Monthly Archives: October 2012

St Kilda Hotel

Built: 1898-1899
Address: 2 Prince Albert Road
Architect: Robert Forrest (c.1832-1919)
Builder: Joseph Eli White

The original St Kilda Hotel on the corner of Prince Albert and Bay View roads was a single-storey wooden building erected about 1872. Its owner, John Pugh Jones, was refused a license that year but gained one in June 1873. Jones was a Welshman and a pre-gold rush settler who had worked in Dunedin as a bootmaker for many years. His wife was Elizabeth Harris Jones. Advertisements for the hotel described it as substantial with splendid views, and ‘being in close proximity to the ocean, it offers special inducements to those in ill health or desirous of inhaling the wholesome and invigorating breezes of the South Pacific’.

In 1875 ‘extensive alterations’ were made to the St Kilda Hotel, including additions that raised it from one to two storeys. Jones became the first mayor of St Kilda that year and the first borough council meeting was held in the building. The hotel had strong connections with local sport:  rugby club meetings were held here, race horses were kept in the stables, and at least one live pigeon shoot took place. J.D. Hutton purchased the hotel from Jones around 1880.


The first proprietors, Elizabeth Harris Jones and John Pugh Jones. Image kindly supplied by Josie Harris (family collection).


The St Kilda Hotel as it appeared c.1873. Image from private collection.


The hotel following additions made in 1875. Image kindly supplied by Josie Harris (family collection).

A flood in 1877 saw two feet of water through the ground floor of the hotel, but a worse disaster took place on 24 June 1898 when a fire started on the second floor and most of the fourteen rooms in the building were gutted. The beer was saved! The damaged building was sold and in August architect Robert Forrest called for tenders to erect a replacement. Forrest (c.1832-1919) was by that time one of the oldest architects still practicing in Dunedin, and another example of a contractor who had made the transition to architect. In Forrest’s case, his health had prevented him from continuing as a builder. He designed two of Dunedin’s larger hotels, the Sussex in 1880 and the Excelsior in 1888. He had earlier been the contractor (but not architect as it’s sometimes said) for the Prince of Wales and City hotels. Forrest was the favourite architect of Speight’s Brewery, having designed  an enormous malt house (destroyed by fire in 1940), the Shamrock Building at the Rattray/Maclaggan intersection, and private residences for company directors.

The new St Kilda Hotel was ready for occupation by January 1899. The exterior of the building was admired, the Otago Daily Times report making a typically exaggerated claim that ‘no expense [had been] spared to secure architectural beauty’. The design with red brick and cement facings nods to the Queen Anne style fashionable at the time, but the form is more Italianate than anything else. The balcony with its cast iron fretwork is a pretty feature, and from here there was a ‘splendid land and sea view’ where there is now a very different scene (!) due to reclamation and development.  The report stated that ‘the domestic arrangements correspond to those in a well-appointed private mansion’ and included hot and cold water baths. A large dining room and a billiard room were among other features, and the hotel’s position on the tram line made it a convenient one.


The north elevation of the hotel c.1912. Image: DCC Archives (two photographs digitally stitched together)

There must have been many interesting events in the hotel over the years and I can only include a couple here. In 1907 William Luby was sentenced to two months hard labour for using obscene language (‘words of the filthiest possible kind’) to a woman behind the bar. The judge allowed the request of witnesses to write the words down rather than repeat them. In 1935 the wife of the licensee, along with a barman, was fined for running an illegal gambling den in the bar.

For a period from the late 1930s the Massetti family owned and operated the hotel. Saverio (Jack) Massetti was an Italian immigrant and three generations of the family were very well known in the hospitality industry in Dunedin, with Ray Massetti opening La Scala Restaurant in Alton Avenue, Musselburgh, in 1955.

Jack Massetti and patrons, c.1940. Image: Hocken Collections MS-3189/047. E.A. Phillips photographer.

Ray Massetti, barmen, and patrons, c.1940. Image ref: Hocken Collections MS-3189/047. E.A. Phillips photographer.

In 1969 the hotel was given a tavern license and so it no longer offered accommodation, becoming the St Kilda Tavern rather than the St Kilda Hotel. One of the later licensees was Ray Pearson, who like Jones before him was a mayor of St Kilda. A large dining room was created in the upstairs portion in 1983. The St Kilda Borough Council held its final meeting at the hotel in October 1989, having held its first meeting in the previous building 114 years before. The same year the hotel underwent major renovations and on-site premises of the TAB opened. The TAB outlet is now self-service, and there are also ‘one-armed bandit’ pokie machines.

The exterior of the building has retained most of its 1899 features, although it has lost a few chimneys, some of the brick has been plastered over, many minor alterations have made their mark, and it now has one of those in-your-face corporate colour schemes (Speight’s). ‘Your friendly local pub’ looks likely to remain a popular bar and restaurant for many years to come.

The St Kilda Tavern in 2012

Top image: Hocken Collections MS-3189/047. E.A. Phillips photographer.

Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times, 4 September 1872 p.2 (license refused), 4 June 1873 p.5 (license granted), 14 January 1875 p.3 (extensive alterations), 22 July 1876 p.3 (election campaigning), 17 September 1877 p.2 (pigeon shoot), 25 June 1898 p.4 (fire) 29 July 1898 p.4 (sale), 20 August 1898 p.5 (call for tenders), 19 January 1899 p.4 (ready for occupation), 17 June 1899 p.8 (description), 11 December 1989 p.18 (re-opening); New Zealand Tablet, 16 July 1875 p.19 (advertisement); Clutha Leader, 9 February 1877 p.5 (flood); Otago Witness, 10 August 1904 p.54 (obituary for John Pugh Jones), 20 February 1907 p.49 (obscene language case); Evening Post, 16 February 1935 p.15 and 29 March 1938 p.8 (illegal gambling)

Other references: Tod, Frank: Pubs Galore (Dunedin, 1984).


Built: 1907-1908
Address: 49-51 Stuart Street
Architects: Walden & Barton
Builder: Joseph Eli White (1853-1917)

This building is a wee gem – I love its honest, ungentrified Edwardian appearance and the quirky arrangement of the different window sizes on the first floor. The strong lines of the cement facings look very effective against the brickwork, and the tilework and old bullnose verandah add to its charm. It is an example of the style referred to (quite misleadingly) as ‘Queen Anne’.

Originally a fishmongery, poultry dealers, and dining rooms, it was built for a syndicate led by Francis Joseph Sullivan (c.1858-1914). Sullivan was a big name in the local fishing industry.  Since the early 1890s he had been a fish retailer, the local agent of the Bluff Oyster Company, and an active supporter of the fish hatchery at Portobello. He owned Dunedin’s first fishing trawlers and squeezed out some of the traditional line fishers, which didn’t make him popular with everyone. He was also one of New Zealand’s largest rabbit exporters, owning large processing works in both Otago and Southland.

Architects Walden & Barton called for tenders in July 1907. I don’t know which of the partners, Edward Walter Walden or Joseph Barton, was mainly responsible for the design. Walden (1870-1944) had previously been in partnership with James Hislop. His later designs include the Mayfair Theatre, Andersons Bay Presbyterian Church, Hallenstein’s building in the Octagon, and St Margaret’s College. The elder man, Barton (1853-1917), had previously worked in Dunedin as a building contractor, making the same transition as builder/architects such as Hardy, Winchester, and Forrest before him.

The building was completed around January 1908. According to a description in the Otago Daily Times: ‘The shop downstairs is a room 23ft by 24ft: the floors are Minton encaustic tiles; the walls from floor to ceiling are glazed tiles; a dark cream tile is used for a dado, with embossed tile necking and white glazed tiles above; the ceilings are all of ornamental metal, tastefully picked out in different colours; the counters and window fittings are all of picked marble, sand finish, the woodwork being white enamel finish […] Immediately at the rear of the shop is a large dining room, 32ft by 28ft. This room is finished with red pine dadoes, mantels, and tiled hearths, the floors being dressed off very smoothly and left a natural wood finish. The ceilings are divided up into bays of embossed metal, with electric lights round the walls and hanging from the centre of each bay. From the shop a goods lift runs to the ladies’ dining room on the first floor. This room has a separate entrance from Stuart Street; it is 28ft by 20ft. Immediately adjoining it is a special set of lavatories and basins and hat and cloak rooms specially fitted up for the patrons. In addition to the two large dining rooms there are three smaller suites of rooms splendidly lit and neatly finished.’

Joseph Eli White was the builder. The subcontractors were Andrew Lees (painting and decorating), W.H. Newman (plastering and tile work), Briscoe & Co. (pressed metal ceilings) and A. & T. Burt (plumbing and electric work).

An early image of the building. DCC Archives.

The restaurant was named ‘Sweeting’s Dining Rooms’,  presumably after the famous Sweeting’s Fish Restaurant of Queen Victoria Street, London (opened 1889). The Dunedin restaurant was taken over by Findlay Bros (1920-1925) and then Charles Tabor (c.1928-1939) before closing. There were a few colourful incidents in the early years. In 1910 there was a bit of a punch-up on the street (with a follow up in the supper room) between a drunk staff member and a patron. Among other things, the staff member didn’t take kindly to criticism of the way the geese had been plucked.  The following year there was some violence between members of rugby teams from Port Chalmers and Dunedin.  The Dunedin boys were heard referring to Port Chalmers as ‘Dogtown’, and according to Truth (New Zealand’s most sensationalist newspaper): ‘the quickest way to cause a riot and to raise an insurrection is to call an inhabitant of Port Chalmers a dweller in Dogtown’. Truth also had fun reporting an incident that involved Maggie Moore, an employee of Sweeting’s. In 1915 she was ‘charged with using obscene language in a telephone box at the Octagon at the unearthly hour of midnight’.

The fishmongery remained under the Sweeting’s name until the end of 1921. It became the Salisbury Butchery in 1922, and continued under that name until it became the MMM Butchery in 1957. MMM had many branches in Dunedin and was part of a chain which originated in Christchurch in the early 1940s. Why it was called MMM I don’t know, but a local nickname was the ‘Maggoty Meat Market’! MMM became Hellaby meats around 1985. The butchery became King Dick’s Emporium of Fine Meats from about 1988 and finally closed around 1993.

A separate building in Gaol (now Dunbar) Street had originally been set aside for the curing of fish and the sale of rabbits and poultry, and another was used for fish cleaning. It looks as though these were later rebuilt into the more substantial adjoining structure that survives today. Smallgoods were processed here, with Salisbury Smallgoods occupying the space until they moved around 1969.

Galaxy Books and Records (run by Bill Brosnan) opened in the building in 1977 and remained there until about 1998 when it moved to Great King Street. There was also a takeaway bar for a time. Fight Times, a martial arts supplies shop, has operated from the site since about 2004. The business is part of the Todd Group, who are the building owners.

Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times, 7 February 1890 p.3 (notice for F.J. Sullivan), 13 July 1907 p.11 (call for tenders), 31 January 1908 p.3 (description); Otago Witness, 2 February 1899 p.4 (Sullivan and rabbits), 9 September 1903 p.55 (complaints re trawlers), 18 April 1906 p.11 (Sullivan’s comments on the fishing industry); New Zealand Truth, 9 July 1910 p.7 (fight in the street), 8 July 1911 p.7 (‘Dogtown’ incident), 9 October 1915 p.5. (Maggie Moore).

Other references: Stones Otago & Southland Directory, Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory, telephone directories.