Monthly Archives: May 2016

Dunedin in Kodachrome 2

In an earlier post I touched on the colours and qualities of mid-century Kodachrome film, and the research value of old slides. I am always eager to find more images of Dunedin in Kodachrome, and over the past few years have spent a lot of time working through slides of the late Hardwicke Knight. More recently, well-known photographer Gary Blackman has introduced me to his own wonderful collection.

Any student of Dunedin architecture should be familiar with Ted McCoy and Gary Blackman’s Victorian City of New Zealand (1968). It was the first book dedicated to the subject of Dunedin’s historic buildings, and opened the eyes of many to the beauty and value of the city’s built heritage. A number of the buildings featured have since been destroyed.

During the period Gary was taking some of the black and white images shown in the book, and even much earlier, he was also shooting in colour.  The slides were primarily intended as documentary records, but naturally the photographer’s skill in composition, framing, and other technical and artistic elements, is ever apparent.

The passage of time has added further dimensions. Some images are evocative through their sense of oldness – of the kind sometimes mimicked through Instagram filters. Conversely, a sense of freshness is often even more striking. There can be something unsettling about an image that looks as though it might have been taken yesterday, but shows a scene that has undergone radical transformation. Scenes that have only undergone partial transformation can be the most disconcerting, as familiar points of reference hammer home that this really is the same place. In other cases, it is amazing how little a place has changed in fifty or sixty years.

With special thanks to Gary for sharing them, here is a group of his images taken in Great King Street, all in 1963:

The first looks east towards the Otago Museum. The building in the foreground was a Congregational church before it was purchased by the Catholic Church in 1932. It was demolished around 1971 to make way for the present Holy Name Church. Buildings and blossom are together the subjects. The gold of the museum’s masonry harmonises with the church’s timbers – a colour once ubiquitous for Dunedin buildings but relatively uncommon today. Motor cars (then older models) give a sense of period.

The second image looks south along Great King Street, and makes a study of telegraph poles and wires. Gary tells me that at first he avoided such infrastructure, before increasingly incorporating and sometimes even featuring it. This particular image was used in a talk in which he illustrated the ‘visual clutter imposed on our streets by poles and wirescape’.  The photograph was taken from a position approximately outside where Galaxy Books is today (just north of Moat Street), and the Wellingtonia in the distance, then already over a century old, is a familiar point of reference. In 1963 the one-way system was still five years away.

The final slide, taken in the mid-morning sun, shows a modest dwelling opposite the North Ground. It stood south of the Dundas Street corner, near where Coupland’s Bakeries is now situated. Unfortunately this charming little home with its pretty lacework was demolished long ago. It is contextualised in this image by the houses on the hillside, while the glimpse of the attached barber’s shop provides a delightful contrast.

All images in this post © Gary Blackman 1963

Dreaver’s Buildings

Built: 1878-1879
Address: 149-165 George Street
Designer: William Grasby
Builders: Finck & Grasby


From the 1870s to the 1950s, the enterprising Dreaver family made George Street their place of business. Elizabeth Creilman McHoul was born in Glasgow, and worked as a domestic servant before migrating to Otago in 1870. In 1873 she married James Dreaver, who opened a toy and fancy goods store. Mrs Dreaver opened a second family business, the Red Flag Drapery, in June 1877.

In November 1878, a fire destroyed eight wooden buildings in George Street, including the Dreavers’ property. No time was wasted in erecting new premises, which opened for business on 22 February 1879. They were built by Finck & Grasby and designed by William Grasby of that firm. Constructed of brick, they comprised a block of three shops with living apartments above. All were owned by the Dreavers, who occupied the southernmost portion. Their first tenants were Miss Vaile, who ran a ‘Young Ladies’ Seminary’, and Hans Pauli, who purchased James Dreaver’s fancy goods business.

The Otago Daily Times reported that ‘seldom, indeed, are blocks of buildings turned out in such a complete manner’. The flats each had coal ranges in the kitchens, fireplaces in the bedrooms, and gas and water connections. Workrooms for the drapery were built behind the shop, and there were brick washhouses and other outbuildings.  The shops had tongue-and-groove linings and were fronted with large plate-glass windows. The cemented facade above was in the simple Revived Renaissance style favoured for commercial buildings at the time. After 137 years the first floor still outwardly looks much the same, though missing are a string course below the dentil cornice, and a modest arched pediment at the centre of the parapet.

Elizabeth Dreaver’s early advertisements offered costumes to fit at a few hours’ notice and described the firm as the cheapest house in the city. The Red Flag name was not used after the rebuilding, and the business became popularly known as Mrs Dreaver’s. Stock included dresses, jackets, skirts, mackintoshes, children’s wear, and feather boas. Dreaver’s had its own dressmaking department and became well-known for a parcel post service (with money back guarantee) offered to country customers.

Mrs Dreaver was an expert milliner and at a carnival at the Columbia Rink she won first prize from about 100 entries for the most original hat, with a design representing a pair of roller skates. She also won the prize for the smallest hat. Other milliners who worked for her included Miss Graham, formerly head milliner to Mrs W.A. Jenkins, and Mrs Mitchell, who had worked at Madame Louise’s in London’s Regent Street.

In 1885 Elizabeth left Dunedin for Scotland, she said due to bad health, and after five months returned with a stock of purchases made in London and Paris.  In the following years she vigorously promoted the ‘scientific’ method of pattern cutting that was revolutionising sewing around the world. She was one of the first in New Zealand to import the pattern books of the Butterick Publishing Company, which then had over 1,000 agencies throughout the United States and Canada. She became Otago’s sole agent for American Scientific System of Dresscutting, gave lessons at Otago Girls’ High School, and offered board to out-of-town pupils. By 1893 she had taught the system to 700 people.


A Muir & Moodie postcard showing George Street from St Andrew Street. Dreavers is on the right, below the tower.

Hans Pauli remained in the northern shop until 1892. His name became familiar to the public through his outspoken opposition to the organised movement for early shop closing. From 1883 to 1903 ‘Professor and Madame’ McQueen ran one of Dunedin’s leading hairdressing establishments from the middle shop, to which they added the Bon Marche children’s clothing shop in 1898.

The drapery expanded to take over all three shops in 1904, not long before the death of James Dreaver on New Year’s Day 1905. In the first decades of the twentieth century Elizabeth Dreaver continued to manage the business, which some advertisements described as the ‘Shrine of Fashion’. A hairdressing and beauty salon became part of the operation.

In 1920 a new company was formed, Dreavers Ltd, with Elizabeth Dreaver holding 73% the shares and her children Hugh, James, and Catherine, each holding 9%. Additions were made at the back of the property in 1909, and in 1925 Mandeno & Fraser designed stylish new shop fronts, with arches over recessed entrances, and decorative tiles and glass. Fletcher Construction were the builders. A section of this work survives in altered form as the front of the northern shop, where the name ‘Dreavers Ltd’ can still be seen in the mosaic floor.

Further rearward additions were carried out in 1944, leading to the saddest event found in researching this story. A shopper named Alice McMillan (58) was killed when a beam fell through a skylight into the mantle department.


A 1945 advertisement

Elizabeth Creilman Dreaver died at her home in Clyde Street on 30 November 1934, aged 86. Dreavers continued to trade until 1952, its old premises afterwards becoming the Bruce Shop, a retail store for Bruce Woollens. This closed in the mid-1960s, when the name of the block was changed from Bruce Buildings to Perth Buildings.

Other businesses to occupy the buildings have included the Otago Sports Depot, a Queen Anne Chocolate (Ernest Adams) shop, Ace Alterations, Martins Art Furnishers, and Don Kindley Real Estate. One shop is currently vacant, while another is taken by Brent Weatherall Jewellers. The third contains the $ n’ Sense bargain shop, which harks back nicely to the toys and fancy goods shop at the beginning of the Dreaver’s story in George Street.


A 1925 shop front, surviving in altered form. Decorative windows were removed and original timber window joinery (with more slender profiles than shown here) replaced in 2012.


‘Dreavers Ltd’ mosaic tiles

Newspaper references:
Evening Star, 16 June 1877 p.3 (Red Flag Drapery), 29 November 1878 p2 (fire), 27 December 1920 p.3 (registration of company); Otago Witness, 10 August 1878 p.21 (advertisement), 6 September 1879, p.3 (advertisement), 29 April 1887 p.9 (sole rights), 4 January 1905 p.47 (death of James Dreaver); Otago Daily Times, 22 December 1874 p1 (toy shop advertisement), 15 January 1879 p.1 (description of buildings), 4 June 1879 p.3 (description following completion), 29 December 1884 p.3 (advertisement), 26 March 1887 p.3 (advertisement), 29 August 1944, p.6 (inquest into the death of Alice McMillan), 19 March 2011 p.46 (‘Stories in Stone’); North Otago Times 3 May 1890 p.4 (lessons at Otago Girls’ High School).

Other references:
Stone’s, Wise’s and telephone directories
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].
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans
Dunedin City Council cemeteries database

Shipping list for Robert Henderson, 1870 (Otago Gazette)
Register of Otago and Southland Marriages 1848 to 1920 (St Andrew’s Parish)
Death registration for Elizabeth Dreaver (1934/10770)