Address: 18 Arthur Street
Architect: John Somerville
Builder: William Duncan Demolished 1971
The house in September 1964. Gary Blackman photographer. From a Kodachrome slide.
Gary Blackman’s beautiful Kodachrome image of the janitor’s house at Otago Boys’ High School in 1964 has inspired me to look at the history of the building, demolished over fifty years ago.
The school used the title of janitor for its caretaker until about 1980. The janitor’s tasks included maintaining the playing areas and other grounds, managing lost property, recording absenteeism, first aid, and supervising the ‘fatigues’ issued as punishments.
The janitor’s residence was immediately to the left of the main school entrance on Arthur Street. It was built fairly quickly in the early months of 1885, just as the school was moving from its original site where Otago Girls’ High School is now. The main stone building, designed by R.A. Lawson, had taken two years to build and was formally opened in February 1885.
John Somerville, not Lawson, designed the janitor’s house. Somerville’s main salaried employment was as the Otago Education Board architect. He also worked for the Otago High Schools Board of Governors, the body responsible for the management of Dunedin’s two public high schools.
William Duncan won the contract to build the house, for the modest sum of £228. This was approximately a year’s wages for a senior clerk or teacher. The contract price for the main building had been nearly £15,000. The house was built largely of Baltic pine, with some kauri, in a carpenter gothic style with a distinctive steeply-pitched roof and carved bargeboards.
‘Dunedin North’ by Burton Brothers. Te Papa O.000988. The photograph was taken between 1887 and 1890. The janitor’s house can be seen to the right of the main school building. In the foreground is the then new Arthur Street School Infant Department building.
Detail from the Burton Brothers photograph.
The janitors who lived in this house, and their dates of occupation, were:
John Wallace 1885-1902
Edward Carter 1903-1934
David McEwen Hall Hanlin 1934-1960
William James Hammond 1960-1966
William Kirkland 1966-c.1969 (continuing as janitor to 1975)
The first, John Wallace, was one of 86 applicants for the position. He lived in the house with his wife Maggie and their five children, staying in the job for seventeen years. One of the children, also named Maggie, died at the house in 1896, aged 20. I have not found out much more about the family. John was born in Innerleithen, in the Scottish Borders, and also worked as a carpenter. He appealed against cuts made to his salary when the school went through a period of straightened finances. He later lived in Dundas Street and died in Auckland in 1923, aged about eighty (sources vary). Maggie died in 1930.
The longest-serving janitor was Edward Carter, better known as Nick, who took up the position in 1903. Born in Dunedin in 1869, he had worked as a gardener and married Martha Murdoch in 1895. Martha and Nick moved into the janitor’s house with four children under the age of thirteen, and another two would be born after the move. The youngest, John, died at the age of just two weeks. Martha died in 1915, aged 45.
Nick was described by one former Otago Boys’ pupil as ‘small and nondescript’, someone who would have made a good spy! ‘Many of us can still see him as he toddled from room to room with the absence book or up to the dais in the hall to ring the handbell at the end of a spell’. He was a skilled gardener and produced beautiful displays of spring flowers. He built a rock garden next to the house, beside the front entrance. Nick remarried, to Florence Evans, in 1926. The couple were presented with a suitcase, a pair of vases, and an enthusiastic haka by the schoolboys. After more than thirty years in the job, Nick Carter retired in 1934. He died in 1942, and Florence in 1949.
I have found no informative sources about what life was like for the janitor’s wife, living on the school grounds. Perhaps this post might elicit something.
David and Louisa Hanlin came to the house with their two children in 1934, during the later part of the Great Depression. Davie, as he was known, was selected from 171 applicants. Born in Glasgow in 1895, he came to Otago in 1912 and worked with his father in a cartage and contracting business in Mosgiel. He served in France in the First World War, in the Machine-Gun Section of the 23rd Reinforcements, Specialist Company. He would be part of National Reserve in the Second World War, and afterwards had a long association with the RSA. An accomplished association football player, he had played for the Southern and Mosgiel clubs. He was highly regarded as a coach, including of the High School Old Boys’ Team, and was a soccer writer for both the Otago Daily Times and the Evening Star. He was given the title of assistant rector because one of his duties was to ring the bell that called the school to order. He was also known to have Scotch broth for lunch every day of the year, no matter what the weather! Davie Hanlin retired in 1960 and died in 1985, aged 90. Louisa, who was born in Middlemarch, died in 1986 at the age of 92.
The north front of the house in the early 1960s. From the Old Boys’ Register.
Bill Hammond was janitor from 1960 to 1966. It seems he later worked as a swimming pool manager in Timaru, and as a security officer in Auckland.
William Kirkland took over in 1966 and was the last janitor to live in the old house, with his wife May. They moved out about 1969, when the building became vacant. William described it as ‘still quite serviceable’. Nevertheless, it came down in the first weeks of January 1971.
The Otago Daily Times reported: ‘There will be many who will regret the demise of this charming house and who will wonder whether its end was absolutely necessary’. The reason given for the demolition was the re-landscaping of the area, with a larger entrance to the school. One regular passerby, who was asked for comment by the reporter, thought it a great pity. She said something could have been done to save the building, possibly by moving it. Two years later, even the main stone building faced demolition. It was saved only after lobbying and objections, and a change of heart from the school governors and ministry officials. For those interested, Rory Sweetman’s superbly researched and very readable history of the school, Above the City, gives more information about this.
Happily, the main building survives and has been strengthened, but the long-gone janitor’s house fades further from memory. If you have memories of it, please do share them in the comments.
Newspaper references: New Zealand Herald 26 January 1923 p.2 (death of John Wallace). Otago Daily Times, 8 January 1971 p.9 (‘Early Dunedin building is being demolished), 18 December 1985, p.3 (‘Fond memories of caretaker’, David Hanlin), 27 April 2015 p.3 (‘Veteran to lay poppy for Dad’).
Griffiths, G.J. and E.J. McCoy. Otago Boys’ High School and its Historic Neighbourhood. Dunedin: Otago Heritage Books, 1983.
Sweetman, Rory. ‘Above the City’: A History of Otago Boys’ High School. Dunedin: Otago Boys’ High School Foundation, 2013. Magazine, Otago Boys’ High School (including staff lists). Otago Boys’ High School Old Boys Register. Dunedin: Otago High School Old Boys’ Society, 1963.
Electoral rolls Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Minute book, AG-266/002, from Otago High Schools Board records, Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hākena.
Voucher book, AG-266/067, from Otago High Schools Board records
Ancestry.com genealogical resources
Built: 1877 Address: 34 George Street, Port Chalmers Architects: Mason, Wales & Stevenson Builder: Robert Bauchop
James P. Milnes’ store, Port Chalmers, Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena. Ref: MS-5014/002/001.
In 1877 the Cameron family moved into their newly-built home, bakery, and grocery store in George Street, Port Chalmers. The building’s association with the grocery trade continued for more than a century, and today it is part of a precinct of Victorian and early twentieth-century buildings.
The Māori history of the locality reaches back centuries, through the people of Waitaha, Kāti Mamoe, and Kāi Tahu. The north-facing bay, Kōpūtai, is known as a tauraka waka, nohoanga, and wāhi tapu: landing place, seasonal settlement, and sacred site.
It was at Kōpūtai that Kāi Tahu and the New Zealand Company agreed the sale and purchase of the Otago Block in 1844, a pivotal point in the establishment of a colony by the Lay Association of the Free Church of Scotland. The town’s survey followed in 1846, ahead of central Dunedin, and the organised settlement of Otago began with the arrival of the first migrant sailing ships in 1848. The name Port Chalmers is taken from Rev. Dr Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), the founding leader of the church and influential social reformer.
Growth was slow in the decade that followed. About one hundred people lived at Port Chalmers in 1860. The next year the Gold Rush began, and by 1865 the township’s population numbered over 900. Shipping within Otago Harbour accounted for about 500 more people, over 90% of them men, and the port was one of the busiest in Australasia. Overseas routes provided essential transport and communication links, as did coastal shipping, especially before completion of the Christchurch to Invercargill railway in 1879. The global significance of the port grew through its association with Union Steam Ship Company, established in Dunedin in 1875. By 1891 the company had a fleet of 54 steamships and was the largest shipping company in the southern hemisphere.
Mana whenua connection to Kōpūtai continued throughout these developments. Reading about this can be found in Nyssa Payne-Harker’s thesis, Shared Spaces or Contested Places? Examining the role of Kāi Tahu Whānui in Port Chalmers and Bluff, 1848-2016.
Port Chalmers township about 1872. Burton Brothers photographers. Ref: Te Papa C.011806. The site of the Milnes Building is behind the wooden church in the left foreground.
The port in 1905. Muir & Moodie photographers. Te Papa PA.000180.
Andrew and Margaret Cameron were born at Paisley, near Glasgow in Scotland, and spent their early married life there, with Andrew working as a baker. They came to Otago with their four children in 1863 and settled at Sawyers Bay, where in 1864 Andrew established a bakery and general store.
The family moved to the Port Chalmers township in 1872, when Andrew took over the business and wooden buildings of Taylor & Kilgour. The bakery flourished – its success at least partly attributed to it supplying the Union Company.
The first commercial buildings of Port Chalmers were wooden, and timber constructions still dominated George Street in the early 1870s. By the end of the decade many of these structures had been replaced in more ‘permanent’ materials. In 1877, Andrew Cameron engaged the architects Mason, Wales & Stevenson to replace his existing buildings with structures in stone (for the basement) and brick.
Thomas Stevenson was the architect partner responsible for the design, which was conventional in both layout and form. On the ground floor were a shop, storeroom, and office, while on the first floor were four bedrooms, a sitting room (with two windows facing the street), kitchen, and bathroom. The facade was in the Renaissance Revival style, often referred to in architectural description of the time as simply ‘Italian’. It was the most fashionable style for commercial buildings, and its manifestation ranged from the elaborate to the relatively plain. While not ornate, the Camerons’ building did feature a distinctive arched pediment. Surviving architectural drawings show this with the date 1877 in relief, but in the end the plasterers were instructed to put ‘Established 1864’ in its place. This presumably refers to the business’s Sawyers Bay beginnings.
The original 1877 drawing by Thomas Stevenson, signed by the contractor Robert Bauchop. From the collection of Mason & Wales Architects.
Robert Bauchop won the building contract; at the time he was one of the busiest and best-known builders in the town. Under a second contract he built a stable and large bakehouse at the rear of the section.
According to his Otago Daily Times obituary, Andrew had ‘ever a cheery word for friends, and rarely left them without a quiet joke’. He was closely involved with the local Presbyterian Church but less interested in local politics and societies. Margaret and Andrew had three sons and a daughter. Their youngest son, Andrew Cameron, became the Presbyterian minister at Andersons Bay, and in the early twentieth century was a prominent public figure, known for his leading roles in founding Knox College and the Presbyterian Social Service Association, and as a vice-chancellor and chancellor of the University of Otago.
Detail from a William Williams photograph, c.1890s. Ref: Alexander Turnbull Library 1/1-025830-G. The front of the building is indicated by the arrow.
Another of Margaret and Andrew’s sons, James Muir Cameron, took over the Port Chalmers business when Andrew retired in 1884. He ran the store for over twenty years. One incident that made the court news was a disagreement between two of the bakers, with one throwing a stone that wounded the other above the eye.
James Pickford Milnes bought the business in 1905, and it is the Milnes name that remains most associated with the building’s history. James was a Yorkshireman and had worked as a farmer at Akatore in the Clutha District. When they took up residence, James and his wife Mary Ann had six children, ranging in ages of one to twelve. A seventh child, Robert, known as Bob, was born in 1907. One of his childhood chores was cleaning out large pits where thousands of eggs were preserved for use in the bakehouse.
Photograph of grocer and baker’s van, Port Chalmers. D.A. De Maus photographer. Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena. Ref: MS-5014/002/002.
A photograph from around this time shows the horse and cart used for bread and grocery deliveries. For many years Dick Thurlow was employed as the driver. Change eventually came in 1920, with alterations made to the stables and storeroom so that motor deliveries could replace the horse-drawn service. This building work was designed by Salmond & Vanes and carried out by Love Brothers.
A branch store opened along the road at 12 George Street in 1917. This became the cake shop, although its function might have varied over the more than thirty years it operated. Milnes were the local agents for Ernest Adams cakes.
A section of a block plan from 1932, showing in red the site of the Milnes’ Building and outbuildings on the left, and the second store to the north near the Mount Street corner. Drawn by George Duncan. Colour edited. National Insurance Company records, Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena. Ref: MS-2081/037/00.
Advertisement from the Evening Star, 8 November 1934 p.3. Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.
James died in 1926. For a few years Thomas ran the business with his brother-in-law, Peter Lawson. In 1933 the registered company Milnes Limited formed for the stated purpose of operating as ‘bakers, grocers, storekeepers, confectioners, restaurant and refreshment room proprietors, and wholesale and general merchants’. The largest shareholders were Thomas and his brother Bob, with smaller holdings by their mother Mary Ann and sister Nellie. Thomas moved to Clinton and after his sudden death in 1941 Nellie increased her stake in the business.
Nellie managed the finances from the office adjoining the shop. Ian Church records that she sold children bags of broken biscuits for a penny, and her niece revealed at her funeral that she sometimes broke the biscuits herself so that she had enough to give them!
The building has undergone many alterations. A suspended verandah was added in the 1940s, and in 1947 the exterior walls were replastered. Most of the old mouldings were removed and Art Deco/Moderne touches added, including a circular motif at the centre of the pediment. The name ‘MILNES’, added to the parapet in relief lettering, can still be seen.
Despite these changes the building still reads as Victorian from the street: the window openings and proportions , the door, the surviving dentil cornice, and the shape of the pediment, are among the original features.
The bakery was in use until the early part of the Second World War, when baking shifted to the other George Street site. This operation closed in either 1953 or 1954.
Bob Milnes had a house in Island Terrace, but Nellie was resident on site until about 1965. The following year she transferred her shares and Bob ran the shop on his own until his retirement in 1967. By this time the grocery had converted to self service.
Bob Milnes in the old bakehouse at the time of his retirement in 1967. Reproduced by permission of the Otago Daily Times.
In later years Nellie was known for her involvement with the meals on wheels service, and for being a keen golfer. She died in 1991. Bob moved to Queenstown where he died in 1994. His son Robert owned and operated a new supermarket at Frankton.
The old Port Chalmers store became Dent’s Mini-Market in 1967, under Charles and Pearl Dent. From about 1971 Lex and Daphne Taylor ran it as Taylor’s Mini-Market, as part of the Four Square chain. Robert and Linda McLean took over in 1980, changing the name to Port Chalmers Discount. In the mid-1980s Foodstuffs, the owners of Four Square, decided to build a New World supermarket on the opposite side of the street. This opened in December 1985 and the old shop closed.
The store in the 1970s. Photo courtesy of Duncan Montgomery.
Later occupants have included Port Chalmers Trading and the Tuanako Private Training Establishment. A new venture on the site, Milnes Market, launched in 2008. Since 2012 the ground floor has been occupied by 2gpysies furniture, homeware, and giftware.
In 2020 the current owners received a Dunedin Heritage Fund grant for earthquake strengthening and fireproofing, which will hopefully secure the future of the building for many more years to come.
Acknowledgments: Special thanks to co-owner Rebecca Wilson, and to Mason & Wales Architects. Whenever researching Port Chalmers I’m also reminded of the debt owed to the late Ian Church.
Newspaper references: Bruce Herald 6 July 1865 p.3 (population). Otago Daily Times 7 February 1872 p.2 (Andrew Cameron), 9 May 1877 p.1 (tender notice), 25 June 1877 p.4 (tender notice), 30 July 1877 p.3 (‘City Improvements’), 14 May 1902 p.6 (Andrew Cameron obituary); 18 August 1905 p.4 (assault); 21 April 1920 p.6 (alterations and motor deliveries); 1 December 1967 p.11 (‘Mr R.B. Milnes’); 10 December 1985 p29 (opening of Port Chalmers New World); 28 February 1994 p.5 (Bob Milnes obituary). Evening Star 14 May 1902 p.3 (Andrew Cameron obituary); 19 August 1905 p.6 (assault); 24 August 1905 p.5 (for lease). Grey River Argus 23 June 1891 p4 (size of Union Company fleet).
Other references: Church, Ian. ‘A Grave Story – The Milnes Family’ in Rothesay News, vol. 20 no. 1 (November 2007) p.12. Church, Ian. Port Chalmers and its People (Dunedin: Otago Heritage Books, 1994) Church, Ian. Some Early People and Ships of Port Chalmers. Dunedin: New Zealand Society of Genealogists, c.1990. Church, Ian. Sawyers Bay, including Sawyers Bay School 1861-2010. Port Chalmers: Sawyers Bay School 150th Anniversary Committee, 2011. Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory Telephone directories Port Chalmers rates records (with thanks to Chris Scott) Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans
Built: 1926-1927 Address: 28 Tweed Street, Littlebourne, Roslyn Architect: Henry McDowell Smith (1887-1965) Builders: Fletcher & Love
One of Dunedin’s most impressive 1920s homes is on the market. Its listing provides an opportunity to take a closer look at some remarkable architecture and history.
Built for Ambrose and Ruby Hudson between 1926 and 1927, the house cost over £6000 at a time when a standard three-bedroom house could be built for about £800. The only local houses I can think of that matched if for cost between the two world wars were the Brinsley house on Forbury Road and the Stevenson house, now University Lodge, at St Leonards. There was so much buzz around the house when it was new that the architectural writer in the Evening Star devoted no fewer than five articles to it. The columnist, known only by the pen-name ‘Stucco’, wrote: ‘Without exaggeration it can be claimed that Mr Hudson’s new residence is of the most magnificent in the dominion’.
Ambrose Hudson was a director of the chocolate and confectionery business R. Hudson & Co. Established in 1868, this became one of Dunedin’s leading industrial concerns. Cadbury bought a controlling interest in 1930, but for many years the Hudson family remained closely involved in the restructured Cadbury Fry Hudson.
Born in 1877, Ambrose was the fourth of six sons of the firm’s founder, Richard Hudson. He became a director while still in his twenties, and remained in that role until his retirement in 1931. He often went overseas to buy machinery for the factory and was credited with modernising the manufacturing. Gregarious and well liked, he was also a bit of a practical joker. Ambrose made a special chocolate for company chairman Carl Smith that had a castor oil filling!
Ambrose Hudson (1877-1969)
Ruby and Ambrose Hudson (front left) at a family wedding in 1965.
Ambrose married Ruby Christian Cooke, an Australian, at Sydney in 1906. Ruby was announced as the granddaughter of Mrs Tait of Granby Towers, Granville. The couple’s first son, Sydney, was born in 1907, and a second son, Ralph, followed in 1910. In the same year the family purchased the Tweed Street property. It was not until sixteen years later, with the boys all but grown up, that they rebuilt. The old house was only demolished after the new one was completed, so presumably it was on the adjacent site where no.30 stands today. Ambrose’s younger brother William bought the house next door (no.32) in 1922 and the two families had a tennis court between them.
I have been unable find out much about Ruby, but she was active socially. Her interests included women’s cricket, the Otago Women’s Club, and the Kaikorai Kindergarten. Both Ruby and Ambrose enjoyed motoring, and Ambrose also took an interest in aviation, eventually becoming a life member of the Otago Aero Club. He was a keen gardener with a particular fondness for sweet peas and poppies, which he entered in competition. He developed his own variety of poppy, which he named ‘Ambrosia’.
He also kept pigeons. A 1926 report stated that when he left home in the morning about twelve birds accompanied him, ‘flying around, resting now and again on his head and shoulders’. At the intersection of Smith and Stuart streets several of the birds returned to their loft, while about three followed Ambrose all the way to the factory offices in Castle Street.
For the architect of their new house, the Hudsons chose Henry McDowell Smith, a well-established Dunedin practitioner. Born in Manchester, England, in 1887, he worked in Newcastle before coming to New Zealand in 1909. He managed Edmund Anscombe’s Invercargill branch for some years and became his business partner in 1913. He returned to the Dunedin office after his war service and started an independent practice in 1921. McDowell Smith’s building designs of the following decade included other high-spec houses, notably the already-mentioned University Lodge. Other work up to 1930 included St Michael and All Angels’ Church at Andersons Bay, extensive additions to Selwyn College, and the hospital complex at Ranfurly.
The Dunedin City Council issued a building permit for the Hudson house in April 1926. James Fletcher of Fletcher & Love took the building contract. The Fletcher Construction Company had temporarily joined with Love Bros for the purpose of erecting the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition buildings at Logan Park. Fletcher left Dunedin after the exhibition, and while the Hudson house was under construction, so the completion of the project passed to Love’s.
North elevation. C.M. Collins photographer. The upper balcony was glazed in 1941, and two gables added to the roof.
The view down to the house from the front path.
East elevation. C.M. Collins photographer.
A view looking up towards Tweed Street.
One of the generous balconies.
The front gate.
The house has a transitional style between English Arts and Crafts and the emerging Modernism, and is outwardly characterised by clean lines, neat brickwork, and generous glazing and balconies. Window sills of blue burned blocks were specially made at Abbotsford. The Arts and Crafts influences are particularly evident in a charming entrance gate, and a herring-bone brick path leading down to the house, which sits below the street.
The ground floor sun porches were designed with dancing in mind and originally had a loud speaker for music. The terrazzo flooring was claimed to be the first in Dunedin, slightly predating local manufacture. On the balconies above, the kauri flooring is constructed like a ship’s deck. Stucco commented, ‘it has a delightful spring to the feet, and should send the least sprightly visitor jazzing along its inviting surface’. The views of the harbour from here are stunning. The north elevation was altered in 1941, when the balcony on this side was glazed and two small gables added, all carefully matching the original style. It is surprising the gables were added but they successfully soften this aspect of the building and give it a more domestic quality.
The steel-framed windows were originally painted green, and feature imported British plate glass and exceptional bevelled fanlights. There are also impressive leadlights in the bathroom, over the stairwell, and in a panel in the front door featuring a female figure. This was the work of local craftsman John Brock, of Arnold, Brock, & Raffills.
Floor plans published in the Evening Star (from Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand).
The house originally had five bedrooms (including a maid’s room), drawing room, dining room, meals room, kitchen, billiard room, dressing room, and extensive basement. Stucco observed there was ‘nothing unduly ostentatious, everything being designed and executed in the most artistic manner’, but at the same time thought the interior sumptuous, magnificent, and a ‘miniature palace’. He wrote: ‘The visitor is immediately impressed by the chiselled perfection of everything, and, though he might pardonably go into rhapsodies about what he sees, there is no vulgar flaunting of ornamentation’.
The entrance hall. The coffered ceiling was originally gilded.
Landing. C.M. Collins photographer.
The upstairs landing.
Meals room. C.M. Collins photographer.
Originally the ‘meals room’.
Dining room. C.M. Collins photographer.
The dining room.
Drawing room. C.M. Collins photographer.
The spacious entrance hall features figured beech panelling with maple panels. Coffered plaster ceilings by the Wardop Fibrous Plaster Co. were originally gilded, and said to give a magnificent golden effect when the hall was lit up. Original light fittings include a blue Venetian glass ball with bronze eagles, from which hang individual lamps. The flush internal doors, by Henderson and Pollard of Auckland, were unusual in Dunedin and the latest fashion.
Both the drawing room and meals room have enormous tiled fireplaces that are architectural works in themselves. Stucco mentioned that a visiting manager from one of the biggest tile firms in England thought the slabs the best he had ever seen. The Wardrop ceilings again impress here. The two rooms are separated by sliding doors with more bevelled glass. English wallpapers originally decorated the walls. All of the spaces on this level flow well into each other and the house must have been excellent for entertaining.
The billiard room is a standout space of the house. It is a single-storey projection, allowing natural light from three sides. It has a coved ceiling, originally stippled with biscuit and cream colours, and massive wooden beams terminate over beautifully carved brackets. Panelling is stained ‘Jacobean’ and the floors are jarrah.
The bedrooms are less ornate but plaster ceilings again feature, and three of the rooms have access to the balconies. The master bedroom was built with a large adjoining dressing room. S.F. Aburn decorated the house, and many rooms and the entrance hallway originally featured stippled paintwork, blending two colours to shade up from dark to light. In one bedroom this was from pink to white, in another from biscuit to white, and in another from grey to white.
Billiard room. C.M. Collins photographer.
The billiard room.
A carved corbel in the billiard room.
Master bedroom. C.M. Collins photographer.
The master bedroom.
Bathroom. C.M. Collins photographer.
The main bathroom.
The kitchen. C.M. Collins photographer.
The Hudsons were keen on their mod-cons and the house boasted over 80 ‘electric points’. J. Hall & Sons installed electric fittings from the British General Electric Co.
Of the kitchen, Stucco commented that ‘everything has been planned with the object of lessening domestic drudgery’, with the coal range banned in favour of gas and electric cookers. This has since given way to a yet more convenient modern kitchen.
The bathroom featured a swivel nozzle tap, a hot rail for drying towels, and modern fittings from Twyford’s exhibit at the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition. This is another room of beauty, and still largely original. The mosaic floor tiles were specially imported, with other features including grey wall tiles and a streamlined bath.
Ambrose was particularly pleased with the separate shower room. ‘This is one of the best things in the house,’ he exclaimed to Stucco ‘as he entered the glass door to demonstrate how some of the mysterious nickel-plated contraptions work. There are three different sprays, and a special mixer for the hot and cold water… one can splash merrily for hours, if so inclined, without risk of flooding out the house and home’.
A visit to the basement revealed a space with huge concrete pillars, and Ambrose boasted the foundations would carry the biggest building in the city. Stucco described it as like inspecting the engine room of a ship, there being boilers and pipes everywhere. The heating system was served by a coal boiler and two electric elements, and hot water provided by a 100-gallon circulator. There was also a well-equipped laundry.
In their 70s the Hudsons downsized, selling the the house to the Gardner family in June 1953. Later owners were the Cottle, Shearer, and Lane families. About 1963 Ruby and Ambrose moved to Auckland, where their sons lived, and they led a quiet life at Mission Bay. Ambrose kept up his interest in the factory and last visited it in 1967. He died on 17 November 1969, aged 91, and Ruby died on 6 March 1974, also at the age of 91.
Their former home has been lovingly cared by the current owners of 28 years, while also adapted for modern living. It now awaits the next chapter in its story.
A view of the house when new in 1927. C.M. Collins photographer. Ambrose and Ruby Hudson’s old house on the right was demolished not long after this photograph was taken.
West elevation and forecourt, with Tweed Street on the left. C.M. Collins photographer.
Acknowledgment: My special thanks to Andrew and Denise Lane, to Alice Munro and Craig Palmer of Bayleys Metro, and to the Hudson family. Images by Bayley Metro reproduced by kind permission.
Built: 1951-1954 Address: 90 Anzac Avenue Architect: L.W.S. Lowther (1901-1970) Builders: Love Construction Co.
The building as it appeared when new in 1954. Image courtesy of Naylor Love.
The 1950s Streamline Moderne building that is home to the Hocken Collections was originally built as a dairy factory and offices. The Dunedin-based Co-operative Dairy Co. of Otago produced Huia brand butter and cheese for 75 years, and from this site for over 40. The company disappeared in the dairy mergers of the late 1990s, and their premises became the University of Otago’s new Hocken Library in 1998.
Outwardly, the building perhaps looks older than its years, although it was internally and practically up-to-date when new. It is a late example of a style of architecture introduced to Dunedin in the mid-1930s. Plans were ready in 1947, but there were numerous delays in securing permits and consents, followed by a long construction period of three years. The factory finally opened in 1954.
I’m getting ahead of myself though. First some earlier history of the dairy company…
Dunedin has a long a long association with the dairy industry. New Zealand’s first co-operative dairy factory opened on the Otago Peninsula in 1871, when the eight shareholders of John Matheson & Co. established the Peninsula Cheese Factory at Matheson’s Springfield property. The development of infrastructure and technology saw rapid growth in the industry from the 1880s, when further factories were built around the country. Improved transport networks, refrigeration in both factories and transportation, cream separators, new testing methods, and selective breeding all contributed to the rapid growth of an export industry in the decades that followed. Combined exports of butter and cheese grew from 5,000 tonnes in 1881, to 300,000 tonnes in 1901.
The Co-operative Dairy Co. of Otago formed in Dunedin in 1922. At that time, 564 dairy companies operated around the country, 88% of them co-operatives within a highly regulated industry. The new company claimed it was owned entirely by those who supplied cream, with ‘absolutely no dry shareholders’. 284 individuals operating home separators took 68% of the initial share allocation, while eight small Otago factories (Momona, Mosgiel, Milton, Goodwood, Waikouaiti, Merton, Omimi, and Maungatua) took the remaining 32%. The new company purchased the business of the Dunedin Dairy Co., taking over their newly-built premises opposite the railway station in June 1923. In doing so, it acquired the Huia brand, under which Dunedin Dairy had marketed butter since 1920. By the 1927/28 season the new co-op produced 800 tonnes of butter, the second largest output by a South Island factory.
The original building served the company for thirty years, but by the 1940s it was cramped and behind the standard demanded by regulators. The company bought out the butter business of the Taieri & Peninsula Milk Supply Co. in 1942, taking on its Oamaru factory, but it still sought to expand its Dunedin operation on a larger and more accessible site.
An area of reclaimed Otago Harbour Board land included a vacant and appealing site near the railway line on the east side of Anzac Avenue. The avenue had been built in 1925, in time to link the railway station with the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition at the newly reclaimed Lake Logan. The idea of such a road been put forward by Harbour Board member John Loudon as early as 1922, before the exhibition was formally proposed. The development or reclamation of the lake had been anticipated for some years, and a new road would also improve connection with West Harbour. It was the exhibition, however, that brought the impetus needed to make what was then referred to as the ‘highway’ a reality. Exhibition architect Edmund Anscombe played a central role in the planning, proposing parks, reserves, and housing for the area to the east of the avenue, but it remained largely undeveloped through the depression years and up to the war.
A late 1920s photograph shows young trees lining the avenue, but by 1933 some had died and others were stunted. Most of the present elms were planted between 1934 and 1938, by school pupils participating in Arbour Day activities.
Detail from c.1902, from ‘Dunedin from Logans Point’ by Muir & Moodie. The future site of the co-op building is under water, next to the shoreline at the far left centre of the image. Ref: Te Papa PA.000184.
Anzac Avenue as it appeared about 1928, meeting Union Street and the southern edge of Logan Park. The future factory site is the furthest of the vacant land on the left. Ref: ‘Dunedin, New Zealand no. 872’, Alexander Turnbull Library Pan-0017-F.
An aerial view from April 1947, showing the vacant site at the centre of the image. Ref: Whites Aviation Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library WA-06920-F (cropped detail).
The new Dunedin North Intermediate School opened at the corner of Albany Street and Anzac Avenue in 1934. In 1944, a rehabilitation centre for disabled servicemen opened. Most of the other new land was put to industrial use. Dominion Industries built a linseed oil operation, Shaw Savill Albion a wool and grain store, J. Mill & Co. another wool store, and stationers Williamson Jeffery a factory and head office. On the north side of Leith, a new milk treatment station opened in 1948.
The dairy co-op secured a leasehold section from the Harbour Board in October 1945. Allan Cave, a North Island architect with extensive experience of dairy buildings, prepared preliminary sketch plans and a well was bored on the site in April 1946. Two months later, the district building commissioner deferred issuing a permit, due to the post-war building restrictions and a shortage of cement and labour.
In September 1946, Cave recommended switching to a local architect, and the company appointed L.W.S. Lowther in his place. Lowther immediately began work on plans and specifications, completed in February 1947.
Launcelot William Stratton (Lance) Lowther, architect. Image courtesy of Barbara Parry.
Born in Llanelli, Wales, to a New Zealand-born father, Lance Lowther had worked as assistant to Henry McDowell Smith before taking up private practice in 1945. He had at least a hand in many streamlined designs that came out of Smith’s office in the late 1930s, including the Law Court Hotel and two blocks of flats on View Street. In a more traditional aesthetic, he had a significant and it has been claimed leading design role (under Smith’s name) for the new St Peter’s Anglican Church at Queenstown. Early houses by Lowther include a Moderne/Art Deco design at the corner of Taieri Road and Wairoa Street. He later worked in private partnership with former Otago Education Board architect Clifford Muir.
Huia advertisement from the Otago Daily Times, 27 May 1949 p.7. Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.
The construction history of the factory highlights the challenges faced in post-war building. Plans had to be approved by both the Department of Agriculture and the Harbour Board, both of which asked for changes. Finance also proved difficult, as although commercial banks were happy to lend, the Reserve Bank could exercise its power to stop advances of more than £60,000 for building work. Building firms were stretched and unenthusiastic to tender for the contract, but Love Construction gave a price from the quantities. They were given the go-ahead in August 1947, before the building controller again deferred issuing a permit. Despite repeated efforts it was not until February 1951 that a permit was finally issued. Drawings held in the Hocken are undated, but the work finally begun in March 1951 was probably mostly carried out according to the 1947 plans.
Michael Findlay has described the building as ‘constructed from steel reinforced concrete with steel roof trusses enabling wide spans and unobstructed floors. The wall and floor surfaces had rounded internal corners for hygiene and the design was efficient and modern, a great step up from their earlier Dunedin factory’. The Moderne exterior is characterised by clean lines and simplicity. It might also be described as Art Deco, as it fits some definitions of that style. Embellishment is minimal, consisting mostly of raised banding or string courses. Glass bricks are a feature of the west elevation, and allowed a filtered light into the factory.
The original plans show a large butter and smaller cheese manufacturing area, and a big garage space at the rear with access from Anzac Avenue. There was also stores, freezers, a box and pallet area opening to the cart dock on Parry Street, dressing rooms, and a dining room. Unusually, a bicycle parking area was placed internally in the south-west corner. Office activities took place upstairs, where there was a public counter, large general office, manager’s and secretary’s offices, strong room, another dining room, and a generously sized and wood-panelled board room.
Rosemarie Patterson’s excellent history of Naylor Love, A Bob Both Ways, provides some insight into experiences on the building site through the recollections of foreman Duncan McKenzie. He remembered laying the foundations on the swampy reclaimed site in the winter of 1951: ‘It was just an absolute bog. We were building a kind of floating foundation, big pads right across. 8 feet wide and 18 inches deep. Alex Ross, manager at the time, put an ad in the paper for labourers’. Because of the strike there were many men looking for work. ‘He started sending them to me, and they just kept on coming. But in those days we worked in the rain, and wharfies weren’t used to working in the rain, so most of them left on those wet days. A few stayed on, three or four who didn’t get their jobs back on the wharf.’
The project employed many new Dutch migrants. Conditions in Europe and a shortage of workers saw significant Dutch immigration after the Second World War, with over 10,000 arriving in the three years from July 1951 to June 1954. Most were single, non-English speaking men from a working class background, including carpenters and skilled labourers. McKenzie used one of his steelworkers, a good English speaker who had been a corporal in the Dutch Army in Indonesia, as an interpreter. McKenzie remembered they ‘had to learn to do things differently, especially the concrete work which all had to be boxed. They were not used to doing that.’
McKenzie also recalled Love’s purchasing their first skilsaw in time for the laying of the upstairs floor. ‘It was big 6 x ¼ inch flooring, and they brought it over for us to cut the flooring with. And everybody’s eyes nearly popped out. Len Griffin, the supervisor who used to go round the jobs, every so often for some particular job would come and borrow our skilsaw! The company’s only skilsaw! It was the same with dumpy levels. Being a big job, I always had one there, but there was always someone coming and borrowing it. We didn’t have one for a job, we had one for a lot of jobs.’
‘We didn’t have cranes. We had electric hoists. You’d fill the barrows, generally on the ground, and take them up on a hoist, and wheel the concrete round to wherever you wanted it, and pour it, and take it back down again. It got a bit more complicated later on. We’d take a skip on the hoist and put it in a hopper on the top. And you’d fill your barrow out of that. All the concrete was done by barrow. You had to have scaffold ramps up every lift. Every four feet you’d probably put a pour. So the scaffold had to be built at the right height to swing the barrow and tip the concrete in. We had pre-mix concrete there, but before that – while I worked on the Nurses’ Home in Cumberland Street – all the concrete was mixed on site.’
When construction began, co-op management optimistically hoped it would be able to its machinery in by April 1952, but there were more delays, including sourcing the roofing material and steel girders. In March 1953, the manager reported a shortage of carpenters. The building neared completion the following summer, but it was practically impossible to move in during the dairying season. In April 1954, building work was complete with the exception of some painting and plastering. Plant was moved from the old premises, and by the end of August all departments had moved in. The final build cost was £150,000.
The building officially opened some eight years after the first consent permit was sought. Keith Holyoake, minister of agriculture and future prime minister, performed the honours before a crowd of 450 people on 2 November 1954. Referring to the end of the bulk purchasing agreement with the United Kingdom, he said: ‘This is a new era and a really challenging time as far as the primary producer is concerned’. In a peculiar call to arms for securing market share he said ‘we now have to fight the battle with the British housewife’.
The company had 55 staff in its Dunedin and Oamaru factories in 1954. Its products over the years included butter, process cheese, savoury sandwich paste, and reconstituted cream. A subtle name rearrangement occurred in 1976, when the Co-operative Dairy Company of Otago became the Otago Co-operative Dairy Company. In the 1980s the Dunedin factory was producing over 3,500 tonnes of butter annually.
Cheese continued to be made on the site, with a specialty cheese unit established in 1985/86. The company had large shareholdings in the Otago Cheese Co., and in Mainland Products Ltd, which had some operations at Anzac Avenue. In 1989/90 butter reworking ceased after the Dairy Board decided it could satisfy the Otago and Southland markets with patted butter ex-churn from Westland. In the same year, Mainland’s processing plant moved to Eltham, reducing manufacturing operations at Anzac Avenue to creamery and whey butter, and specialty cheese. A Cheese Shop fronting Parry Street opened in 1990, with some products continuing to be marketed under Huia brand. Adjoining chicken and sausage shops also operated for a time but were less successful. The company performed well for its shareholders, but the Anzac Avenue site was becoming surplus to requirements.
Reconstituted cream point of sale advertisement. Ref: Otago Co-operative Dairy Company records, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena 84-159/003.
The building as it appeared in 1997, when vacated by the dairy company. Ref: Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena MS-4069/070.
The University of Otago purchased the building in 1996, for redevelopment as a new Hocken Library. The library had been established in 1910 to care for and provide access to Dr Thomas Morland Hocken’s public gift of his collection of books, pamphlets, newspapers, maps, paintings, and manuscripts relating to Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific. It opened in a purpose-built wing of the Otago Museum and was a much expanded collection by the time it left that site in 1979. By the 1990s the collections were split between the Hocken (now Richardson) Building and a former vehicle testing station in Leith Street. The dairy co-op site brought the library, archive, and gallery together in a secure, environmentally controlled facility, and allowed much improved public access. The architects for the redevelopment were Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates in collaboration with Works Consultancy Services, and the project was managed by Octa Associates Ltd. The main contractor was Lund South.
The University took possession on 30 June 1997 and the work was carried out over most of 1998. The interior was more or less gutted, with the reorganised space including a large foyer, gallery, public reference area, reading rooms, public lunch room (now researcher lounge), staff areas, and stacks. Preserved internal features included steel trusses and exposed timber joists. Two doors with frosted-glass decoration (moved from the entrance) each feature a pair of huia, as used in the co-op’s branding. The building retains the sympathetic colour scheme given to it at this time, of yellow-creams and gold, with grey-green metal joinery. One of the more obvious external changes was the replacement of steel-framed windows with aluminium ones.
Officially opened by Governor General Sir Michael Hardie Boys on 2 December 1998, the refurbished building was the university’s major Otago sesquicentennial project. It is currently home to over 11 shelf kilometres of archives, 200,000 books, 17,000 pictures, and 2 million photographs, bringing it to very near capacity.
The Hocken Library, in case there is confusion, remains the official name for the building, while the institution within is the Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena, a branch of the University of Otago Library.
The building during its transformation into the Hocken Library in 1998. Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena MS-4069/070.
After selling its building, the Otago Co-operative Dairy Co. did not continue as an independent entity for long. The profitable business made a record payout to shareholders in 1996 but mergers across the industry meant there would only be four co-operatives nationwide by the end of the 1990s, and a further mega-merger would follow. In 1997, Otago merged into Kiwi Co-operative Dairies. One farmer who welcomed the news commented: ‘Otago is sitting as a small company doing well and wondering where it will end up’. In 2001, Kiwi in turn merged with the New Zealand Dairy Group and the New Zealand Dairy Board to form the country’s largest company, Fonterra. The Anzac Avenue building is now one of few tangible reminders of the old business.
The Hocken Library in 2019.
Newspaper references: Lyttelton Times 16 October 1873 p.3 (‘A Cheese Factory in Otago’, copied from Otago Guardian); Evening Star 29 April 1920 p.6 (advertisement for Huia butter), 8 September 1922 p.2 (formation of company), 25 November 1922 p.4 (Loudon’s proposal), 17 May 1923 p.9 (proposed highway), 7 July 1923 p.4 (housing proposal), 14 November 1924 p.2 (‘Highway proposal’), 11 May 1928 p.5 (trees and verges), 29 April 1933 p.23 (dead trees), 2 August 1934 p.12 (elms, with photograph), 5 August 1936 p.14 (elms), 9 August 1937 p.11 (elms) , 10 August 1938 p.15 (elms), 16 September 1938 p.7 (replacing damaged trees); Otago Daily Times 12 October 1922 p.5 (notice of establishment), 22 October 1923 p.9 (‘famous Huia butter’), 19 June 1928 p.18 (company history and purchase of Dunedin Dairy Co.), 9 March 1934 p.6 (dead and stunted trees), 30 September 1942 p.6 (‘Butter business purchased’), 5 August 1947 p.6 (‘New factory to be built’). 3 November 1954 p.10 (‘New £140,000 dairy facory opened by Mr K.J. Holyoake), 21 March 1996 p.1 (‘Dairy factory to become Hocken Library’), 31 July 1996 p.16 (‘Otago Dairy Co-op makes record pay-out to suppliers’), 30 October 1997 p.3 (‘Otago-Kiwi dairy merger nets suppliers a windfall’ and ‘Dairy merger welcomed by farmers’)
Ledgerwood, Norman. Southern Architects: A History of the Southern Branch, New Zealand Institute of Architects (Dunedin: Southern Branch, New Zealand Institute of Architects, 2009) p.126.
Patterson, Rosemarie. A Bob Both Ways: Celebrating 100 Years of Naylor Love (Dunedn: Advertising and Art, 2010), p.90.
Philpott, H.G. A History of the New Zealand Dairy Industry 1840-1935 (Wellington: Government Printer, 1937), pp.375-406 (statistics).
Built: 1904-1906 Address: 20 Anzac Avenue Architect: George Troup Design supervisor: John Coom Building supervisor: F.W. Maclean (District Engineer) Foreman of works: John Hall Contractors: John Walker (masonry), Robert Caldow (carpentry), and others
Dunedin Railway Station c.1925. Reference: The Press Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/1-008316-G
I was recently asked to provide some background knowledge for a Japanese film production company that was intending to feature Dunedin’s railway station in a television series called Giants of Beauty (title loosely translated by the director). Curiosity piqued, I went to locate what I already knew had been written about the station and its architect George Alexander Troup and found surprisingly little that is new. Despite the fact that Troup’s crowning achievement is one of the nation’s most admired buildings, information about it was often repeated from a limited number of sources including a biography written by son Gordon in the 1960s. From this we know that Troup’s ‘nickname’ was Gingerbread George and that he was knighted after a lifetime of dedicated public service. Troup the man remains somewhat shrouded. The other question is why is the Railway Station described as a Flemish Renaissance building?
Some insights into what drove Troup can be found in his early years in Scotland. Gordon Troup recounts that George Troup senior was drowned in the Union Canal in Glasgow in 1874 when his son was aged 11. His death certificate reports that he was found dead in the Forth and Clyde Canal near the South Speirs Wharf, a short walk from where the Troups were living in Port Street. There is no evidence that Troup took his own life but newspapers of the day often carried reports of ‘well dressed men’ found dead in the city’s waterways. However it occurred, the sudden death of George Troup caused the family great distress. It is sad to note that his body was identified by Jane Troup, the eldest daughter. This background of reversal of fortunes is not uncommon in nineteenth century architecture and may have helped shape Troup’s keen sense of social justice and life long bonds to the Presbyterian church. It may also help explain his dedication to the welfare of disadvantaged boys as the Troup family’s relatively comfortable existence was ended abruptly at this point. All that lay ahead was struggle.
George needed an occupation and fortunately Troup’s father had been granted the status of burgess (a freeman of the city) in Aberdeen, allowing his son to study at high school. George boarded at Robert Gordon’s College, founded in 1750 and located in a fine Robert Adam-designed building in the centre of the city. Gordon (1688–1731), a successful merchant, set up the school in his will with his aim being to ‘found a Hospital for the Maintenance, Aliment, Entertainment and Education of young boys from the city whose parents were poor and destitute and not able to keep them in schools, and put them to trades and employment’. Robert Gordon’s College was something of a double-edged sword, offering a way ahead but also a reminder of the circumstances that brought Troup there. Architecture was often seen as a pathway for self-improvement, not as tied to class and privilege as other professions such as law and medicine. On leaving the college, Troup joined the Edinburgh engineer C.E. Calvert as an articled pupil in 1879 at the age of 16. This was an apprenticeship in the tradition of articled pupilage and the trainee was not expected to earn a wage while learning the routines of the profession. In most situations, parents paid to place their sons with an architect. Calvert is noted as being particularly busy in the late 1870s despite the failure of the City of Glasgow Bank and the general downturn of building in Scotland afterwards. Troup left Calvert and joined another Edinburgh architect, John Chesser, as an architectural apprentice. In 1881, Jane and five of her children were living in Edinburgh while George continued his articles. The office was not particularly busy over the two years that Troup spent there and the arrangement ceased following the death of his mother in 1883 from heart disease. George then followed three of his older sisters to New Zealand, working his passage on the freighter S.S.Fenstanton, soon to be wrecked in the Torres Straits. Fortunately, Troup had left the ship in Port Chalmers although the entire crew survived the sinking. Troup was twenty when he arrived in Dunedin. It is not hard to imagine that the younger members of the Troup family wished to place some distance between themselves and the troubles they had faced in Scotland.
George Troup in 1927. S.P. Andrew photographer. Reference: Alexander Turnbull Library 1/1-018930-F.
With four years training in architects’ offices, Troup was already considered qualified but opportunities in Otago were limited by the start of the long depression of the 1880s. Troup gained employment as a surveyor with the Survey Department, working initially with a gang at Ngapara and later in the Central Otago ranges. Using the connections made by his brother-in-law, George Burnett, Troup met with James Burnett, an engineer with the New Zealand Railways Department. Troup entered the Dunedin office in 1886 after studying at the Dunedin School of Mines to improve his engineering skills. He set up house in a modest cottage at 21 Leith Street, Dunedin, with his unmarried sister Christina. While living there Troup would have passed the future site of the Dunedin Railway Station while on his way to the Dunedin office, at that time located in the old Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics’ Institute building in Manse Street. Troup was transferred to the Wellington office in 1888, where at 25 he became Chief Draughtsman. He was later appointed to the role of Office and Designing Engineer, only becoming Officer-in-Charge of the Architectural Branch in 1919. His early work was clearly influenced by William Butterfield, as shown in a private commission for the Wellington Boys’ Institute in conjunction with William Crichton.
Troup was allowed considerable authority in Wellington and his first major building after carrying out timber stations at Oamaru and Whanganui was the new head office for the Railways Department, described as being Jacobean in style. Topped with exuberant Flemish gables and lanterns on the roofline, the building stood out from its more reserved neighbours and asserted the profile of the Railways Department amongst the other government offices housed in the capital. Gordon Troup wrote that the ‘Gingerbread George’ epithet arose at this time (1901-1903) and was associated with the rich design of the Wellington building, not specifically the Dunedin station. ‘Gingerbread architecture’ had quite a specific meaning. It was a way of referring to the North American taste for ornate sawn timber decoration of German and Swiss origin that had reached something of a peak during the fashion for Charles Eastlake’s houses. In America these filled the same niche as the Queen Anne style elsewhere. Eastlake himself decried the use of such decoration as a ‘bizarre burlesque’ so it was hardly meant in a complimentary way. I somehow doubt that anyone ever used this ‘nickname’ to Troup’s face.
Troup is supposed to have entered two sets of drawings in what was described as a competition for the Dunedin Railway Station in 1903, one in Scots Baronial and the other in Baroque style. No evidence exists that any other architects competed for this prestigious work so we do not know what the other proposals were like. The competition may be seen as an effort to avoid accusations of favouritism by the Railways Department, its ministry headed at the time by Joseph Ward (1856-1930), a noted supporter of South Island interests. Ward followed Richard Seddon as Prime Minister in 1906 and was able to open the station in his new role when it was completed.
Is this the version of the station that Troup preferred? The Gothic details now seem unconvincing compared to the Flemish Renaissance scheme that was finally built. Reference: Alexander Turnbull Library B-064-007.
Sir Joseph Ward laying the foundation stone of the station on 3 June 1904. Photograph by William Williams. Ref: Alexander Turnbull Library 1/2-140194-G.
The Baroque variant, initially proposed in red brick, was selected and featured an asymmetrical composition with unequal height towers at both ends of long bays. A porte-cochere occupied the central section under a tall triangular pediment. Troup’s son Gordon in his biography suggests that the Scots Baronial or ‘Francois I’ style alternative was favoured by Troup himself. The reference to King Francis of France I refers to the Château de Chambord and the hunting lodges of the French Renaissance and implies a French Renaissance chateau style design. This description may involve a misattribution as the only two drawings known to exist show stations of similar proportions and layout. One was in a Tuscan Gothic style and not at all like a Scots Baronial or French Renaissance design. The awkward peaked roof that replaced the expected campanile above the square clock tower showed Troup’s hesitancy about going the whole way towards Italian Gothic Revival. The final result suggests he was on safer ground with his alternative Flemish scheme.
So what was Troup intending by using such an exotic manner on what was to be the Government’s flagship building in Dunedin? Like many of his generation, Troup’s architectural taste was influenced by English seventeenth-century Baroque architecture, at that time being reevaluated positively by critics. Being an admirer of John Vanbrugh (1664–1726) stood both for loyalty to the British Empire and a more adventurous spirit that ranged further abroad for influence. Vanbrugh was of Flemish descent and part of an Anglo-Dutch network of Protestant reformists. He introduced the Baroque manner to England with Blenheim Palace (1705–1722) and Castle Howard (1699-1709). Troup also used ideas from Scottish architect James Gibbs (1682–1754) whose distinctive rusticated openings, known as the ‘Gibbs surround’, appear throughout the Dunedin station composition. As with Gibb (who was quietly Catholic), Troup was not strongly Anglophile and remained attached to the eclectic design principles that he applied with great character to his major buildings in Wellington and Dunedin. These models suggest that Troup was not completely convinced by the alternative ‘Wren-aissance’ direction that took a more academic approach to Neo-Renaissance architecture in the late nineteenth century. This involved close attention to the buildings of Christopher Wren (1632–1723), leading architecture towards a simplified and rational classicism.
The design of the Wellington office was broadly symmetrical in its massing, a treatment that suited its urban setting on Featherston Street. The irregular siting of the Dunedin station aligned to the railway line rather than the street grid itself suggests an opportunity for a building to be seen in the round and that allowed for more formal experimentation. The definition of the Dunedin station design as Flemish Renaissance comes from Troup himself. Architects assisted journalists with these precise terms that went beyond the knowledge of an observer to deliver with any authority. Was Troup familiar with the Flanders area and its building styles? His other passion for breeding Friesian cattle suggests a connection, as does his support for the Dutch/New Zealand painter Petrus Van der Velden (1837–1913). Troup funded the purchase of nineteen of the Netherlander’s paintings for The New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts in 1922. Anglo-Dutch style was popular in late nineteenth-century Britain, particularly in the London suburb of Kensington. Architects such as Richard Norman Shaw and Ernest George popularised tall red brick houses with elaborately shaped gables at the roofline and the style became known as Pont Street Dutch. Something similar was used at Olveston by Sir Ernest George who had introduced the style in London twenty years earlier. Troup’s reasons for using this particular architectural expression remain obscure but seem to be determined by personal choice rather than some random throwing together of architectural elements. Troup was striving after a distinctive local language for railways buildings in order to set them apart in the rapidly maturing streetscape.
Petrus van der Velden. Burial in the Winter on the Island of Marken (The Dutch Funeral) 1875. Reference: Wikimedia Commons.
Revivals of past styles always involve a complex relationship with history. Flemish Renaissance Revival architecture itself began in Belgium during the later part of the nineteenth century. Belgium as a nation had only existed since the 1830s, absorbing part of Flanders and French speaking Wallonia. The search for a national style of architecture to express the rich cultural history of the region focussed on the successful trading cities of the Lowlands. Brussels as its major city was essentially rebuilt along French lines in the mid nineteenth century as the new commercial and political hub of the Belgian nation. In order that it did not appear as a clone of Baron Haussmann’s Paris, a form of local revivalism was used in preference to French Renaissance.
Flemish Revival architecture was shown off to the world at the Paris World Exhibition (1878) where the Belgian Pavilion designed by Emile Janlet gained favourable attention. Details of its facade relate closely to George Troup’s station and it is likely that Janlet’s pavilion was published in sources that Troup would have had access to. Albums of photographs of the pavilions were in circulation in New Zealand and have been reproduced in the excellent blog Early New Zealand Photographers and their Successors. The main characteristic of Flemish Renaissance Revival architecture is the gable which took on a distinctive profile formed with curves and straight line sections. Tall square and octagonal towers offset from the centre of the compositions are also notable. Use was made of polychromatic contrasts of red brick and pale stone. Although a busy composition, Troup’s design pared Janlet’s decoration back to a smaller number of repeated elements able to be assembled from a regular set of parts for economy. Troup, for instance, used standard double hung sashes instead of the transomed multi-section windows used in the Belgian pavilion and elsewhere. There was also the example of the new city stations being built in Amsterdam and Amstel, carried out in a simplified red brick style that blended Gothic and northern Renaissance styles.
The visual height of these buildings was offset by strong horizontal banding. When red brick was combined with pale stone or plaster facings the effect was cheekily called ‘streaky bacon’ and can be seen in John Campbell’s police station and prison (1898) that faces the station across Anzac Square. This visual contrast of materials was accentuated in the railway station by the use of dark basalt stone and Oamaru limestone. Troup’s original brick proposal was closer to its Belgian and Dutch prototypes than the version that was finally built. Stone, particularly when extracted from the railways owned quarry at Kokonga, proved to be a cheaper building material than brick and gave an even more substantial appearance. Troup’s clever economies included using day labour to cut and finish the stone on site. This was then lifted into place by a mobile crane, enabling the building to rise very quickly. Rather than being anachronistic, Flemish Renaissance Revival architecture represented the freedom to experiment with a variety of materials and architectural types as well as signifying a progressive and technological approach.
Troup wanted to place his stamp in Dunedin with its most significant public building of the new century. While it was complementary to Campbell’s Norman Shaw-influenced prison and Gothic Revival law courts just across the road, it was also distinctively different to both, adding a liveliness to the new Government quarter of the city. Dunedin was particularly fortunate to benefit from the creative competition between Troup and Campbell and the interplay between the individual buildings in this key precinct should be the topic for another blog entry. This aspect of generosity and pleasure, if not frivolity, seems a better fit for Troup’s character than the overused sobriquet of ‘Gingerbread George’. We should really stop calling him that.
‘1874 Troup, George’. Statutory registers Deaths 644/7 64.
Berry, Mary Helen. ‘Sir George Troup and the Dunedin Railway Station, 1903-1907: Edwardian Elegance or a Dilemma of Style’. BA (Hons) thesis, Department of History and Art History, University of Otago, 2005.
Irvine, Susan.’ Dunedin Prison (Former)’. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 6 January 2018 from http://www.heritage.org.nz/the-list/details/4035.
Troup, Gordon. George Troup: Architect and Engineer (Palmerston North: Dunmore Press, 1982).
Van Santvoort, Linda. ‘Brussels Architecture in the Last Quarter of the 19th Century – the Search for National Identity Linked to the Desire of Architectural Innovation’. Ghent University Department of Art History. Retrieved 6 January 2018 from http://www.artnouveau-net.eu/portals/0/data/PROCEEDINGS_DOWNLOAD/LJUBLJANA/LindaVSljubljana.pdf
Whiffen, Marcus. American Architecture since 1780: A Guide to the Styles (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press: 1992). Session Cases: Cases Decided in the Court of Session and Also in the Court of Justiciary and House of Lords. Volume 4, Scottish Council of Law Reporting, 1842. p.172
Built: 1902-1904 Address: 134-144 Albany Street Builder: James Small
Silverwood Terrace is the almost forgotten name of a row of houses in Albany Street, close to the university campus. Still further lost in history is the large and sprawling wooden home this name came from. Silverwood stood behind the terrace until its demolition in 1923.
Percival Clay Neill lived at the original Silverwood from 1872. His posthumous claim to fame is as the great-grandfather of actor Sam Neill, but in his own day he was one of Dunedin’s most successful merchants. Born in Belfast, Ireland, he founded Neill & Company, a firm that imported wines, spirits, and other goods. It later merged with R. Wilson & Co. to become Wilson Neill & Co. Neill was also the French Consul from 1873.
In 1877, Neill moved to Chingford, North East Valley. He subdivided the Silverwood property but kept the house as his town residence until 1882, when the solicitor Edward Chetham Strode purchased it. Around this time it was described as a thirteen-room house with ‘pantry, and cellar, stable, loose boxes, coach house, laundry, tool house, fowl house, and cow house. Water laid on to the house, stable, and garden’.
It was at Silverwood that Strode died of typhoid fever in 1886, at the age of 34. His wife, Jessie, left for England soon afterwards.
A view from about 1889, looking along Albany Street towards the harbour. The future Silverwood Terrace site is where the trees meet the road on the right-hand side. The old house is obscured. Image: Te Papa C.018395. Detail from Burton Bros photograph.
Later occupants of Silverwood included the warehouseman Allan Broad (1841-1930), who was manager of the Mutual Stores and a foundation member of the Hanover Street Baptist Church. He was followed by William Reid (c.1834-1909), a prosperous seed merchant turned florist, resident from about 1890 to 1898. Reid had worked at the Royal Norfolk Nurseries in England and had an international reputation as a collector of native ferns and shrub seeds, which he exported. His daughter, Annie Elsom, followed the same profession and became a successful businesswoman in Christchurch.
From 1898, Silverwood was the home of James and Elizabeth Small. Born in Forfar, Scotland, around 1843, James married the slightly older Elizabeth Gall at Dundee in 1873. The following year the couple arrived in Dunedin, where James became a successful building contractor. His first major project was the Dominican Priory in Smith Street, designed by Frank Petre and built between 1876 and 1877. The innovative use of poured concrete in this building is celebrated today, but Small’s contribution remains overlooked. Petre’s call for tenders specified a brick building, and Small submitted the only tender for concrete construction. This was identified as the more cost-effective option, and it seems likely concrete was Petre’s plan from the beginning, with the tenders for brick construction being called to determine an alternative price.
James Small (c.1843-1919). Image: DCC Archives
Small was the contractor for the Grand Hotel (1882-1883), designed by Louis Boldini. Image: Te Papa O.034103. Burton Bros photographers.
The collaboration continued. Other buildings designed by Petre and constructed by Small and his team included the Exchange Buildings on Liverpool Street (now Guardian Apartments), the Equitable Insurance buildings (Phoenix House), an office building for the Otago Harbour Board (Donald Reid Building), and the Catholic Basilica in Wellington.
Small was the main contractor for three buildings designed by Louis Boldini: the Grand Hotel, Butterworth Bros warehouse, and the AMP Society’s buildings. These were among the most impressive commercial buildings of Victorian Dunedin, each with an elaborate four-storey stone facade. They were notable for extensive structural use of iron and concrete, including concrete floors on iron joists.
Small built the six Silverwood Terrace houses next to his own home between 1902 and 1904. It is likely he designed them himself, as I have found no record of an architect’s involvement and the surviving plans show only sketchy drafting. The first building permit, issued in November 1902, was for the two houses closest to Clyde Street. The permit for the middle two houses followed in April 1903, and the final two were approved in November 1903.
Detail from a Dunedin Drainage and Sewerage Board plan dated 1905. Albany Street runs across the bottom of the image. The large footprint of Silverwood can be seen at the centre, and the new terrace has only been pencilled in. Image: DCC Archives.
Terraces were not typical of New Zealand housing, but they were relatively numerous in the urbanised environment of central Dunedin. More than twenty historic examples stand in the city today. The earliest dates from the 1870s and the latest from about 1914, by which time public transport and private cars were providing easier access to the suburbs, and blocks of flats were beginning to find favour. Usually built as investment properties or speculative builds, the grandest terraces were handsomely finished for a market that included working professionals and the genteel. At the other end of the spectrum were rough wooden tenements rented to the poor.
Silverwood Terrace, though not among most expensive, is one of the better examples. Built in brick, it has a neatly cemented street front, with exposed brickwork at the back and sides. Its style is plain and unfussy, with simple cornices and other mouldings, and a touch of the Italianate about it. Variations in the design contribute to a pleasing rhythm: the middle two houses have faceted bays grouped together at the centre, while the outer houses have square bays with the balconies grouped together. The overall effect is approximately symmetrical, although the houses at the Clyde Street end are narrower than the rest. The cast iron balcony railings are excellent examples of their type, and provide the most ornate features.
The terrace is sympathetic to the slightly older semi-detached houses next door, which date from about 1896. On the corner of Clyde Street a slightly later house with exposed brickwork, built in 1907, is also in harmony.
Each of the Smalls’ houses had a conventional floor plan. The two largest rooms were on the ground floor, with the one facing the street presumably intended as a parlour. A long hallway ran through to a single-storey extension at the rear, housing the kitchen and scullery. Stairs were at the centre and at right angles to the hall, due to the narrowness of the buildings. On the first floor were four bedrooms and a small bathroom. There were five fireplaces in each house. Toilets were in outhouses.
The houses remained in the ownership of the Smalls for nearly twenty years, and were sometimes referred to as Small’s Terrace. Neither this nor the Silverwood name appears to have remained in use for long. Street directories give some insight into the backgrounds of the Smalls’ first tenants. The heads of the households were two widows, a mechanical engineer, a storeman, a bootmaker with his own business, and a retired seedsman. Most stayed only a few years, but after her husband’s death Margaret Buchanan remained at no.136 until her passing in 1923, and John and Catherine Mitchell lived at no.140 until 1930.
Elected to the Dunedin City Council in 1905, James Small served as a councillor for thirteen years, as Chairman of the finance committee, and as an elected member of the Dunedin Drainage Board. He died at Silverwood on 3 March 1919, aged 75. The following day the flag of the Grand Hotel flew at half-mast, as a mark of respect to its builder. Obituaries describe Small as an unassuming, unostentatious, and capable man, who ‘worked hard and keenly in his own quiet way for the good of Dunedin as a whole’.
Elizabeth Small gave ‘unostentatiously to the poor and needy of the neighbourhood’ until her health declined. She died on 24 July 1923. The couple had no children and Elizabeth’s estate, with the exception of a few bequests to friends, was left to charity. Silverwood was demolished later that year, the Otago Daily Times recording that in the early days ‘it was among the most handsome residences in the city. But it did not escape the changes of time, and, after a period of retiring shabbiness, the last straw has been placed on the camel’s back and tenders for removal have been called.’
The Silverwood Terrace houses went to auction in 1925. Notices described them as being of superior construction, and no.134 as a ‘splendid double-storey brick residence, containing 7 commodious rooms, bathroom, hot and cold water, washhouse, copper and tubs, and conveniences; handsome appearance; freehold section’.
The main outward change in recent years has been the replacement of wood-framed sash windows with aluminium framed ones, but the original style and glass remains on one of the houses. A uniform colour scheme helps to show off the architecture. The houses are now student flats, and according to the Dunedin Flat Names Project, no.138 has been known as both ‘Wards Manor’ and ‘Mope on in’. Perhaps the old name ‘Silverwood’ might again become familiar.
Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times 2 February 1872 p.2 (birth of Neill’s daughter), 5 November 1874 p.1 (reference to house as ‘Silverwood’), 16 March 1897 p.4 (Reid’s advertisement), 4 March 1919 p.6 (James Small obituary), 6 March 1919 p.5 (appreciation of Small); Evening Star 10 January 1873 p.2 (Mrs Neill’s advertisement),), 27 February 1878 p.3 (subdivision), 2 March 1882 p.3 (sale of Silverwood), 15 March 1886 p.3 (Mrs Strode), 27 February 1906 p.5 (reference to Small’s Terrace), 18 October 1909 p.4 (death of William Reid), 4 March 1919 p.6 (James Small obituary), 6 March 1919 p.5 (appreciation of James Small), 10 March 1919 p.6 (tribute to Small), 23 July 1923 p.8 (Elizabeth Small obituary), 4 September 1923 p.6 (demolition of Silverwood), 5 September 1925 p.24 (sale of properties), 23 April 1930 p.7 (Allan Broad obituary); Lyttelton Times 6 January 1886 p.4 (Strode obituary); Otago Witness 28 December 1920 p.53 (correction).
Directories (Stone’s, Wises, and telephone)
Dunedin City Council Archives, including building register, permit plans, and drainage records
Death registration of James Small
Rebuilt: 1934-1935 Address: 362 Moray Place Architect: Cecil Gardner Dunning Builders: Love Construction Co.
One of Dunedin’s more jazzy and original expressions of the Art Deco style has been home to the Otago Pioneer Women’s Memorial Association for 75 years.
In the nineteenth century its Moray Place site was part of a large coal and firewood yard. In 1909 a single-storey structure was built for the consulting engineer William James as an office, together with a shop he rented out. An extension followed in 1913.
The site as it appeared in 1874, with Stuart Street in the foreground. Detail from Burton Bros panorama. Te Papa O.025698.
Elevation and section plans of the original building, erected for William James in 1909.
The building gained an additional storey and its distinctive style in 1934 and 1935, through work carried out for new owners S.R. Burns & Co. by the Love Construction Co. Stanley Burns was a decorated returned soldier, who served in France in the First World War. He ran a tailoring business in Dunedin before setting up a company dealing in shares and the promotion of subsidiary companies with diverse interests in property, printing, caravans and camping equipment, cosmetics, and other areas.
The architect for the work, Cecil Gardner Dunning, was the South-African-born son and former practice partner of another local architect, William Henry Dunning. The younger Dunning’s other Dunedin designs include the former customhouse (now Harbourside Grill) and numerous private residences.
The facade as it appeared c.1935.
Bold and contrasting colours originally emphasised the angular design of the facade, likely including a warm red like the one recently revealed on the former Victoria Insurance Building in Crawford Street. The interior continued the theme, with its modern fittings, bevelled glass doors, and fashionable terrazzo flooring in the foyer and on the stairs.
The top floor was fitted out as a beauty salon for the subsidiary Roxana Ltd, ‘in accordance with modern trend and tastefully furnished to provide the maximum comfort to clients’. Much of this fit-out remains. Decorative elements included wood panelling in Pacific maple and Australian walnut ply, carnival glass windows, and black Vitrolite (an opaque pigmented glass) at the cosmetic counter and pay desk.
Sandford Sinclaire, a graduate of the Wilfred Academy of New York, managed the skincare and make-up side of the business. From a six by four foot cubicle, described as his cosmetical laboratory, came Roxana Beauty Preparations, with their ‘special exotic properties anticipated to appeal to women of fashion throughout New Zealand’. Equipment included what promoters claimed to be the country’s first Dermascope complexion analysis machine. The ‘coiffure section’ under the direction of Miss MacDonald, previously of Melbourne and Sydney, boasted the latest in hair-waving machines.
An advertising feature in the Otago Daily Times gave an evocative description:
‘The Roxana Salon, recently opened in Burns’ Buildings, Moray place, has an air of up-to-date efficiency about it. Its lounge, approached by marble stairs and furnished with a brown patterned carpet, tawny hangings, and comfortable couches, has modern lights and modern furniture, particularly in its chromium and black glass table, and its reception desk with its black glass background, chromium fittings, and blazoned glass walls. Beyond are the cubicles, ivory walled and grey floored, with a glitter of chromium and glass about them, and an atmosphere of cleanliness and brightness. All the implements are kept in perpetually sterile cupboards, and tidiness is a watchword of the place. The salon has its own dispensary and boasts that it uses the best obtainable ingredients for its cosmetics. Features of the salon are its telephone in every cubicle; its personal records of the work done for every customer; its dermascope – said to be the only one in New Zealand, used to diagnose skin diseases and analyse the skin; its special hair-dressing, realistic waving, and washing apparatuses; its unobtrusive ivory-coloured heaters; and its home service. This last is perhaps most important of all, for it includes the free use of cars to take clients to the salon, and the treatment of clients in their own homes – before dances, weddings, theatres, and so on – or in hotels. The salon is in capable hands. Mr S.B. Sinclaire, cosmetician and dermatologist, is a graduate of the Wilfred Academy of New York and a specialist in colour harmony; Mrs Farrell, who assists him recently worked for Coty in Paris; and Miss R.M. McDonald, who is in charge of the coiffure section, has had extensive experience in Sydney and Melbourne and owns a Mayer Diploma as a qualified expert in permanent waving.’
Sinclaire was dismissed for incompetence after less than a year and the salon closed in August 1937. Cosmetics continued to be produced for a short period under a new Eudora brand. By 1941 Burns’s small empire was crumbling amid financial losses and fraud (he was imprisoned in 1943) and his building was sold to the newly-formed Otago Pioneer Women’s Memorial Association.
Dr Emily Siedeberg-McKinnon, the founding president of the association, was New Zealand’s first woman medical graduate. She worked as a general practitioner in Dunedin from 1897, and among her many other roles was Medical Superintendent of St Helen’s Maternity Hospital. Her house in York Place features in a previous post on this blog.
In 1928 she visited the Women’s Building in Vancouver, Canada. Over one hundred women’s groups used this new and central facility, which inspired her to promote something similar for Dunedin. She did not find an opportunity until 1936, when the recently-elected Labour Government announced extensive plans and regional funding for the upcoming New Zealand Centennial celebrations. Provincial committees were established, and on 31 July 1936 Siedeberg-McKinnon chaired a meeting to explore the idea of a memorial to Otago’s pioneer women. Proposals included a memorial arch, the cleaning up of slum areas, and a quaintly-described ‘home for gentlewomen of slender means’, but the delegates representing thirty-nine women’s organisations agreed they should pursue the idea of a women’s community building. The Otago Women’s Centennial Council was formed to further the project.
Dr Emily Siedeberg-McKinnon (1873-1968)
The new group had the support of Dunedin’s Labour mayor, Edwin Cox, and in February 1938 its proposal gained formal approval from the Provincial Centennial Council. It agreed that a women’s building should be one two major memorials for Otago, with the other being a cancer block at the public hospital.
In the following months Siedeberg-McKinnon outlined a proposal for a two-storey building with five committee rooms, a conference and concert room, a public lounge, two smaller lounges, a kitchen, and caretaker’s quarters. It would be available to both women and men and be similar in size to the Order of St John building in York Place. An obelisk dedicated to Otago pioneer women might be placed outside the entrance. The cost was estimated at between £7,500 and £10,000.
Cox was defeated at the local body elections in May, and while fundraising plans progressed, opposition to the scheme was finding traction. Earlier opposition had included some saying that women had no business wanting to go to meetings, and that their place was the home and the care of children. Sexism was a constant obstacle, and so were competing interests for the available funding. In September the new committee of the Provincial Centennial Council rescinded the original decision in favour of other schemes, cutting off access to the expected government subsidy. Siedeberg-McKinnon pointed to political and class bias, and to businessmen who favoured putting more money towards the national exhibition in Wellington, furthering their own commercial interests.
Perspective drawing of proposed community building on the Garrison Hall site, between Dowling and Burlington Streets. H. McDowell Smith architect.
Siedeberg-McKinnon encouraged supporters not to ‘crumple up at the first set back’ and plans continued to be developed for a general Memorial Community Building on the Garrison Hall site, between Dowling and Burlington street. The Provincial Committee again rejected the plans, and by this stage it was obvious it would not support funding any women’s or community building.
Dispirited, Siedeberg-McKinnon had a vivid dream in which she climbed from a walled enclosure, found her way through marshy ground, and looked up to see a large unfinished building with scaffolding around it. Encouraged, she found support to renew her efforts and led the formation of the Otago Pioneer Women’s Memorial Association at an ‘indignation meeting’ on 14 March 1939. The new name was necessary as legislation reserved the word ‘centennial’ for official projects and the group had been threatened with legal action.
Successful fundraising and a mortgage allowed the purchase of the Burns & Co. building and the refurbished property opened on 23 February 1942. Intended as temporary accommodation, the association remains there three-quarters of a century later.
The largest room was the hall. Other spaces included a boardroom and a lounge. A small chapel on the first floor named the Shrine of Remembrance was dedicated on Otago Anniversary Day 1946. Designed by architect Frank Sturmer, it was furnished with an oak chair made by Dunedin’s first cabinetmaker, John Hill, and a new oak refectory table by local Swedish-born cabinetmaker Alfred Gustafson.
Robert Fraser designed a memorial stained-glass window set within three gothic arches, but due to his failing health the work was taken on and executed by John Brock. The central panel shows Christ walking on water and his disciples in a rowing boat. The left-hand panel illustrates a migrant family departing Britain, and the right-hand panel depicts arrival in Otago. The arrival panel includes mother and daughter figures, the ship Philip Laing, a whare, and native flora including ferns and cabbage trees. The shrine was later decommissioned and the window was moved to the foyer. The inscription beneath the window reads:
This window commemorates the safe arrival in Otago of all those Pioneer Women who braved the dangers of the long sea voyage to assist in the settlement of the Province of Otago and is a tribute to their sterling qualities of character, their foresight, their self sacrifice and their powers of endurance through many hardships. A recognition by those who have reaped the benefit, spiritual or material.
The hall and rooms were made available to a wide range of community groups, and not exclusively women’s organisations. Those using the building in the 1940s and 50s included the Dunedin Kindergarten Association, Lancashire and Yorkshire Society, Rialto Bridge Club, Dunedin Burns Club, Federation of University Women, Practical Psychology Club, Sutcliffe School of Radiant Living, Musicians’ Union, Radio DX League, Otago Women’s Hockey Association, Registered Nurses’ Association, and many more. In 1960 over fifty organisations were using the hall and rooms. The Dunedin Spiritualist Church met in the building for nearly 50 years, from 1945 to 1994.
In 1958, the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Association purchased a new property in York Place and again entered a period of active fundraising. It appeared to be close to realising Siedeberg-McKinnon’s vision for a purpose-built building, but again fell short of its ambitious target. Instead, the unique venue they had developed was maintained and continues to provide a valuable community asset today.
With this post I mark five years of blogging on this website. Thanks all for reading.
Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times, 17 September 1935 p.17 (Roxana advertising feature), 2 April 1936 p.16 (dismissal of Sinclaire), 8 March 1937 p.27 (outline of aims), 3 August 1937 (community building proposed), 9 February 1938 p.6 (approval by Provincial Centennial Council), 4 October 1938 p.5 (attitude of committee opposed), 15 March 1939 p.10 (OPWMA formed), 24 April 1940 p.6 (annual meeting, history), 30 April 1941 p9 (need for headquarters), 23 October 1941 p.9 (building purchased), 24 February 1942 pp.3-6 (opening), 28 May 1942 p.6 (‘aims partly realised’), 25 March 1946 p.6 (memorial window), 30 May 1960 pp.4 and 10 (fundraising), 6 June 1960 pp.4 and 14 (usage); Evening Star 18 October 1938 p.1 (description of proposed building), 25 October 1938 p.7 (illustration of proposed building); 30 October 1958 (‘new building nearer realisation’), 14 May 1960 p.2 (fundraising), 24 May 1960 p.2 (fundraising); Weekly News (Auckland), 29 October 1941 p.14 (‘Headquarters as Pioneer Memorial’); The Press (Christchurch), 2 April 1936 p.11 (Sinclaire, wrongful dismissal case), 16 September 1943 p.6 (charges of fraud against Burns), 30 November 1943 p.7 (sentencing of Burns).
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory, various editions 1884-1954.
Baré, Robert, City of Dunedin Block Plans Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, .
Jones, F. Oliver, Structural Plans of the City of Dunedin NZ, ‘Ignis et Aqua’ series, .
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Chris Scott, Archivist)
Booking diaries from Otago Pioneer Women’s Memorial Association Inc. records, Hocken Collections MS-3156.
Newspaper clippings from Dr Emily Hancock Siedeberg-Mckinnon papers, Hocken Collections MS-0665/046 and 047.
McKinnon, Emily H. and Irene L. Starr. Otago Pioneer Women’s Memorial. (Dunedin: Otago Daily Times, 1959).
‘Eudora Limited, formerly Roxana Limited’. Defunct Company and Incorporated Society files, Archives New Zealand Regional Office, R43267.
‘Eudora Limited [Previously Roxana Limited] – Director’s Minute Book’. Archives New Zealand Dunedin Regional Office, R9071585.
‘S.R. Burns & Company Limited’. Defunct Company and Incorporated Society files, Archives New Zealand Regional Office, R43322.
Building work in Dunedin continued through World War I, despite the wide-ranging ramifications of the conflict. Labour and materials were more difficult and expensive to source, but the government did not impose restrictions and, at the end of 1916, one Dunedin architect estimated costs for house construction had increased only 7 or 8 per cent. This figure was thought too conservative by one local builder, who claimed that the price of timber alone added more than 30 per cent. He said the cost of bricks had increased by about 20 per cent, while steel had risen between 200 and 300 per cent.
One of the more imposing new structures built during the war was for Rutherfords Ltd, on the corner of Manse and High streets. The manufacture and importation of clothing and textiles was big business at this time. Companies based in Dunedin included Ross & Glendining, Hallenstein’s, Sargood Son & Ewen, and Butterworth Bros. These firms all had large factories and warehouses, each a hive of activity in the heart of city.
In 1914 one of Butterworths’ former departmental managers, Alfred James Rutherford, led the formation of Rutherfords Ltd, a company set up to carry on the business of ‘wholesale and retail drapers and furnishers and general warehousemen in all its branches’. The founding shareholders were all from the Rutherford, Walker, and Ritchie families.
By 1915 Rutherfords was operating from Manse Street. Old wooden buildings on the site dated back to 1860-1861, when they had been built for the Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics’ Institution to the designs of William Langlands. They were used as the City Council Chambers in the 1870s, and later as offices by the Railways Department, before being put to commercial use. Additions were made to the original structure.
Detail from a Burton Bros photograph showing the Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics’ Institution in 1869. Ref: Te Papa C.012523
Architects Mason & Wales called for tenders for a new Rutherfords warehouse in January 1918. What is now New Zealand’s oldest architectural firm was then under the control of Patrick Young Wales, the son of co-founder N.Y.A. Wales. P.Y. Wales was described a man ‘who did not countenance any suspicion of shoddy work and, as many a builder knew, he would use a knife to check on the mortar between brickwork. If it did not measure up then he was known, on occasions, to kick a wall down’. The firm designed a wide variety of buildings, its biggest contracts in the first half of the twentieth century being for hospital buildings in Dunedin and wider Otago.
Fletcher Bros (forerunner of the Fletcher Construction Co.) was the building company for Rutherfords. Demolition work was carried out in February 1918 and the estimated completion date was June. The building cost nearly £5,000, at a time when modest but well-constructed houses could be built for less than £400.
The First World War was in its final year and the writer of an Otago Daily Times report hoped the new building signalled better times ahead and the end of Dunedin’s longer-term commercial decline:
‘The spirit of enterprise that has marked the career of many present day firms of long standing in Dunedin is also manifest in firms of recent formation. It was largely owing to that spirit that Dunedin was placed in the commercial forefront in New Zealand years ago, and its manifestation in more than one direction at present, even during war conditions, is an evidence that the position the city held in that respect in former times may yet return to it.’
Rutherfords’ building was described as an up-to-date warehouse of imposing appearance and commanding position. It has three levels (a basement and two storeys above) and was designed to carry an additional two storeys if required. The foundations are concrete and the outer walls are constructed of steel-reinforced concrete and brick. Most of the internal construction is timber. The ground floor originally housed a large warehouse space, public and private offices, a strong-room, and a lift-well. The upper storey was divided into a millinery showroom, workroom, dining room, and cloakroom.
The facade architecture is of the transitional type favoured at the time. Elements of Renaissance Revival, Queen Anne, Stripped Classical and industrial influences are all discernible. Exposed brickwork uses varied patterns and shows a high standard of execution. Other features include rustication at the basement level, pilasters rising to a height of two storeys, and mullioned steel-framed windows with shallow-arched heads. The glazing was generously proportioned to let in plenty of natural light, and it was reported that the quantity of glass needed made very serious inroads into the short supplies available in wartime conditions.
Rutherfords did not get much use out of their building as the company was wound up in 1920. A sale notice described the building as a ‘modern up-to-date warehouse substantially built in brick, with two storeys and lofty concrete basement; well lighted and ventilated, and dry as a board. The warehouse is of stylish design, and the provision made for lighting makes it perfect in this respect’.
In 1921 the building was sold to the Wellington Woollen Manufacturing Co., owners of the well-known ‘Petone’ brand and northern rivals to Dunedin’s Ross & Glendining (‘Roslyn’) and Mosgiel woollen mills.
Kaiapoi Petone Group Textiles Ltd: Petone knitting design no.5003. Man’s lumber jacket, by and copyright to M.W. Jarvis Productions Ltd., Dunedin print Ltd, c.1965. Ref: Alexander Turnbull Library Eph-A-KNIT-1965-01-front.
Few changes were made to the building over the next forty years, although a new entrance from High Street was added in 1934 and some modest internal alterations made. In 1962 the Wellington Woollen Manufacturing Co. merged with the Kaiapoi Woollen Co. to become Kaiapoi Petone Group Textiles Ltd (KPG) and the Dunedin branch office consolidated on the Manse Street site. This company was in turn taken over by the Mosgiel Woollen Co. in 1972, and KPG finally vacated the building in 1975.
The building had always been larger than the textile business required, with early tenants including John McDonald Ltd (furriers, costumiers, tailors) and W.J. Watson (tailor). Through the 1960s part of the building was leased to the signwriters Tyrrell & Holmes, and from 1972 to 1986 the principal occupant was Rank Xerox. The canvas department of J. McGrath & Co. also occupied part of the premises in the 1970s and 80s.
In 1986, Craigie House Ltd was established as the company owning the building, taking its new name from one of the directors. Office and other spaces have been let to various commercial tenants since this time, and within the building’s walls might still be found the ‘spirit of enterprise’ with which it was first associated.
Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times 4 May 1914 p.4 (registration of Rutherfords), 18 October 1916 p.5 (Mandeno on cost increases), 26 January 1918 p.1 (call for tenders), 9 February 1918 p.6 (new building), 25 August 1921 p.4 (purchase by Wellington Woollen Manufacturing Co.), 19 March 1986 p.31 (Rank Xerox move); Evening Star 25 October 1916 p.6 (dispute of Mandeno’s figures), 8 February 1918 p.6 (demolition and new building), 12 Jun 1920 p.9 (for sale, description)
Directories (Harnett’s, Stone’s, Wises, and telephone)
Dunedin City Council building records
Secker, T.M. Riding Upon the Sheep’s Back: A Business and Social History of the Kaiapoi Woollen Manufacturing Company Limited 1878-1978 (MA Thesis, University of Canterbury, 2001).
Sullivan, Jim. Reading Matters: A History of the Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics’ Institute (Dunedin: the Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics’ Institute, 2013).
‘Hiding in plain sight’ is a phrase often used in architectural heritage where the actual significance of a building or place is not revealed by its surface appearance. So it is with Allan Grange, a villa in the suburb of Bradford in Dunedin’s Kaikorai Valley. This two-storey house stands in Glenelg Street, still surrounded by a woodland garden. It is now thought to be the first house constructed of hollow cement block in New Zealand and a close contemporary of the first houses of their type in North America. How it happened is still a bit of a puzzle.
The owner of Allan Grange, Thomas Mackenzie (1853–1930) was an important national figure, representing Clutha in parliament from 1887. He was dispatched to London by the Government as trade commissioner in 1889 and played a major role in promoting local exports, particularly frozen lamb, wool and grain. He returned to Dunedin in 1899 and stood for election in the Waihemo electorate, becoming Minister of Agriculture in 1900 and also Minister of Tourism and Postmaster General. He was Prime Minister briefly in 1912 after the resignation of Sir Joseph Ward, when he returned to London to reprise his earlier role as New Zealand High Commissioner. Somehow Mackenzie also found time for the mayoralty of Roslyn between 1901 and 1905. The history presented to the recent purchasers of the house was that it was built in 1872 and made from Portland stone concrete blocks imported as ships’ ballast, showing how stories around houses often contain facts and speculation mixed together.
Sir Thomas Mackenzie and Peter Henry Buck, in France, during World War I. Ref: Alexander Turnbull Library 1/2-037933-F.
Between his numerous commercial and political activities, Mackenzie developed his seven-acre estate in Kaikorai Valley. Council details are scant but in 1899 he likely engaged the Jensen Patent Construction Company to build a house on the property. The business was set up late in 1898 to exploit patents for Monier construction, a technology pioneered in France for wire reinforced concrete. Its founder was a Danish engineer named Vilhelm Alfred Langevad (or Langevod) who held the patents for ‘Improved Monier System of Construction by Emanuel Jansen’ covering cement products in his home country. Local patent applications were lodged in Wellington in 1899 for constructing floors and manufacturing concrete pipes under the title of ‘E. Jensen’. While in Wellington Langevad made contact with Milburn Lime and Cement Company manager Frank Oakden who had recently returned from a business trip to England and Northern Europe. While overseas, Oakden had purchased new equipment for the Dunedin plant and the patent rights to ‘Silica Portland Cement’ developed by Danish cement chemists and then coming into wide use in Europe and North America.
The manufacture of Portland cement was crucial to the New Zealand economy in the 1890s and a number of competing companies sought to dominate the local trade. During the 1890s, with a view to taking as much as it could of the Australasian market, Milburn invested heavily in new equipment. The company was the first in New Zealand to introduce modern rotary kilns and tube grinding mills to produce Portland cement it warranted was superior to all imported brands. Its products were widely promoted to architects and civil engineers keen to exploit the properties of steel reinforced concrete construction.
In the Milburn company minutes for 1898 it was reported that ‘After conferring with Mr Langevod (sic) we agreed to float a separate company, The Milburn Company taking in hand the formation and if our shareholders support it, subsequently retaining the control to that end the prospectus is prepared…I am well satisfied with Mr Langevod’s ability to manage the concern and have no doubt it will be successful if floated.’ Investors included J.M. Ritchie of the National Mortgage & Agency Co., Dr T.M. Hocken, Bendix Hallenstein and Frank Oakden himself. Oakden had earlier advised the Milburn board that ‘I think it advisable to prevent others so far as possible from becoming interested in the Cement trade. Monier Construction might be the first step to opposition’. The arrangement was beneficial to both parties. The Milburn company could promote its new silica portland cement through built projects while Langevad could operate a modern factory to produce his precast products. The hands off arrangement enabled Milburn to enhance its reputation if the ventures were successful or make a quick exit if not. The Jensen Patent Construction Company was granted a year-long lease on a piece of land next to the Milburn plant in 1899 and set up its new factory with funds from the share float. Backed up by £10,000 in shares, it began seeking construction projects. Few tenders for buildings specifically mentioned concrete and it appears that the Jensen company answered those for masonry structures and used their cast hollow blocks instead of more usual brick or poured solid concrete.
The Milburn Lime and Cement works at the bottom of Frederick Street prior to reclamation of Pelichet Bay. Detail from W.J. Prictor plan. Ref: Alexander Turnbull Library MapColl 834.5292ap 1898.
The precise source of the block moulding system used by Langevad remains obscure but it is not likely to have been part of the raft of patents secured by Harmon S. Palmer of Chattanooga in 1899 and usually given as ‘the start of modern concrete blocks’. There was a boom in this manufacturing method after 1900 and numerous hollow concrete block makers flooded the international market after 1906. The block module used for Allan Grange measures 6 X 9 X 18 inches which suggests an American rather than European origin for the moulds, although Nigeria is one of the only places in the world where blocks of these dimensions are used today. It took until 1924 for the 8 X 8 X 16 block to become standardised and until then numerous variations were tried. A fellow Dane, Niels Nielson, sought to make hollow blocks in Wellington using a Palmer machine under the title Wellington Hollow Concrete Building Block Company. Nielson built a warehouse and a group of houses at Lyall Bay in 1904, reckoned by Nigel Isaacs to be the earliest in New Zealand. This places Allan Grange in an intriguing position, some way ahead of the boom that launched hundreds of competing patent systems in the first decade of the twentieth century.
Hercules Concrete Block Machine catalogue, Rochester, New York, 1907. A typical promotional sheet for one of the great number of North American manufacturers that came into existence after 1900.
One of the main issues with new construction technology is confidence that the system will not fail in use. Local papers were full of bullish promotion of new cement systems including MIlburn with its Silica Portland Cement. Despite opening the plant up for viewing by local architects and engineers and undertaking comprehensive tests of the products, uptake of the new system was modest, at least in terms of the size of Milburn’s expenses on the patents and the re-equipping of their cement works. It was hard going for the Jensen Patent Construction Company as well. It was reported in 1899 that the company was working on a row of shops on the old Queen’s Theatre site in Princes Street and a studio for the artist James Elder Moultray on Frederick Street, near where the Queen Mary Maternity Hospital was later built. The description of the process is mirrored in the construction of Mackenzie’s house and it is likely that Allan Grange was built immediately after Lorie’s store and Moultray’s studio. Mackenzie took up residence at Allan Grange early in 1900, using the address on his voluminous correspondence from March that year.
Allan Grange in 2017.Michael Findlay photo.
Allan Grange was a two-storey gentleman’s farmhouse. It was relatively conventional in appearance with a pair of symmetrical bay windows with a terrace and a recessed sun porch in the centre above. A single-storey wing extended to the rear and the style was simplified Italian. Recent close inspection of the walls showed an unconventional block shape with tuck pointed joints and free blocks used around the contemporary garden as edging clearly showed their hollow form. This did not tally with the supposed construction date of the house of 1872 when hollow block construction was hardly known in the wider world, much less New Zealand. Even so, a construction date of 1899 pushes the house to the front of international developments. The first concrete block houses in America were constructed using related technologies, possibly as early as 1885. Amongst the earliest uses of hollow cement block is a group of seven houses built in that year by the Union Stone and Building Company in Minneapolis. These, as well as an eleven-unit terrace, remain as examples of the very early use of concrete block in North America. Nigel Isaacs notes that a group of houses constructed in 1897 marked a turning point in the technology, observing that ‘It was not until Harmon S. Palmer had experimented for ten years, including building six houses in Chicago in 1897, that he brought together manufacturing and design concepts that led to the creation of the modern hollow concrete block’.
The designer of Allan Grange remains a mystery. Unlike Jensen’s other documented projects no similar newspaper coverage appeared for the construction. A single tender can be found for an architect-designed house in Kaikorai between 1899 and 1900, issued by James Hislop in January 1899. Mackenzie had not returned to Dunedin then so it is unlikely to be for Allan Grange. When James Burnside issued his tender notice for Moultray’s studio it was for a ‘studio in brick’ so it is still possible that a tender was issued for a ‘house in brick’ and it remains to be found. It is possible that an architect was not needed. Vilhelm Langevad was a qualified civil engineer and was clearly able to design and manage civil and industrial projects so a house is certainly within his powers. Mackenzie had previously been a surveyor and equally capable of drawing the house for the Jensen Patent Construction Company to build. The planning and aesthetics do not greatly reflect contemporary architectural thinking so either of these scenarios could explain both the idiosyncratic design and the lack of any tender information in the local newspapers.
Allan Grange around the 1910s. Thomas Mackenzie owned the house until 1915, when James Mowat took ownership. Image courtesy of Janette Bain.
Another early image of the house, courtesy of Janette Bain. The section was subdivided in 2011 and the Dunedin City Council records three significant trees on the property.
This hiatus leaves a number of unanswered questions about how Allan Grange came to be built. It is an assumption that the Jensen Patent Construction Company supplied the blocks but all available evidence points to this conclusion. The lack of any documentation for the project can be put down to the voluntary liquidation of the Jensen Company in 1902 and the Milburn Lime and Cement Company quickly moving on to other forms of hollow block technology. A complex court action over a bridge construction tender possibly hastened their downfall but it is more likely that the company simply failed to make money and its investors wanted out. This was typical in the hard driving cement industry where commercial survival involved both intensive investment in plant and swift U-turns if things did not go well. The closure of the company did not end Langevad’s involvement with Dunedin. He joined the City Council as assistant engineer and later worked as a building inspector. He relocated to New South Wales and managed the design and construction of major cement works in Kandos under the supervision of Frank Oakden. Thomas Evans bought the Jensen equipment and production of Monier concrete pipes began again in Masterton in 1904 under the Cement Pipe Company. The long survival of Allan Grange, a few cracks notwithstanding, points towards the Jensen Patent Construction Company’s early efforts to pioneer hollow concrete block construction in New Zealand and operate at the very edge of this technology in the world.
Note: One of the jewels in the Hocken Pictures Collection is ‘Portrait of Vivien Oakden’ c.1898 by Grace Joel. Also noteworthy is Alfred Cook’s beautiful 1924 watercolour of Lake Logan showing the cement works, held at Toitū Otago Settlers Museum.
Under snow in 1969. Image courtesy of Janette Bain.
Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times 14 February 1930 (obituary), 8 June 1899 (Otago Agricultural and Pastoral Society),18 September 1889, 25 September 1897 (Milburn Lime and Cement Company Ltd); Chronicle (Adelaide) 3 October 1940 (Mr V.A. Langevad); Evening Star 2 April 1898 (Otago Jubilee Industrial Exhibition); Otago Witness 21 February 1912 p.41 (advertisements), 28 December 1899 (City Improvements).
Hall, James P. The Early Developmental History of Concrete Block in America. Masters Thesis, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, 2009.
Isaacs, Nigel. Making the New Zealand House 1792-1982. PhD, Victoria University, 2015 Notes on the Manufacture, Testing, Uses, etc. of Portland Cement. Milburn Lime and Cement Company 1895. H-10 Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks. Tenth Annual Report of the Registrar. Untitled, 1 January 1899 (Hughes, W.E., Wellington NZ. Constructing Floors (E. Jensen) 11156 14 November 1898, Hughes, W.E., Wellington NZ. Manufacturing Concrete Pipes (E. Jensen) 1116315 November 1898.
Lesley, Robert Whitman, John Baptiste Lober and George S. Bartlett. History of the Portland Cement Industry in the United States. Chicago: International Trade Press, 1924.
Fleming, B.A. Kandos and Rylstone History part 1. Mudgee District History, www.mudgeehistory.com.au/rylstone_kandos/rylstone_kandos1.html The Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Taranaki, Hawkes Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts
Jensen Patent Construction Company files, Archives New Zealand R1930690.
Milburn Lime and Cement Company Limited: Records. Hocken Collections AG-158.
Built: 1866, remodelled 1939 Address: 192 Princes Street Architects: R.A. Lawson (1866), Clere, Clere & Hill (1939) Builders: Not identified (1866), W. McLellan Ltd (1939)
A bright red facade in Princes Street invites the attention of passers-by, but few would guess that behind this 1930s front is a 150-year-old building.
Its story begins with John Switzer. Born in Winchester, Hampshire, in 1830, Switzer was the son of a bootmaker. He followed his father’s trade and after a period in Australia arrived in Dunedin with his wife and infant daughter in September 1857. Within two months he established a boot and shoe warehouse, later named Cookham House after the ‘Cookham’ hobnail boots imported from England. There was a similarly named business in Christchurch, owned by George Gould. Switzer sold his business in 1863, not long before opening a new Cookham Store in Rattray Street.
John Switzer. Ref: City of Victoria Archives, Canada, M00235.
Switzer was a director of the Dunedin Gas Light & Coke Co. and his many other business ventures included Hyde Home Station in Southland. He only owned the property for a year, but the gold rush township afterwards established there was called Switzers after him. It later became known by its present name, Waikaia. John’s wife Harriet introduced European birds to Otago, including starlings, blackbirds, and thrushes. The Switzers owned a small farm, Grand View, in Opoho.
In 1864 Switzer was a shareholder of the new Dunedin Boot and Shoe Company. He became the manager of its outlet opened under the familiar Cookham House name, on what is now part of the Southern Cross Hotel site on Princes Street. At the end of 1865 the company decided to move a block north, to the address that has since become 192 Princes Street. The building then on the site was occupied by the auctioneers G.W. Moss & Co., with offices above known as Princes Street Chambers. It was only a few years old, but being wooden it belonged to a preceding era and was already out of date.
An 1864 photograph of Princes Street. The building on the right of the lower one with the dormers was on the site of the present 192 Princes Street. Ref: Collection of Toitu Otago Settlers Museum.
Architect R.A. Lawson called for tenders for a new building in December 1865. This was early in Lawson’s career. The design for First Church that had brought him to Dunedin was yet to be built, but he was well-established after three years living and working here. His design for the Boot Company was brick, with a bluestone basement and an Oamaru stone front. The Otago Daily Times promised it would be a ‘handsome structure’. It was representative of a new class of building in Dunedin, as the wealth brought by the gold rush began to be reflected in the buildings of the new city.
Photographs show an elaborately ornamented Gothic Revival facade. First-floor decoration included clustered pilasters with Corinthian capitals, grapes and floral decoration, and a carved head in the keystone above the central window. A verandah was built, but despite being approved by the Building Surveyor it fell foul of building ordinances and the City Council would not allow it. It seems the verandah was removed, as it does not appear in a photograph taken in the 1870s.
J. Wilkie & Co. and Eldon Chambers in 1923. At this time the building retained most of its original appearance, though the shop front had been rebuilt and included leadlight windows. Ref: Coulls Somerville Wilkie records, Hocken Collections MS-2248/031.
The upper part of the building was named Eldon Chambers. This followed the original Eldon Chambers in London, which took their name from the English barrister and politician Lord Eldon (1751-1838). The name was repeated in many locations in Britain, Australasia, and elsewhere (there were at least seven Eldon Chambers in New Zealand alone), typically for buildings with rooms for lawyers and other professionals. The first occupants of the Dunedin chambers were Prendergast, Kenyon & Maddock (lawyers), George Brodie (inspector of bankruptcy), Dick & Fleming (land agents etc.), Dr Alfred Eccles, and H.F. Hardy (architect).
In 1867 Lawson designed two adjoining buildings for Matheson Bros and J.W. Robertson. These were given a much simpler facade treatment, but integrated with Eldon Chambers through the continuation the parapet cornice and other details in the same style.
In March 1867 a fire broke out in the cellar of Swizter’s building, but damage was confined to that space. Evidence at the inquest exposed the precarious state of Switzer’s finances. He had bought the stock and trade of the company a few months before, and suspicion was raised that he set the fire to get the insurance money. He was charged with arson. The trial took place over six weeks and ended with Switzer’s acquittal, but in the meantime he was bankrupted. Once his affairs were settled he left New Zealand for London, and a few years later emigrated with his family to Canada.
Princes Street in the 1870s. Eldon Chambers is the fourth building from the left. Ref: Collection of Toitu Otago Settlers Museum. R. Clifford & Co. photograph.
After Switzer’s departure his old shop was occupied by a succession of tailors, before the printers J. Wilkie & Co. opened a warehouse and stationery factory. The firm made various additions at the back to cope with their expanding business, and in 1892 moved their manufacturing to another site, keeping a warehouse and retail shop in Princes Street.
A full list of those occupying Eldon Chambers would be too long to list here, but some had particularly long associations. A connection of over thirty-five years belonged to the Dick family: the parliamentarian Thomas Dick and his son Thomas H. Dick were commission agents. An even longer record belonged to Herbert Webb, who had rooms for over fifty years. His succession of law firms in Eldon Chambers began with Dick & Webb in 1877. This was followed by Duncan, Macgregor & Webb, then Herbert Webb’s sole practice, and finally Webb & Allan. Herbert Webb died in 1928, after collapsing on the nearby Dowling Street corner. His old firm moved out in 1930 but its successor, Webb Farry, is still in existence.
A.C. Hanlon (1866-1944)
Alfred Hanlon, admitted to the bar on 20 December 1888, took an office in Eldon Chambers in New Year 1889. He furnished it with a plain deal kitchen table covered with oilcloth, three cane chairs, and a letter press. He waited three months for his first client. He later wrote:
‘I was now thoroughly daunted, and I think that at times I almost hated the office and all its associations. Little wonder then that I could not dissemble my eagerness whenever I heard a footstep outside the door. The months dragged hopelessly by, and still boy enough to be moved at their passing, I bade each a melancholy farewell. It came to this, that every time I heard a step I trembled. Would it reach my door? With feverish haste I would fling open my largest law book – “Benjamin on Sales” – on to the table, and when the knock came my too studiedly casual “Come in” arose from a head buried in the large tome. But it was all to no purpose. My carefully staged scene made no impression, because the caller was always another debt collector.’
Eventually Hanlon got a case defending a pedlar known as Dr Shannon from a charge of purchasing a bottle of Hood’s Corn Solvent under false pretences. He was successful and the case was dismissed. Hanlon was ten years in Eldon Chambers and in that time became one of New Zealand’s most celebrated criminal lawyers. In 1895 he famously but unsuccessfully defended the so-called ‘Winton baby farmer’, Minnie Dean, the only woman hanged by the State in New Zealand. It was probably in Eldon Chambers that he wrote his famous brief, now preserved in the Hocken Collections. During a fifty year career Hanlon was retained in twenty murder trials and he was made a K.C. in 1930.
Wilkie & Co. merged into Coulls Somerville Wilkie in 1922, but a shop specialising in stationery and gifts continued to trade under the name Wilkies until 1927. It was then rebranded under new ownership as Bells Limited, and remained on the site until 1939.
A 1927 advertisement for Wilkies from the Otago Daily Times. Ref: Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.
In 1939 the building was extensively altered to the designs of Wellington architects Clere, Clere & Hill for new owners Boots the Chemist. This pharmacy chain had been established in England in 1849 and set up its New Zealand operation in 1935. The Oamaru stone facade was removed and an entirely new front in brick and concrete was built in the streamline Moderne style. Staircases and columns were removed from the interior and new beams were installed. W. McLellan Ltd were the builders. According to the Evening Star:
‘The external appearance of the building has been carefully thought out. Black terrazzo and bronze metal have been used to telling effect for the double window fronts. An innovation for Dunedin consists of the huge Neon signs which are recessed so that they appear to form an integral part of the building. The whole layout has been designed with an eye to a keynote of solidarity and permanence. Although appointments are modern, as is evidenced by the glassed-in dispensary, open to the public eye, simplicity has been the primary aim. There is a complete absence of such materials as chromium plate – anything, in fact, which may prove subject to the dictates of fashion. Instead, the furnishings are carried out in light-stained oak. The surgical section is finished in white enamel, and the surgical fitting room – particularly spacious for this purpose – is carried out in white and navy blue. Lighting is exceptionally good, and the floors are finished with ‘Rublino,’ a particularly durable covering. A completely new fibrous plaster ceiling was, of course, necessitated by the extent of the alterations. At the rear of the shop are store rooms and offices, tea rooms, and toilets for the assistants.’
The building following alterations for Boots the Chemists completed in 1939. Ref: Coulls Somerville Wilkie records, Hocken Collections MS-2248/034.
In 1959 the Hob-Nob Coffee Garden was built in the basement for owner-operator Ted Paterson. The café was a good place for a toastie pie and coffee, and was known for its cheese rolls and corn rolls. The Hob Nob lasted until about 1970 when it briefly became the Van Dyke Expresso Bar [sic]. It was the Hibiscus Coffee Garden for approximately eight years, before its closure around 1979.
In its heyday Boots employed as many as seventeen staff in its Dunedin shop. After 50 years in Princes Street it closed its doors in September 1990. A company executive from Wellington said: ‘The city fathers have killed that part of town. Once it was the prime business area in the city. Now it is disgracefully tatty.’ He thought Boots should have pulled out years before, but ultimately the parent company had decided to close all of its retail outlets in New Zealand.
Rebel Warehouse was in the building for a year or two before the New Canton Restaurant moved there in 1993. The original Canton Café had operated from a building on the opposite side of the street since 1961, and from 1978 under the ownership and management of Kee and Sanny Young. Mrs Young, who grew up in Macau and Hong Kong, was the chief cook. She later recalled: ‘You couldn’t get Chinese food then. No bean sprouts, or pastry, or noodles … It was very difficult to buy our food, so we opened the restaurant. But it was too busy. We could only seat 50 and lost bookings, so … we moved across the road to here’.
The New Canton closed in February 2013 and the Punjab Restaurant has since taken its place – the latest chapter in a century and a half of business activity at 192 Princes Street.
Newspaper references: Otago Witness, 5 September 1857 p.4 (shipping notice), 21 November 1857 p.4 (advertisement for John Switzer, boot maker), 22 October 1864 p.13 (blackbirds and starlings), 27 May 1865 p.4 (thrushes), 6 July 1867 p.3 (sale of Grand View Farm); Otago Daily Times, 26 May 1863 p.1 (advertisement for Cookham Store), 28 May 1863 p.6 (Dunedin Gas Light & Coke Co.), 6 August 1863 p.3 (sale of business to Trood), 8 March 1866 p.4 (verandah), 20 March 1867 p.4 (fire), 25 April 1867 p.5 (inquest into fire), 24 June 1867 p.5 (trial and verdict), 20 September 1867 p.5 (Matheson Bros and J.W. Robertson buildings), 3 October 1877 p.3 (Dick & Webb), 22 December 1888 p.2 (Hanlon admitted to bar), 5 March 1889 p.4 (Hanlon’s first client), 5 May 1927 p.3 (advertisement for Wilkies), 21 March 1928 p.7 (Herbert Webb obituary), 21 September 1990 p.5 (closure of Boots), 22 September 1990 p.8 (editorial re closure), 17 January 2013 p.1 (closure of New Canton); Dunstan Times, 27 July 1866 p.4 (advertisement for Dunedin Boot & Shoe Co.); Evening Star, 12 December 1939 p.3 (alterations for Boots).
Blair, E.W. and E. Kerse. On the Slopes of Signal Hill (Dunedin: Otago Heritage Books, 1988).
Catran, Ken. Hanlon: A Casebook (Auckland: BCNZ Enterprises, 1985).
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, vol.4, Otago and Southland Provincial Districts (Christchurch: The Cyclopedia Company, 1905), p.357.
Donaldson, Janine E. Seeking Gold and Second Chances: Early Pioneers of Waikaia and District (Waikaia: Waikaia Book Committee, c.2012).
Hanlon, A.C. Random Recollections: Notes on a Lifetime at the Bar (Dunedin: Otago Daily Times & Witness, 1939).
Dunedin City Council building records
Directories (Harnett’s, Stone’s, Wises, and telephone)