About

Built in Dunedin is a blog of potted histories of Dunedin buildings and architects. Why write it? Hasn’t plenty been published already? Well, there are some good books out there, but many fascinating buildings still haven’t been written about, and research keeps bringing up new (and sometimes contradictory!) information about the more familiar ones. A good old-fashioned trawl through archives is still rewarding, and through the internet many resources that were hard to find or slow to search decades ago are now much easier to access.

Though not a big city, Dunedin was New Zealand’s first,  and it quickly became a bustling commercial and industrial centre. Its buildings were not as large as those in the world’s great metropolitan capitals but this in no way diminishes their qualities or the artistry and engineering skills of those who designed and built them. Their shortcomings shouldn’t be excused either!

The blog will look at the design of buildings (existing and demolished) and the careers of their architects, but it will be as much about social and other aspects of history. It’s all very well looking at the Hallenstein’s building in Dowling Street as a good example of Renaissance Revival architecture, but it really comes to life when you imagine the sounds of 22 different brands of sewing machine whirring away, or the commotion as a couple of hundred workers rushed to lunch at precisely 1pm.

I don’t come to this as an architecture professional, rather as an archivist and historian, and also as a musician. If there’s one thing I continue to see in the designs and stories of Dunedin’s buildings it’s music! I hope to share some of that here. We’ll see how it goes!

David Murray
July 2012

49 thoughts on “About

  1. Gregor Campbell

    One “building” I have a question about is the Dowling St steps. Specifically, at the top of the steps there is a small area overlooking the Dowling/Princes Sts intersection with a concrete shape inside it which looks like a searchlight mount or sacrificial altar – I’ve long wondered what it might actually be for.

    Reply
  2. Hannah Dearlove

    I was wondering if you know anything about the building that used to be the Church of Christ (685 George St)? I’ve so far got an approximate date of 1910 for the date it was built. I’ve been wanting to figure out the story behind it and its stain glass windows.

    Reply
    1. David Murray Post author

      Hi Hannah. I helped with some of the research on that building for the ‘Architecture Dunedin’ guide. It was designed by Edmund Anscombe for a dentist, whose name was Thomas Fogg. The original drawings for it are held at the Hocken and if you are able to pop in there you can sign up for free and the desk staff would be happy to get the plans out for you. They are dated 1909 but 1910 should be correct for the date of completion. Fogg ran his surgery there until 1959, the year of his death. Someone once told me he had a very impressive billiard table upstairs. The Church of Christ bought the building in 1969 and sold it a few years back. It’s a pity the brickwork has been painted (a few times now). Unfortunately the surviving records might not include much about the windows.

  3. Shelley Angelo-Forrest

    Hi I like your website. I have been recently in Hocken and Toitu asking unsuccesfully for a photo of the 9 shops called “Victoria Buildings” which my gggrandfather Robert Steele built on leased land in Dunedin c.1862- From his bankruptcy petition Aug 1865. I found the site: Moity of Sect no 20 and the whole of section nos 21 and 22 of Block 37 and section 32 of Block 17 Town of Dunedin.
    Further information: Otago Witness 1 Jan 1865 p5-7 details a letter discussed by a Town Board committee from the Inspector of Nuisances regarding a flooding and drainage problem with some of the Victoria Buildings shops. Otago Daily Times 19 Jan 1866 p.4 carries an advertisement for the sale of the nine shops in George St known as Victoria Buildings. He also had to sell a house he built in Clyde St and the “Brigantine Despatch” which he traded unsuccessfully with in coastal freight. Not a lucky man. Hope this is of interest and maybe a photo of the Victoria Buildings will emerge. I have yet to try the City Council I live in Wellington. Thanks, Shelley

    Reply
    1. David Murray Post author

      Hi Shelley. Yes, it’s hard to find early photographs of that part of George Street. I know the site (between Moray Place and the Octagon) and think Steele’s buildings were destroyed by fire in October 1873. The replacements were also known as the Victoria Buildings. Unfortunately I don’t have a photograph for you but if I do come across one I’ll send you an e-mail.

  4. Simon East

    Hi, great blog! Thanks for taking the time to share these stories!

    I’ve been working on a series of historical comparison photographs where I’ve been trying to replicate the exact camera position, angle, and camera setting as the original photography. It’s been great fun exploring Dunedin in this way! There’s a few examples on my Facebook page:

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.455813737800149.93575.179388532109339&type=3

    If you ever see any historical photos that you think would make good comparisons it would be great if you could let me know. Likewise, if there is anything photographic I can contribute to your blog I’d be happy to help out.

    Thank you,

    Simon

    Reply
    1. David Murray Post author

      Thanks very much Simon – I’ve seen your work and it looks fantastic. I will keep you in mind when I’m at Settlers tomorrow looking at photographs. There might be something you can help me out with – a shot that needs a good zoom lens and is a little beyond my equipment and basic photography skills. I’ll send you an e-mail some time.

  5. Brian Panting

    What about the Patterson and Barr Building in High street and the Yorkshire Insurance Building, Dowling Street?

    Reply
    1. David Murray Post author

      Thanks for the suggestions Brian. Funnily enough those two buildings are both on my ‘likely candidates’ list for the near future. Keeping up the current level of detail I only have time to write up two buildings per month, so there are always plenty to choose from!

  6. Peter Barton

    Like many others, I’d like to congratulate you on a superbly written and presented website. There’s so much of interest here – a real source of inspiration to those of us who cherish the city’s built environment. Heart-breaking, though, to read the list of demolitions. My favourite object of mourning – the Century Cinema.

    Reply
  7. Gerrad Harper

    Hi there. Enjoyed reading your detailed articles on Dunedin’s buildings – great website. On the subject of demolition; the worst act would have to be the group of Victorian buildings demolished in the Exchange from 1969 – 73: Stock Exchange Building, Telegraph Office & Custom House. In particular, the loss of the iconic Stock Exchange Building was a disgrace. The character and balance of the Exchange area would be so much better if those buildings were still standing. The council should knock down the eyesore that is John Wickliffe House and rebuild the Stock Exchange Building as it was! Would be interesting to know how much that re-build would cost in today’s money.

    Reply
    1. David Murray Post author

      Thanks Gerrad – I agree Dunedin became much poorer when it lost that collection of buildings. JWH is itself an old building now. I sometimes idly think about what I consider to be the most regrettable losses in the long list.

  8. Gerrad Harper

    Mason & Wales info states that the Stock Exchange Building cost 23,000 pounds to build in 1868. Does anyone know what the cash equivalent is in 2013?

    Reply
    1. David Murray Post author

      The Reserve Bank have an inflation calculator (http://goo.gl/j5YGAK) that works it out as approximately $3.1 million, which doesn’t seem much. Inflation is only part of it though – it would be interesting to compare the cost relative to wages, goods, and services. The 1865 exhibition buildings cost a bit under 18,000 and the Bank of New South Wales (1865-1866) was about 6,000. Building costs also came down in the 1860s and even in 1900 you could get more building for your pound.

    2. David Murray Post author

      Some country school masters were on a wage of around 150 pounds per year in 1868, so that comparison would get you closer to $10 million.

  9. Peter Rozecki-Lewis

    Hi David,

    I am an Architectural Masters Student just completing my thesis which is on the warehouse precinct in Dunedin basically putting forward the arguement that Heritage adds value, I have been following your facebook page and really enjoying it. Great job and you have been a huge help in clarifying the age of some buildings for me, your latest one on 19 Vogel Street was great……from the DCC Webmap it calls it 17 Vogel….had me a little perplexed there! Keep up the good work and if you have any info available on any of the Vogel Street buildings it would be much appreciated..Actually do you know when the carpet court building was built?
    Cheers Peter

    Reply
    1. David Murray Post author

      Thanks for the kind words Peter. Your thesis sounds interesting and has a great positive angle. The Carpet Court building was designed by R.A. Lawson and built for Reid Maclean & Co. in 1889 (when there were just two storeys). There is more about it in Norman Ledgerwood’s new book on Lawson, and also in Peter Entwisle’s detailed inventory of Lawson’s works which can be downloaded from http://www.cemeteries.org.nz/publications.php. You will also find the former Keith Ramsay building (49 Vogel Street) there. I do plan to post on a couple of other Vogel Street buildings in the next month or so.

  10. Sam Reynolds

    Hi there,
    This is a great website and I’m sad I’ve only discovered it now that I have left Dunedin but I’m wondering if you know anything about 13 Stafford street, I was in it with a 12 other boys this year as a flat but we wanted to know what it had been before it was a flat.

    Cheers

    Sam

    Reply
    1. David Murray Post author

      Thanks Sam. 13 Stafford Street was built for G.F. Reid in 1874 and was designed by the famous R.A. Lawson (First Church, Municipal Chambers etc). George Forrest Reid was a forwarding agent and general merchant who came out from India. He owned some small coastal ships which he named after members of his family. He died in the building in 1876 after taking strychnine. He was 40 years old. According to Peter Entwisle’s inventory (R.A.Lawson’s Architectural Works): ‘In 1878 [the buildings] were being used by T.G. Pascoe’s clothing factory. In 1880 they were perhaps vacant and by 1889 they were being used by Ross and Glendining Limited as a clothing factory.’

  11. Chris Clark

    How many historic buildings were threatened with demolition in the 80s before being saved by the 1987 sharemarket crash?

    Reply
    1. David Murray Post author

      That’s a difficult question to answer. One interesting example: plans were announced earlier in ’87 to build a large high-rise where the Excelsior Hotel still stands today.

  12. Gerrad Harper

    Hi there
    The old Bank of Australasia/Norwich Union building in Queens Gardens next to the NZ Express Co Building. It was an impressive looking building but was demolished in ’73. I haven’t been able to find any history on it – do you when it was built and who the architect was?
    Thanks
    Gerrad

    Reply
    1. David Murray Post author

      Hi Gerrad – that’s one I’ve thought about writing a ‘Lost Dunedin’ post about. The architects were Crichton & McKay of Wellington and the local supervising architect was J.L. Salmond. It was originally conceived with an additional floor, which makes sense when you look at the proportions of it. Great interiors.

    2. David Murray Post author

      Quite a bit later – it’s an Edwardian building from 1906-1907. It’s interesting to compare it with another Crichton & McKay design in Dunedin, the former Public Library (now Carnegie Centre) in Moray Place.

  13. Gypsy Stockley

    HI David, I’m not sure if Onslow House is on your list to cover. But if so I wanted to let you know my Nana who managed the Boarding Hostel until it’s demolition is very much still alive if you wanted to speak to someone about it. Kind regards, Gypsy

    Reply
    1. David Murray Post author

      Thanks Gypsy – Onslow House is one in that’s my sights, maybe a few months away. It would be great to talk to your Nana about it.

    2. Gypsy Stockley

      As long as it’s months not years I think Nana will still be around. 🙂 I will email your some details that you can stash away soon.

    3. Ralph Allen

      Hi David. You walked on Onslow House floorboards and through Onslow House doors when you visited my place this week. Great blog! Regards, Ralph

    4. Eileen

      My g.g. aunty ran the Boarding House from 1900 to 1912. There are very interesting articles in Papers Past about Onslow House over the years…even reference to erosion along St Kilda in those days!

    5. David Murray Post author

      Thanks for sharing that Eileen – I’ve collected a fair bit of info on Onslow House and it’s on my ‘to do’ list. Don’t know when I’ll have time write a post on it but I’d like to.

    6. Robert Finnie

      I lived at Onslow House from 1965 to 1968 when Dot Smith was the Manager. This was an excellent place to board and we always had great meals. Still keep in touch with some boarders of that time. Another interesting thing is that I worked for Dot’s son Brian Smith in VTNZ testing station Lichfield St in Christchurch when he was the Area Manager around 2006.

  14. Brian Miller

    I was interested to read the article in the ODT Sat 19 July on the ‘Fashion Corner’ building at 202-206 George St – I have a painting of that corner by my father Ralph Miller which you may like to see – send me an email and I will send a copy of the painting – regards Brian Miller

    Reply
  15. Laurie Carroll

    Hi David, just read your article in todays ODTimes feature section and now your blog…I was hoping you would have covered the foundation of the city ‘tower’ on the cnr of Rattray and Princes streets…as I recall it was built by the founder of Dunedin City….I’ve seen these in the UK on TV and they have struck up an interest for me…do you have any further info….eg how its constructed/designed etc..?…Regards…Laurie (recently moved to Alexandra from Auckland btw the architecture in Dunedin is amazing)

    Reply
  16. Geoff Oswald

    I was present when they demolished P.C.Neill’s Chingford House and I have many happy memories of exploring that grand old house with the son of the last caretaker. Another example of demolition through neglect.

    Reply
  17. Kapiti-Kiro

    Really great work, David!
    I would like to make models of Dunedin buildings for Mini-Kiwiland. Large scale (1:24) for in this New Zealand Miniature park. Visitors of our Facebook page can vote for which building they think should represent Dunedin in Mini-Kiwiland. Nr. 1 so far is the Railway Station and nr. 2 the First Church of Otago. I have permission, but can’t get any building plans to make the models. Could you help me somehow?
    Keep up the fantastic work!

    Reply
  18. Julian Faigan

    David, I have just discovered this excellent website. My grandfather, Louis Faigan, had a tailoring business back in the 1880s at 130 George Street, Dunedin, calling himself “The Prince of Tailors”. Later, he went on to Millers Flat and established Faigan’s Store which played a vital role over many decades in that area of Central Otago. I have a great photo of Louis and family standing outside his George Street shop, and wonder if you have ever seen it. regards, Julian Faigan

    Reply
  19. Bing

    Is the Dominion Industries building, head office and factories, still in existence – linseed oils factory?

    Reply
    1. David Murray Post author

      In Parry Street and part of the Fletcher group? After Sealord had finished with the factory buildings they were demolished in 2009. The old Fletcher office building is still at 20 Parry Street (now home to the Youth Wellness Trust). Fletchers head office was in Auckland.

  20. Gerrad Harper

    Hi David. The Coffee Palace in Moray Place, an interesting building in good symmetry with the City Hotel way back when. I don’t have much info on this one though. Do you when the ‘Palace’ was built/demolished and who the architect was?

    Reply
    1. David Murray Post author

      Hi Gerrad. The Coffee Palace was built 1880-1881 and the main investor/promoter was Richard Hudson, well-known as founder of the biscuit and confectionery factory later taken over by Cadbury. According to an 1881 newspaper report about the building: ‘Its erection is solely due to the enterprise of Mr R. Hudson, who prepared the plans, and under whose supervision it has been built’. I haven’t found any links to practicing architects. The building later became the Criterion Hotel and the facade was mutilated in the middle of the twentieth century. The Criterion was demolished in 1983.

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