Category Archives: Architects

Marine and Royal hotels

Built: 1880-1881
Address: 31 and 52 George Street, Port Chalmers
Architect and builder: Gordon McKinnon

The Portsider (former Marine Hotel)

The former Royal Hotel, with 1867 stable buildings on the left

In 1880 Gordon McKinnon was a young architect and contractor based in Port Chalmers, with commissions to design and build two hotel buildings in George Street. Born in Peterhead, Scotland, in 1856, he was the son of Captain Gordon McKinnon, a former whaling ship master who took his family to Otago in 1862. The seaman later captained various vessels and worked as a coastal pilot. Despite the promising start to his career, the younger McKinnon is not mentioned in any books about Dunedin architecture, and the hotel buildings appear to be his most significant works in New Zealand. This made me curious!

The first of the two pubs was the Marine Hotel, now known as the Portsider. The land on which this building stands was excavated and developed later than most of George Street, and at the end of the 1870s was still vacant. In April 1880 the Otago Daily Times reported that construction work was underway:

We have before noticed the fact that many improvements are being carried on in Port Chalmers and among the most prominent of them is the very handsome structure now in course of erection for Mr [William] McLauchlan. It is intended for a hotel, and is situated in the very centre of George street. The style of the building is the decorated Italian, and is from the pencil of a young though very capable architect, Mr Gordon McKinnon, who, although not a native of the Port, has been connected with it from his earliest infancy, and it affords us very great pleasure to record the fact of so fine a building being erected from the designs of this meritorious and rising young artist. The edifice is of the most solid character, being composed of Port Chalmers bluestone foundation, with brick and cement upper works.

The Marine Tavern in the early 1970s. Photo by Daphne Lemon, Hocken Collections S14-585a.

Inside, the ‘very ornamental’ public bar was adjoined by a snuggery, and there was also a commercial room with a separate street entrance. Assembly and dining rooms could be combined to form a single large space for balls, concerts, and other gatherings, serviced from a kitchen at the rear. Through the central street entrance was a grand staircase with elaborately-cut woodwork balusters, and on the first floor were a sitting room, four double bedrooms, six single bedrooms, toilets, warm and cold baths, and showers. A large billiard room was described as ‘one of the handsomest we have seen, its decorations being extremely tasteful and elegant, and the ceiling, which is a masterpiece of plasterwork, is to be finished by a centre flower and elaborate cornice’.

A license was issued in September 1880, with John Thomson the licensee. The hotel survived the 1902-1905 no-license period in Port Chalmers and the longest serving publicans were Edward McKewan (1909-1923) and Fred Carter (1926-1947). One of the claims for the Marine was that it was the first hotel in New Zealand to participate in a meals-on-wheels scheme for the elderly, which began in 1965. The hotel became the Marine Tavern in 1967 and in 1976 closed for extensive rebuilding and renovations before reopening as the Portsider Tavern in 1977. The redevelopment project was designed by Allingham Harrison & Partners and included major rearward and southward extensions, and internal rearrangements. Today the exterior retains most of its original decorative features, including pilasters, Corinthian capitals, cornices, swags, and a scrolled pediment. Finials that originally surmounted the blind parapet have been removed and entrances and windows have changed, with somewhat awkward new arches combined with mullioned aluminium-framed bay windows. The render finish to the facade now has a slurry coat.

McKinnon’s other hotel project was the partial rebuilding of the Royal Hotel. This hostelry had been established in 1861 with Thomas Christmas Bowern as licensee, and a photograph taken later in that decade shows a large three-storey timber structure with a separate stone and brick stable (the latter was built in 1867 and still stands). From 1876 the proprietor was James Morkane, a ‘zealous and practical’ Catholic from Tipperary, Ireland, five of whose ten children joined religious orders. Between 1880 and 1881 the front portion of the hotel was rebuilt for Morkane to McKinnon’s design, with a foundation of Port Chalmers bluestone and walls above in brick.

The new frontage for the Royal was described in the Otago Daily Times as very handsome and ornamental in character, with a ‘chastely decorated’ facade finished in cement render. A first-floor loggia with large Doric pillars and ornate cast-iron railings extended along the front of the building. This feature was unusual in Dunedin but less so in Australia, and had many precedents in the Italian Renaissance architecture that was the revived style used for the design. On the ground floor were a spacious billiard-room, bar, and bar parlour, approached by a lofty entrance hall with a handsome staircase leading to the first floor, on which there was a large dining room and two sitting rooms. On the second floor were six new bedrooms ‘fitted with the most recent appliances for comfort’.

The Royal Hotel in the late 1860s. Photo by D.A. De Maus, Alexander Turnbull Library 1/1-002555-G.

The Royal Hotel in the late 1860s, with the stable buildings on the left. Photo by D.A. De Maus, Alexander Turnbull Library 1/1-002555-G.

The rebuilt Royal Hotel frontage as it appeared in the 1880s. Photo courtesy of Port Chalmers Maritime Museum Collection.

Plans to rebuild accommodation in the rear portion of the hotel appear not have been realised, as the hotel was refused a license in 1885 when it was described as being in a ‘dilapidated and ruinous condition’. The buildings afterwards became a club and a boarding house, and the rear part was eventually demolished. The main uses of the McKinnon-designed portion have been residential, with shops on the ground floor. The loggia was built in at some time before 1920,  a balustraded parapet and  finials were removed in 1947, and fire escapes were added in 1951, but the building retains much of its original character.

And McKinnon? He was declared bankrupt in 1881, likely as a consequence of the hotel projects, and left Dunedin before he could create a sizeable body of work. He went on, however, to enjoy a successful career as an architect in New South Wales, where he established the firm Gordon McKinnon & Sons. His designs included the Parramatta Park gatehouse, Cherrybrook Uniting Church, the School of Arts at Bowral, Symonds’ Building in Sydney (Pitt Street), additions to the house Adamshurst at Albury, and the town halls in Forbes, Inverell, and Albury. He died of heart failure at Katoomba, New South Wales, on 30 June 1922. He was survived by his wife and five sons.

Parramatta Park gatehouse (1885). Photo by Ryan Tracey.

Cherrybrook Uniting Church (1889). Photo by Peter Liebeskind.

Cherrybrook Uniting Church (1889). Photo by Peter Liebeskind.

Forbes Town Hall (1891). Photo by Mattinbgn.

Albury Town Hall (1908). Photo by OZinOH.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 30 April 1880 p.3 (description of Marine Hotel), 9 September 1880 p.2 (license granted for Marine Hotel), 19 February 1881 supp. p.1 (description of Royal Hotel), 5 March 1881 p.3 (insolvency of Gordon McKinnnon), 3 June 1885 p.4 (Royal Hotel loss of license), 28 May 1991 p.1 (meals-on-wheels); Sydney Morning Herald, 5 July 1922 p.9 (obituary for Gordon McKinnon)

Other references:
Dunedin City Council permit records, deposited plans, and rates records
Rev. H.O. Bowman research papers, Hocken Collections MS-0994 box 1 (list of licensees)
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories

Thanks to Chris Scott and Glen Hazelton for their help with Dunedin City Council records.

Thomas Bedford Cameron, architect

Born: Scotland, 1836/1837
Died: Wellington, New Zealand, 8 July 1894

When T.B. Cameron arrived in Dunedin in 1878 he was already an experienced architect in his forties. He worked here for over ten years, but as Hardwicke Knight and Niel Wales tell us in Buildings of Dunedin (1988), ‘apart from the Caversham Presbyterian Church in the 1880s, little is known about him’. A few other things surface from time to time: Cameron submitted the winning entry in the design competition for the Dunedin Town Hall (though R.A. Lawson’s design was ultimately used), and earlier worked in Auckland and Victoria. His role as designer of the Queen’s Arms Hotel (now Empire Tavern) in Dunedin came to notice during the New Zealand Historic Places Trust’s registration of that building in 2012.

What follows is something of a ‘greatest hits’ summary that pulls together a little of Cameron’s story and begins the exploration of his career that is overdue. Although my focus is his Dunedin work, his Auckland career probably produced a greater number of substantial buildings and I would be very interested to hear from anyone with local knowledge or further information about the Auckland and Australian projects listed at the end of this post. Unfortunately, biographical information is elusive. If his sketchy death registration is correct, then Thomas Cameron was born in Scotland in 1836 or 1837. His parents’ names are not recorded on the document, and another blank space suggests that he never married. His middle name, Bedford, is likely a clue to his ancestry, even if he added it when he was a young man to distinguish himself from the many other Thomas Camerons running about the place.

The ‘Star’ newspaper offices (1860), Ballarat. Image: State Library of Victoria H26066, Simon & Bardwell photographers.

The synagogue at Ballarat (1861). Image: State Library of Victoria H2051, Simon & Bardwell photographers.

Former Creswick Presbyterian Church (1861). Image: J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H94.200/1258.

Like some of Dunedin’s other nineteenth-century architects, Cameron migrated from Britain to Victoria, where he worked for a few years before moving on to New Zealand. The earliest documentary reference I found about him was in the Ballarat Star of 13 September 1858, when ‘T.B. Cameron & Co.’ of 1 Bridge Street, called for tenders for additions and alterations to Dr James Stewart’s cottage. I don’t know who the ‘& Co’ were (if anyone), but this tag soon disappeared from Cameron’s notices. If his death record is correct then he would have been in his early twenties at this time, but this is a little difficult to reconcile with a later claim that he had ‘Long practical experience in the Home Country’. In November 1858  he ran the following advertisement:

T.B. CAMERON, Architect &c, 2 Bridge street, Main Road, opposite Humphrey’s Stationery Depot, is prepared to supply plans, specifications, &c, for cottages, shops, warehouses, &c, on the shortest notice, and to guarantee that no building when finished according to the plans will exceed the contract price.

An early project was a hotel with concert rooms in Lydiard Street, built for D. Jones in 1859. Over the next four years Cameron designed many buildings in Ballarat, and also at Creswick, sixteen kilometres to the north. These included the Ballarat Synagogue, which survives today and for which Cameron’s name is still known. Cameron designed the Star newspaper offices, Welsh chapel, Presbyterian church at Creswick, numerous two-storey commercial buildings, and private residences for John Coghill, Theophilus Williams, and others. For a year, from 1861 to 1862, Cameron served as Creswick’s Town Engineer.

In 1864 Cameron moved to Auckland, where he worked for the next thirteen years. He won the design competition for St James Presbyterian Church in Wellington Street, a large Gothic Revival timber building that stood until 1963. He also designed Presbyterian churches at Devonport and Wanganui, the latter being both constructed and destroyed (by fire) in 1868. Cameron was responsible for the design of the Star Hotel in Albert Street, built in 1865, and in 1877 he designed its redevelopment, although only the first stage was completed. Typical features of Cameron’s street elevations were round-headed windows which were relatively wide in proportion to their height. Cameron was briefly in partnership with the architect Arthur W. Burrows from 1865 to 1866.

St James’ Presbyterian Church (1864-1865), Wellington Street, Auckland. The building was demolished in 1963. Image: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-3542.

Royal Mail Hotel, Auckland. Image: James D. Richardson, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-RIC37.

The old Star Hotel in Auckland (right) and what was intended as the first portion of its replacement (left). The hotel was demolished in the early 1980s. Image: Sam Cope (1985) Star Hotel, Albert Street. Copied from postcard lent by H. Hanlon. Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tamaki Paenga Hira, M598.

The only partially realised concept for the rebuilding of the Star Hotel. Image: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A5814.

In 1877, at the other end of the colony, a competition was held for the design of the Dunedin Town Hall, and Cameron entered an imposing classical design with corner tower under the pseudonym ‘In Haste’. In July the Town Hall Committee awarded him first place ahead of prominent local architect R.A. Lawson and seven other entrants. The committee reported that Cameron ‘conformed more nearly to the conditions of the competition than any of the other competitors; and with the exception of the arrangement of the offices for the departments, the design generally possesses considerable merit’. Lawson was appointed supervising architect in September, but as the project had to be scaled back to meet its reduced budget of £7,000, he was asked to make major alterations. The committee had admired Lawson’s front elevations, and agreed that he could adapt his own design rather than Cameron’s. The project was politically controversial, as it was argued that the Town Hall was a luxury the city could do without. Lawson’s finished building included the municipal offices and clock tower, but it would be over 50 years before a public auditorium was added.

Wood engraving of Cameron’s winning design for the Dunedin Town Hall, published in Illustrated Australian News, 3 October 1877. Image: State Library of Victoria IAN03/10/77/156.

Despite the disappointment, or perhaps in part because of it, Cameron decided to move to Dunedin in 1878. There was vigorous building activity in the city and the Town Hall competition would have brought his name to the attention of prospective clients. One of his first commissions was William Gregg’s store and coffee processing building in lower Rattray (now Fryatt) Street. In 1879 he designed two hotels (the Queen’s Arms and the Robert Burns) as well as at least two double-storey houses. Business did not go according to plan, however, as in 1879 Cameron was declared bankrupt with debts of over £600.

The W. Gregg & Co. store and coffee processing building (1878), which still stands in Fryatt Street. The round-headed windows with flanking pilasters are typical of Cameron. Image: advertisement from ‘Beautiful Dunedin’ by W.H. Fahey (1906).

The Empire (originally Queen’s Arms) Hotel in Princes Street. This image was by Hardwicke Knight around 1960, before most of the decoration was removed from the facade.

Detail showing the partially obscured facade of the Robert Burns Hotel (1879). From Hardwicke Knight’s ‘Early Dunedin Photographs’ (1984).

The early 1880s were Cameron’s most productive years in Dunedin. His designs included a three-storey terrace for Mrs Muir in Moray Place, as well as her two-storey house in View Street, and another three-storey terrace nearby for Robert Murray. There were two investment properties for Albert Dornwell, and other commercial work included shops for Denis Heenan and the Woodhaugh Hotel. One of Cameron’s grandest masonry houses was Appin, built for Angus Cameron of the Union Steam Ship Company, and he almost certainly designed Septimus Myers’ large wooden villa ‘Ivanhoe’ in North East Valley, and a similarly proportioned residence for John McCormick in Queen Street. Recurring features of Cameron’s designs from this period include prominent (usually flat) window hoods, and slender curved pilasters that sometime look a little out of proportion to the rest of the building. A few buildings featured square pilasters with circular decorations at the centre of the shafts. The Queens Arms and Robert Burns hotels were given slightly ungainly parapet decoration, but other commercial buildings were elegantly proportioned. Peter Entwisle cites Gladstone Terrace as evidence that Cameron was an erudite and accomplished designer.

Denis Heenan' buildings in George Street, built as additions to a David Ross desogn, and recently identified as Cameron's work by Peter Entwisle. Bold parapet ornamentation has been removed.

Denis Heenan’ buildings (1880) in George Street, built as addition to a David Ross design but with redesigned facades, and recently identified as Cameron’s work by Peter Entwisle. Bold parapet ornamentation has been removed.

John McCormick’s residence (1881), Queen Street. Ornate bargeboards and gothic arches on the verandah are features of this house.

Gladstone (Moray) Terrace, Moray Place. The exterior of the building is well preserved, except that shop fronts have been put in on the ground floor.

Chicksands (1883), the residence of Mrs Amelia Muir. It was designed to complement Mrs Muir’s terrace next door.

Terrace in Moray Place (1880-1881) built for Robert Murray. The use of decorative wrought iron is striking. The building was demolished in the 1940s. Image: Te Papa O.034104. Burton Bros photographers.

Appin (1881-1882), Leith Street, on part of the site now occupied by University College. The bargeboards were again a bold feature. Image: Muir & Moodie, Cameron family papers, Hocken Collections, MS-1046/452 (S12-614).

Two-storey ‘tenement’ block at the corner of Frederick and Leith streets. The building was demolished in the 1970s. Photograph by Hardwicke Knight.

Woodhaugh Hotel (1881-1882).The original blind balustrades have been truncated, and a small corner pediment removed. The rounded corners of the first-floor windows are unusual for a Dunedin building.

The Caversham Presbyterian Church is the only church building in Dunedin I have been able to attribute to Cameron. This prominent local landmark includes Romanesque features, and was described as Norman in a newspaper report that was likely informed by the architect. These features include a broad low-pitched roof and round-headed windows. The overall impression, however, is of a free (eclectic) style, and the building also draws from Gothic influences and colonial Victorian design, while its steeple is reminiscent of the Neo-Classical designs of Sir Christopher Wren. Knight and Wales found the building charming, though with something of a wedding-cake appearance. Its unique and imaginative design give it special significance among Dunedin’s suburban church buildings. When the foundation stone was laid on 21 October 1882 the minister (Rev. Fraser) said: ‘This is supposed to be an age of culture, and an aesthetic age…Public buildings are the common property of all, and more so are the homes of the people. If this is so, what an influence for good must handsome buildings and beautiful surroundings have upon the minds of the people’.

Caversham Presbyterian Church (1882)

Caversham Presbyterian Church (1882)

If newspapers are an accurate indication, Cameron’s activity declined dramatically from 1885, and he was again bankrupted in 1886. This came with a general slump in building activity during the Long Depression, which led other architects (including R.A. Lawson) to leave Dunedin. Cameron’s later commissions here included a ‘large hall’ in Moray Place in 1888 (possibly the Palace Roller Skating Rink), and an as yet unidentified ten-room villa in 1889. In 1891 he was the successful competitor for the design of the Kaitangata Borough Council chambers, but this project appears not to have been realised.

Around 1893 Cameron moved to Wellington, and the following year he placed second in the competition to design the memorial to the late New Zealand Premier John Ballance. He kept a low public profile and one of the few things I found about him from this period was that he was a member of the Terrace Congregational Church.  After suffering from pneumonia for a week, Thomas Cameron passed away at Wellington Hospital on 8 July 1894, aged 57. Apparently leaving no family, and with no identifiable photograph of him known, his buildings must speak of his life.

Courtesy of Martina and Andrew Kelly.

Ivanhoe, North Road, North East Valley. Image courtesy of Martina and Andrew Kelly.

A recent image of Ivanhoe.

Commercial building (1885) at the corner of Moray Place and George Street. It was demolished in the early 1980s. Original parapet decoration had been removed by the time this photograph was taken by Hardwicke Knight in the 1970s. The Palladian windows are similar to the one used at Appin.

Selected works:

      • 1858. Additions and alterations to cottage for Dr James Stewart, Ballarat
      • 1859. Hotel building in Lydiard Street, Ballarat
      • 1859. Welsh Chapel, Ballarat.
      • 1859-1860. Warehouse for A.H. King, Ballarat
      • 1860. Offices for Star newspaper, Sturt Street, Ballarat
      • 1860. Warehouse for John Webster, Creswick
      • 1860. Shop and residence for Wittkowski Bros, Ballarat
      • 1860. Sexton’s lodge, Creswick New Cemetery
      • 1860. Two shops for Mr Martin, Albert Street, Creswick
      • 1860. Two brick shops for Mader Bros, Creswick
      • 1860. Chapel at Slaughterman’s Hill for Bible Christian Association
      • 1860. Two-storey brick premises for Thomas Anthony, Creswick
      • 1860. Brick shop and warehouse for Mr McLeod, Creswick
      • 1860. Two-storey brick premises for Mr Hassell, Creswick
      • 1860-1861. Brick villa for John Coghill, near Ascot
      • 1861. Stone and brick premises for Raphael Bros, Ballarat
      • 1861. Two-storey stone and brick premises for Godfrey & Abrahams, Ballarat
      • 1861. Synagogue, Ballarat*
      • 1861. Presbyterian Church (later St Andrew’s Uniting Church), Creswick*
      • 1861. Stone and brick shops for Rees & Benjamin, Sturt and Lydiard streets, Ballarat
      • 1861. Stone villa for Theophilus Williams
      • 1861. Six-roomed cottage for Dr Daniels, Creswick
      • 1861. Brick premises for Mr Dawson, Bridge Street, Ballarat
      • 1862. Premises for Hepburn & Leonard, Lydiard Street, Ballarat
      • 1862. Stone and brick premises for William Young, Soldiers Hill
      • 1863. Four two-storey shops for Mr Martin, Main Road, Ballarat
      • 1863. Presbyterian manse, Smeaton
      • 1864. Two-storey residence for J. Phillips, Onehunga
      • 1864. Music Hall for George Dalrymple, Wellesley Street, Auckland
      • 1864-1865. St James Presbyterian Church, Wellington Street, Auckland
      • 1865. Two-storey shops and residences, Wellesley Street, Auckland
      • 1865. Eight two-storey shops and residences, Grey and Pitt streets, Auckland
      • 1865. Four two-storey shops and residences, Drake Street, Auckland
      • 1865. Three storey stone and brick warehouse, Albert Street, Auckland
      • 1865. William Rattray’s building (two storeys), Shortland Street, Auckland
      • 1865. Eight two-storey buildings (shops and residences), Grey and Pitt streets, Auckland
      • 1865. Union Hotel (two-storey brick premises), Queen Street, Auckland
      • 1865, 1877. Star Hotel, Albert Street, Auckland
      • 1865-1866. Store for Dingwall, Albert Street, Auckland
      • 1866. Hotel building, O’Neill’s Point, North Shore.
      • 1867. St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Devonport
      • 1867-1868. Presbyterian Church, Wanganui
      • 1870. Royal Mail Hotel, Victoria and Elliott streets, Auckland
      • 1873-1874. Premises for George Quick & Co., Elliott Street, Auckland
      • 1874. Shops for Greenway, High and Durham streets, Auckland
      • 1875. Block of brick buildings for Joseph Craig, Fort Street, Auckland*
      • 1876. Two-storey residence for C. Greenaway, Hobson Street, Auckland
      • 1876. Brick buildings/Post Office Hotel? in Shortland Street, Auckland (site QCE  Hotel)
      • 1876. Warehouse for T. Hartley, Durham Street, Auckland
      • 1878. W. Gregg & Co. store, Rattray Street, Dunedin*
      • 1879. Robert Burns Hotel, George Street, Dunedin*
      • 1879. Residence for Mr Copland, Peel Street, Lawrence
      • 1879. Two-storey residence in Scotland Street, Dunedin
      • 1879. Two-storey stone and brick residence, Queen Street, Dunedin
      • 1879. Queens Arms Hotel (later Empire Hotel), Princes Street, Dunedin*
      • 1880. Stone and brick shop for Denis Heenan, George Street, Dunedin.
      • 1880. Four villa residences for Lewis Lyons, Ravensbourne, Dunedin
      • 1880-1881. Two-storey premises, malthouse etc., Keast & McCarthy Dunedin Brewery
      • 1880-1881. Terrace for Amelia Muir, Moray Place, Dunedin*
      • 1880-1881. Terrace for Robert Murray, Moray Place, Dunedin
      • 1881. Residence for John McCormick, Queen Street North, Dunedin*
      • 1881-1882. Two-storey residence (Appin) for Angus Cameron, Leith Street, Dunedin
      • 1881-1882. Woodhaugh Hotel for J.R. James, Dunedin*
      • 1882. Kincaid & McQueen offices, Great King Street, Dunedin
      • 1882. Two-storey brick premises, Duke Street, Dunedin
      • 1882. Presbyterian Church, Caversham, Dunedin*
      • 1882. Two-storey tenements Frederick and Leith streets for Albert Dornwell
      • 1882. Villa residence for Captain Graham, Musselburgh, Dunedin
      • 1882. Villa residence for Mr Kilmartin, Opoho, Dunedin
      • 1882. Villa residence for Mr Keast, Maori Hill, Dunedin
      • 1883. Two-storey residence for Amelia Muir, View Street, Dunedin*
      • 1883. Main Road, South Dunedin, Mr Campbell.
      • 1884. Two-storey brick tenements, George Street, Dunedin
      • 1884. Nine-room residence, St Clair, Dunedin
      • 1885. Brick shops (two stories) for Albert Dornwell, George Street, Dunedin*
      • 1885. Brick shops (two stories), George Street and Moray Place, Dunedin
      • c.1885. Ivanhoe (Myers residence), North Road, North East Valley, Dunedin
      • 1886. Reinstatement of villa residence for Walter Guthrie, Manor Place, Dunedin
      • 1888. Large hall, Moray Place, Dunedin
      • 1888. Brick residence, Walker Street, Dunedin

*indicates buildings still standing

Newspaper references:
Newspapers consulted through Trove, Paper Past, and microfilm, were the Star (Ballarat), Daily Southern Cross (Auckland), New Zealand Herald (Auckland), Otago Daily Times (Dunedin), Otago Witness (Dunedin), Evening Star (Dunedin), Tuapeka Times (Lawrence), and Evening Post (Wellington). There are too many individual references to list here, but feel free to request specific information.

Other references:
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]
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
‘Caversham Presbyterian Church, 61 Thorn Street, Dunedin’. New Zealand Historic Place Trust registration record (1996) retrieved 14 February 2014 from http://www.historic.org.nz/TheRegister/RegisterSearch/RegisterResults.aspx?RID=7319
Bauchop, Heather. ‘Empire Hotel, 396 Princes Street, Dunedin’. New Zealand Historic Place Trust registration record  (2012) retrieved 14 February 2014 from http://www.historic.org.nz/TheRegister/RegisterSearch/RegisterResults.aspx?RID=9548#
Entwisle, Peter. Draft report B133 (312-314 George Street), Dunedin City Council Heritage Schedule Review, 2013.
Entwisle, Peter. Draft report B404 (Moray Terrace), Dunedin City Council Heritage Schedule Review, 2012.
Knight, Hardwicke and Niel Wales. Buildings of Victorian Dunedin: An Illustrated Guide to New Zealand’s Victorian City  (Dunedin: McIndoe, 1988).
Trotter, Oive. Dunedin’s Crowning Glory: The Town Clock Tower (Dunedin: the author, 1994)

Louis Boldini, architect

Born: Ferrara, Italy, 9 April 1832
Died: Maldon, Victoria, Australia, 12 October 1908

While researching the Dunedin musician Raffaello Squarise ten years ago, I became intrigued by another Italian who featured large in Dunedin’s cultural history. Hardwicke Knight and Niel Wales had said that virtually nothing was known of him, apart from some major contributions he made to the city’s architecture. Peter Entwisle also lamented that so little was known, and through his ‘Art Beat’ column in the Otago Daily Times shared some new information I uncovered. I’ve been occasionally digging around ever since.

In the thirteen years he lived in Dunedin, Boldini gave the city some of its richest and most exuberant pieces of architecture. In the 1880s there were fewer than two dozen Italian-born people living here, and Boldini was the only Continental European architect in a profession that was dominated by Scotsmen and Englishmen, and only beginning to add the sons of colonists to its ranks. Many of these architects designed in the Renaissance Revival manner, but Boldini’s personal style had what Entwisle nicely describes as a ‘distinctively continental stamp’.

Luigi Boldini was born in Ferrara, where his father Antonio (1798-1872), was an artist known for painting religious subjects. His mother, Benvenuta Caleffi, had been a seamstress. Luigi was the couple’s eldest son, and the second of thirteen children. The family moved to the home of his grandparents, the Federzonis, in 1842. Luigi Federzoni (stepfather of Antonio) was a civil engineer and architect who had earlier worked as a cabinetmaker.

In 1846 the family inherited a house in the Via Borgonuovo, with a beautiful view of the Castello Estense. It had belonged to Luigi’s wealthy great-uncle, who had no children of his own. The uncle’s legacy favoured Luigi (who was also his godson) and granted him an annual pension which allowed him to study civil engineering in both Rome and Paris. One of Luigi’s brothers, Giuseppe, became a sculptor, and another, Gaetono, became a railway engineer. A third, Giovanni, became a fashionable and internationally famous portrait painter in Paris, and was known as ‘The King of Swish’ for his flowing style of impressionist-influenced realism. Luigi gave Giovanni much financial help in the early years of his career.

A patriot, Luigi was described as one of Garibaldi’s soldiers, and with his schoolmates Gaetano Ungarelli and Gaetano Dondi he participated in the successful defence of Ancona in 1849. By 1855 he was studying in Paris, where he was a contemporary of Gustave Eiffel, though probably at another institution. Following his graduation, he worked as a city engineer in Ferrara, and taught at the local technical institute. One of his early designs was a mausoleum for the Trotti family, built in 1855. The Copparo Town Hall was rebuilt from the ruins of the Delizia Estense palazzo between 1867 and 1875 to Boldini’s plans.

On 25 April 1861 Luigi married Adelina Borelli at Ferrara, and they had at least two sons and a daughter together. After the death of Adelina, Luigi decided to migrate to Dunedin, where he arrived aboard the Wild Deer on 20 January 1875, accompanied by his sons Gualterio (12) and Alfredo (7). It’s puzzling that an Italian engineer from a wealthy family chose to move to a settlement in one of the remotest of British colonies, even one that had experienced rapid development and offered good professional opportunities. Luigi suffered from a kidney condition, so perhaps he was one of the many people who were advised by their physicians to seek out the New Zealand climate for its supposed revitalising qualities. There may also have been personal or political reasons that made it untenable for him to remain in Italy, or perhaps like many others he wished to escape the difficult economic and social conditions in his own country.

Albion Hotel, Maclaggan Street, Dunedin. Image: Otago Witness, 1 July 1903 p.44.

In Dunedin Luigi anglicised his name to Louis, and his sons became Walter and Alfred. Walter studied at the Otago School of Art from 1876 to 1877, where he was commended for his chalk drawings. He also attended Otago Boys’ High School, where he won drawing and writing prizes and was Dux of the Lower School. Louis kept a low profile during these years but joined the Otago Art Society. The earliest Dunedin building designed by him that I have been able to trace is the Albion Hotel in Maclaggan Street, built for Joseph Davies in 1877. A newspaper reporter admired the use of space and described the style as a mixture of French and Italian. Jobs in 1878 included brick offices for Keast & McCarthy (brewers) in Filleul Street, a coffee saloon for A. & T. Dunning (internal alterations), and a brick building in Heriot Row. The last may have been Sundown House, which Boldini advertised as his place of business.

Royal Albert Hotel, George Street, Dunedin. Image (c.1895): Hocken Collections S09-219e.

 

Newmarket Hotel, Manor Place, Dunedin. Image: Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum 80-85-1.

I have mainly identified Boldini’s Dunedin projects from tender notices in the Evening Star, a newspaper he preferred to the Otago Daily Times. These notices refer to over fifty projects, but there must have been many more for which the builders were found by other means. Boldini became particularly recognised as an architect of hotels, and the years 1879 to 1881 saw the realisation of his plans for the Rainbow Hotel, Cattle Market (later Botanic Gardens) Hotel, Martin’s (later Stafford) Hotel, London Hotel, Royal Albert Hotel, Peacock Hotel, and Newmarket Hotel. The style ranged from plain cemented facades with simple cornices and mouldings in the case of the Rainbow, to highly decorated Renaissance Revival designs for the Royal Albert and Newmarket. The latter two both made good use of sloping corner sites. The Newmarket featured Ionic pilasters and bold decorated pediments, but looked a little top-heavy due to the modest height of the lower level. Both hotels featured distinctive acroteria, decorative devices which became something of a signature for Boldini and which were not often used by other local architects.

Synagogue, Moray Place, Dunedin. Photo: Muir & Moodie. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa C.012193.

Detail of exterior, Synagogue, Moray Place, Dunedin. Image: Muir & Moodie, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa C.012193.

Synagogue, Moray Place, Dunedin. Image: Muir & Moodie. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa C.012364.

Detail of interior, Synagogue, Moray Place, Dunedin. Image: Muir & Moodie. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa C.012364.

On 20 July 1880 Boldini won a major commission, when he saw off rival T.B. Cameron with his design for a new synagogue in Moray Place. The Dunedin Jewish Congregation no longer found its 1860s building convenient, and spent £4,800 on an imposing and lavishly-appointed replacement. The architecture was Classicaland featured a portico supported by large pillars with impressive Corinthian capitals. Diamond-shaped carvings on the front door panels were reminiscent of the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara, and iron railings designed by Boldini were made by Barningham & Co. The completed building was consecrated on 28 August 1881.

In the same year Maurice Joel, President of the Jewish Congregation and Chairman of its Building Committee, commissioned Boldini to design additions to his own house in Regent Road (which had been designed by David Ross). Boldini’s design added steps and a striking central bay with a loggia (an unusual feature in Dunedin) and an elaborately ornamented parapet.

Eden Bank House, Regent Road, Dunedin. Image (c.1905): Hocken Collections S12-549c.

Elevation drawings of proposed residence for Norman Wood, Ravensbourne. Image: Hocken Collections, Owen MacFie papers, MS-1161/256.

Elevation drawings of proposed residence for Norman Wood, Ravensbourne. Image: Hocken Collections, Owen MacFie papers, MS-1161/256.

Boldini’s other projects of 1879-1881 included refreshment rooms at the Clinton Railway Station, a large block of commercial buildings for Herman Dodd at the corner of George Street and Moray Place (now the site of the Westpac building), shops for William Cranston (St Andrew Street) and John Mulrooney (Stafford Street), and the Oddfellows’ Hall for Norman Wood at Ravensbourne. Wood was a building contractor and served as Mayor of West Harbour, he also commissioned Boldini to design a grand residence at Ravensbourne but this was never built, likely due to Wood’s financial position (he went into bankruptcy a number of times). A proposed Town Hall for West Harbour was also abandoned, but the South Dunedin Town Hall was built to Boldini’s design. Unfortunately, his residential buildings are hard to identify, as most of the tender notice descriptions are vague. There were two houses for William Lane in Melville Street, a brick villa in Abbotsford, a cottage in North East Valley, a brick house in Caversham, and a residence in Cumberland Street. There was also brick house built in Clyde Street in 1881, which may have been Sir James Allen’s residence ‘Arana’. Boldini designed ‘Dulcote’ in the same street for Allen’s brother, Charles, in 1886.

Most of the work was for brick buildings, but work in timber included shops and houses built at St Kilda in 1880.

Grand Hotel, High and Princes streets, Dunedin. Image: Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum, 80-74-1.

If there was any doubt that Boldini had secured a reputation as one of Dunedin’s leading architects, this was put to rest in 1882 when he was commissioned to design the Grand Hotel for James and John Watson. The Grand was the largest and most lavishly appointed hotel in New Zealand. Designed ‘in many respects after approved American and European models’, its mod cons included speaking tubes, bells, electric lighting, and a passenger lift. The Oamaru stone facade gently curved at the street corner, and was decorated with ornate carving by Louis Godfrey. For some of the internal plaster decoration Boldini sent his designs to England for manufacture, and large iron columns were cast by Sparrow & Co. Concrete and iron were used for the shell of the building and the floors, which were designed to be as fire proof as possible. The hotel opened on 6 October 1883, when 6,000 people visited. The building contractor was James Small and it cost over £40,000 to build.

Butterworth Bros warehouse, High Street, Dunedin. The facade was remodelled in the late 1940s and the building was demolished in 2010. Image: Advertisement from ‘Beautiful Dunedin’ by W.H. Fahey (1906).

Parkside Hotel, South Road, Dunedin. The building survives but the frontage was extended in 1925 and given an entirely new facade designed by Edmund Anscombe. Image (189-): William Williams, Alexander Turnbull Library 1/2-140504-G.

Boldini’s largest warehouse design was for Butterworth Brothers, importers and manufacturers of clothing and other soft goods. Some of this firm’s wealth might have been better directed at the working conditions of its employees, as the company was one of those named and shamed in the sweated labour scandal that broke in 1889. Most of the building was brick, with the facade constructed from Port Chalmers and Oamaru stone and elaborately carved. ‘Fire proof’ floors were again constructed with iron beams and concrete.

Other work by Boldini between 1882 and 1885 included the fitting out of the Parkside Hotel in South Road, interior work for the City Butchery, a stone homestead at Tarras, two houses at St Clair (a wooden cottage and a brick residence), a wool shed for M.C. Orbell at Whare Flat, and a house at Dunback for T.E. Glover.

AMP Building, Princes and Dowling streets, Dunedin. Image: Frost, Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum 32-49-1.

AMP Building, Princes and Dowling streets, Dunedin. Image: Frost, Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum 32-49-1.

Boldini’s last major design in Dunedin was built for Australian Mutual Provident Society on the corner of Princes and Dowling streets. Announced in January 1886, its generous proportions were very noticeable when its four storeys were compared with the modest two-storey buildings on either side. The contractor was again James Small, who tendered a price of £21,600. Some of the policyholders objected to the extravagance of the building, which took two years to build. The ground floor facades were built of Port Chalmers stone with Carrara marble pilasters, and the upper floors were Oamaru stone, with granite columns on the top floor. Interior materials include Abroath stone, Minton and majolica tiles, wrought iron pillars, and cedar woodwork. The top floor was a clothing factory, operated by Morris and Seelye, and which accommodated 100 young women. It was one of Dunedin’s greatest architectural losses when this building was destroyed in the summer of 1969-70. The demolition job took much longer than planned, as it was discovered that Boldini has been something of a pioneer in structural reinforcing.

In September 1886 Boldini gained a commission in Auckland, for the Mutual Life Association of Australasia. With a contract price of £11,000, it was just over half the cost of the AMP offices, reflecting its smaller size. It was completed in December 1887, well ahead of the AMP, which was not finished until August 1888. For over a year Boldini had two very large jobs at opposite ends of colony and this involved much travel, although Mahoney & Sons were supervising architects for the Auckland building. Boldini also gained a daughter-in-law during this period, with his son Walter marrying Jane Wilson at a Dunedin Registry Office on 4 June 1887. Both Walter and Alfred settled in Australia.

Louis was in Dunedin for the testing of the lift in the AMP Building on 8 March 1888, and the following day he left for Australia on board the Rotomahana. I have found no evidence that he ever returned.

Mutual Life Association of Australasia, Queen Street, Auckland. Image: Henry Winnkelmann. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W1393.

Postcard showing Karori, Mount Macdeon. Image: courtesy of Dominic Romeo.

Karori, Mount Macdeon. Image (2013): courtesy of Dominic Romeo.

Karori, Mount Macdeon. Image (2013): courtesy of Dominic Romeo.

By 1888 building activity in Dunedin was at a low ebb, and the colony as a whole suffering the effects of the long depression. An opportunity presented itself in Australia, when former Wellington businessman Charles William Chapman asked Boldini to design a summer retreat at a bush station on the southern slopes of Mount Macedon, Victoria.  Splendidly restored by Dominic and Marie Romeo between 2011 and 2013, it has been described as a ‘Swiss Chalet’ style building, and its square tower brings out an Italianate character. It has been suggested that some of the external fretwork draws from Maori design, but if so the interpretation looks quite free.

Chapman was an investor in a syndicate led by Dr Duncan Turner, which built an immense guest house resort building at Woodend between 1889 and 1890. With 50-60 rooms and a building area of 2,130 square metres, this was the largest timber structure Boldini designed. Its influences have been described as Venetian, Swiss (the chalet again), Californian (as in trade publications popular at the time), and New Zealand (with its many timber villas). The fretwork on Braemar is highly elaborate, and the octagonal corner tower is a grandiose but delightfully romantic feature.

Lithograph depicting Braemar, Woodend. Image: private collection.

Braemar, Woodend. Image: State Library of Victoria b52993.

Mechanics’ Institute and Free Library. Image (2011): Mattinbgn (Creative Commons).

For a time Boldini lived in Melbourne and Daylesford. He settled in Maldon around 1896, a town with a population of about 1,600 residents. He opened an office in High Street, and buildings from this last phase of his career show some change in his style, following the fashion for greater use of unrendered brick, and continuing the development of his domestic timber designs. His Mechanic’s Institute and Library in Woodend with its cemented Renaissance Revival facade is perhaps the closest to his Dunedin aesthetic. Boldini’s surviving buildings in Maldon include the residence Minilya, the Scots’ (Presbyterian) Church, Phoenix Buildings, and various works for Maldon Hospital, including additions to the main building and remodelling. Two designs, a Benevolent Ward for the hospital and the Maldon Hotel, were not completed until after his death.

Boldini was involved in community affairs, and was made a life governor of the Maldon Athenaeum for the service he gave to that society. He died in Maldon on 12 October 1908, after being admitted to hospital with chronic cystitis and uraemia. A Presbyterian minister presided over his burial at the local cemetery, and his grave is unmarked.

 

Minilya (Calder residence), Maldon, Victoria. Image (2011): Courtesy of Jan Warracke.

Scots’ Church, Maldon. Image (2011): Mattingbn (Creative Commons).

Phoenix Buildings, Maldon, Victoria. Image (2009): City of Greater Bendigo, Macedon Ranges Shire Council.

Maldon Hotel, Victoria. Image (2009): City of Greater Bendigo, Macedon Ranges Shire Council.

So far no photograph of Boldini has emerged. His brother Giovanni was five foot one inches tall, and a dapper moustachioed society figure, but the two men may not have looked very similar.  I hope to put a face to this story one day.

Boldini’s built legacy has fared better in Australia than in New Zealand. In Dunedin, three of his four grandest designs have been demolished: the AMP Buildings (1969-1970), the Synagogue (1972), and Butterworth Bros’ warehouse (2010). There is some irony that the Butterworth building was demolished by the owners of the remaining building, the Grand Hotel, to make way for a car park. Hopefully further research will identify more buildings and more about the man behind their design.

Boldini's unmarked grave in Maldon Cemetery

Boldini’s unmarked grave in Maldon Cemetery. Image (2013): courtesy of Jan Warracke.

Selected works:

  • 1877. Albion Hotel, Maclaggan Street, Dunedin
  • 1878. Coffee salon for A. & T. Dunning, Princes Street, Dunedin.
  • 1878. Keast & McCarthy offices, Filleul Street, Dunedin
  • 1879. Rainbow Hotel, George and St Andrew streets, Dunedin
  • 1880. Royal Albert Hotel, George Street, Dunedin*
  • 1880. Cattle Market Hotel, North Road, Dunedin
  • 1880. Martin’s Hotel, Stafford Street, Dunedin
  • 1880. London Hotel, Jetty Street, Dunedin
  • 1880. Oddfellows’ Hall, Ravensbourne
  • 1880. Refreshment rooms, Clinton Railway Station
  • 1880-1881. Synagogue, Moray Place, Dunedin
  • 1880-1883. Dodd’s Buildings, George Street and Moray Place, Dunedin
  • 1881. Brick residence (Arana?*), Clyde Street, Dunedin
  • 1881. Peacock Hotel, Princes Street, Dunedin
  • 1881. South Dunedin Town Hall, King Edward Street, Dunedin
  • 1881. Newmarket Hotel, Manor Place, Dunedin
  • 1881. Additions to Eden Bank House (Joel residence), Regent Road, Dunedin
  • 1882-1883. Grand Hotel, High and Princes streets, Dunedin*
  • 1883. Butterworth Bros warehouse, High Street, Dunedin
  • 1883. Parkside Hotel, South Road, Dunedin*
  • 1884. Homestead (stone), Tarras
  • 1884. Additions to Fernhill, Melville Street, Dunedin
  • 1885. Woolshed for M.C. Orbell, Whare Flat
  • 1885. Glover residence, Dunback
  • 1886. Dulcote, Clyde Street, Dunedin
  • 1886-1888. AMP Building, Princes and Dowling streets, Dunedin
  • 1886-1887. Mutual Life Association building, Queen Street, Auckland
  • 1888. Karori (for C.W. Chapman), Mount Macdeon, Victoria*
  • 1889-1890. Braemar, Woodend, Victoria*
  • 1893. Mechanics Institute and Library, Woodend, Victoria*
  • 1894. Bath house, Hepburn Springs, Victoria*
  • 1896-1897. Additions and remodelling, Maldon Hospital, Victoria*
  • 1899. Dining room, Maldon Hospital, Victoria*
  • 1900. Minilya (Calder residence), Maldon, Victoria*
  • 1905-1906. Scots’ Church, Maldon, Victoria*
  • 1906. Phoenix Buildings, Maldon, Victoria*
  • 1907-1909. Maldon Hotel, Maldon, Victoria*
  • 1909. Benevolent Ward, Maldon Hospital, Victoria*

*indicates buildings still standing

Primary references:

Too many to list here, many from newspaper sources available online through PapersPast and Trove, and from the Evening Star (Dunedin) on microfilm. Feel free to ask if you’re interested in anything in particular.

Secondary references:

Ceccarelli, Francesco and Marco Folin. Delizie Estensi: Architetture di Villa nel Rinascimento Italiano ed Europeo (Firenze: Olschki, 2009).
‘Dalle Origini al Primo Soggiorno Inglese’ (chapter from unidentified biography of Giovanni Boldini, supplied to the writer).
Entwisle, Peter. ‘Art Beat: Putting Flesh to File on Boldini’, Otago Daily Times, 22 August 2005 p.17.
Entwisle, Peter. ‘Boldini, Louis’ in Southern People: A Dictionary of Otago Southland Biography (Dunedin: Longacre, 1998).
Hitch, John. A History of Braemar House, Woodend, Victoria. 1890-1990 (Woodend: Braemar College, 1992).
Knight, Hardwicke and Niel Wales. Buildings of Victorian Dunedin: An Illustrated Guide to New Zealand’s Victorian City (Dunedin: McIndoe, 1988).
Pepe, Luigi. Copernico e lo Studio di Ferrara: Università, Dottori e Student (Bologna: Clueb, 2003).
Scardino, Lucio and Antionio P. Torresi. Post mortem: Disegni, Decorazioni e Sculture per la Certosa Ottocentesca di Ferrara (Michigan: Liberty House, 1998).
Victorian Heritage Database online.

Acknowledgments:

I would particularly like to thank Jan Warracke, Margaret McKay, and Dominic Romeo in Victoria for their help with images and information.


Royal Albert Hotel

Built: 1880 / 1939
Address: 387 George Street
Architects: Louis Boldini / Stone & Sturmer
Builders: Norman Wood / D.P. Murphy

A Labour Day procession makes its way south along George Street, some time between 1892 and 1896. The Royal Albert Hotel can be seen on the right. The bay with the shop front at the left-hand end was added in 1882. (Hocken Collections S09-219e)

There has been a pub on the site of The Bog Irish Bar for nearly 150 years. In April 1864, James Ramage Hood was granted a license for a new public house named the Black Bull Hotel. An early photograph shows it was a single-storey wooden structure. Hood was succeeded as licensee by William and Margaret Carveth (from 1866 to 1877), and Johann Luks (1877-1879).

Luks was a German immigrant who had previously worked as a fruiterer in George Street. In late 1878 he commissioned the architect Louis Boldini to design a new hotel building, but was declared bankrupt in August 1879 before the project could go ahead. Daniel White purchased the fourteen-year lease on the property the same month, and in December was granted a license for the establishment which he gave a new name: the Royal Albert Hotel. The replacement building was erected in 1880 by contractor Norman Wood to Boldini’s plans, and completed by October. It was built of brick, with ornate cemented facades in the revived Italian Renaissance style, and made the most of a tricky triangular site. The ground floor had a bar, three sitting rooms, a dining room, and a kitchen. There were nine bedrooms and a sitting room on the first floor.

Louis Boldini was the only Italian or Continental European architect who worked in Dunedin in the late nineteenth century, and as most of his work has been destroyed this building is a significant survivor. Boldini’s most impressive designs included the second Dunedin Synagogue, the AMP Building, Butterworth Brothers’ warehouse, and the Grand Hotel. Of these only the Grand remains (as the Dunedin Casino within the Southern Cross Hotel).

Daniel White, first licensee of the Royal Albert Hotel (Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum, A566-1)

Daniel White (c.1834-1907), known to some as ‘Black Dan’, was born on the Caribbean Island of St Thomas. He arrived in Dunedin in 1859 and initially worked as a barman at the Provincial Hotel. After running a restaurant called the Epicurean, he opened the Crown Hotel at the intersection of Rattray and Maclaggan streets in 1862. He was later the founding proprietor of Royal Hotel in Great King Street, the Queen’s Hotel in Castle Street, and the Ravensbourne Hotel. He was also a West Harbour Borough councillor.

Given his surname, his nickname, and his ethnicity, it’s not surprising that White got rid of the Black Bull name! For many years he was one of the most respected publicans in Dunedin, but in 1882 he was refused a renewal of his license for the Royal Albert Hotel on grounds of ‘immorality’. Separated from his wife of twenty years, he had fathered children by two of his servants, one of whom he had been found guilty of beating (for which he was fined one pound). He was forced to give up the Albert, but eventually returned to the Queen’s Hotel in 1888 and remained there for ten years. His last pub was the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel in Russell Street. White died in December 1907 at the age of 73.

The Albert passed to Francis O’Kane in 1882, and to Joseph Strong before the year was out. Building additions, again designed by Boldini, extended the hotel in a southwards direction. The next licensees were Robert Allen (1883-1889), Alfred Low (1889-1890), Mary Campbell (1890-1892), and Michael Moloney (1892-1896). The hotel was refurbished during Moloney’s time and alterations designed by architects Mason & Wales were carried out. Moloney was succeeded by John McLeod (1896-1900), Margaret Braun (1900-1904), Thomas Laurenson (1904-1907), Robert McClintock (1907), George McGavin (1907-1911), Michael Cahill (1911-1912), Eliza Cahill (1912-1918), and Sarah Laurenson (1918-1928).

Advertisement from the New Zealand Tablet, 4 November 1892 p.24 (Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand)

The longest serving publican of the Royal Albert Hotel was Henry Mathie Allan, who ran the business from 1928 to 1961 together with his wife, Frances Annie Allan. Above the corner entrance can still be seen the words: ‘H.M. Allan, Licensed to Sell Fermented & Spirituous Liquors’. This wording was uncovered when layers of paint were stripped from the fanlight in 2007. Harry Allan was the son of Eliza Cahill, one of the earlier licensees. He had a keen interest in trotting and owned a number of horses, the most successful of which were Blue Horizon and Will Cary. In Allan’s time the hotel underwent its most radical transformation. The architects Stone & Sturmer (Gorton R. Stone and Frank Sturmer) were commissioned to design extensive internal alterations, a large extension facing London Street, and an art deco makeover of the old exterior. The work was carried out in 1939 by D.P. Murphy and cost £5,443. Stone & Sturmer reworked a number of other nineteenth-century facades in Dunedin during the 1930s, including the Victoria Hotel in St Andrew Street (since demolished) and the Victoria Chambers in Crawford Street. As with Mandeno & Fraser’s remodelling of the Manchester Unity Chambers, previously discussed in this blog, the final result is a marriage of two styles and periods.

Perspective drawing by Stone & Sturmer, architects (Evening Star, 21 March 1939 p.3, with thanks to Dunedin Public Libraries)

Perspective drawing by Stone & Sturmer, architects (Evening Star, 21 March 1939 p.3, with thanks to Dunedin Public Libraries)

An Evening Star newspaper report stated: ‘The exterior of the building will be changed to suit present-day tastes with coloured plaster ornaments rising from a brown-tiled base’. Boldini’s ornamentation was removed and plastered over, but the first floor window openings remained and the building retained much of its original rhythm and some of its Victorian character. The new decoration included fluting, floral motifs, and string courses with scroll patterns. Leadlight windows were installed in the first floor and for the fanlights. The ground floor windows were enlarged but mostly filled with glass bricks, the idea being to let light in but keep noise out and the temperature stable. The new private bar was ‘modern to the extreme with colours of black, red, cream, and chromium predominating in a design of sweeping curves and horizontal lines’. It featured a 100-foot continuous counter. The London Street additions were likewise modern in style, with a flat-roofed building erected over the old yard space.

RoyalAlbert_GaryBlackman

View from George Street, August 1963. Reproduced by kind permission of the photographer, Gary Blackman.

The building in 1983, photographed by Frank Tod (Hocken Collections S13-531a)

The building in 1983, photographed by Frank Tod (Hocken Collections S13-531b)

James McNeish mentioned the Albert and its publican in his 1957 book, Tavern in the Town. Describing it as a ‘student pub’, he wrote:

‘Its bar-room displays toby jugs of enough nationalities to start a revolution […] Henry Allan is the present landlord of the Royal Albert, a publican with a dual passion: toby jugs and roses. He has been collecting jugs since 1937. He is probably our only publican who wears a fresh rose in his buttonhole each day.’

Edward and Lindsay Young bought the hotel 1963 and remained the licensees to 1977. They gave up the accommodation side of the business and in 1971 the London Lounge bistro opened on the first floor, taking space previously used for bedrooms. A New Zealand Breweries publication reported: ‘The decor shows foresight and courage: a challenging psychedelic (cloth) wallpaper, brightly-hued lampshades, vari-coloured seats, [and] contrasting drapes’.  A tavern license was issued in 1978 when the Royal Albert Hotel became the Royal Albert Tavern.

The next big makeover came after Michael Bankier bought the tavern in 1988. The Royal Albert was renamed the Albert Arms and given a Scottish theme, complete with Royal Stuart tartan carpet. The menu included ‘Kildonald Fried Chicken’, ‘Loch Lomond Salmon Salad’ and ‘Isle of Orkney Pork Chops’. Loch Lomond is not known for its salmon, nor Orkney for its pigs, but the names were only intended to be fun. The ground floor windows were reglazed to allow patrons to watch what is one of Dunedin’s most buzzing street corners, and the exterior was repainted in a distinctive green and red colour scheme selected by Peter Johnstone and Sue Medary of the Design Consultancy. The refurbished bar and restaurant opened in June 1989.

The green and red colour scheme of 1989-2007, photographed  by Axel Magard in 2000.

The green and red colour scheme of 1989-2007, photographed by Axel Magard in 2000 (Creative Commons license)

For a short period from 2004 the Albert Arms returned to the ‘Royal Albert’ name and the bar was branded as Albie’s, but the large Albert Arms sign remained on the parapet. The most recent refurbishment came in 2007, when the Royal Albert became The Bog Irish Bar, one of a chain of four bars in Auckland, Christchurch, and Dunedin. The exterior was repainted blue, with gold and grey detailing. The London Lounge closed but a new restaurant was later opened in the space. Steel grilles were added in front of four first floor windows and a variety of textured and coloured glass panes installed in the existing ground floor windows. There are many appealing features,  but to me it’s a pity that the old name has gone and there is no celebration of the site’s own 149-year history amidst the large amount of generic Irish history that decorates the interior.

There is a curiosity in the exterior plasterwork in that two dates, 1859 and 1939, are engraved on the parapet. The second commemorates the rebuilding, but the first is something of a mystery. The original 1880 decoration also featured the 1859 date. The site was first licensed in 1864, so is the reference to 1859 a mistake? Was Dan White referring to the year he first arrived in Dunedin? Or was there some other business on the site from this date? It’s something to ponder – perhaps over a beer!

The building in 2013

View from London Street, showing the 1939 additions on the right

Detail featuring the ‘Royal Albert Hotel’ name and the dates 1859 and 1939

Leadlight window with the name of Harry Allan, licensee from 1928 to 1961

Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times, 20 April 1864 p.4 (Black Bull Hotel), 15 June 1864 p.4 (Black Bull Hotel), 12 August 1879 p.1 (bankruptcy of Luks), 23 August 1879 p.4 (sale of hotel), 3 December 1879 p.3 (transfer of license), 13 May 1880 p.2 (White in City Police Court), 5 October 1880 p.2 (description of new building), 19 June 1882 p.2 (White’s license), 25 July 1882 p.2 (additions),  3 April 1894 p.3 (alterations by Mason & Wales), 23 March 1911 p.12 (‘Black Dan’), 25 March 1961 p.2 (hotel sold), 19 June 1961 p.3 (retirement of Harry Allan), 14 June 1989 p.21 (refurbished as Albert Arms), 24 May 2007 p.10 (refurbished as The Bog Irish Bar), 18 October 2007 p.22 (The Bog); Evening Star, 31 December 1878 p.1 (call for tenders), 31 July 1882 p.2 (additions), 21 March 1939 p.3 (description of rebuilding); Otago Witness, 6 September 1879 p.15 (sale of hotel).

Other references:
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans.
Frank Tod papers, Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hākena MS-3290/049.
McNeish, James. Tavern in the Town (Wellington: A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1957).
Tod, Frank, Pubs Galore (Dunedin: the author, 1984).

David Ross FRIBA, architect

Baptised: Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, 11 July 1828
Died: Auckland, New Zealand, 6 October 1908

David Ross is probably the architect I’ve spent the most time researching.  This partly comes from an appreciation of his work, and partly from a feeling that his legacy has been neglected, and that he’s not nearly as well known as he should be. He is recognised by writers such as Knight and Wales as one of the most significant architects to have worked in Dunedin, but very little has been written about him and there are no published articles (let alone books) devoted to him. As with a few of our Victorian architects, his Australian work is seen in isolation by Australians and his New Zealand work is seen in isolation by New Zealanders. I’ve made a list of over 450 building projects he worked on, so this post is very much the selected highlights.

Early life

Ross was born in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, where he was baptised on 11 July 1828. His father, William Ross, was a jeweller and watchmaker, and although I don’t know what sort of child young David was it’s easy to imagine him finding an interest in his father’s work that translated well into architectural studies. Ross began his career articled to the firm McKenzie & Matthews, of Elgin and Aberdeen, at about the time they designed such buildings as the Free Church College at Aberdeen and the Drumtochty Castle stables. Ross afterwards spent about three years working for Lewis Hornblower of Liverpool and John Hornblower of Birmingham, becoming ‘chief assistant’. Lewis Hornblower’s designs in Liverpool included the grand entrance and other buildings at Birkenhead Park (as part of a collaboration with Sir Joseph Paxton), and a commercial building at 25 Church Street (dating from a little after Ross’s time). He was best known for his later work on Sefton Park.

Victoria, Australia

Ross migrated to Victoria in 1853 and later that year went into partnership with R.A. Dowden in Melbourne. Their firm, Dowden & Ross, won the competition to design St Mary of the Angels Catholic Church, Geelong. It is not known with any certainty which architect was primarily responsible for the competition entry, but following a fire in the 1868 Ross lost what he referred to as ‘my drawing of Geelong Cathedral’, and following his death an obituary credited him with the building’s design. Ross never saw the church in its completed state, as it took over 80 years to realise the original plans and the building was not finished until 1937.

St Mary of the Angels, Geelong. Photo (2007): Marcus Wong,

St Mary of the Angels, Geelong. Rear view. Photo (2007): Marcus Wong.

Wesleyan Church, Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, Melbourne. Photo (1933): J.A. Sears. State Library of Victoria. Ref: H20784.

Colonial Bank of Australasia, Kilmore. Photo (1861): Vanheems & Co. State Library of Victoria. Ref: H1819.

The Dowden & Ross partnership was dissolved in 1854 and Ross continued to practise on his own. His designs of the mid to late 1850s included Glass Terrace in Melbourne, the Chalmers Church at Eastern Hill, the Presbyterian manse at Williamstown, the tower and spire of the Scots Church in Melbourne, the Wesleyan Church at St Kilda, the Colonial Bank at Kilmore, the sea baths at St Kilda, and numerous houses and shops.

Ross married Agnes Buttery Marshall, the daughter of a prominent solicitor, in 1856. They had four daughters and one son. Tragically, the eldest daughter, Pameljeanie, died in 1860 at the age of three years.

Move to Dunedin

The family moved to Dunedin in May 1862, with Ross taking an office in Manse Street. Presumably, he was attracted by the building boom that accompanied the Otago Gold Rush. One of his first commissions was the Moray Place Congregational Church, which survives as the oldest church building in Dunedin (although it has been converted into residential apartments). Ross was for about five months in partnership with William Mason, who arrived a little later in 1862, but was soon working on his own again. He was a member of the first Dunedin City Council, from 1864 to 1865, and a glimpse of him in a cartoon shows a dark, bearded man, but frustratingly I’ve never found a photograph of him.

Ross received some notice as an artist. He showed nine watercolours at the 1854 Melbourne Exhibition, and more at a small Industrial Exhibition in Dunedin in 1862. Some of his watercolours of Otago scenery were described in the Bruce Herald  in 1874, with Ross reported to have ‘powers of landscape delineation… far beyond anything we had conceived in the way of local talent to exist in Otago’.

Early Dunedin works  included the Bank of Otago in Princes Street (where the National Bank now stands) and the old Empire Hotel (on a different site from the current one). In the Mason & Ross partnership he may have designed the house Highlawn in collaboration with its owner, C.W. Richmond. He was also responsible for Colinswood, a more modest residence built at Macandrew Bay for James Macandrew. In some of these buildings a row-of-circles decorative motif can be seen, and although others used this, it is a distinctive Ross signature. Also typical of Ross is a particular style of paired round-headed windows.

Congregational Church, Moray Place. Later changes include the side vestry, the front steps and entrance (moved from the side), the pinnacles, and rendering of the brick.

Congregational Church, Moray Place, Dunedin. The later changes to Ross’s original building include the side vestry, the front steps and entrance (moved from the side), the pinnacles, and the rendering of the exterior brickwork.

The Imperial Hotel, Princes and Hope streets. Photo: D.L. Mundy, [1864]. Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum.

Shops for James Brown the (three-storeyed building), Princes Street. Photo: D.L. Mundy, [1864]. Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum.

Fernhill, Dunedin, built for John Jones. Photo (n.d.): Unknown. Hocken Collections. Ref: S12-282b.

Colinswood, Macandrew Bay. Photo (n.d.): James R. Cameron. Alexander Turnbull Library. Ref: 1/2-024931-G.

Public buildings

In 1869 and 1874  Ross won significant commissions for public buildings. His Atheneaum in the Octagon survives, though stripped of its facade detailing. The statuary was the only feature in the engraving shown here that was never realised. His original portion for the Otago Museum also remains but the northern and southern wings were never completed to his design and suggested statuary and friezes were never added. As planned, it would have completed an exuberant design combining Greek revival and ‘Second Empire’ architecture. When it was finally decided to add the Hocken Wing to the museum in 1907, an elderly Ross wrote: ‘it was understood that for any future additions required to complete the design that I would be the Architect and paid as usual according to the cost. This being the case no other person should be allowed to interfere with my work without my permission’. He did not get the work but architect J.A. Burnside based his facade designs on Ross’s concept. The later Fels wing is different in scale and style, with a decision made to reorient the complex towards the Museum Reserve.

The Otago Education Board was the source of much work in the 1870s and Ross designed schools at Mosgiel, Allanton, Popotunoa, Port Molyneux, Sawyers Bay, Forbury, and Port Chalmers. He also designed large additions for Otago Girls’ High School (after they took over the boys’ building), the Otago Boys’ High School rectory, and the large Normal School and Art School building in Moray Place. He also found government work designing immigration barracks at Dunedin, Oamaru, Stewart Island, Bluff, Riverton, and Milton.

Athenaeum, Octagon, Dunedin. Samuel Calvert engraving (1870) from Illustrated Australian News. State Library of Victoria. Ref: IAN16/07/70/132.

Otago Museum, Great King Street, Dunedin. Engraving (1875) from Illustrated Australian News. State Library of Victoria. Ref: IAN24/03/75/44.

Gallery inside the Otago Museum. Photo (1890): William Williams. Alexander Turnbull Library. Ref: 1/1-025834-G.

Normal School and Art School, Moray Place, Dunedin. Private collection.

Port Chalmers Grammar School. Photo (n.d.): Unknown. Hocken Collections. Ref: S12-658g.

Commercial work and patronage

Among his private clients, Ross enjoyed the patronage of some of Dunedin’s leading businessmen. One of these men was Maurice Joel, for whom Ross designed a private residence (Eden Bank House), a shop in Princes Street, various additions to the Red Lion Brewery, the Captain Cook Hotel, and possibly the Caledonian (later Rugby) Hotel. For Bendix Hallenstein he designed two large clothing factory buildings in Dunedin and stores in Queenstown. He was also the architect of one New Zealand’s largest industrial complexes, Guthrie and Larnach’s New Zealand Hardware Factory buildings in Princes and Bond Streets, which was destroyed by fires in 1887 and 1896. Private houses included ‘The Willows’ (the house of Sir William Barron at Kew) and two North Otago homesteads: Elderslie and Windsor Park. His largest hotel was the Prince of Wales in Princes Street. In some projects he collaborated with his nephew, F.W. Burwell, who established himself in Queenstown and Invercargill and became one of the leading architects of southern New Zealand.

Elderslie, North Otago, built for John Reid. Photo (1905): Otago Witness. Hocken Collections. Ref: S12-282d.

MurphyTerrace

Terrace, York Place, Dunedin, built for Dr Michael Murphy. DCC Archives ref: Photo 264/11

Guthrie & Larnach premises, Princes Street, Dunedin. Photo (n.d.): J.W. Allen. Hocken Collections. Ref: S06-152d.

Guthrie & Larnach premises, Bond Street, Dunedin. Engraving (1877) from Australasian Sketcher. State Library of Victoria. Ref: A/S12/05/77/28.

Hallenstein’s New Zealand Clothing Factory (seen here as the National Insurance building). The Exchange, Dunedin. Photo (c.1930): Tourist and Publicity. Alexander Turnbull Library. Ref: 1/1-006149-F.

Hallenstein’s New Zealand Clothing Company offices and factory, Dowling Street, Dunedin. Photo (1880s): Burton Bros. Hocken Collections. Ref: AG-295-036/003.

Churches

Ross designed fewer churches in Otago than he did in Victoria, which probably owed something to R.A. Lawson’s monopoly on Presbyterian Church work and F.W. Petre’s on Catholic commissions . One of Ross’s buildings was the Presbyterian Church at Palmerston, with its distinctive rust-coloured Waihemo stone and very Scots-looking design, with a spire remiscent of both St Nicholas’ Kirk, Aberdeen, and his own Scots’ Church tower in Melbourne. Ross also designed Presbyterian churches at Balclutha and Clinton (both timber) and a Primitive Methodist Church at Bluff. His biggest commission was for Dunedin’s Knox Church. The foundation stone for this building was laid on 25 November 1872 but Ross was dismissed for misconduct on 16 January 1873 and his design was abandoned. He sued the church for wrongful dismissal and won on some points, but the verdict was mostly in favour of the defendants.  Ross had purchased Bacon’s quarry, which it had been previously agreed would supply stone for the project, and the jury found that Ross’s actions in connection with this had been improper, but were not sufficient grounds for dismissal. The more significant issue was that he had selected a Clerk of Works, John Hotson, who was widely thought to be a drunkard and was found to be unfit for his job. Ross’s insistence on retaining Hotson and his refusal to acknowledge the replacement selected by the church was found by the jury to be reasonable grounds for dismissal.  Ross was awarded a mere two pounds in compensation when he had claimed over £200. He was replaced by R.A. Lawson, who used his own more expensive design for the church.

This was not the only event that suggested Ross could be difficult to work with. In 1872 he unsuccessfully sued Vincent Pyke for fees he claimed were due for calling tenders for a house that was not proceeded with. One witness, a contractor, claimed that ‘Some contractors refused to tender for any work under Mr Ross, and said they would rather do it for anyone else in the country. Witness did not know their reason for it, but he supposed it was over-vigilance on the part of Mr Ross.’

Palmerston Presbyterian Church.

Clinton Presbyterian Church. Photo (n.d.): Unknown. Hocken Collections. Ref: S12-282c.

Concrete

The first mass concrete buildings in Dunedin were built in the early to mid 1870s and Ross was at the forefront of this new technology, being slightly ahead of other local concrete pioneers such as N.Y.A. Wales, Lawson, and Petre (the last of whom was famously nicknamed ‘Lord Concrete’). In 1870 Ross and Burwell applied for a patent for sole use of ‘certain inventions and improvements in the construction of frames or apparatus’ for concrete construction. Another curious invention of Ross’s was a ‘self acting’ toilet seat, that lifted without being touched!

Ross was designing buildings in concrete from at least 1872 and in 1874 it was reported in the Otago Daily Times   that ‘Mr Ross claims no originality in the matter, but credit must be given him for the persevering way in which he has hitherto quietly advocated the introduction of the new mode of building into the Province, and his efforts appear to be now beginning to be crowned with success, he having orders in hand for designing about 40 concrete buildings.’ These buildings included numerous workers’ cottages, a two-storey house, shop buildings, and a grain store. The largest was the Otago Museum, in which Ross experimented by using old rails from railway lines as girders, a technique he further developed when rebuilding his Octagon building. An experimental concrete roof on the colonnade on the Lawrence court house was spectacularly unsuccessful when the builder (who had been dubious about the design) removed his props and the whole thing collapsed. A replacement built to a revised plan remains in place today. In 1907, when technology for reinforced concrete construction was rapidly developing, Ross was proud that his concrete buildings had lasted well and claimed that no reinforcing was required in ordinary concrete structures, suggesting that he had fallen behind modern thinking.

The Inspector of Works for the museum was Edmund M. Roach, a fellow architect who supervised the construction of many of Ross’s designs and eventually became his associate. When Ross left Dunedin Roach took over his practice and for many years continued to manage his interests in the city, also acting as the executor of his estate.

Court house (Warden’s Court), Lawrence. The top storey is a later addition.

Crescent (now Careys Bay) Hotel.

Prince of Wales Hotel, Princes Street, Dunedin.

Prince of Wales Hotel, Princes Street, Dunedin.

Ross’s own house in Heriot Row, Dunedin.

Chapman’s Terrace, Stuart Street, where I lived for two years. The building, which is currently getting a makeover, originally had a balustraded parapet.

Travels and family

Ross left New Zealand for an extended trip overseas in 1879, visiting the United States and Europe. In London he was admitted a Fellow of the Royaly Institute of British Architects (FRIBA), a high honour that no other Dunedin architect received. He was nominated by John Norton, Robert Edis, and William Audsley. These were distinguished architects (Norton particularly) and Audsley would have known Ross from the years they both worked in Elgin and Liverpool. Burwell also became  fellow in 1880, and in 1884 Ross and Burwell were the only architects in New Zealand to hold this distinction. Ross always used the letters ‘FRIBA’ in his later advertising.

A tragedy took place during Ross’s absence from Dunedin, when on 8 September 1879 a severe fire gutted his building in the Octagon, resulting in the loss of twelve lives. The ‘Octagon Buildings’ had been erected by Ross in 1876 and included shops, his own and other offices, and a warren of small residential apartments. Following the fire the design of the structure (including it layout and the inadequacy of its partitions) was quickly criticised. Ross had returned to Dunedin by February 1880 and he subsequently rebuilt the building, with the top mansard floor replaced with another masonry storey added to the facade.

A great personal sadness for Ross in 1880 was the death of his eight month old son, William, at Courbevoie near Paris, on 3 June. Ross had separated from his wife, and she later lived with her daugther in Yokohama, Japan, where she died in 1894. The couple’s elder surviving daughter, Flora, married Marc Lucas in Yokohama in 1894. The other daughter, Agnes, married Professor W.E.L.  Sweet at Kumamoto in 1904. The presence of the family in Japan explains why some sources mistakenly state that Ross spent his later life in that country. Another interesting family connection was that Ross’s brother, Rev. Dr William Ross, was a Presbyterian minister in the West Indies and Lancefield, Australia.

Jobs in Dunedin in the early 1880s included Chapman’s Terrace in Stuart Street, Ross’s own house in Heriot Row, and the second Hallenstein factory. One of Ross’s last Dunedin projects was the head office building for the Union Steam Ship Company in Water Street, completed in 1883. Its richly decorated renaissance revival facade was made particularly distinctive by its dome (an observation post) and a collection of small minarets along the parapet. This decoration was removed in 1940 as part of remodelling carried out for the National Mortgage and Agency Company.

Auckland

In 1883 Ross won the competition for the Auckland Harbour Board Offices in Quay Street, Auckland, with a design that at first glance looks like a cheeky replica of the USSCo. building. The main differences were variations to the ornamentation and fenestration (including round-headed windows instead of square-headed ones on the first floor). Like its sister, this building suffered drastic twentieth century remodelling before its eventual demolition.  The Harbour Board commission took Ross to Auckland where he was based from 1883 to 1886. It is perhaps unsurprising that he did not return to Dunedin, as there was little building work going on here in a depressed economy. Other architects who left during the 1880s included Maxwell Bury, Louis Boldini, and R.A. Lawson.

Among Ross’s more remarkable Auckland works there were additions for Alfred Isaacs which transformed his house Charleville into a fantastic but quite ungainly mansion with an enormous castellated tower that commanded superb views. He also designed substantial additions to the Star Hotel in Onehunga, and a large warehouse for Bell Brothers in Wyndham Street.

Octagon Buildings, Dunedin, as they were rebuilt following the fire in 1879. Photo (1880s): Burton Bros. Alexander Turnbull Library. Ref: Ref: 1/1-006149-F.

Union Steam Ship Company offices, Water Street, Dunedin. Photo (1880s): Burton Bros. Hocken Collections. Ref: S10-221c.

Spot the difference! Auckland Harbour Board Offices, Quay Street, Auckland. Photo (n.d.): Henry Winkelmann. George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries. Ref: 1-W890.

Charleville, residence of Alfred Isaacs, Remuera, Auckland. Photo (c.1910): William Archer Price. Alexander Turnbull Library. Ref: 1/2-001180-G.

Australia again

In 1886 Ross left for Australia, setting up an office at Temple Court, Queen Street, Sydney. His best known work there is the St George’s Hall, Newtown, of 1887, which was one of his more grand and florid renaissance revival designs. Also from this period were the mansion Iona at Darlinghurst, and the masonry towers and other work for the Long Gully suspension bridge, which cost over £100,000 to build and was one of the largest bridges of its kind in existence.

Ross briefly practised in Wellington from 1893 before moving to Perth in 1895, where he went into partnership with Burwell.  The partnership didn’t last long as Burwell soon set up on his own at Fremantle, but Ross remained in Perth for over seven years, getting some substantial residential commissions but probably less work than he would have liked. The most ambitious project he was involved with there was a proposed 1,160-seat theatre for Perth Theatre Company, but this never came to fruition. Other projects included villas for John Shadwick,  F. Cairns Hill, and Stanley Sutton, and buildings for the Silver Pan Confectionery Company.

Ross’s most surprising move came in 1903, when he left Perth for Johannesburg, South Africa, where rebuilding had started following the Boer War. It was surprising not only because of the distance, but because Ross was approaching 75 years of age. A farewell event was held at the West Australian Club, where it was said that by his genial disposition Ross had made a large circle of friends, and was looked upon with much affection and goodwill: ‘Mr. Ross was not a young man, but had plenty of “go” and true grit and, would have ample scope for his capabilities in a new land with such possibilities as South Africa’. Ross feelingly replied, commenting that ‘he had always helped younger professional men without jealousy, and no thing pleased him better than when he saw any of the improvements which he had made adopted in general use. His ideas were not due to inspiration, but were the result of hard study.’

St George’s Hall, Newtown, Sydney. Photo: Hall & Co. State Library of New South Wales. Ref: 35195.

Long Gully bridge, Sydney. Photo (n.d.): Henry King. Powerhouse Museum Collection. Ref: 85/1285-1131.

Final years and conclusion

I have so far been unable to trace any of Ross’s work in South Africa, but he remained there until 1906, when he moved back to Auckland. It was there that he died on 6 October 1908, at the age of 80. Fellow freemasons from Lodge St Andrew arranged a funeral procession to the Waikumete Cemetery, where he was buried. The grave is unmarked. Ross had continued to work until the month before his death, with one of his last works being additions to St Barnabas Church, Mount Eden. Two daughters outlived him.

Ross would probably be more celebrated if he hadn’t moved around so much. He was soon almost forgotten in Dunedin, and in his own lifetime the Cyclopedia of New Zealand  stated that he had been dead for several years. His New Zealand Historic Places Trust biography still states that he probably spent his later life in the USA and Japan, and some Australian sources give his place of death as South Africa. The fact that he is not identified as the author of many of his surviving buildings has prevented full recognition of his achievements.

Despite a lack of knowledge or writing about him, Ross has long been recognized as a key figure. His importance has been acknowledged by writers from the 1960s onwards (perhaps beginning with McCoy and Blackman’s Victorian City of New Zealand), and Knight and Wales describe him as ‘undoubtedly one of the most important architects who have worked in Dunedin’. Seven of his buildings are listed as Historic Places, partly due to their association with him.

Stacpoole (1971) wrote that ‘Quite clearly, [William] Mason was the architectural superior’ of Ross, and that where ‘Ross’s buildings are essentially Victorian, Mason’s display earlier influences and, to that extent, please us more today’. I agree that the two men often use the stylistic language of different generations, but disagree with the overall assessment. Mason designed two superb Dunedin buildings (the Post Office/Stock Exchange and Bank of New South Wales) but his other work (even including the 1865 exhibition buildings and St Matthew’s Church) doesn’t appear to give him any great claim to be ‘superior’.

In my opinion Ross was also of similar ability to his slightly younger contemporary, R.A. Lawson, who is recognised as Dunedin’s pre-eminent Victorian architect for designing the city’s grandest landmarks of the period (First and Knox churches, the Municipal Chambers, Otago Boys’ High School, Larnach Castle). In some particular aspects, such as commercial architecture, Ross’s legacy is no less significant than Lawson’s. His role as an innovator also give him a key place. What I most like about Ross though, is his knack for strong yet elegant, and rich yet unfussy design. I think his reputation will continue to grow.

Selected works:

  • 1854-1856. Glass Terrace, Melbourne*
  • 1854-1937. St Mary of the Angels Catholic Church, Geelong*
  • 1855. Chalmers Church, Eastern Hill*
  • 1856-1857. Presbyterian manse, Williamstown, Melbourne*
  • 1856-1857. St Kilda Sea Bathing Establishment, Melbourne
  • 1857. Tower and spire, Scots Church, Melbourne
  • 1857. Flint, Ramsay & Co. warehouse, Collins Street, Melbourne
  • 1857-1858. Wesleyan Church, Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, Melbourne*
  • 1859. Colonial Bank, Kilmore*
  • 1862-1863. Imperial Hotel, Princes Street, Dunedin* (much altered)
  • 1862-1863. Shops for James Brown, Princes Street, Dunedin* (incorporated into a larger building in the 1870s)
  • 1863. Provincial Hotel, Port Chalmers
  • 1864. Congregational Church, Moray Place, Dunedin*
  • 1864. Empire Hotel, Princes Street, Dunedin (extensive additions)
  • 1865. Bank of Otago, Princes Street, Dunedin
  • 1867. Fernhill (Jones residence), Dunedin*
  • 1867. Colinswood (Macandrew residence), Macandrew Bay*
  • 1869-1870. Athenaeum and Mechanic’s Institute, Octagon, Dunedin*
  • 1870. Rectory, Otago Boys’ High School, Dunedin
  • 1872-1873. Windsor Park homestead, North Otago*
  • 1873-1874. Elderslie homestead (Reid residence), North Otago
  • 1874. Port Chalmers Grammar School
  • 1874-1875. Court house, Lawrence*
  • 1874-1876. Normal School, Moray Place, Dunedin
  • 1874. Crescent Hotel (later Careys Bay Hotel), Careys Bay*
  • 1874. Eden Bank (Joel residence), Dunedin
  • 1874-1877. Otago Museum, Great King Street, Dunedin*
  • 1875. Colonial Bank (later BNZ), Outram*
  • 1875. NZ Clothing Company warehouse, Rattray Street, Dunedin*
  • 1875-1876. A. & T. Inglis, George Street, Dunedin* (mostly demolished)
  • 1875-1878. Guthrie & Larnach, Bond and Princes streets, Dunedin
  • 1876. Presbyterian Church, Palmerston*
  • 1876-1877. Gridiron Hotel, Princes Street, Dunedin
  • 1876-1877. Terrace for Dr Michael Murphy, York Place, Dunedin*
  • 1876. Prince of Wales Hotel, Princes Street, Dunedin*
  • 1876. R.P. Bagley’s building, 284 George Street, Dunedin*
  • 1876-1880. Octagon Buildings, Dunedin*
  • 1877. Charles Begg & Co., Princes Street, Dunedin
  • 1877. The Willows (Barron residence), Kew, Dunedin
  • 1881. Villa for David Ross, Heriot Row, Dunedin*
  • 1881-1882. Chapman’s Terrace, Stuart Street, Dunedin*
  • 1882-1883. Presbyterian Church, Clinton
  • 1882-1883. NZ Clothing Factory, Dowling Street, Dunedin*
  • 1882-1883. Union Steam Ship Co. offices, Water Street, Dunedin*
  • 1883-1885. Auckland Harbour Board offices, Quay Street, Auckland
  • c.1883-1885. Additions to Star Hotel, Onehunga*
  • 1885. Bell Bros warehouse, Wyndham Street, Auckland*
  • c.1885. Charleville (Isaacs residence), Remuera
  • 1887. St George’s Hall, Newtown, Sydney*
  • 1889. Iona, Darlinghurst, Sydney*
  • 1892. Towers, Long Gully Bridge, Cammeray, Sydney*
  • 1899. Villa for John Shadwick, Colin Street, Perth*
  • 1902. Villa for F. Cairns Hill, Subiaco, Perth
  • 1903-1906. Various unknown works, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 1908. St Barnabas Church, Mt Eden, Auckland (additions)*

*indicates buildings still standing

Primary references:

Too many to list here, many from newspaper sources available on PapersPast and Trove. Feel free to ask if you’re interested in anything in particular.

Secondary references:

Knight, Hardwicke and Niel Wales. Buildings of Victorian Dunedin: An Illustrated Guide to New Zealand’s Victorian City  (Dunedin: McIndoe, 1988).
Mane-Wheoke, Jonathan. ‘City of Magnificent Edifices’ in New Zealand Historic Places, no. 54 (July 1995), pp.5-7. [article re F.W. Burwell]
McCoy, E.J. and J.G. Blackman. Victorian City of New Zealand  (Dunedin: McIndoe, [1968]).
McCraw, John. Dunedin Holocaust (Dunedin: Square One Press, 1998).
Stacpoole, John. Colonial Architecture in New Zealand (Wellington: Reed, 1976).
Stacpoole, John. William Mason: The First New Zealand Architect  (Auckland: AUP, 1971).
Dictionary of Scottish Architects online
New Zealand Historic Places Trust online register
Victorian Heritage Database online

Joseph Lowe Shaw, architect

Born: Dublin, Ireland, c.1821
Died: Dunedin, 23 September 1906

521 George Street (Wilson residence)

J.L. Shaw has something of a one-hit-wonder status in Dunedin, where he is almost only known as the architect of the much admired house at 521 George Street. He is better known in Victoria, Australia, for his earlier work there, but his New Zealand career deserves more exploration and recognition than it’s had.

Joseph Lowe Shaw was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1820 or 1821, the son of Mary Ann Shaw, née Lowe, and John Shaw, who was a doctor. His two older brothers, William and Forster Shaw, were also doctors, and they migrated to Victoria in the 1840s. I haven’t found details of  Joseph’s education or early career in Ireland but he was about 30 years old when he arrived in Melbourne aboard the Asia in 1850. He settled at Geelong, where for two years he worked in partnership with H.M. Garrard as a surveyor, engineer, and architect. The two men were responsible for many early survey maps.

In 1851 Shaw married Euphemia Jane Clibborn. She died in 1860 and the following year Shaw married Juliet Georgiana Wherland. The couple had a son, Francis.

From 1856 to 1857 Shaw worked in partnership with R.A. Dowden in the architectural firm Shaw and Dowden. The pair’s work in Geelong included the Colonial Bank, St Augustine’s Orphanage, and additions to James Simson’s residence Eumeralla. They were also responsible for the Woolbrook homestead at Teesdale. In 1859 Shaw designed Morongo, a grand bluestone homestead, for John Calvert.  For his own brother William he designed Allington, a two-storyed residence in Newtown noted for its striking polychromatic brickwork. Churches by Shaw included St Peter’s Anglican Church at Geelong, and Presbyterian churches at Batesford, Shelford, Inverleigh, and Darlington.

Derry Hall, Curlewis

Morongo, Bell Post Hill

Presbyterian Church, Leigh

Allington, Newtown

Shaw came to suffer from a lack of patronage, and from personal problems that were said to have included alcoholism. Perhaps for a fresh start he moved with his family to Dunedin in 1876, where one of his first architectural works was the Supreme Court Hotel, now the Kwangchow Cuisine restaurant, in Stuart Street. He was the architect of the extensive rebuilding of Chingford, then P.C. Neill’s house, in 1877. This house was demolished in 1968 and only the stables, designed by Mason and Wales in 1880, survive.

In 1878 Shaw designed Edward Hulme Hart’s residence in Wardlaw Street, a timber house with distinctive fretted bargeboards, steeply gabled bay, and other features in the style of the Chingford additions. It has been described as ‘Carpenter’s Gothic’. Other houses by Shaw included the house in George Street built for Robert Wilson, which has distinctive balconies that have more in common with Australian than New Zealand models (although interestingly  a house at 111 Highgate is in a similar style). Shaw also designed a homestead for J.M. Ritchie at Cannington Station, and Robert Chapman’s large wooden house in Maori Hill.

Chingford, North East Valley (with kind permission of macadee on flickr). All that’s seen here except the portion at the right rear of the picture were Shaw’s additions.

Hart residence, Musselburgh

Shaw was the architect of buildings for Donaghy’s rope and twine factory in South Dunedin, including the original rope walk of 1878. He also designed the National Hotel in Great King Street and the National Bank at Tapanui. He was architect to the Benevolent Institution, for which his designs included the Old Men’s Home, Secretary’s residence, and additions. Juliet Shaw was treasurer to the committee of the Female Refuge, and in 1888 additions to the refuge in Forth Street were built to Shaw’s design.

An Anglican, Shaw had been a trustee of St Paul’s Church in Geelong, and served in the Diocesan Synod in Dunedin. His works associated with the Church included schoolhouses for St John’s and St Matthew’s churches and the supervision of the removal of the old St Peter’s church building at Caversham and its re-erection as St Mary’s, Mornington, in 1883.

Shaw served as Chairman of the Maori Hill Licensing Committee, and as a Maori Hill Borough councillor. His later works included the wooden council chambers built in 1894.

Joseph Lowe Shaw died at his home, Como, in Drivers Road, Maori Hill, on 23 September 1906, at the age of 85. He was survived by his wife and his son. Shaw’s remains are buried at the Northern Cemetery along with those of Juliet Shaw, who died in 1920.

Some buildings designed by J.L. Shaw:

    • 1854-1855. St Peter’s Anglican Church, Chilwell
    • 1855. Forster Shaw’s residence (later Clonard College), Geelong
    • c.1855. Residence (Darriwill), Sutherland’s Creek (attributed)
    • 1856, 1858. Additions to Eumeralla, Newtown (Dowden & Ross)
    • 1857. Colonial Bank, Geelong (Dowden & Ross)
    • 1857. St Augustine’s Orphanage, Geelong (Dowden & Ross)
    • 1857. Catholic Church, Steiglitz (Dowden & Ross)
    • 1857. Woolbrook homestead, Teesdale
    • 1858. Derry Hall, Curlewis
    • 1859. Presbyterian Church, Shelford
    • 1859-1860. Morongo, Bell Post Hill
    • 1860. Presbyterian Church, Batesford
    • 1861. Presbyterian Church, Inverleigh
    • 1862. All Saints’ Anglican Church, Geelong
    • 1864. Presbyterian Church, Darlington
    • 1866-1867. Additions to Mawallok homestead, Stockyard Hill
    • 1872. Allington, Newtown
    • 1876. Supreme Court Hotel, Dunedin
    • 1877. Additions to Chingford, Dunedin
    • 1878. Hart family residence, Musselburgh
    • 1878. Donaghy’s ropeworks, Forbury
    • 1881. Robert Wilson’s residence, 521 George Street, Dunedin
    • 1881. George Joachim’s residence, Willowbank, Lees Street, Dunedin
    • 1882. National Hotel, Great King Street, Dunedin
    • 1883. St John’s Anglican Church school room, Dunedin
    • 1884. Residence and other buildings, Cannington Station
    • 1885. St Matthew’s Anglican Church school room, Dunedin
    • 1885. Secretary’s residence, Otago Benevolent Institution
    • 1885. Old Men’s Home, Otago Benevolent Institution
    • 1887. Robert Chapman’s residence (wood), Maori Hill
    • 1885. Additions to Otago Benevolent Institution
    • 1888. National Bank, Tapanui (wood)
    • 1893. Maori Hill Borough Council chambers

Former Supreme Court Hotel, Stuart Street. In recent decades it has sported a funny-looking hat.

The grave stone of Joseph and Juliet Shaw in the Northern Cemetery, Dunedin

Image credits: State Library of Victoria, b51531 (Morongo), pi002931 (Leigh Presbyterian Church), Heritage Victoria B3625 (Allington); Hocken Collections S12-614b (Hart residence), macadee on flickr (Chingford). Thanks to commenter Paula Grima for the image of Derry Hall.

Newspaper references: The Colonist (Sydney) 1 Jul 1840 p.2 (Forster Shaw), Geelong Advertiser 14 Jul 1851 p.2 (marriage notice), Argus (Melbourne), 29 Mar 1850 p.3 (arrival on ‘Asia’); Otago Daily Times 31 Mar 1877 p.1 (Supreme Court hotel), 12 Jun 1877 p.4 (Chingford), 17 May 1878 p.3 (Hart residence), 22 Feb 1878 p.3 (Donaghy’s rope walk), 21 Mar 1878 p.3 (Donaghy’s machine house); 25 Mar 1881 p.4 (Wilson residence), 7 Sep 1882 p.3 (National Hotel), 7 Aug 1883 p.4 (St John’s school house), 26 May 1884 p.1 (Cannington Station), 9 February 1885 p.1 (old men’s home), 1 Aug 1885 p.4 (St Matthew’s school house), 4 Sep 1885 p.2 (Benevolent Institution – Secretary’s residence), 13 Dec 1886, 3 (Chapman residence); 23 May 1887 p.3 (Benevolent Institution), 6 Dec 1887 p.3 (National Bank, Tapanui), 23 Feb 1894 p.3 (Maori Hill Borough Council); Otago Witness 26 Sep 1906 p.46 (death).

Other references: Lorraine Huddle, ‘Architects in Geelong in the 1840s and 1850s’ (research report, University of Melbourne, 1979); Lorraine Huddle, ‘Architects of Early Geelong – 4’ in The Investigator vol. 18 no. 1 (1983), Hardwicke Knight, Church Building in Otago (1993) p.54; Victorian death registration for Euphemia Jane Shaw, 1860; Victorian marriage registration for Juliet Georgiana Wherland and Joseph Lowe Shaw, 1861; New Zealand death registration for Joseph Lowe Shaw (1906/7149); New Zealand death registration for Joseph Lowe Shaw (1906/7149); Will and probate file for Juliet Georgiana Shaw (Archives New Zealand DAAC.9005.D249.398/8494); Dunedin City Council Cemeteries Database; Victorian Heritage Database; E-mail, 20 January 2011, from Allan Willingham to David Murray.

Expanded and updated from a piece published in the ‘Stories in Stone’ column in the Otago Daily Times  in 2010.