Monthly Archives: September 2012

Lost Dunedin #2: Appin

Built: 1881-1882
Address: 311 Leith Street
Architect: T.B. Cameron (c.1837-1894)
Builder: Norman Wood (c.1840-1907)
Demolished 1965-1966

This house stood for over eighty years near the corner of Leith and Union streets, on part of the site now occupied by University College.  Another design by T.B. Cameron, it was built for Captain Angus Cameron (probably no relation), Chief Marine Superintendent of the Union Steam Ship Company.

Captain Cameron (1829-1909) had a long career at sea and as a ship owner. He had commissioned the construction of Otago, a vessel which later came under the command of the writer Joseph Conrad, and also the Wakatipu, a ship for the trans-Tasman route which he commanded for two years before taking his post with Union Company, then the largest shipping company in the Southern Hemisphere. In later decades he spent much time in Scotland overseeing the construction of new ships for the company. The largest of these was the 5,000-tonne Maheno (1905), one of the world’s first triple-screw liners.

Captain Cameron’s first wife died in 1865 and he married his second, Annie, on 24 April 1882. He was 53 (although his age was recorded as 45 on the marriage certificate) and she was 25. The house in Leith Street was completed around the time of their marriage, with papers now held in the Hocken Collections showing that they were busy furnishing it in May, with such things as a mahogany dining suite, a marble washstand, Brussels carpets, and crimson draperies. The builder of the house was Norman Wood, Mayor of West Harbour, and the build price (in the contract dated 23 August 1881) was £1,323. The house was named Appin after Captain Cameron’s birthplace.

Appin was an Italianate villa of rendered brick built to a fairly conventional double bay pattern but with quite elaborate decoration. The pairs of spindly pilasters flanking the windows  were used by the architect in some of his other designs, as were the bracketed chimney caps. Also notable are the quoining, the balustrades above the bays, and the delightfully florid bargeboards. The Palladian (or Serlian) window above the front door was a distinctive touch that doesn’t appear on the surviving drawing of the front elevation.

Some grand functions took place at Appin and on one occasion in 1908 both Martinelli’s Band (the leading dance and social event ensemble of the time) and a fortune teller were installed on the lawn.

Captain Cameron died in 1909 and Mrs Cameron remained in the house until her death on 25 February 1949 at the age of 92. Her son Percy then leased (and later sold) the house to the University of Otago. For two years it was the home of Noel Odell, the new Professor of Geology, who had become famous as a member of Mallory’s ill-fated expedition to Everest in 1924. Odell and his wife didn’t much like Appin, or Varsity House as it was renamed, as it had become rather run-down. From 1952 it housed the Department of English and was known as Cameron House. The Bibliography Room Press (now Otakou Press) was established in an old wash-house at the rear of the house in 1961.

The English Department moved to the new Arts Block in 1965 and Cameron House was demolished between December 1965 and January 1966 to make way for the new University College buildings.

Image credits: Cameron family papers, Hocken Collections, MS-1046/452 (S12-614). Muir & Moodie photographers.

Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times, 13 August 1881 p.4 (call for tenders); Otago Witness, 18 November 1908 p.72 (‘At Home’)

Other references: Cameron family papers, Hocken Collections, MS-1046/015 (financial papers and contracts), MS-1046/667 (front elevation drawing). University of Otago Records of Registry and Central Administration, AG-180-005/006 (Works Committee minutes), AG-180-31 (general files).

Moray Terrace (Gladstone House)

Built: 1880-1881
Address: 57-65 Moray Place
Architect: T.B. Cameron (c.1837-1894)
Builders: Not known

This terrace draws attention to its history with the date ‘1880’ conspicuously displayed below a chimney stack. It was in August 1880 that architect T.B. Cameron called for tenders to build ‘three three-storey residences, in Brick, in Moray place and View street, for Mrs Muir’. The buildings were finished in 1881 and named Moray Terrace. By 1884 that name had been changed to Gladstone House, presumably because Mrs Muir was an admirer of the British (Liberal) Prime Minister, W.E. Gladstone. The building cost was £4,000.

Who was Mrs Muir? Amelia Muir (1814-1893) was one of Dunedin’s pioneering business women. She was the daughter of Thomas Allen, land steward (or senior gardener) to William IV and a prominent horticulturalist in South Australia from his arrival there in 1836. It is recorded that Mrs Muir’s godmother was King William’s youngest daughter, Amelia FitzClarence, and Dr Hocken noted that it was ‘said’ that she was the natural daughter of George IV. Although this last claim is very unreliable, it’s interesting to think of it as the subject of local gossip! Mrs Muir arrived in Dunedin in 1861 and soon opened Bedford House, a boarding house on Bell Hill. She was later compensated when the house was removed and the land excavated. She was active in the St Paul’s Guild, the Benevolent Institution, the Servants’ Home, and the Female Refuge. She was also a zealous supporter of Otago Girls’ High School where her daughter was the first dux. Her son was a photographer and the senior partner in the firm Muir & Moodie. Her property included houses further up View Street and some family connection remained over forty years after her death, when ‘Muir Court’ and ‘Allen Court’ were built at the top of the street.

MorayTerrace_1883

The architect, Thomas Bedford Cameron (c.1837-1894), had worked in the United Kingdom, Ballarat and Auckland before coming to Dunedin in 1878. He is best known in Dunedin for designing Caversham Presbyterian Church and for winning the competition for the design of the town hall (though R.A. Lawson’s design was eventually used). He also designed a building similar in style to Moray Terrace at 83 Moray Place, which was replaced by the Stuart (now Kirkland) Chambers in 1947. Just a few years younger than Lawson, Cameron was a very accomplished architect to whom I’ll return in the next month.

Moray Terrace is an elegant, pretty, and well-preserved example of Cameron’s work, and another Dunedin example of the revival of the renaissance Italian palazzo. It’s unusual for a terrace – do any others in New Zealand have three-storey street fronts? The many interesting details include pilasters (some with Corinthian capitals and others with rosettes) that distinguish the separate houses. Lost detailing at the ground foor obscures that distinction to some degree, and ball finials above the parapet are also missing. Remarkably, the chimney stacks have  survived more or less unaltered and the one facing View Street remains a focal point of the overall design. Few original features survive inside, at least in the apartments recently advertised for sale. In recent decades the exterior has had a variety of colour schemes: one predominantly blue, another brown, and now one in the ubiquitous fashionable grey.

Moray Terrace has had many interesting occupants. Braemar House girls’ school, run by Jessie Dick, was briefly housed here (before moving further up the street) and the pupils of this ‘Ladies’ Seminary’ included a young Frances Hodgkins. From the mid 1880s Caroline Wells ran a higher-class boarding house in the terrace. Residents in early years included a sharebroker, an artist, a gaol warder, a tobacconist, an  engineer, and a bank clerk. In 1885 a con artist in the building posed as a theatrical agent and persuaded many to part with their money with the promise of getting them work on the stage in Australia. By the time his scheme was rumbled he had disappeared.

Shops were put in the ground floor at some point, their fronts projecting from the facade. The building was home to the Gladstone Milk Bar from about 1952 to 1965. In the 1980s a ghostly apparition, dressed in 1950s denim jeans and jacket, was rumoured to haunt the buildings.

Gladstone House was extensively renovated in 1987 when it became known as Shand House. In recent years the original name, Moray Terrace, has been reinstated.

Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times 31 August 1880 p.4 (call for tenders), 13 April 1881 p.2 (accident to contractor), 18 July 1881 p.1 (to let notice – Moray Terrace), 20 January 1882 p.1 (Braemar House advertisement), 25 July 1883 p.2 (cost), 1 October 1884 p.1 (to let notice – Gladstone House), 17 June 1885 p.3 (‘An Ingenious Swindle’), 28 November 1893 p.6 (Mrs Muir’s obituary), 16 December 1893 p.5 (corrections to obituary), 13 July 1985 p.29 (Lois Galer’s history).

Other references: Stone’s and Wise’s directories; F&J 11/27 (Hocken Collections); Jones, David and Ian Westergaard. ‘Whither the First ‘Botanical Garden’ for Adelaide: The Role and Contribution of Thomas Allen’ in Past Matters: Heritage, History and the Built Environment (Palmerston North: Massey University, 2006).