for Thomas Anthony, Creswick
      • 1860. Brick shop and warehouse for Mr McLeod, Creswick
      • 1860. Two-storey brick premises for Mr Hassell, Creswick
      • 1860-1861. Brick villa for John Coghill, near Ascot
      • 1861. Stone and brick premises for Raphael Bros, Ballarat
      • 1861. Two-storey stone and brick premises for Godfrey & Abrahams, Ballarat
      • 1861. Synagogue, Ballarat*
      • 1861. Presbyterian Church (later St Andrew’s Uniting Church), Creswick*
      • 1861. Stone and brick shops for Rees & Benjamin, Sturt and Lydiard streets, Ballarat
      • 1861. Stone villa for Theophilus Williams
      • 1861. Six-roomed cottage for Dr Daniels, Creswick
      • 1861. Brick premises for Mr Dawson, Bridge Street, Ballarat
      • 1862. Premises for Hepburn & Leonard, Lydiard Street, Ballarat
      • 1862. Stone and brick premises for William Young, Soldiers Hill
      • 1863. Four two-storey shops for Mr Martin, Main Road, Ballarat
      • 1863. Presbyterian manse, Smeaton
      • 1864. Two-storey residence for J. Phillips, Onehunga
      • 1864. Music Hall for George Dalrymple, Wellesley Street, Auckland
      • 1864-1865. St James Presbyterian Church, Wellington Street, Auckland
      • 1865. Two-storey shops and residences, Wellesley Street, Auckland
      • 1865. Eight two-storey shops and residences, Grey and Pitt streets, Auckland
      • 1865. Four two-storey shops and residences, Drake Street, Auckland
      • 1865. Three storey stone and brick warehouse, Albert Street, Auckland
      • 1865. William Rattray’s building (two storeys), Shortland Street, Auckland
      • 1865. Eight two-storey buildings (shops and residences), Grey and Pitt streets, Auckland
      • 1865. Union Hotel (two-storey brick premises), Queen Street, Auckland
      • 1865, 1877. Star Hotel, Albert Street, Auckland
      • 1865-1866. Store for Dingwall, Albert Street, Auckland
      • 1866. Hotel building, O’Neill’s Point, North Shore.
      • 1867. St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Devonport
      • 1867-1868. Presbyterian Church, Wanganui
      • 1870. Royal Mail Hotel, Victoria and Elliott streets, Auckland
      • 1873-1874. Premises for George Quick & Co., Elliott Street, Auckland
      • 1874. Shops for Greenway, High and Durham streets, Auckland
      • 1875. Block of brick buildings for Joseph Craig, Fort Street, Auckland*
      • 1876. Two-storey residence for C. Greenaway, Hobson Street, Auckland
      • 1876. Brick buildings/Post Office Hotel? in Shortland Street, Auckland (site QCE  Hotel)
      • 1876. Warehouse for T. Hartley, Durham Street, Auckland
      • 1878. W. Gregg & Co. store, Rattray Street, Dunedin*
      • 1879. Robert Burns Hotel, George Street, Dunedin*
      • 1879. Residence for Mr Copland, Peel Street, Lawrence
      • 1879. Two-storey residence in Scotland Street, Dunedin
      • 1879. Two-storey stone and brick residence, Queen Street, Dunedin
      • 1879. Queens Arms Hotel (later Empire Hotel), Princes Street, Dunedin*
      • 1880. Stone and brick shop for Denis Heenan, George Street, Dunedin.
      • 1880. Four villa residences for Lewis Lyons, Ravensbourne, Dunedin
      • 1880-1881. Two-storey premises, malthouse etc., Keast & McCarthy Dunedin Brewery
      • 1880-1881. Terrace for Amelia Muir, Moray Place, Dunedin*
      • 1880-1881. Terrace for Robert Murray, Moray Place, Dunedin
      • 1881. Residence for John McCormick, Queen Street North, Dunedin*
      • 1881-1882. Two-storey residence (Appin) for Angus Cameron, Leith Street, Dunedin
      • 1881-1882. Woodhaugh Hotel for Mr James, Dunedin*
      • 1882. Kincaid & McQueen offices, Great King Street, Eunedin
      • 1882. Two-storey brick premises, Duke Street, Dunedin
      • 1882. Presbyterian Church, Caversham, Dunedin*
      • 1882. Two-storey tenements Frederick and Leith streets for Albert Dornwell
      • 1882. Villa residence for Captain Graham, Musselburgh, Dunedin
      • 1882. Villa residence for Mr Kilmartin, Opoho, Dunedin
      • 1882. Villa residence for Mr Keast, Maori Hill, Dunedin
      • 1883. Two-storey residence for Amelia Muir, View Street, Dunedin*
      • 1883. Main Road, South Dunedin, Mr Campbell.
      • 1884. Two-storey brick tenements, George Street, Dunedin
      • 1884. Nine-room residence, St Clair, Dunedin
      • 1885. Brick shops (two stories) for Albert Dornwell, George Street, Dunedin*
      • 1885. Brick shops (two stories), George Street and Moray Place, Dunedin
      • c.1885. Ivanhoe (Myers residence), North Road, North East Valley, Dunedin
      • 1886. Reinstatement of villa residence for Walter Guthrie, Manor Place, Dunedin
      • 1888. Large hall, Moray Place, Dunedin
      • 1888. Brick residence, Walker Street, Dunedin

*indicates buildings still standing

Newspaper references:
Newspapers consulted through Trove, Paper Past, and microfilm, were the Star (Ballarat), Daily Southern Cross (Auckland), New Zealand Herald (Auckland), Otago Daily Times (Dunedin), Otago Witness (Dunedin), Evening Star (Dunedin), Tuapeka Times (Lawrence), and Evening Post (Wellington). There are too many individual references to list here, but feel free to request specific information.

Other references:
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]
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
‘Caversham Presbyterian Church, 61 Thorn Street, Dunedin’. New Zealand Historic Place Trust registration record (1996) retrieved 14 February 2014 from http://www.historic.org.nz/TheRegister/RegisterSearch/RegisterResults.aspx?RID=7319
Bauchop, Heather. ‘Empire Hotel, 396 Princes Street, Dunedin’. New Zealand Historic Place Trust registration record  (2012) retrieved 14 February 2014 from http://www.historic.org.nz/TheRegister/RegisterSearch/RegisterResults.aspx?RID=9548#
Entwisle, Peter. Draft report B133 (312-314 George Street), Dunedin City Council Heritage Schedule Review, 2013.
Entwisle, Peter. Draft report B404 (Moray Terrace), Dunedin City Council Heritage Schedule Review, 2012.
Knight, Hardwicke and Niel Wales. Buildings of Victorian Dunedin: An Illustrated Guide to New Zealand’s Victorian City  (Dunedin: McIndoe, 1988).
Trotter, Oive. Dunedin’s Crowning Glory: The Town Clock Tower (Dunedin: the author, 1994)

Lost Dunedin #5: Quick’s Building

Built: 1907-1908
Address: 210 Castle Street (corner Hanover Street)
Architect: Basil Hooper (1876-1960)
Builder: John Wood
Demolished c.1966

New Zealand’s corner dairies are usually found in modest buildings, and this was one of them, but it was more unusual than most with its Arts and Crafts design by architect Basil Hooper. The building was erected between 1907 and 1908 as an investment property for E.E.C. Quick, who let the shop to the grocer Robert Crawford. Edmund Edward Colston Quick was 70 years old and had lived in Dunedin since 1860, when he had gone into business as an importer. He was well known for his company directorships and community work, including eighteen years served as secretary of the Otago SPCA.

Crawford kept the shop for only a short time, and the list of shopkeepers over the years is as follows (dates approximate):

1908-1909: Robert E. Crawford
1909-1916: George Beath and James Barron (as Beath & Barron)
1916-1920: James Barron
1920-1924: Arthur Harold Carrington
1924-1939: Julian Henri Le Gal (born in Jersey, Channel Islands)
1939-1941: Thomas Gibson
1931-1942: Malcolm A. Scandrett
1942-1945: Mabel and Norma Dalliessi
1945-1948: Victor Uline Smith
1948-1951: Jack Stewart Baker
1951-1966: Douglas Cecil Ledgerwood

Advertisement for Beath & Barron from the Otago Daily Times, 1 June 1912, p.15.

Basil Hooper was apprenticed to J.L. Salmond in Dunedin before he left to study architecture in England. He returned in 1904 as an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and later described himself as ‘the first young architect to arrive in Dunedin from England, with A.R.I.B.A. after my name, and up to date designs’. He is best remembered in Dunedin for his houses, which include the grand Ritchie residence at 26 Heriot Row. His commercial commissions were less numerous, but introduced elements of domestic Arts and Crafts style strikingly new to this type of building in Dunedin. Surviving examples include the George Street Ironmongery Company’s premises (1908) and the Smith & Co. butchery at the corner of King Edward and McBride streets in South Dunedin (1910-1911). The exteriors of these buildings featured exposed brickwork with Oamaru stone facings, unfortunately now painted over. Quick’s building was also brick, but with roughcast gable ends, and at some later date the brickwork was plastered over. All three buildings featured Marseilles-tiled roofs and their gables were made features rather than hidden behind conventional facade parapets. The South Dunedin shop was described when new as ‘modernised old English’, recognising its Tudor influences.

Basil Bramston Hooper (1876-1960). Ref: 1/2-197527-F, Alexander Turnbull Library, http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23024841.

Former Dunedin Ironmongery Company building in George Street, designed by Hooper in 1908. The brickwork and stonework was unfortunately painted over in the late 1990s.

Former butchery building in King Edward Street, designed by Hooper for Thomas Smith in 1910.

Drawings dated June 1907 show two bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen on the top floor of Mr Quick’s building, with the commercial space below. The Otago Daily Times published a finely-observed description:

A new shop has lately been completed at the corner of Hanover street and Castle street, to the design and under the supervision of Mr Basil Hooper, A.R.I.B.A. The building is quite unique in its style, as applied to shop architecture, a complete departure from the stereotyped form having been made in this case. In place of the usual high parapet wall and pediments and concealed iron roof, the fronts of the second storey have been formed by a series of gables, with projecting white rough-cast faces. The red Marseilles roof being exposed to view thus blends in most harmoniously with the simple white rough-cast in the gables. A projecting three-light casement bay window forms the centre feature of the Castle street facade, and is flanked on either side by a range of flat casement windows. The shop windows have small panes in the upper portion, and are finished round in exposed brickwork, with a simple brick dentil cornice surmounting the Castle street side. A solid timber verandah, with jarrah posts, shelters most of the two sides. The accommodation consists of a spacious shop, occupied by Mr Crawford, grocer; a large storeroom, stables and outhouses at back, and private entrance hall; and on the first floor a suite of living and bedrooms, bathroom, etc., fitted with every modern convenience. The building has been erected in a most satisfactory manner by Mr John Wood.

The building was demolished around 1966, and is today a car park for the bright orange premises of VTNZ (Vehicle Testing New Zealand). It’s difficult to picture the charming little shop that was once there.

Many other fine Basil Hooper buildings (mostly private houses) remain and to anyone interested in learning more about them I recommend Ralph Allen’s book, Motif and Beauty: The New Zealand Arts and Crafts Architecture of Basil Hooper.

DCLedgerwoodStore_BanW2Image credits:
1960s photographs of the store (colour, black and white) taken by Hardwicke Knight.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 25 May 1907 p.1 (call for tenders), 1 February 1908 p.13 (description), 18 July 1908 p.6 (description of George Street Ironmongery Co. building), 19 May 1911 p.7 (description of Smith’s building), 10 June 1918 p.3 (obituary for E.E.C. Quick).

Other references:
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories
Deposited plan, Dunedin City Council (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)
Allen, Ralph. Motif and Beauty: The New Zealand Arts and Crafts Architecture of Basil Hooper (Dunedin: Harptree Press, 2000).
Lochhead, Ian J. ‘Hooper, Basil Bramston’, in Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol. 3 (1996), http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/3h34/hooper-basil-bramston

Union Steam Ship Company offices

Built: 1882-1883
Address: 49 Water Street
Architect: David Ross (1828-1908)
Builders: Bateman & Stait

The office building as it appeared in the 1880s, with the store building adjoining it at the left rear. Image: Burton Brothers, Hocken Collections S10-221c.

The Union Steam Ship Company was a giant of colonial commerce. It became both the largest shipping company in the southern hemisphere and the largest private employer in New Zealand. Established by James Mills in Dunedin in 1875, it grew out of a shipping business started by John Jones and later managed by Mills. By 1882 it operated coastal and inter-colonial shipping routes, with a fleet of twenty-one steamers and a further four on order. At this time its head office was at the corner of Liverpool and Bond streets.

Flag of the Union Steam Ship Company. Image: Museum of Wellington City and Sea 2005.4970.90.

Flag of the Union Steam Ship Company. Image: Museum of Wellington City and Sea 2005.4970.90.

In September 1882 the company appointed prominent local architect David Ross to design a new office building and adjoining store, to be built on recently reclaimed Harbour Board land fronting Water Street. The following month the contract for construction was awarded to Bateman & Stait, who submitted the lowest tender of £6,526 (less £375 if minarets and parapets were left off). Although this was a large sum for a Dunedin building, it was modest compared with the cost of a ship. the company’s two largest new ships of 1883 (the Tarawera and the Hauroto) each cost over £60,000. The building project took approximately a year to complete and was finished around November 1883.

Detail cropped from Muir & Moodie photograph. Image: Te Papa C.012197.

Detail cropped from Muir & Moodie photograph. Image: Te Papa C.012197.

Detail cropped from Muir & Moodie photograph. Image: Te Papa C.012197.

The main building was brick, rendered in cement plaster, with concrete foundations and a half-sunk Port Chalmers stone basement that rose six feet above the footpath. The roof was slate. Elaborately decorated elevations were described in the Otago Daily Times as ‘tasteful, although anything but gaudy’, and it was reported that ‘in point of external appearance the structure will not be rivalled by any other of its kind in the city’. The style was essentially Renaissance Revival (‘modern Italian’), but the fanciful roofline featured an array of minarets that probably drew from English Tudor models, and a square-based dome was suggestive of the French Second Empire style. Some proposed decorative details, ‘an emblematic design (globe, anchor, cable &c.) enclosing a clock’, were not finished as intended.

Ross had spent time in both France and the United States a few years before, and what he saw there likely influenced the design, which was a departure from his earlier work. While the building was still under construction he won the competition for the design of the Auckland Harbour Board offices with a strikingly similar composition.

That looks familiar! David Ross also designed the Auckland Harbour Board offices in Quay Street, Auckland (1883). Its exterior decoration was removed in 1958 and the building was demolished in 1969. Image: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W890.

The Tarawera, one of the large new vessels which entered service for the Union Company in 1883. Image: John Dickie, Alexander Turnbull Library 1/2-031815-G http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23208710

The Tarawera, one of the large new vessels which entered service for the Union Company in 1883. It cost £61,000 to build and was 2,003 gross tons. Image: John Dickie, Alexander Turnbull Library 1/2-031815-G http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23208710

The neighbouring store building fronting Cumberland Street had a simpler but complementary design and the combined height of its four storeys were the same as the three storeys of the offices. The store included a hydraulic goods lift at one corner and the building reportedly contained ‘every convenience for the reception and despatch of the various materials needed on board the Company’s steamers’. The top storey of the office portion was also initially used as storage space. On the lower floors were counters, desks and other carved timber fittings of polished cedar and walnut. The large shipping hall on the ground floor (22 x 32 feet) featured parquet flooring and handsome cornices, and the vestibule was paved with Minton tiles and had iron gates. On the same level were also a smoking room for visiting ship captains, a reading room (with ‘all the principal Colonial journals’), a telephone room (for that relatively newfangled invention), the Engineer’s Office, and other staff offices. The first floor included the board room, James Mills’ own office, the deputy manager’s office, and the bookkeeping department. Heating was by F.H. Asbury’s low-pressure steam system, and there were also open fireplaces in some rooms.

The building remained the head office of the Union Steam Ship Company from 1883 to 1921. The company’s headquarters then transferred to Wellington and the Water Street building was used by the Dunedin branch office, which only needed the ground floor. Meanwhile, on the corner diagonally opposite, the National Mortgage and Agency Company had outgrown its premises, so in 1929 the Union Company and the NMA came to an arrangement to exchange buildings. The two firms had a long association, and had mutual directors for some years.

Established in 1864, the NMA was a stock and station company that became the second largest wool broker in New Zealand. The company’s historian, Gordon Parry, described its fortunes in the interwar years: ‘Bemused by topsy-turvy trading conditions and unpredictable price fluctuations, the National Mortgage bounced through the troublesome time of the late 20s and into the threatening 30s rather like one of its staff members following a narrow sheep trail in a poorly sprung runabout’.

The outward appearance of the building changed little in its first decade of NMA ownership, the few alterations including new signage and lettering (for example ‘USSCo’ was changed to ‘NMACo’’ on the basement grilles). In 1940, however, it underwent a major transformation. Most of the building’s original exterior decoration was destroyed in remodelling designed by architects Mandeno & Fraser (the specification is initialled by W.H. Mandeno). Such facelifts were common in Dunedin at the time, influenced by fashion and iconoclasm, and often triggered by maintenance issues such as crumbling masonry. Existing masonry was bolstered back or filled in, and surfaces replastered in a fashionable quasi-Art Deco style, with restrained decoration and contrasting colour effects. The end result didn’t look quite like a twentieth century building, as the overall proportions and most of the windows were unchanged. The stone basement was not altered and the grand entrance doors were also retained.

The building at the time of the NMA centennial celebrations in 1964. Image: Hocken Collections S10-221e.

The building in 2010, prior to redevelopment.

The building in 2013, after redevelopment.

NMA moved its head office to Wellington in 1970 and the Dunedin building became a branch office. The company merged with Wright Stephenson & Co. in 1972 and the new company (Wrightson NMA) vacated the Water Street premises in 1977. The building was renamed Vogel House and during the 1980s and 1990s it was used as a rehearsal venue for bands and other musicians. The Dunedin Sound group The Chills had a space on the south of the first floor and recorded their single Doledrums there in 1984. Other groups that rehearsed in the building included the Kaftans, the Moomins, and Jim’s Live Deer Recovery. The building was later the venue of a two-week squat installation by artist Georgiana Morrison (1995) and the show ‘Dereliction’ by Kim Pieters (1996).

Steve Macknight’s NMA Properties Ltd redeveloped the building between 2010 and 2012. The exterior was renovated to approximately its 1940 appearance, an exception from this being the addition of a modern cornice at parapet level. Paint was stripped from the stonework and plasterwork, and the latter was recoloured. Few of the original interior features had survived earlier alterations, however, remnants of plaster cornices and entrance features were retained. Brick walls and roof structures were exposed, making the most of surviving historic fabric. Major earthquake strengthening (to 67% of the new building standard) included new poured concrete floors and tying back of walls. The redevelopment was granted $20,000 from the Dunedin Heritage Fund in 2010 and won the 2013 Dunedin Heritage Re-Use Award. Current tenants include Wine Freedom and Psychology Associates.

It is a pity that the building is not the spectacular example of Victorian exuberance it once was, but this in no way diminishes its significance as a rich site of cultural and economic history. Historian Gavin McLean describes it as ‘New Zealand’s most important office building’. I nominated it as an historic place to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust in 2010 and it is yet to be assessed, but thanks to the work of enthusiastic local developers its future looks good, and it is once more an attractive and widely appreciated part of Dunedin’s Warehouse Precinct.

The main entrance, including original doors.

Original basement stonework and grille.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 10 September 1883 p.4 (description), 28 July 1977 p.11-18 (removal of Wrightson NMA); Evening Post (Wellington), 6 March 1929 p.8 (building exchange).

Other references:
Baré, Robert. City of Dunedin Block Plans Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, 1889.
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories
‘A Citizen’ [John Bathgate]. An Illustrated Guide to Dunedin and its Industries. (Dunedin: Fergusson & Mitchell, 1883), pp.140-142.
McLean, Gavin. 100 Historic Places in New Zealand (Auckland: Hodder Moa Beckett, 2002), pp.122-123.
Parry, Gordon. NMA: The story of the first 100 years: The National Mortgage and Agency Company of New Zealand Ltd 1864-1964 (London and Dunedin: NMA. 1964).
Minutes. Union Steam Ship Company records, Hocken Collections AG-292-3/1/2
Tabulated abstracts of accounts. Union Steam Ship Company records, Hocken Collections AG-292-7/9/1
Mandeno & Fraser specification for 1940 remodelling (with thanks to Oakley Gray architects)
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)
Information about band rehearsals in the building supplied by James Dignan.

Facade detail.

View across the intersection of Water and Vogel streets.

City Boot Palace

Built: 1885-1886
Address: 202-206 George Street
Architect: James Hislop (1859-1904)
Builder: Arthur White

Advertisement from supplement of the ‘Evening Star’, 10 April 1893. Ref: Eph-E-BUILDINGS-Dunedin-1893-01. Alexander Turnbull Library http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23156921.

The City Boot Palace! The name conjures up images of a vast array of footwear in a setting of Victorian opulence, perhaps presided over by some magnificently moustachioed manager. It may not have been quite like that, but Dunedin’s Boot Palace did have an air of grandeur which set it apart from most George Street buildings of the 1880s.

The building was erected for Benjamin Throp (1845-1933), a dentist who occupied the upstairs rooms and leased out the lower level. Born in Halifax, Yorkshire, Throp arrived in Dunedin with his mother in 1861 and qualified as a dentist in 1868. In the early days he used only hand instruments, and his equipment and supplies had to be imported from England and the United States, often taking over a year to arrive. Up to 1900 the only anaesthetic he used was cocaine, and he later produced his own nitrous oxide (laughing gas). He also made his own gold plate, having worked as a goldsmith during his youth in Australia. Throp’s meticulous notes held in the Hocken Collections record that he made 37,162 extractions over 37 years.

One day, when fitting the gold mining entrepreneur Alex McGeorge with some false teeth, Throp was offered a partnership in the Electric Gold Dredging Company. This proved to be a lucrative venture that ultimately netted him between £20,000 and £30,000. He retired in 1905 to take up farming at Moa Flat Estate, but his son Frank Throp continued the dental practice at the same address until 1942. Two other sons were killed in action during the First World War. Another dentist, Andrew Aitken, kept the rooms up to 1958, and during this period the building remained in the ownership of the Throp family,

Architect James Hislop designed the building, which was erected on the site of the old Dornwell & Rennie butchery. Tenders were called in June 1885 and by the beginning of March 1886 Throp had taken occupation of his rooms, with the Boot Palace opening soon afterwards. The contractor was Arthur White and the cost approximately £2,800, but White went bankrupt during the course of the contract because his tender had been too low and he found he couldn’t afford to pay all of the creditors connected with the work.

The building has a foundation of Port Chalmers stone that rises above the footpath, and the two storeys over this are constructed of brick rendered with cement plaster. An abundance of ornamentation includes pairs of Corinthian pilasters, arched and triangular hoods, rustication, and more mouldings than you can shake a stick at. Originally, there was a bold and elaborate parapet with balustrades and pediments that balanced the composition. A pillared verandah for the George Street shop front featured decorative cast ironwork. The overall effect was more ostentatious than elegant, but the building made a confident statement on the busy corner site. It is a good example of the later phase of Victorian Renaissance Revival architecture, which in its more florid forms drew from increasingly eclectic influences combined in unconventional ways. Hislop provided a further example of this movement a few years later when he designed the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition buildings of 1889 in a flamboyant quasi-Moorish style.

Advertisement from the Otago Witness, 20 February 1907 p.84. Image from Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

Otago Witness, 10 June 1908 p.92. Image from Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

The City Boot Palace had been established in 1883, when it succeeded the business of the boot maker John Elliott. The same name was used elsewhere in Australasia: John Hunter’s City Boot Place in Sydney opened in 1877, and both branches and separate businesses with the name operated in centres that included Adelaide (opened 1882), Brisbane (1888), Perth (1893), and Hobart (1906). In New Zealand there were boot palaces in cities and towns that included Timaru (opened 1885), Invercargill (1885), Oamaru (1886), Napier (1893), New Plymouth (1903), and Christchurch (1906). The name became almost generic and although there may have been some sort of licence or franchise agreement, the New Zealand boot palaces appear to have been independent businesses. The Dunedin manager from 1885 to 1908 was Joseph McLoy McKay, who in the Edwardian period ran humorous advertisements such as the one above, which emphasises the bargain prices and good value of the merchandise. Some featured the character ‘Parsimonious Sam’, whose penny pinching ways were satisfied by the deals to be had at the City Boot Palace, suggesting that they should be good enough for anyone.

The building in 1949, during its days as ‘Fashion Corner’. Perpetual Trustees records, Hocken Collections, S13-583b.

A wartime advertisement for Fashion Corner from Otago Daily Times, 4 July 1944 p.3.

The boot palace ran for over 40 years and eventually vacated the building in 1929. It was then fitted with new shop fronts with mahogany facings and granite, and a new steel hanging verandah. The alterations were designed by the architects Mandeno & Fraser, and the contractors were the Love Construction Company. The women’s clothing store Fashion Corner opened for business in December 1929. It operated until 1958, when the ANZ Bank took the building as a branch office. It was around this time that the parapet ornamentation was destroyed and the St Andrew Street entrance moved. Old interior features have also disappeared through numerous renovations.

In 1983 the architects Salmond & Burt drew up plans for a new bank building on the site, but the scheme was abandoned. After nearly 40 years the ANZ consolidated on a new site in 1997. The ground floor is now occupied by the clothing retailers Jay Jays, making it once again a ‘fashion corner’. Most of the external character remains intact, and with some restoration perhaps the building will one day reiterate the vivacious statement it once made on this busy retail corner.

Newspaper references:
Otago Witness, 21 July 1883 p.29 (J. Elliott at 75 George St), 6 March 1886 p.16 (Throp’s new premises); Otago Daily Times, 30 May 1885 p.3 (Boot Palace business sold by Hislop), 1 April 1886 p.2 (Boot Palace in ‘new premises’), 21 April 1886 p.4 (Arthur White insolvency), 26 November 1889 p.6 (Hislop named as architect); Evening Star 5 June 1885 p.1 (call for tenders for removal of old buildings), 11 June 1885 p.1 (call for tenders for construction); 10 December 1929 p.5 (description of alterations).

Other references:
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
New Zealand Dental Journal, vol. 58 (1962) pp.88-89; vol. 76 (1980) pp.137-188
Sinclair, R.S.M. Kawarau Gold (Dunedin: Whitcombe & Tombs printers, 1962), pp.44-45.
Throp, Benjamin: Dental practice records book. Hocken Collections Misc-MS-0871.
Entwisle, Peter. Draft report DDPL110-35, Dunedin City Council Heritage Schedule Review (and further discussion with the writer).

Otago Harbour Board offices

Built: 1884 (remodelled 1936)
Address: 43 Jetty Street
Architect: F.W. Petre (1847-1918)
Builder: James Small

The Otago Harbour Board probably spent more money on construction and development than any other body in 1880s Otago, but they were quite frugal when it came to their office buildings. The Victoria Channel in the Otago Harbour cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to develop, but when the Board commissioned architect F.W. Petre to design new offices in March 1884, it was with the brief that the cost should be no more than £2,000.

The Board had been constituted in 1874, succeeding the Harbour Department of the Provincial Government. Its first purpose-built offices were erected in Cumberland Street in 1877 and demolished in 1885 because they impeded the completion of street realignment. The land selected for replacement offices at the corner of Jetty and Vogel streets was owned by the Board and had been reclaimed in works carried out in the late 1870s.

Francis William Petre (1847-1948) may have been the first New Zealand-born architect, and he earned the nickname ‘Lord Concrete’ for his innovations and many designs in that material. His best-known works included the Catholic cathedrals of Dunedin and Christchurch, and the Dominican Priory in Smith Street. His surviving commercial buildings are scarce, but include the Guardian Royal Exchange Buildings and Mansfield Apartments (both in Liverpool Street). Petre was at home working in both Classical and Gothic styles, but for the Harbour Board he used the Renaissance Revival (Italian) style generally favoured for commercial designs. The proportions and rhythm of the building (including arched windows to both floors) foreshadow his later design for the Equitable Insurance Building (Phoenix House). This more elaborate stone and brick building was erected between 1886 and 1887 on the corner of Rattray and Vogel streets, and shared with the Harbour Board offices the same builder and clerk of works.

Francis William Petre, architect.

Tenders for construction were called in May 1884 and James Small’s tender for £2,239 was accepted subject to ‘reduced cornices’. James Armstrong was appointed clerk of works. By December the building was close enough to completion for the Board to hold its first meeting in the new boardroom, and the final cost was recorded in their hefty ledger (now held in the Hocken Collections) as £2,590. The demand for reduced cornices is the likely reason that the proportions of the building were not entirely convincing, with the parapet looking a little mean in relation to the rest of the elevations. A small parapet pediment highlighted the main entrance on Vogel Street, but this entrance was later moved to Jetty Street, reorientating the building. The depth of the building was narrow, with the footprint being a U shape (almost an L shape) that left space for a small yard behind. This allowed valuable natural light to penetrate through windows in the rear wall, but the yard was progressively built over by later owners from about 1923 onwards.

The Harbour Board occupied the building from 1884 to 1899, when it considered such weighty issues as a proposed harbour bridge (a hot topic for some years), the strike of 1890, the construction of large new wharves, and the retrenchment that came with the long depression. In 1899 the Board’s offices moved to modest new premises and these were in turn replaced in 1912. Occupants of the Jetty Street buildings after 1899 included the Government Shipping Office, and the grain and seed merchants Ronaldson & Farquharson.

The building c.1935. The principal entrance is no longer in its original location, having been removed from the central bay facing Vogel Street to one of the bays in Jetty Street. (Toitū/Otago Settlers Museum 80-30-1)

The building after its 1936 remodelling. The old slate roof and chimneys remained in place. The entrance was again moved, this time to the far end of the Jetty Street frontage. It has a striking leadlight window. (Toitū/Otago Settlers Museum 80-27-1)

From 1923 to 1974 the building was the head office of Donald Reid & Co., one of Otago’s largest stock and station agencies.  The company’s offices had previously been in their nearby wool and grain store in Vogel Street.  Extensive interior and exterior remodelling in the Art Deco style was designed by the architects Stone & Sturmer in 1936. The following year the same architects designed a large new wool store for Reid’s in Parry Street. Architect Gorton R. Stone had travelled with a firm representative in Australia investigating store design, and appears to have been the partner that Reid’s principally dealt with.

The remodelling of Victorian buildings in Art Deco and emerging modernist styles was popular in Dunedin from the early 1930s onwards. Stone & Sturmer were also responsible for redesigns of the Masonic Hotel (Angus Motors), Royal Albert Hotel, and Bell Hill House. Mandeno & Fraser’s revamp of the Manchester Unity Chambers was another early example. 43 Jetty Street building still reads as a Victorian design due to the retention of most of the original fenestration and glazing. The rhythm of the longer facade with its bays and arches is a pared back version of what existed previously,  although new decorative elements were introduced through stepped mouldings and horizontal grooves. A new ground floor entrance across two bays incorporated large leadlight windows, and leadlights were also a prominent feature of the interior. The name ‘Donald Reid & Company Limited’  was added at parapet level in Art Deco lettering (this survives beneath hoardings).  Two bays on Vogel Street were replaced with utilitarian plastering and glazing (lavatories and services were moved to this location). The Love Construction Company was awarded the contract for the work (after submitting the low tender of £2,555) and exterior plastering was carried out by W. Ashton & Sons (£250).

In 1974 the offices of Donald Reid & Co. moved to 1 Vogel Street. Later occupants of their old premises included the photographer Ross Coombes. The Vogel street facade was again altered in 1976 when the former central bay was extensively altered with a large roller door put in at ground floor level and ‘Brownbuilt’ cladding installed above. Large hoardings at parapet level advertised Woodstock Furniture for many years, gradually losing letters like the Sunshine Foods sign in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (for those who know their seventies sitcoms).

In recent years the building has looked tired and rundown, but In October 2012 its owners received a $10,000 grant from the Dunedin Heritage Fund towards earthquake strengthening and adaptive re-use. It looks as though its next chapter will be a brighter one, and it will be interesting how the unusual layout is reworked, and if the exterior is closely returned to its 1880s or 1930s appearance. It is one of the earliest Vogel Street buildings, on a key corner site, and could become one of the gems of the Warehouse Precinct rejuvenation.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 16 May 1884 p.4 (plans accepted), 3 December 1884 p.4 (meeting in new offices), 12 May 1886 p.4 (Equitable Insurance).

Other references:
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
Minute book, Otago Harbour Board records, Hocken Collections (AG-200-11/02/06)
Ledger, Otago Harbour Board records, Hocken Collections (AG-200-11/13/02)
Minutes. Reid Farmers records, Hocken Collections (00-121)
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)
Angus, John H. Donald Reid Otago Farmers Ltd : a history of service to the farming community of Otago (Dunedin, 1978).