Author Archives: David Murray

A Maclaggan Street vista

It can be interesting to look at some of the changed vistas along our city streets. Here is a Gary Blackman image of Maclaggan Street taken in August 1963, and an approximate comparison from February 2017. The silhouette of the First Church spire is prominent in the earlier picture, but obscured by Scenic Hotel Dunedin City (formerly Cargill House) in the later one. Philip Laing House on the right, opened in 1973, is the other large addition. The magnificent AMP Building designed by Louis Boldini was demolished in 1969. All of the buildings visible on the left and right hand sides of Maclaggan Street have been pulled down, with the exception of the Crown Hotel on the Rattray Street corner. These included the western end of the old Broadway Arcade, taken down in 1970. Today the realigned Broadway is a busy traffic route, and Harvey Norman (left) and The Warehouse (right) take up much of the remaining real estate. Notable survivors on Princes Street (seen here from behind) include the former Excelsior Hotel and Everybody’s Theatre with their fascinating roofscapes. The Calder Mackay building, covered in scaffolding in August 1963, is still standing, as is Speight’s Shamrock Building to its left. The telegraph poles and their busy wirescape have been removed. Of course one photograph was taken in winter and the other in summer, but the trees that now bring greenness for much of the year are another addition.

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maclagganvista

Allan Grange

Guest post by Michael Findlay

Built: 1899-1900
Address: Glenelg Street, Bradford
Architects: Not identified
Builders: Jensen Patent Construction Co. Ltd

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‘Hiding in plain sight’ is a phrase often used in architectural heritage where the actual significance of a building or place is not revealed by its surface appearance. So it is with Allan Grange, a villa in the suburb of Bradford in Dunedin’s Kaikorai Valley. This two-storey house stands in Glenelg Street, still surrounded by a woodland garden. It is now thought to be the first house constructed of hollow cement block in New Zealand and a close contemporary of the first houses of their type in North America. How it happened is still a bit of a puzzle.

The owner of Allan Grange, Thomas Mackenzie (1853–1930) was an important national figure, representing Clutha in parliament from 1887. He was dispatched to London by the Government as trade commissioner in 1889 and played a major role in promoting local exports, particularly frozen lamb, wool and grain. He returned to Dunedin in 1899 and stood for election in the Waihemo electorate, becoming Minister of Agriculture in 1900 and also Minister of Tourism and Postmaster General. He was Prime Minister briefly in 1912 after the resignation of Sir Joseph Ward, when he returned to London to reprise his earlier role as New Zealand High Commissioner. Somehow Mackenzie also found time for the mayoralty of Roslyn between 1901 and 1905. The history presented to the recent purchasers of the house was that it was built in 1872 and made from Portland stone concrete blocks imported as ships’ ballast, showing how stories around houses often contain facts and speculation mixed together.

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Sir Thomas Mackenzie and Peter Henry Buck, in France, during World War I. Ref: Alexander Turnbull Library 1/2-037933-F.

Between his numerous commercial and political activities, Mackenzie developed his seven-acre estate in Kaikorai Valley. Council details are scant but in 1899 he likely engaged the Jensen Patent Construction Company to build a house on the property. The business was set up late in 1898 to exploit patents for Monier construction, a technology pioneered in France for wire reinforced concrete. Its founder was a Danish engineer named Vilhelm Alfred Langevad (or Langevod) who held the patents for ‘Improved Monier System of Construction by Emanuel Jansen’ covering cement products in his home country. Local patent applications were lodged in Wellington in 1899 for constructing floors and manufacturing concrete pipes under the title of ‘E. Jensen’. While in Wellington Langevad made contact with Milburn Lime and Cement Company manager Frank Oakden who had recently returned from a business trip to England and Northern Europe. While overseas, Oakden had purchased new equipment for the Dunedin plant and the patent rights to ‘Silica Portland Cement’ developed by Danish cement chemists and then coming into wide use in Europe and North America.

The manufacture of Portland cement was crucial to the New Zealand economy in the 1890s and a number of competing companies sought to dominate the local trade. During the 1890s, with a view to taking as much as it could of the Australasian market, Milburn invested heavily in new equipment. The company was the first in New Zealand to introduce modern rotary kilns and tube grinding mills to produce Portland cement it warranted was superior to all imported brands. Its products were widely promoted to architects and civil engineers keen to exploit the properties of steel reinforced concrete construction.

In the Milburn company minutes for 1898 it was reported that ‘After conferring with Mr Langevod (sic) we agreed to float a separate company, The Milburn Company taking in hand the formation and if our shareholders support it, subsequently retaining the control to that end the prospectus is prepared…I am well satisfied with Mr Langevod’s ability to manage the concern and have no doubt it will be successful if floated.’ Investors included J.M. Ritchie of the National Mortgage & Agency Co., Dr T.M. Hocken, Bendix Hallenstein and Frank Oakden himself. Oakden had earlier advised the Milburn board that ‘I think it advisable to prevent others so far as possible from becoming interested in the Cement trade. Monier Construction might be the first step to opposition’. The arrangement was beneficial to both parties. The Milburn company could promote its new silica portland cement through built projects while Langevad could operate a modern factory to produce his precast products. The hands off arrangement enabled Milburn to enhance its reputation if the ventures were successful or make a quick exit if not. The Jensen Patent Construction Company was granted a year-long lease on a piece of land next to the Milburn plant in 1899 and set up its new factory with funds from the share float. Backed up by £10,000 in shares, it began seeking construction projects. Few tenders for buildings specifically mentioned concrete and it appears that the Jensen company answered those for masonry structures and used their cast hollow blocks instead of more usual brick or poured solid concrete.

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The Milburn Lime and Cement works at the bottom of Frederick Street prior to reclamation of Pelichet Bay. Detail from W.J. Prictor plan. Ref: Alexander Turnbull Library MapColl 834.5292ap 1898.

The precise source of the block moulding system used by Langevad remains obscure but it is not likely to have been part of the raft of patents secured by Harmon S. Palmer of Chattanooga in 1899 and usually given as ‘the start of modern concrete blocks’. There was a boom in this manufacturing method after 1900 and numerous hollow concrete block makers flooded the international market after 1906. The block module used for Allan Grange measures 6 X 9 X 18 inches which suggests an American rather than European origin for the moulds, although Nigeria is one of the only places in the world where blocks of these dimensions are used today. It took until 1924 for the 8 X 8 X 16 block to become standardised and until then numerous variations were tried. A fellow Dane, Niels Nielson, sought to make hollow blocks in Wellington using a Palmer machine under the title Wellington Hollow Concrete Building Block Company. Nielson built a warehouse and a group of houses at Lyall Bay in 1904, reckoned by Nigel Isaacs to be the earliest in New Zealand. This places Allan Grange in an intriguing position, some way ahead of the boom that launched hundreds of competing patent systems in the first decade of the twentieth century.

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Hercules Concrete Block Machine catalogue, Rochester, New York, 1907. A typical promotional sheet for one of the great number of North American manufacturers that came into existence after 1900.

One of the main issues with new construction technology is confidence that the system will not fail in use. Local papers were full of bullish promotion of new cement systems including MIlburn with its Silica Portland Cement. Despite opening the plant up for viewing by local architects and engineers and undertaking comprehensive tests of the products, uptake of the new system was modest, at least in terms of the size of Milburn’s expenses on the patents and the re-equipping of their cement works. It was hard going for the Jensen Patent Construction Company as well. It was reported in 1899 that the company was working on a row of shops on the old Queen’s Theatre site in Princes Street and a studio for the artist James Elder Moultray on Frederick Street, near where the Queen Mary Maternity Hospital was later built. The description of the process is mirrored in the construction of Mackenzie’s house and it is likely that Allan Grange was built immediately after Lorie’s store and Moultray’s studio. Mackenzie took up residence at Allan Grange early in 1900, using the address on his voluminous correspondence from March that year.

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Allan Grange in 2017.Michael Findlay photo.

Allan Grange was a two-storey gentleman’s farmhouse. It was relatively conventional in appearance with a pair of symmetrical bay windows with a terrace and a recessed sun porch in the centre above. A single-storey wing extended to the rear and the style was simplified Italian. Recent close inspection of the walls showed an unconventional block shape with tuck pointed joints and free blocks used around the contemporary garden as edging clearly showed their hollow form. This did not tally with the supposed construction date of the house of 1872 when hollow block construction was hardly known in the wider world, much less New Zealand. Even so, a construction date of 1899 pushes the house to the front of international developments. The first concrete block houses in America were constructed using related technologies, possibly as early as 1885. Amongst the earliest uses of hollow cement block is a group of seven houses built in that year by the Union Stone and Building Company in Minneapolis. These, as well as an eleven-unit terrace, remain as examples of the very early use of concrete block in North America. Nigel Isaacs notes that a group of houses constructed in 1897 marked a turning point in the technology, observing that ‘It was not until Harmon S. Palmer had experimented for ten years, including building six houses in Chicago in 1897, that he brought together manufacturing and design concepts that led to the creation of the modern hollow concrete block’.

The designer of Allan Grange remains a mystery. Unlike Jensen’s other documented projects no similar newspaper coverage appeared for the construction. A single tender can be found for an architect-designed house in Kaikorai between 1899 and 1900, issued by James Hislop in January 1899. Mackenzie had not returned to Dunedin then so it is unlikely to be for Allan Grange. When James Burnside issued his tender notice for Moultray’s studio it was for a ‘studio in brick’ so it is still possible that a tender was issued for a ‘house in brick’ and it remains to be found. It is possible that an architect was not needed. Vilhelm Langevad was a qualified civil engineer and was clearly able to design and manage civil and industrial projects so a house is certainly within his powers. Mackenzie had previously been a surveyor and equally capable of drawing the house for the Jensen Patent Construction Company to build. The planning and aesthetics do not greatly reflect contemporary architectural thinking so either of these scenarios could explain both the idiosyncratic design and the lack of any tender information in the local newspapers.

This hiatus leaves a number of unanswered questions about how Allan Grange came to be built. It is an assumption that the Jensen Patent Construction Company supplied the blocks but all available evidence points to this conclusion. The lack of any documentation for the project can be put down to the voluntary liquidation of the Jensen Company in 1902 and the Milburn Lime and Cement Company quickly moving on to other forms of hollow block technology. A complex court action over a bridge construction tender possibly hastened their downfall but it is more likely that the company simply failed to make money and its investors wanted out. This was typical in the hard driving cement industry where commercial survival involved both intensive investment in plant and swift U-turns if things did not go well. The closure of the company did not end Langevad’s involvement with Dunedin. He joined the City Council as assistant engineer and later worked as a building inspector. He relocated to New South Wales and managed the design and construction of major cement works in Kandos under the supervision of Frank Oakden. Thomas Evans bought the Jensen equipment and production of Monier concrete pipes began again in Masterton in 1904 under the Cement Pipe Company. The long survival of Allan Grange, a few cracks notwithstanding, points towards the Jensen Patent Construction Company’s early efforts to pioneer hollow concrete block construction in New Zealand and operate at the very edge of this technology in the world.

Note: One of the jewels in the Hocken Pictures Collection is ‘Portrait of Vivien Oakden’ c.1898 by Grace Joel. Also noteworthy is Alfred Cook’s beautiful 1924 watercolour of Lake Logan showing the cement works, held at Toitū Otago Settlers Museum.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times 14 February 1930 (obituary), 8 June 1899 (Otago Agricultural and Pastoral Society),18 September 1889, 25 September 1897 (Milburn Lime and Cement Company Ltd); Chronicle (Adelaide) 3 October 1940 (Mr V.A. Langevad); Evening Star 2 April 1898 (Otago Jubilee Industrial Exhibition); Otago Witness 21 February 1912 p.41 (advertisements), 28 December 1899 (City Improvements).

Other references:
Hall, James P. The Early Developmental History of Concrete Block in America. Masters Thesis, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, 2009.
Isaacs, Nigel. Making the New Zealand House 1792-1982. PhD, Victoria University, 2015
Notes on the Manufacture, Testing, Uses, etc. of Portland Cement. Milburn Lime and Cement Company 1895.
H-10 Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks. Tenth Annual Report of the Registrar. Untitled, 1 January 1899 (Hughes, W.E., Wellington NZ. Constructing Floors (E. Jensen) 11156 14 November 1898, Hughes, W.E., Wellington NZ. Manufacturing Concrete Pipes (E. Jensen) 1116315 November 1898.
Lesley, Robert Whitman, John Baptiste Lober and George S. Bartlett. History of the Portland Cement Industry in the United States. Chicago: International Trade Press, 1924.
Fleming, B.A. Kandos and Rylstone History part 1. Mudgee District History, www.mudgeehistory.com.au/rylstone_kandos/rylstone_kandos1.html
The Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Taranaki, Hawkes Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts
Jensen Patent Construction Company files, Archives New Zealand R1930690.
Milburn Lime and Cement Company Limited: Records. Hocken Collections AG-158.

Eldon Chambers

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Built: 1866, remodelled 1939
Address: 192 Princes Street
Architects: R.A. Lawson (1866), Clere, Clere & Hill (1939)
Builders: Not identified (1866), W. McLellan Ltd (1939)

A bright red facade in Princes Street invites the attention of passers-by, but few would guess that behind this 1930s front is a 150-year-old building.

Its story begins with John Switzer. Born in Winchester, Hampshire, in 1830, Switzer was the son of a bootmaker. He followed his father’s trade and after a period in Australia arrived in Dunedin with his wife and infant daughter in September 1857. Within two months he established a boot and shoe warehouse, later named Cookham House after the ‘Cookham’ hobnail boots imported from England. There was a similarly named business in Christchurch, owned by George Gould.  Switzer sold his business in 1863, not long before opening a new Cookham Store in Rattray Street.

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John Switzer. Ref: City of Victoria Archives, Canada, M00235.

Switzer was a director of the Dunedin Gas Light & Coke Co. and his many other business ventures included Hyde Home Station in Southland. He only owned the property for a year, but the gold rush township afterwards established there was called Switzers after him. It later became known by its present name, Waikaia. John’s wife Harriet introduced European birds to Otago, including starlings, blackbirds, and thrushes. The Switzers owned a small farm, Grand View, in Opoho.

In 1864 Switzer was a shareholder of the new Dunedin Boot and Shoe Company. He became the manager of its outlet opened under the familiar Cookham House name, on what is now part of the Southern Cross Hotel site on Princes Street. At the end of 1865 the company decided to move a block north, to the address that has since become 192 Princes Street. The building then on the site was occupied by the auctioneers G.W. Moss & Co., with offices above known as Princes Street Chambers. It was only a few years old, but being wooden it belonged to a preceding era and was already out of date.

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An 1864 photograph of Princes Street. The building on the right of  the lower one with the dormers was on the site of the present 192 Princes Street. Ref: Collection of Toitu Otago Settlers Museum.

Architect R.A. Lawson called for tenders for a new building in December 1865. This was early in Lawson’s career. The design for First Church that had brought him to Dunedin was yet to be built, but he was well-established after three years living and working here. His design for the Boot Company was brick, with a bluestone basement and an Oamaru stone front. The Otago Daily Times promised it would be a ‘handsome structure’. It was representative of a new class of building in Dunedin, as the wealth brought by the gold rush began to be reflected in the buildings of the new city.

Photographs show an elaborately ornamented Gothic Revival facade. First-floor decoration included clustered pilasters with Corinthian capitals, grapes and floral decoration, and a carved head in the keystone above the central window. A verandah was built, but despite being approved by the Building Surveyor it fell foul of building ordinances and the City Council would not allow it. It seems the verandah was removed, as it does not appear in a photograph taken in the 1870s.

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J. Wilkie & Co. and Eldon Chambers in 1923. At this time the building retained most of its original appearance, though the shop front had been rebuilt and included leadlight windows. Ref: Coulls Somerville Wilkie records, Hocken Collections MS-2248/031.

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Facade detail. Ref: Coulls Somerville Wilkie records, Hocken Collections MS-2248/031.

The upper part of the building was named Eldon Chambers. This followed the original Eldon Chambers in London, which took their name from the English barrister and politician Lord Eldon (1751-1838). The name was repeated in many locations in Britain, Australasia, and elsewhere (there were at least seven Eldon Chambers in New Zealand alone), typically for buildings with rooms for lawyers and other professionals. The first occupants of the Dunedin chambers were Prendergast, Kenyon & Maddock (lawyers), George Brodie (inspector of bankruptcy), Dick & Fleming (land agents etc.), Dr Alfred Eccles, and H.F. Hardy (architect).

In 1867 Lawson designed two adjoining buildings for Matheson Bros and J.W. Robertson. These were given a much simpler facade treatment, but integrated with Eldon Chambers through the continuation the parapet cornice and other details in the same style.

In March 1867 a fire broke out in the cellar of Swizter’s building, but damage was confined to that space. Evidence at the inquest exposed the precarious state of Switzer’s finances. He had bought the stock and trade of the company a few months before, and suspicion was raised that he set the fire to get the insurance money. He was charged with arson. The trial took place over six weeks and ended with Switzer’s acquittal, but in the meantime he was bankrupted. Once his affairs were settled he left New Zealand for London, and a few years later emigrated with his family to Canada.

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Princes Street in the 1870s. Eldon Chambers is the fourth building from the left. Ref: Collection of Toitu Otago Settlers Museum. R. Clifford & Co. photograph.

After Switzer’s departure his old shop was occupied by a succession of tailors, before the printers J. Wilkie & Co. opened a warehouse and stationery factory. The firm made various additions at the back to cope with their expanding business, and in 1892 moved their manufacturing to another site, keeping a warehouse and retail shop in Princes Street.

A full list of those occupying Eldon Chambers would be too long to list here, but some had particularly long associations. A connection of over thirty-five years belonged to the Dick family:  the parliamentarian Thomas Dick and his son Thomas H. Dick were commission agents. An even longer record belonged to Herbert Webb, who had rooms for over fifty years. His succession of law firms in Eldon Chambers began with Dick & Webb in 1877. This was followed by Duncan, Macgregor & Webb, then Herbert Webb’s sole practice, and finally Webb & Allan. Herbert Webb died in 1928, after collapsing on the nearby Dowling Street corner. His old firm moved out in 1930 but its successor, Webb Farry, is still in existence.

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A.C. Hanlon (1866-1944)

Alfred Hanlon, admitted to the bar on 20 December 1888, took an office in Eldon Chambers in New Year 1889. He furnished it with a plain deal kitchen table covered with oilcloth, three cane chairs, and a letter press. He waited three months for his first client. He later wrote:

‘I was now thoroughly daunted, and I think that at times I almost hated the office and all its associations. Little wonder then that I could not dissemble my eagerness whenever I heard a footstep outside the door. The months dragged hopelessly by, and still boy enough to be moved at their passing, I bade each a melancholy farewell. It came to this, that every time I heard a step I trembled. Would it reach my door? With feverish haste I would fling open my largest law book – “Benjamin on Sales” – on to the table, and when the knock came my too studiedly casual “Come in” arose from a head buried in the large tome. But it was all to no purpose. My carefully staged scene made no impression, because the caller was always another debt collector.’

Eventually Hanlon got a case defending a pedlar known as Dr Shannon from a charge of purchasing a bottle of Hood’s Corn Solvent under false pretences. He was successful and the case was dismissed. Hanlon was ten years in Eldon Chambers and in that time became one of New Zealand’s most celebrated criminal lawyers. In 1895 he famously but unsuccessfully defended the so-called ‘Winton baby farmer’, Minnie Dean, the only woman hanged by the State in New Zealand. It was probably in Eldon Chambers that he wrote his famous brief, now preserved in the Hocken Collections. During a fifty year career Hanlon was retained in twenty murder trials and he was made a K.C. in 1930.

Wilkie & Co. merged into Coulls Somerville Wilkie in 1922, but a shop specialising in stationery and gifts continued to trade under the name Wilkies until 1927. It was then rebranded under new ownership as Bells Limited, and remained on the site until 1939.

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A 1927 advertisement for Wilkies from the Otago Daily Times. Ref: Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

In 1939 the building was extensively altered to the designs of Wellington architects Clere, Clere & Hill for new owners Boots the Chemist. This pharmacy chain had been established in England in 1849 and set up its New Zealand operation in 1935. The Oamaru stone facade was removed and an entirely new front in brick and concrete was built in the streamline Moderne style. Staircases and columns were removed from the interior and new beams were installed. W. McLellan Ltd were the builders. According to the Evening Star:

‘The external appearance of the building has been carefully thought out. Black terrazzo and bronze metal have been used to telling effect for the double window fronts. An innovation for Dunedin consists of the huge Neon signs which are recessed so that they appear to form an integral part of the building. The whole layout has been designed with an eye to a keynote of solidarity and permanence. Although appointments are modern, as is evidenced by the glassed-in dispensary, open to the public eye, simplicity has been the primary aim. There is a complete absence of such materials as chromium plate – anything, in fact, which may prove subject to the dictates of fashion. Instead, the furnishings are carried out in light-stained oak. The surgical section is finished in white enamel, and the surgical fitting room – particularly spacious for this purpose – is carried out in white and navy blue. Lighting is exceptionally good, and the floors are finished with ‘Rublino,’ a particularly durable covering. A completely new fibrous plaster ceiling was, of course, necessitated by the extent of the alterations. At the rear of the shop are store rooms and offices, tea rooms, and toilets for the assistants.’

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The building following alterations for Boots the Chemists completed in 1939. Ref: Coulls Somerville Wilkie records, Hocken Collections MS-2248/034.

In 1959 the Hob-Nob Coffee Garden was built in the basement for owner-operator Ted Paterson. The café was a good place for a toastie pie and coffee, and was known for its cheese rolls and corn rolls. The Hob Nob lasted until about 1970 when it briefly became the Van Dyke Expresso Bar [sic]. It was the Hibiscus Coffee Garden for approximately eight years, before its closure around 1979.

In its heyday Boots employed as many as seventeen staff in its Dunedin shop. After 50 years in Princes Street it closed its doors in September 1990. A company executive from Wellington said: ‘The city fathers have killed that part of town. Once it was the prime business area in the city. Now it is disgracefully tatty.’ He thought Boots should have pulled out years before, but ultimately the parent company had decided to close all of its retail outlets in New Zealand.

Rebel Warehouse was in the building for a year or two before the New Canton Restaurant moved there in 1993. The original Canton Café had operated from a building on the opposite side of the street since 1961, and from 1978 under the ownership and management of Kee and Sanny Young. Mrs Young, who grew up in Macau and Hong Kong, was the chief cook. She later recalled: ‘You couldn’t get Chinese food then. No bean sprouts, or pastry, or noodles … It was very difficult to buy our food, so we opened the restaurant. But it was too busy. We could only seat 50 and lost bookings, so … we moved across the road to here’.

The New Canton closed in February 2013 and the Punjab Restaurant has since taken its place – the latest chapter in a century and a half of business activity at 192 Princes Street.

Newspaper references:
Otago Witness, 5 September 1857 p.4 (shipping notice), 21 November 1857 p.4 (advertisement for John Switzer, boot maker), 22 October 1864 p.13 (blackbirds and starlings), 27 May 1865 p.4 (thrushes), 6 July 1867 p.3 (sale of Grand View Farm); Otago Daily Times, 26 May 1863 p.1 (advertisement for Cookham Store), 28 May 1863 p.6 (Dunedin Gas Light & Coke Co.), 6 August 1863 p.3 (sale of business to Trood), 8 March 1866 p.4 (verandah), 20 March 1867 p.4 (fire), 25 April 1867 p.5 (inquest into fire), 24 June 1867 p.5 (trial and verdict), 20 September 1867 p.5 (Matheson Bros and J.W. Robertson buildings), 3 October 1877 p.3 (Dick & Webb), 22 December 1888 p.2 (Hanlon admitted to bar), 5 March 1889 p.4 (Hanlon’s first client), 5 May 1927 p.3 (advertisement for Wilkies), 21 March 1928 p.7 (Herbert Webb obituary), 21 September 1990 p.5 (closure of Boots), 22 September 1990 p.8 (editorial re closure), 17 January 2013 p.1 (closure of New Canton); Dunstan Times, 27 July 1866 p.4 (advertisement for Dunedin Boot & Shoe Co.); Evening Star, 12 December 1939 p.3 (alterations for Boots).

Other references:
Blair, E.W. and E. Kerse. On the Slopes of Signal Hill (Dunedin: Otago Heritage Books, 1988).
Catran, Ken. Hanlon: A Casebook (Auckland: BCNZ Enterprises, 1985).
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, vol.4, Otago and Southland Provincial Districts (Christchurch: The Cyclopedia Company, 1905), p.357.
Donaldson, Janine E. Seeking Gold and Second Chances: Early Pioneers of Waikaia and District (Waikaia: Waikaia Book Committee, c.2012).
Hanlon, A.C. Random Recollections: Notes on a Lifetime at the Bar (Dunedin: Otago Daily Times & Witness, 1939).
Dunedin City Council building records
Directories (Harnett’s, Stone’s, Wises, and telephone)

Local body elections and common names

This is just a wee note to clarify that I am not the David Murray standing for election to the Dunedin City Council. It’s a common name and he is no relation (unless perhaps there’s some connection way back in Sutherlandshire). You can read his profile here. There doesn’t seem to have been too much confusion, but a few  comments have come my way, so I thought it might be a good idea to mention it.

David Murray
(the one who writes this blog)

Emily Siedeberg’s house

Built: 1903
Address: 75 York Place
Architect: James Louis Salmond (1868-1950)
Builder: Stephen Samuel Aburn (1869-1947)

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Emily Siedeberg outside her York Place home, in her yellow Clement-Bayard motor car. Image reproduced by kind permission of Steve Clifford.

New Zealand’s first woman medical graduate, Emily Hancock Siedeberg, lived in lower York Place for much of her life. Her handsome residence at number 59 (since renumbered 75) was built in 1903, five years after she went into private practice in Dunedin. Her family connection with the land dated back nearly as far as her birth.

Emily’s father, Franz David Siedeberg, was a Jewish settler from Memel, Prussia (now Klaipėda, Lithuania) and had been a pioneer in the Otago gold dredging industry in the 1860s. He married his second wife, Irish-born Anna Thompson, in 1867, and Emily was born in Clyde on 17 February 1873. She grew up as the second eldest of four children.

Six months after Emily’s birth the Siedebergs moved to Dunedin, where Franz worked as a builder.  His larger contracts included the construction of the Royal Exchange Hotel (later Standard Insurance building), Albany Street School, and stone abutments for the Jetty Street overbridge. He first occupied property in York Place in 1875.

Emily was educated at the Normal School (Moray Place) and Otago Girls’ High School, and studied medicine at the University of Otago from 1891 to 1895, graduating in 1896. She furthered her studies in Dublin and Berlin, before returning to Dunedin at the end of 1897. Early the following year she set up practice in a house provided by her father, a few doors down from the old family home. Her sister, Isabella, was housekeeper.

Franz died in September 1902, and six months later Dr Siedeberg visited architect James Louis Salmond to commission designs for a new house in front of the old family home. Salmond’s diary records his work on plans at the end of March 1903. He estimated the cost would be over £1500, and Siedeberg requested changes to get the cost under £1200. The final drawings were ready in May, and at the end of that month the building contract was awarded to S.S. Aburn, who put in a tender of £1065. Aburn must have considered the job a good example of his work, as one of his advertisement showed his staff posed outside the building.

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Advertisement for builder S.S. Aburn from Stone’s Otago & Southland Directory, 1905. Image courtesy of McNab New Zealand Collection, Dunedin Public Libraries.

The house is in the style known as Queen Anne (confusingly, as the revived elements are not specific to the reign of Anne). The bay windows, elaborately decorated gable, and exposed red brick are typical of Salmond, and originally the house also featured his signature chimney stacks. The roof was slate. It is interesting to compare the York Place house with one of Salmond’s timber designs, at 12 Pitt Street.

A photograph taken in the 1910s shows the original exterior appearance, as well as Dr Siedeberg herself in her yellow Clément-Bayard motor car. She was one of the first women in Dunedin to own a car, and was once prosecuted for driving it at faster than a walking pace (a charge she successfully defended). She continued to drive until she was well into her eighties.

On the upper floor of the house were a drawing room and four bedrooms, necessary as Dr Siedeberg’s mother, sister, and younger brother all lived with her. Mrs Siedeberg was resident for twenty years and died in the house in 1923. Isabella, an accomplished artist who had studied at the Dunedin School of Art, stayed until the 1920s, when she moved to Auckland. Harry, the youngest of the family, lived in the house until his marriage in 1911, when he moved next door. He was an insurance agent and successful sportsman, who played cricket for New Zealand and was four times national billiards champion. He was also an Otago hockey and football representative.  The older brother, Frank, was New Zealand chess champion and later worked as an engineer in Germany and England.

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Emily Siedeberg in graduation dress (Cyclopedia of New Zealand)

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Dr Siedeberg-McKinnon in the 1950s (Otago Pioneer Women’s Memorial Association)

An entrance at the side of the house (since closed up) led to Dr Siedeberg’s waiting room, and across the hall was the consulting room, which faced the street. This arrangement kept the front door and hall clear for visitors making use of the corner sitting room where, if it was not time for tea, sherry and biscuits were the favoured refreshments.  Other downstairs rooms were a large dining room, a dressing room, a bedroom for the maid or maids, and a kitchen with adjoining pantry and scullery.

Dr Siedeberg’s niece, Emily Host, left some personal insights into life in the house, although it is not possible to fully verify them. She recalled a large tin bath in the scullery, high off the floor, and most of the time with a thick slab of wood across it for use as a bench. Dr Siedeberg was adamant the maids must take a bath every Saturday, although at least one objected to so much washing and bathing.

This was Elsie, whom Host described as a ‘blowsy blonde’ much addicted to boyfriends. On one occasion a noise was heard and Emily and Isabella came downstairs in gowns and long plaits to find one of these boyfriends climbing out of Elsie’s bedroom window. Afterwards the window was nailed up so that it could only be opened about two inches at the top.

Host described her aunt as someone who acted and thought according to Victorian principles. She had a sweet, dignified nature, and was very understanding of the human failings of those who were nasty to her.  She shocked her family and a large proportion of Dunedin by not taking a ‘proper’ view of ‘fallen women’, whom she often took into her home and helped.

Dr Siedeberg was Medical Superintendent of St Helen’s Maternity Hospital (the first in New Zealand to have an antenatal clinic), Medical Officer of the Caversham Industrial School, and anaesthetist at the Dental School. She was also an advocate of controversial theories of eugenics. The many organisations she played a leading role in included the New Zealand Society for the Protection of Women, the New Zealand Medical Women’s Association, the National Council of Women, and the Otago Pioneer Women’s Memorial Association. She was awarded a CBE in 1949.

Emily Siedeberg married in Los Angeles during an overseas trip in 1928, at the age of 55. Her husband, James Alexander McKinnon, was the retired manager of the Mosgiel Branch of the National Bank, and Emily became known as Dr Siedeberg-McKinnon. A new house for the couple was built in Cairnhill Street around 1929, and they moved again to Cargill Street around 1938. The second move was, according to Emily Host, so a frailer Mr McKinnon could be nearer to the bowling green.

The York Place house remained in family ownership with rooms rented to various tenants, including Mrs Elizabeth Tweedy who lived there for over twenty-five years. James McKinnon died in 1949 and Emily moved back to her old home around 1954, remaining there into the 1960s. She spent her last few years at the Presbyterian Social Service Association home in Oamaru, where she died on 13 June 1968 at the age of 95.

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75 York Place in 2016

In 1969 the house was much altered internally for use by the Otago Polytechnic for its School of Architecture and Building, and it was later used by the School of Art (to 1983) and the School of Nursing (1983-1987). In its more recent history the building has again become a place of medical practice, being the premises of the Dr Safari Appearance Medicine Clinic. Dr Soheila Safari is, in common with Emily Siedeberg, a graduate of the University of Otago, and has also worked as a general practitioner. She established her clinic in 2006 and has been based in York Place since 2008, offering a wide range of cosmetic treatments. Studio rooms are found on the first floor, still accessed by the same beautiful grand staircase built in 1903.

Newspaper references:
Otago Witness, 17 September 1902 p.22 (obituary for F.D. Siedeberg), 23 November 1904 p.62 (F.V. Siedeberg); Otago Daily Times, 10 February 1898 p.2 (new practice in York Place), 4 July 1914 p.5 (motor car).

Other references:
Stone’s, Wise’s, and telephone directories
Electoral rolls
Deeds indexes and registers. Archives New Zealand, Dunedin Regional Office.
Births, Deaths & Marriages online, https://www.bdmhistoricalrecords.dia.govt.nz/Home/
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, vol.4, Otago and Southland Provincial Districts. (Christchurch: The Cyclopedia Company, 1905).
Host, Emily Olga. ‘Emily Siedeberg McKinnon’ (‘Notes made by Mrs Host when visiting the Hocken Library in 1966’). Hocken Collections, Bliss L9 McK H.
McKinnon, Emily H. and Irene L. Starr. Otago Pioneer Women’s Memorial. (Dunedin: Otago Daily Times, 1959).
Sargison, Patricia A. ‘Siedeberg, Emily Hancock’, from the Dictionary of New Zealand. Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, retrieved 25 July 2016 from www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/3s16/siedeberg-emily-hancock
Work diary of James Louis Salmond in Salmond Anderson Architects records. Hocken Collections MS-4111/004.

Acknowledgments:
Special thanks to Dr Soheila Safari and Tina Catlow of Dr Safari Appearance Medicine Clinic.

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

Dreavers_2016

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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‘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)