Category Archives: Buildings

J.W. Swift & Co. building

Built: 1905
Address: 110 Bond Street
Architects: Mason & Wales
Builder: G. Simpson & Co.

I often start out with the idea of writing a brief post but it never seems to turn out that way! It’s a short one this time, though, on a lovely little Edwardian number that has an impressive street presence despite its small scale. It’s on the corner of Bond and Police streets, in the Warehouse Precinct.

In the early 1870s a modest two-storey brick building was built on the southern portion of the section, with the corner portion left undeveloped as a yard. These were the premises of the builder James Gore, and then his sons Charles and Walter Gore, before they became the tea store and blending rooms of Rattray & Son in 1891. In 1895 they were taken over by the large building supplies firm Thomson Bridger & Co., and the yard was used for the storage of timber and iron. The company had further stores and factory buildings on adjoining sections to the south, where it succeeded Guthrie & Larnach. W.J. Prictor’s detailed and reliable perspective drawing of 1898 shows the site still much as it was in the 1870s, but with some additions to the old buildings.

The site (highlighted in red) as it appeared in 1874. Detail from Burton Bros photograph, ref: Te Papa C.012064.

The site as it appeared about 1898, little changed from its state in the 1870s. Detail from W.J. Prictor plan, ref: Alexander Turnbull Library MapColl 834.5292ap 1898.

The building on the site today was put up for J.W. Swift & Co., wool brokers and shipping agents. The architects were Mason & Wales and the builder George Simpson, and the building was under construction in May 1905. The street elevations are richly treated in the Renaissance Revival style with a prominent cornice, extensive rustication, and Corinthian capitals. The larger Sidey warehouse on the diagonally opposite corner (designed by James Louis Salmond in 1907) is similarly treated. Among other things, the combination of exposed (though now painted) brickwork with the particular style of rustication are giveaways that these are Edwardian rather than Victorian facades.

Swift & Co. merged with H.L. Tapley & Co. in 1949 to form the Tapley Swift Shipping Agencies Ltd, but the wool business continued on the site under the J.W. Swift name until about 1958.

Around 1958 J.K. Sparrow & Co. moved into the building. This business of merchants and importers started out specialising in insulation, acoustic materials, and telecommunication devices, and also acted as insurance agents. Over time the focus shifted to catering equipment and supplies for the hospitality trade, and in 2003 the business was purchased by a Christchurch-based competitor, Aitkens & Co. Ltd. Aitkens operated from the building until 2014, when they moved their Dunedin operation to Andersons Bay Road.

Apart from painting, the exterior hasn’t changed much since the building went up, with the main exception being a clumsily integrated show window installed in the Police Street frontage in 1967. Internal alterations in 2009 included the removal of brick walls and the replacement of timber columns with steel posts. Timber doors to both the shop and the vehicle entrances have survived, which is a happy thing as in small buildings features such as these have a significant influence on the overall character. New owners plan to convert the Bond Street building into apartments, which should be a good fit for the revitalised Warehouse Precinct.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 4 March 1891 p.4 (auction notice), 9 January 1900 p.2 (C. & W. Gore), 4 May 1905 p.2 (under construction), 14 August 1905 p.2 (still under construction), 13 April 2004 p.24 (Aitkens).

Other references:
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories
Jones, F. Oliver, ‘Structural Plans’ of the City of Dunedin NZ ‘Ignis et Aqua’ Series, [1892].
Prictor, W.J.,Dunedin 1898, J. Wilkie & Co. (Dunedin: J. Wikie & Co., 1898)
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)

Victoria Foundry (Barningham & Co.)

Built: 1883
Address: 434 George Street
Architect/designer: Not identified
Builder: Not identified

The foundry as it appeared from George Street in the 1880s. Ref: Field and Hodgkins family photographs, Alexander Turnbull Library, PA1-q-079-07.

Facade detail

The plain facade of a popular George Street eatery was once the exuberantly decorated front of the Victoria Foundry. A nineteenth-century photograph shows decorative cast iron set in and otherwise attached to neat, exposed brickwork, promoting products produced by Barningham & Co. in the buildings behind.

Samuel Barningham was born in Bridlington, Yorkshire, in 1853, and moved as a child to Victoria, Australia, where he later learnt the pattern-making trade. He had a talent for invention, and his hobby was making microscopes and other scientific instruments. In 1878, at the age of twenty-five, he established the Victoria Foundry on the south-west corner of Frederick and Great King streets. It specialised in ornamental cast iron (verandahs, balconies, tomb railings etc.), grates, and coal ranges. According to an Otago Witness report from January 1879:

The premises lately known as the Railway Foundry [established in 1871] are now occupied by a company of ironworkers, who, under the style of Barningham and Co., have commenced the manufacture of ornamental ironwork of every description, particularly that used in the construction of balconies, etc. Hitherto it has been difficult to obtain this description of ornamental ironwork, except from Europe or Melbourne, and consequently our architects and builders were in a great measure deprived of one of the most pleasing adjuncts of their art. This want may now be supplied. The firm have just completed their first order, a verandah and balcony for Mr G.H. Madden, which is certainly a handsome piece of work.

In the second half of 1883, the foundry took a site fronting George Street, and rates records indicate that new buildings were erected at this time, while Barningham also bought three adjoining houses and a shop.

Barningham & Co. produced the ‘Zealandia’ cooking ranges with patented designs for draught supply and regulation, and they were sold throughout New Zealand, competing strongly with the Orion ranges manufactured by rival H.E. Shacklock. Examples of decorative ironwork made by the foundry can still be seen on many Dunedin buildings, including a terrace of houses at 618-626 Great King Street (built 1903-1904). Among the foundry’s most elaborate productions were gates and railings designed by Louis Boldini for the second synagogue in Moray Place (consecrated in 1882 and demolished in 1971).

Gates and railings on the synagogue in Moray Place, designed by Louis Boldini and manufactured by Barningham & Co. Detail from Muir & Moodie photograph, ref: Te Papa C.012193.

Advertisement from the Otago Witness, 21 December 1904 p.35.

An aerial view from November 1947 showing the foundry complex (with dark coloured roofs near the centre of the image, behind the buldings facing the street). Detail from White’s Aviation photograph, ref: Alexander Turnbull Library WA-10679\F.

Sam Barningham, a good-humoured man of ‘ever genial and kindly qualities’, died in 1911 but the foundry continued to operate until 1951. Shop fronts to George Street had been installed in 1914, and in 1942 Robert MacFarlane opened a fishmongers behind one of them. This changed hands several times over the next decade, and around 1951 it was taken over by Yuen Kwong Chin, a migrant from Canton in China. He operated the business as the George Street Fish Supply, and a few years later it passed to his son, Poy Seng (Bill), and daughter-in-law, Cole Woon.

The fish shop closed in 1971, when the Chins opened the August Moon Restaurant and an adjoining ‘burgers and meal bar’. The restaurant was panelled in dark timber contrasting with white facings and ceilings, and further decorated with red and gold wallpaper, and a large hand-carved camphor wood wall panel imported from Hong Kong. In 1976 Mr Chin said the restaurant was attracting more and more tourists, particularly Americans, while it was also popular with Malaysian and Chinese students studying at the University. There was growing general demand for traditional Chinese and Indonesian cuisine that had not been readily available in Dunedin, and full Chinese meals with up to ten courses were made available.

A 1972 advertisement for the August Moon Restaurant, courtesy of Owain Morris.

In 1986, Sui Ching and Pik Hung Yip transformed the August Moon into the Phoenix Chinese Restaurant and associated takeaway. Chinese curries and tofu dishes were specialties, and the takeaway was one of the first in Dunedin to sell tofu burgers. The Phoenix was refurbished in 1993 and closed in 2001, when it was replaced by the Friendly Khmer Satay Noodle House. The new restaurant’s founder, Hain Seng (Hamish) Te, arrived in New Zealand from Cambodia in 1979, and began selling chicken and beef satay from a stall in the Octagon in 1988 before opening his first Khmer Satay Noodle House in 1991. Khmer Satay Ltd grew to establish a chain of restaurants throughout New Zealand (many now owned independently) and its Satay peanut sauce and a meat marinade are widely sold in supermarkets.

As these stories demonstrate, a theme throughout the history the building is one of creative and industrious migrants finding success in business, whether they be from Yorkshire or Canton, or working as engineers or restaurateurs.

It is unclear how long the ironwork remained visible on the facade, but a verandah was added at a relatively early date and later replaced. A permit for plastering the exposed brickwork was issued in 1954, and it was likely round this time that the original arched pediment was reformed as a square one. A bracketed stone cornice remained in place until the early 1980s.

Much of the foundry complex behind the George Street building has been demolished but the largest portion survives and was occupied for some years by the University of Otago Pharmacy Department. It is now known as the Barningham Building and has housed the Dunedin Multi-Disciplinary Health and Development Unit since 1985.

The University of Otago’s Barningham Building.

Newspaper references: 
Bruce Herald, 22 February 1871 p.2 (Railway Foundry); Otago Daily Times, 3 December 1878 p.3 (advertisement), 17 June 1881 p.6 (elaborate railing for synagogue), 2 September 1911 p.14 (obituary for Samuel Barningham), 16 May 1934 p.14 (description of Barningham & Co.), 28 July 1971 p.11 (opening of August Moon), 18 August 1976 p.15 (fifth anniversary of August Moon), 4 March 1985 p.2 (Dunedin Multi-Disciplinary Health and Development Research Unit), 21 July 1993 p.10 (Phoenix Restaurant), 15 November 2004 p.20 (Khmer Satay), 17 October 2009 p.50 (‘Stories in Stone’ biography of Samuel Barningham), 10 August 2013 p.7 (Khmer Satay); Otago Witness, 4 January 1879 p.20 (Zealandia ranges), 19 June 1880 p.18 (Zealandia ranges); Clutha Leader, 7 September 1883 p.4 (advertisement with new address). Thanks to Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand, for the pre-1920 references.

Other references:
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories
Leading Business Establishments of Dunedin: Being a Series of Illustrations and Descriptive Letterpress (Dunedin: Otago Daily Times and Witness Co., 1895)
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)
Dunedin City Council rates records (with thanks to Chris Scott)

A version of this story was published in the Otago Daily Times, 21 February 2015.

 

John Thomson’s building

Built: 1877
Address: 23-25 George Street, Port Chalmers
Architect/designer: Not identified
Builder: Not identified

Sometimes I come across an honest wee building of little pretension, that I’m unable to attribute to any particular designer or builder. This can be a bit frustrating, as I’m the sort of person who likes classifying things and even finds it fun, but sometimes I should just put my trainspotting-like tendencies aside. Simple buildings often suit their function most effectively and can contribute as much to the character of a place as grander ones, while shedding light on different layers of history.

This building in George Street, Port Chalmers, is a plain and relatively utilitarian example of Victorian architecture that was likely designed by the builder who constructed it. Containing two shops with residential space above, it’s of a type seen elsewhere (there’s another example further along the same street) with a hipped roof left visible rather than screened behind a parapet, giving it a somewhat domestic appearance. The brickwork facing the street was originally exposed, as it still is on the side walls, and early photographs show a verandah that was removed in the twentieth century.

In the mid 1870s the site was a vacant space, and its development seems to have been delayed by a need to excavate part of the hillside. A report in the Otago Daily Times of 30 July 1877 stated: ‘In George street, Port Chalmers, a fine two storey brick building is just about completed, next to the general store of Sutton Brothers. It was erected for Mr John Thomson, and is thirty feet square by twenty-four feet high, and comprises two places of business, with dwelling rooms above. One of them is already in occupation as a soft goods store’. The description of the building as ‘fine’ should be seen in the context of the other buildings in the street, which were mostly simple timber structures viewed as inferior and less permanent.

Detail from a 1905 photograph by Muir & Moodie. Ref: Te Papa C.011810.

The building was an investment for John Thomson (1813-1895), who owned various adjoining properties on the eastern side of the street, and had established the Dalkeith subdivision in the 1860s. Thomson was born at Dewartown, near Dalkeith in Scotland, and after working in coal mining had charge of a sawmill on the estate of the Duke of Buccleugh. He arrived at Port Chalmers in 1848 and worked saw milling and then managing the Government stores, before briefly going to the goldfields. He was afterwards a sheep and cattle inspector, and his Otago Witness obituary stated that he was ‘greatly respected for his sterling manliness of character’. He was survived by his wife, seven children, and nearly forty grandchildren.

William Scott was the first tenant of the northern shop (rated at £60) and Mrs Lean took the smaller southern shop (rated at £30). Scott was a tailor who had previously occupied premises a few doors further north, and he remained in his new premises until about 1893. The other shop was a butchery for Francis Lean, Lean & Harrison, and then J.W. Harrison (from c.1881). Harrison remained in the shop until 1903 and faded signage for his business is still visible on the southern wall. The building was sold from the estate of Elsie Thomson in 1906.

Later occupants have included the laundry proprietor Yat Lee (c.1906-1912), watchmaker and jeweller Cecil Rose (c.1924-1936), greengrocer Sam Shum (c.1936-1950), and greengrocer Peter Kan (1950-1980). At the time of writing the shops are occupied by The Changing Room (no.23) and Blueskin Bay Honey and Supply Co. (no.25).

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 16 April 1862 p.2 (Dalkeith subdivision), 30 July 1877 p.3 (City Improvements), 19 October 1903 p.6 (to let), 17 September 1906 p.8 (sale); Otago Witness, 5 December 1895 p.15 (obituary for John Thomson).

Other references:
Church, Ian. Port Chalmers and its People (Dunedin: Otago Heritage Books, 1994), p.71.
Church, Ian. Some Early People and Ships of Port Chalmers (Dunedin: New Zealand Society of Genealogists, n.d.) pp.312, 719.
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 (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)

Marine and Royal hotels

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

The Portsider (former Marine Hotel)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forbes Town Hall (1891). Photo by Mattinbgn.

Albury Town Hall (1908). Photo by OZinOH.

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

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

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

The Perry residence

Built: 1930-1931
Address: 242 Stuart Street
Architects: Mandeno & Fraser (Roy Fraser)
Builders: W.H. Naylor Ltd

This elegant Arts-and-Crafts-style house was designed by Roy Fraser of Mandeno & Fraser, and begun just months after the completion of that architectural partnership’s best-known project: the nearby Dunedin Town Hall. The house draws from English domestic architecture, with imaginative combinations of forms, and many charming touches such as contrasting gable ends, an oriel window, copper work, and patterned brickwork. This last element can be seen in other Mandeno & Fraser designs, such as the Central Fire Station, Speight’s Brewery, and a more modest house at 27 London Street. The frontage comes right to the street line, giving the house a strong urban quality, emphasised by its close relationship with the flats next door, which were designed by Coombs & White in 1926.

The building was originally the Perry family home, and included the professional rooms of Dr Arnold Perry (1899-1977). Perry (known to friends and family as Fred) was born in Wellington and trained at the Otago Medical School and in London, where he married Lygia Duthie in 1926. After returning to Dunedin the following year, he worked at Dunedin Hospital, taught at the Otago Medical School, and established a private practice. Stuart Street was an ideal central location for a new family home.

Fred and Lygia Perry, Dunedin Town Hall, 1947

Watercolour by Thomas Lusk (Mandeno & Fraser)

The builders W.H. Naylor Ltd submitted a tender on 21 November 1930 and their final account, dated 4 November 1931, was for £3,226. The architects’ fees were not settled until 1933, and workmen who did not have other jobs to go to were kept on with extras at a difficult time in the Great Depression.

The family’s living areas were at the rear of the house, where extensive glazing exploited the sun and garden views. The surgery and waiting room had a separate entrance (now blocked) facing Stuart Street, while a private entrance was on the west side of the house. An addition to the surgery built in 1939 extended over the path between the house and the neighbouring flats.

The interior draws from both the Arts and Crafts and Art Deco styles. Leadlights incorporate geometric patterns, and a feature window depicts a medieval soldier above the motto Fide et Fiducia (Strength and Loyalty), in a design more fanciful than truly heraldic. The bathroom was modern for its time, with yellow-coloured tiles, terrazzo flooring, and a streamlined bathtub.

Stained glass windows above the stair landing

The original private entrance

First floor plan, drawn in October 1930

Ground floor plan, drawn in October 1930

Aileen Fenton remembers a very happy childhood as the middle of the three Perry children, and after I contacted her to ask about the house (she now lives in Lower Hutt) she kindly wrote the following reminiscences. They bring a warmth and personal feeling to the story that a simple historical narrative could never achieve, because this was her home.

242 Stuart Street, or no.55 before the street realignment, was a marvellous family home. The house was planned to have the living family quarters at the back of the house, with large windows facing north, onto the private garden, and a separate entrance to Dr Perry’s surgery and waiting room on the south aspect. Under the surgery, the deep garage had a cupboard built into one wall, with a heavy iron door. This was called the anaesthetic cupboard, where Dr Perry stored gas cylinders and special medicines for his practice.

Dr and Mrs Perry had three children, John, Aileen and James (Jim), and I was the middle one and only girl. My childhood was a very happy one, and it was so convenient being close to the city centre. With the cable car travelling up and down Stuart Street, the drivers would often ring the car bell outside our house to encourage us to hurry up. We would clamber on with our bikes put in front nets, on the way to Highgate and to school. What fun it was hanging by a strap on the outside of the car, swinging out and touching the trees and bushes by the side of the track in Upper Stuart Street.

Dr and Mrs Perry with their children, James (Jim), Aileen, and John, c.1938

It was tremendous fun in winter with snow about, when we would take our simple wooden sledges – stored at the back of the garage – and slide down the Cathedral steps, finishing up by the Robert Burns statue. The verger would come out waving a fist at us!

My father had a very busy general practice which he combined with obstetrics and gynaecology, and hospital work. His nurse was part of the family, and my mother often looked after babies and small children, while parents had an appointment. Patient consultations were usually late morning, and evening from 6.20pm. We always had to have an evening meal sharp at 6pm, to enable my father to see his patients. For much of his time, Dr Perry visited patients in their own homes, and even in deep snow storms on would go the chains on his car tyres, so he could visit the hill suburbs.

Many times I remember family outings would be cancelled because a patient had come into labour, so a picnic would be unpacked and celebrated on our back lawn instead. During the severe polio epidemic of 1938-39 my father was extremely busy, but because of possible infection, the rest of our family went to stay in our bach at Taieri Mouth, and didn’t see our father for two months. All schools were closed at that time.

There was only one telephone in the house – sited on the wall between the kitchen and cloakroom, with an extension to the surgery, and main bedroom. Woe betide anyone who stayed chatting on the phone longer than a couple of minutes – it was a very busy line.

For many years we had a live-in maid, who had her own bedroom situated above the surgery, facing the street. A great asset in such a busy household. In the kitchen there was a series of ‘star bells’ (a-la-Downton Abbey!) on the wall beside the inside door, for the maid to answer the dining room, sitting room etc.

The kitchen

The kitchen was rather dark with windows onto the next door house. My father was able to get permission from the neighbours to paint the brick wall white, and so lighten the room. A mottled green cast iron gas stove mounted on legs stood sentinel in an alcove in the kitchen, and I still remember the excitement when a new fridge was installed.

Off the kitchen, past the coal cupboard was the washroom or laundry, leading to the back garden rotary clothes line. The laundry originally had two huge concrete tubs and a large copper. Washing day was a big event with starch used on shirts, aprons et. As with the fridge,  washing machine and wringer were exciting new additions.

Beside the front door, under the gracious stairs, was a capacious coat and storage cupboard. A great repository for preserves such as vaselined eggs, bags of Central Otago walnuts, large tins of honey, and preserved fruit. It was also a great hiding place!

Our piano was sited in a corner of the sitting room, which was facing north, to the left of the front door. Formal parties and bridge evenings were often held here, and an efficient cosy fireplace was a focal point. An alcove had been fashioned in one wall to take a beautiful Chiparus figure, and showcase this.

The former sitting room

Door handle detail

The dining room was the ‘hub’ of the house, with the table alcove, book shelves, bay widow, bevelled mirror over a fireplace and hearth. The efficient fire was kept stoked all day long in winter and was so cosy. Always warm and sunny, with windows onto the garden, the room opened into the ‘playroom’ or sun porch which had access to the garden. Here there was a great cupboard which housed toys, sewing and ironing equipment. This room had a good low windowsill, which was great to sit on with one’s back to the sun.

As a former All Black, Arnold Perry was also the rugby doctor and keen follower of the game. After Carisbrook matches our house was often full of rugby players and followers on Saturday evenings. Family friends often found our home a handy place to visit after, or before shopping in town. Also a great gathering home for many young teens before going off down to the town hall for ‘Joe Brown’s’ 2/6d. Saturday evening dances.

Bathroom. The original terrazzo flooring is likely beneath the cork tiles.

Upstairs, the family bedrooms faced north, and onto the garden, and were roomy and comfortable with built-in wardrobes. The  bathroom was modern for its time, with the use of tiles and special terrazzo flooring. The third top step of the stairs creaked, so one had to be careful coming home late, to try to avoid disturbing parents!

Our sunny back garden was an oasis, and both Dr and Mrs Perry were keen gardeners. My father was particularly fond of his rose garden in the north-east corner. In the centre of the lawn was a particularly lovely weeping elm tree where family enjoyed picnicking and playing. For many years the back of the house was covered in Virginia creeper, which looked quite magnificent in autumn. Concern about it invading brickwork and guttering caused its sad demise.

The weeping elm in 1950

The rear, north-facing elevation of the house

Spring cleaning was a major event each year. The whole family became involved and had to help. Out came each book to be dusted and then put back onto the cleaned shelves, all furniture and woodwork had to be polished, hinges on doors and windows cleaned and oiled. All nooks and crannies scoured, and curtains were taken down and washed (winter ones were replaced by summer curtains), mats taken out and beaten, all silver polished as well. Even the stair rails were taken off and cleaned behind. Particular care was taken with the surgery, where the smell of disinfectant pervaded for some time. Included in the clean-up was the patient’s examination couch and dressing area which was situated in the extension built on in 1939. Occasionally now, my husband will say to me, ‘We need to do a Mother Perry spring clean!’

As a fun project, we collected old Christmas and birthday cards, cut out the attractive pieces and pasted them into large scrapbooks, for the waiting room. These proved to be so popular with young children.

The war years were difficult. As a keen naval man, my father joined H.M.S. Achilles as ship’s surgeon, and was on board for the first three years of the war. We were all particularly worried at the time of the Coral Sea battle off the East coast of Australia, but later learned that the Achilles and Leander ships were kept South in defence.

Ship’s complement, HMS Achilles, c.1941

For the last three years of the war, Dr. Perry was stationed at Devonport Naval Base, as Director of Naval Medical Services. In 1946 with the rank of Surgeon Commander, he was awarded the O.B.E. He had been awarded the V.R.D. in 1944.

After the war he continued to serve in the Naval Reserve, when was promoted to the rank of Surgeon Captain. He was Honorary Surgeon to the Governor General in 1952-53, and retired from the Navy in 1956 after 28 years of unbroken service.

In 1946 Dr Perry was appointed to the staff of Dunedin Hospital and the Medical School. As obstetrics became his main interest he also became Medical Superintendent of the Salvation Army’s Maternity Hospital of Redroofs. He always showed a particular empathy, kindness and care towards the unmarried others. When he retired from Redroofs in 1971, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for rendering outstanding service.

As the O.R.F.U. medical officer he took a deep interest in the activities of the St John’s Ambulance men who patiently manned the sidelines of rugby fields. He assisted with their first aid training, and on going to sea in H.M.S. Achilles he used St John’s methods and systems in teaching first aid to officers and men in the Navy. He was made an Officer of the Order of St John of Jerusalem in 1947.

The Perry family outside the sitting room, c.1950

Our mother, Lygia, was a foundation pupil of Columba College, and had the honour of cutting the cake on stage at the town hall, at the age of 90, to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the school. She also cut the ribbon to open a new school building. Mrs Perry was president of the Columba Old Girls’ Society for a few years, and at the debutante balls held in the Town Hall, the College girls and their partners were presented to my mother and father. I used to enjoy watching my mother dressing for formal occasions. Her wardrobe contained many elegant long dresses, and with long white gloves, jewellery, and fur stole. I used to think she was so glamorous.

Both our parents, as the last of seven children in their respective families, had unhappy difficult childhoods, so it was amazing that they became such wonderful caring parents, and were so devoted to each other.

A great family home, well planned and built, 242 Stuart Street was a perfect venue to prepare and eave from, for my wedding at First Church in January 1953.

References:
Job records, Oakley Gray Architects
Wright, J.L., ‘Perry, Arnold (1899-1977)’ in Southern People: A Dictionary of Otago and Southland Biography (Dunedin: Longacre, 1998), pp.386-387.
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans

Thank you to Hamish Wixon and McCoy & Wixon for letting me look around the building and take photographs, to Norman Oakley for information from the Oakley Gray records, to Steve Perry for scanning the watercolour, and to Aileen Fenton for sharing personal memories and photographs of her childhood home.

PerryHouse_Garage

 

Dodds’ Building

Built: 1881
Address: 6 George Street, Port Chalmers
Architect: David Ross
Builder: Not identified

Detail from photograph by D.A. De Maus taken in March 1900. Ref: Port Chalmers Museum.

Detail from photograph by D.A. De Maus taken in March 1900. Ref: Port Chalmers Maritime Museum.

Port Chalmers was home to fewer than 130 inhabitants in 1861, but within five years its population increased to over 2,000 due to the town’s function as the major port servicing a booming province in the midst of a gold rush. By the end of the decade George Street, the main thoroughfare, included a variety of double-storey commercial buildings, mostly constructed of timber.

Photographs taken in the 1860s and 1870s show the site at 6 George Street as a vacant lot between two-storey wooden buildings. In April 1881 the architect David Ross called for tenders for the ‘erection of two shops and dwelling in Port Chalmers for Mr George F. Dodds, chemist and druggist’. George Fawcit Dodds (1838-1894) was born in Jedburgh, Scotland, and had worked for twenty years in a ‘leading house’ in Scotland.

Detail from a mid-1870s Burton Brothers photograph showing the empty building site, immediately to the right of the sign reading ‘Shipping & Family Butcher’. The buildings fronting George Street are of timber construction. Ref: Te Papa C.011806.

Detail from a Burton Brothers photograph taken in the 1880s, showing the building from the rear. It is the one with the higher roof. Ref: Te Papa C.011788.

A photograph taken in 1900 shows that the northern shop was larger than the southern one. The style of the architecture was Renaissance Revival, with decoration including Ionic pilasters and a dentil cornice. The parapet balustrade featured the repeating circle motif that was a signature ornament of David Ross. At the centre was a dormer window with a small triangular pediment above.

In 1888 G.F. Dodds moved to Akaroa and was succeeded in the Port Chalmers business by his son, Nicholas Dodds (1864-1939), who continued on the site for the next fifty years. It became the UFS (United Friendly Society) Dispensary around 1938, when the UFS moved from its previous address in Grey Street. It remained at 6 George Street until 1987, when it moved to no. 27, ending 106 years of pharmacy operations in the building.

The smaller shop initially appears to have been used by G.F. Dodds and then Samuel Wilson as a lemonade/aerated water factory. It was afterwards occupied by watchmaker James Falconer (c.1892-1898), William Gowan Fail (c.1898-1901), an Evening Star Co. branch office (c.1901-1927), milliner Miss M. Millar Tait (c.1927-1929), and bootmaker Ernest Carl Brown (c.1930-1935).

Later changes included new internal partitions (1940), the addition of fire escapes (1951), and further alterations (1964, 1974). The two separate shops have been combined to make one large one, and the original roof structure with attic level has been removed and replaced with a flat roof. The dormer window and ornamented facade parapet have been replaced with a plain blind parapet, giving the facade a more anonymous appearance than it once had.

In the 1990s the building housed the shop Presence, and it is now home to Arleah’s Collectables.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 4 April 1881 p.4 (call for tenders)

Other references:
Church, Ian. Port Chalmers Early People, pp.182-183.
Stone’s, Wise’s, and telephone directories
Dunedin City Council rates and permit records (with thank to Chris Scott and Glen Hazelton)
Thanks also to Gordon Allfrey of Port Chalmers Maritime Museum.

Hewitt’s Building

Built: 1929 (rebuilding)
Address: 45-51 Moray Place
Architect: Leslie D. Coombs (1885-1952)
Builder: Ian George Wallace

Many of Dunedin’s commercial buildings are older than they appear, and many others are younger. Sometimes new fronts were put on old buildings to give them a modern appearance, and sometimes new has been built behind old. This building in Moray Place was erected as a two-storey structure in the 1880s, given a third storey in the 1890s, and then extensively rebuilt and remodelled in the 1920s.

A photograph taken no earlier than 1876 shows a vacant site where the present building now stands. The back part of the section was occupied by the distinctive timber house that was moved by Dr G.M. Emery to Haywood Street, Mornington. By early 1882 a two-storey brick structure had been erected. This was owned by Dr Isaiah de Zouche and occupied by him as a private residence and surgery from 1882 to 1893. De Zouche, a Swiss graduate, was Lecturer in Diseases of Children at the University of Otago and served as President of the Otago Institute. He left Dunedin in 1893 and died in New York in 1895. W.E. Taylor, a prominent organist and music teacher, leased the residence from 1893 to 1900. In 1896 the building was purchased by Ambrose Chiaroni, an art dealer, and in September that year tenders were called for additions to the building. These additions probably included the third storey, which can be seen in a 1904 photograph. The architect of the work was Henton Davey, who occupied the house at the rear.

The building as it appeared in 1904

The building as it appeared in 1904

In the 1920s the building was owned by John George Lewis Hewitt, a lawyer and magistrate who had served as Resident Commissioner to the Cook Islands. Known as ‘Hewitt’s Building’, it was extensively remodelled in 1929 to the designs of Leslie D. Coombs, giving it the appearance of a new building. Floor plans show that internal walls/partitions were also greatly altered, with the second floor divided into two residential flats, the first floor used for offices, and the ground floor for shops. The builder was W.G. Wallace and the painter/decorator Allan Campbell.

The facade was given a restrained Stripped Classical style, with large but shallow pilasters and capitals, an understated cornice, and mullioned steel-framed windows. The last are central to the design, and without the slender profiles of the joinery the character of the building would be very different, and the spare decoration of masonry would not be as effective as it is. The tiled shop fronts and entrance porch are from the same date and are delightful examples of their type that rank among the best still surviving in the city. The interior features a terrazzo stairway and lead-lighted feature window. An unusual feature of the building is a central alleyway that gives access to a rear courtyard.

The completed building was described in the Evening Star:

To the plans for Mr Leslie D. Coombs, a plain yet attractive building has been added to Moray place, opposite the Y.M.C.A., for Mr J. G.L. Hewitt, S.M. The building shows a white plaster cement finish, and has been specially designed for the admittance of the maximum amount of light. In the main entrance way the floors and walls of the two shop fronts have been finished in a distinctly novel style. For the most part, tiles, of an unusual hue, have been used in the finishings, while Australian maple appears around the shop windows. The stairway to the first floor has been finished in terrazzo, with a wrought-iron handrail and balustrade, and at the head of the stair has been inserted a simply-designed leadlight showing a touch of blue amid white glasses. On this floor five rooms suitable for offices, with strong room accommodation and conveniences, have been constructed. On the top floor, a suite of two small flats have been constructed on modern lines. Each flat shows two nicely finished room[s], with a kitchenette and bathroom. All the modern conveniences have been installed and the rooms receive their full share of the morning sun while a good view adds to the charm of the premises as residential quarters. Admittance to the flats is gained by a separate entrance from the main building. The whole work was carried out under the supervision of Mr I.G. Wallace, with the assistance of the following sub-contractors: – Messrs H.S. Bingham and Co. (terrazzo work), Messrs Andrew Lees and Co. (glazing), Messrs Arnold and Raffils (leadlights), and Mr Allan Campbell (painting and decorating).

The southern shop was occupied by the manufacturing jeweller A.J. Holloway for twenty years from 1937, and by the real estate agents G.R. Henderson & Co (later Henderson-Hunter & Co.) from 1958 to 1973. In 1980 Mike Guthrie opened the pioneering Ma Cuisine, a ‘travel agency of food’ which offered local gourmet products, imported cheeses, French bread and patisseries sent from La Boulangerie Francaise in Christchurch , and a ‘wide range of processed delicacies from all over the world (chiefly European and Asian countries). At the rear was a sandwich and soup bar. Ma Cuisine remained in this shop until 1989. Twang Town, selling musical instruments, accessories, and sound equipment, has occupied it since 1994.

The northern shop was occupied by cake shops from 1939 to 1963 (for a time the High Class Cake Shop), hair salons from 1963 to 1988 (Golden Touch and later Cut-n-Curl), and has been Collectibles second-hand clothing since 1989.

Newspaper references:
Otago Witness, 25 February 1882 p.16 (Dr de Zouche’s removal to Moray Place); Otago Daily Times, 6 April 1895 p.8 (brief description), 25 February 1896 p.4 (sale of property), 2 September 1896 p.3 (additions – H.M. Davey), 11 June 1980 p.16 (Ma Cuisine); Otago Witness, 19 October 1904 p.43 (illustration); Evening Star, 27 August 1929 p.2 (rebuilding – L.D. Coombs), 19 November 1929 p.13 (description).

Other references:
Baré, Robert, City of Dunedin Block Plans Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, [1889].
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories
Dunedin City Council rates books, permit records and deposited plans
Dunedin City Council rates books

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

Irvine & Stevenson buildings (part two)

Built: 1929 (rebuilding of structures erected 1882-1888)
Address: 59-67 St Andrew Street
Architects: Miller & White
Builders: Ellis & Glue
The 1920s neo-Georgian facade of this building disguises its industrial origins as Irvine & Stevenson’s nineteenth-century factory complex. In my last post I looked at the company’s shop and office buildings next door, on the corner of George and St Andrew streets, which were designed by J.A. Burnside and built in 1882. Irvine & Stevenson were one of New Zealand’s leading producers of preserved meats, jams, soups, starch, and other (mostly food) products. By 1919 the company had nine subsidiary factories in other parts of New Zealand and it remained a large player in the food industry until it wound up in 1977.

To begin with, old buildings on the site were used for factory activities. They were replaced in stages, beginning with a two-storeyed bacon factory/curing house designed by Burnside in 1882 and completed in 1883. Later development can be pieced together (though not with complete confidence or clarity) from a surviving company ledger. Between the curing house and the shops were a double cottage and brick stables, which were fitted with gas in 1884. In 1886 ‘sheds’ were demolished and replaced with a smoke house for sausages. The cottages were then replaced with a new jam factory building, built between January and June 1888. This was likely designed by R.A. Lawson, as the ledger shows that fees of £33 10s 6d were paid to him in connection with the project in June 1888. The contract price was recorded as £634.

In 1891 Irvine & Stevenson acquired the local operations of the Australian jam company Peacock & Sons., and all jam production moved to their factory in Moray Place, which became known as the ‘no.2 factory’. In 1894 the St Andrew Street factory was described as having 100 x 66 feet of floor space on each of its two storeys. Activities on the site at that time included bacon curing, sausage making, tea blending, coffee and pepper grinding, and washing powder manufacturing. The company purchased Keast & McCarthy’s large brewery in Filleul Street in 1896 and afterwards consolidated most of its Dunedin manufacturing on that site.

The buildings (in the box at left) as they appeared c.1895. W.R. Frost photograph.

A late 1880s view, showing Irvine & Stevenson’s buildings behind the A. & T. Inglis store. They include the tall chimney stack and the building immediately to its right. Ref: Te Papa O.002091.

With the old jam factory no longer required, that portion of the St Andrew Street complex was converted into a freezing plant with insulated rooms and a large engine ‘of the compressed air type with enormous pistons’. There were few such facilities in Dunedin, and a writer for a promotional piece observed in 1895:

Messrs Irvine and Stevenson have on their premises power refrigerating machinery, which is used partially for the curing of bacon, and also for providing cold storage for the city. A glance into the chambers reveals that the contents are surprisingly miscellaneous. Lake Wakatipu trout, caught months previously, and fish of many other varieties, wild ducks, hares, pork, mutton, veal, large numbers of the omnipresent rabbit – these are awaiting shipment to some distant part; and in separate chambers are stored large quantities of butter belonging to various local factories.

The freehold of the St Andrew Street property was purchased in 1916 and in the 1920s soda crystals (for laundering) were still being produced there. The buildings eventually became surplus to requirements for production purposes but they were kept as an investment property for the I&S Trust, the property arm of Irvine & Stevenson which operated as a separate company for some decades. In 1929 the refrigeration plant was removed and the old buildings were rebuilt with structural strengthening (steel and concrete), a new brick facade, new shops and shop fronts, and altered roof lines. A curious dogleg vehicle access and yard remained, and old slates were also reused. The style chosen for the facade was freely interpreted Georgian Revival and the architect was Eric Miller (1896-1948) of Miller & White. The building is similar in style to another Miller & White design, built for W. Duke & Sons, at the corner of King Edward Street and Hillside Road in South Dunedin. A larger brick-faced building Miller designed was the South Block (now Hercus Building) of the Otago Medical School, completed in 1948.

Miller & White drawing for the 1929 work (elevations and sections), Hocken Collections MS-2758/0378.

StAndrew_S14-550b

Miller & White drawing for the 1929 work (sections and floor plans), Hocken Collections MS-2758/0378.

In September 1929 the finished buildings were described in the Evening Star newspaper:

A building with a rather striking and dignified appearance is that just constructed by Messrs Ellis and Glue in St Andrew Street. The structure referred to is situated on the site used at one time as a bacon curing factory by Messrs Irvine and Stevenson. Now this firm has converted the building into four modern shops on the ground floor with two spacious rooms upstairs which are now being utilised by Mr J.W. Finch, of the Octagon Billiard Parlours, as an up-to-date billiard parlour. The extensive alterations were constructed about six months ago by the contractor, who first of all was called upon to shift about 1,000 bags of pumice and a large quantity of charcoal. The finished building shows a new brick front, with the curtains on the windows of the top floor giving it a homely appearance. The shops below are fairly large, and are given quite an impressive finish with terrazzo around the basements and piers of the windows. The doors and other woodwork are in oak, while the ceilings and walls are tastefully designed in fibrous plaster. The billiard parlour, which has been leased for a period of ten years, is divided into two rooms, with five tables in each, and it is intended to make further provision for another table. Messrs Miller & White were the designers of the building, which cost something in the vicinity of £5,000.

IrvineStevenson_1936Letterhead

A 1936 letterhead for Irvine & Stevenson. By this date the company had stopped using the St Andrew Street buildings for manufacturing. Hocken Collections AG-200-11/04/1319.

The Dunedin Cue Club in 2014.

The Dunedin Cue Club in 2014.

A billiard parlour or pool hall has been operating continuously from the upper floor since 1929. For many years named the Grand Billiard Parlour, it later became the Grand Billiard Rooms, and then the Grand Snooker Centre. In 1998 it became the Dunedin Cue Club and it currently also offers internet and gaming facilities. Director Mark Peisker kindly showed me around and said that one of the tables is thought to have been there since the hall opened 85 years ago.

Downstairs, a cycle shop was the first occupant of the shop at no. 59. Originally Ernest Packer Stevenson’s Cycle Works, it became Knight’s Cycle Works in 1951 and later diversified into prams and children’s nursery goods. In 1969 the business moved to the shop at no. 67 as Knight’s Nursery Centre and it closed around 1991.

Other tenants have included the Laurier Floral Studio (at no. 61 from 1938 to 1970), and the T.W.T. Engineering Co. (at no. 67 from 1939 to 1959). The Presbyterian Social Services Association (now Presbyterian Support Otago) Opportunity Shop opened at no. 59 in 1972. It later expanded into the shop next door and is still there today. The other retail businesses currently in the building are Paint the Town Red (boutique fashion clothing) and Rockshop (musical instruments and audio).

The I&S Trust relinquished its last interests in the property in the early 1960s and for many years it was owned by the Butler Family. It may be considered part of the Larent Buildings that front George Street (but do not include the corner site which is on a separate title). The unspoilt St Andrew Street facade demonstrates how a relatively modest building can have a distinctive street appearance while still being in scale with and sympathetic to its surroundings. The square-paned windows with their timber frames are a particular delight, and I seldom walk past this building without appreciating it. You might also spare a thought for Dunedin’s rich industrial past and eight decades of billiards as you wander by!


Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 22 October 1873 p.2 (James Irvine, ham and bacon), 18 January 1882 p.2 (auction of leasehold), 20 January 1883 p.2 (description of George Street buildings), 3 June 1887 p.1 (opening of pork and provision shop), 19 May 1894 supp. (description of Irvine & Stevenson premises), 27 January 1908 p.7 (freezing plant), 20 November 1919 p.10 (‘The Preserving Industry’); Evening Star, 3 September 1929 p.2 (description of rebuilding work)

Other references:
Irvine & Stevenson’s St George Co. Ltd records, Hocken Collections UN-016
Leading Business Establishments of Dunedin: Being a Series of Illustrations and Descriptive Letterpress (Dunedin: Otago Daily Times and Witness Co., 1895)
Stevenson, Geoffrey W., The House of St George: A Centennial History 1864-1964 (Dunedin: Irvine & Stevenson’s St George Co. Ltd, [1964])
Baré, Robert, City of Dunedin Block Plans (Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, [1889])
Jones, F. Oliver, Structural Plans of the City of Dunedin NZ, ‘Ignis et Aqua’ series, [1892]
Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters’ Associations of New Zealand, block plans, 1927
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans

Irvine & Stevenson buildings (part one)

Built: 1882
Address: 186-198 George Street
Architect: John Arthur Burnside (1856-1920)
Clerk of WorksJohn Wright

An 1890s photograph by W.R. Frost. The grocery store and two other shops face George Street under the verandah. At the left of the image are the factory buildings.

‘St George’ was one of the most successful brands to come out of Dunedin, becoming a household name throughout New Zealand as well as exporting to overseas markets. Irvine & Stevenson’s St George Company produced jams, soups, tinned meat and fish, other preserved foods, and household products such as laundry crystals. In terms of buildings, it was generally associated with the old Keast & McCarthy brewery site in Filleul Street, where it operated a preserving works from 1897 to 1977. Before that, however, it was based on a site at the corner of St Andrew and George Streets, and that’s what this story is about.

In the early 1860s James Irvine owned three grocery stores in Kilsyth, near Glasgow. In 1863 he came to Dunedin with his wife, Jane, to start a new life in what was then a booming gold rush town. He opened a shop in Filleul Street, and was one of the first bacon curers in the city. The store relocated to George Street (between Hanover and St Andrew streets) around 1870.

William Stevenson was 23 years younger than James Irvine. He came out from Scotland as a boy, and at the age of 21 became a partner in the grocery firm Stevenson & Ford, which occupied one of ‘several insignificant wooden buildings’ on the corner of George and St Andrew streets. There had been a grocery store on the site since James Wallace opened for business in 1864. Immediately to its south were premises occupied by Robert Brown’s cake shop (established in 1879), and next to this was the Oddfellows’ Hall (erected in 1862). Behind these structures were brick stables, and a double cottage facing St Andrew Street.

Stevenson married Irvine’s daughter, Barbara, in 1881, and the following year the two men went into partnership as Irvine & Stevenson. They opened a temporary shop in the Southampton Buildings (now part of the Golden Centre mall) while a block of three new shops and offices was built on leasehold land occupied by the old Stevenson & Ford store, Brown’s shop, and the Oddfellows’ Hall. The architect J.A. Burnside called for tenders in April 1882, and by the following January the building was complete. Irvine & Stevenson used the corner shop as their grocery store, and beneath it was a large storage cellar. Two smaller shops fronting George Street were leased out: one of them to Robert Brown and the other to the drapers M.W. Green & Sons.

A late 1880s view, showing Irvine & Stevenson’s buildings behind the A. & T. Inglis store. They include the tall chimney stack and the building immediately to its right. Ref: Te Papa O.002091.

Constructed from brick, with a stone foundation and a slate roof, the buildings cost £2,898. An Otago Daily Times reporter wrote approvingly:

Although appearance has not been the main object in view, it must be admitted that the front elevation of the buildings displays an exceptionally neat style of architecture, and that the block is by no means the least creditable of many fine buildings in the city. It is needless to remark that the buildings are of a substantial character, while the dimensions mentioned show that they are commodious.

The architecture was loosely Renaissance Revival in style, showing some of the emerging eclecticism also apparent in James Hislop’s design for the Boot Palace (1885-1886) on the opposite corner. Features included rounded corners to the window heads, and small chimneys integrated with the St Andrew Street parapet. The incised decoration above the windows was uncommon in Dunedin with other examples from around the same time including the Coulls Culling warehouse in Crawford Street (since demolished), and the former Dowson’s building at 305 George Street. The verandah was described as one of the best in the city. It had a glazed roof, and its iron pillars and ornate fretwork were manufactured locally by Barningham & Co.

The appointed builder was Henry Martin, but he met with financial difficulty and his contract was terminated before the project was far advanced. Subsequent work was carried out through various contracts, with John Wright apparently acting as Clerk of Works. A few years before Wright had performed a similar role in the building of the Terminus Hotel, also designed by Burnside.

Behind the shops and offices, a two-storey building was erected for curing ham and bacon. It was completed a little later in 1883 and cost a further £555. Between 1886 and 1887 ‘sheds’ were demolished and replaced with a smoke house for sausages at a cost of £275. In 1888 a jam factory building and a large chimney stack were built on the site previously occupied by cottages. They were likely designed by R.A. Lawson, as company accounts shows fees paid to him in connection with the project, which cost £815.

Label for tinned boiled mutton. Ref: Alexander Turnbull Library Eph-C-MEAT-1900s-03.

Irvine & Stevenson registered their ‘St George’ trademark in 1885, and it’s possible (though perhaps unlikely) that the idea for the name was inspired by the streets where the company buildings were sited: St Andrew and George. The brand symbol was a shield containing the image St George on horseback, slaying a dragon. By 1889 the company was producing 300 cases of jam per week, with stoneware jars from Graham Winter & Co.’s Milton Pottery Works. Jam production moved to the former Peacock & Co. premises in Moray Place, soon after Irvine & Stevenson bought it as their ‘no. 2’ factory in 1891.

In 1894 the original complex was described as having 100 x 66 feet of floor space on each of its two storeys. Activities included bacon curing, sausage making, tea blending, coffee and pepper grinding, and washing powder manufacture. There was also a short-lived diversification into confectionery. The Keast & McCarthy brewery premises were acquired in 1896, and the company opened new preserving works there the following year. A freezing plant was installed with insulated rooms and compressed-air freezing machine with enormous pistons. Industrial operations in the rear buildings continued until the structures were rebuilt as shops in 1929, but I’ll leave this for further discussion in my next post.

The shop on the corner was occupied by Irvine & Stevenson’s grocery store for thirty-one years up to 1913, when the company sold it to focus on manufacturing activities. A grocery store remained on the site for another ten years, first run by McIlroy Bros, and then B.J. McArthur. In 1922 the shop and upstairs rooms were taken by the optometrists Hugh & G.K. Neill, who over time developed the complementary photography business Hugh & G.K. Neill Photographics Ltd. In 1997 Neill’s Camera & Video became Jonathan’s Camera & Video, which expanded into the shop next door. Jonathan’s Photo Warehouse remains in the middle shop today, while the corner site is once again in the hands of the optometrists Milburn & Neill (the current iteration of the old firm), who have now been based in the building continuously for over ninety years.

The corner hasn’t always been a peaceful spot. In 1892 George Street was the scene of demonstrations in support of the Saturday half-holiday movement, and one of Irvine & Stevenson’s plate glass windows was smashed. There were also demonstrations during the Great Depression, and it was at this intersection where in April 1932 protestors stopped the taxi carrying the Mayoress, Helen Black, attempting to pull her out and overturn the vehicle. She had been involved in running a relief depot where there was anger that chits for supplies were handed out rather than money orders. It was also said that there was some resentment towards Mrs Black for handing out relief wearing white gloves – a symbol of privilege. These days any altercations at this location are likely to be of the late night drunken variety.

A 1925 advertisement for Hugh & G.K. Neill reproduced from a Dunedin Choral Society programme.

A view of George Street in 1949, showing a ‘St George Jam’ neon sign on top of the building. Ref: Hocken Collections 96-106 (box 96), reproduced at builtindunedin.com courtesy of Perpetual Trust.

The middle shop was originally occupied by a succession of small draperies: M.W. Green & Sons, Carter & Co., and William McBeath, before Irvine & Stevenson put their own retail butchery in the space. For twenty years from 1910 it was occupied by the fruiterer William Carlton Ruffell, whose views on Chinese taking up his line of business reflected some of the racism in New Zealand society at the time. The Evening Post (Wellington) reported in 1920:

A deputation from the Dunedin Retail Fruiterers Association waited on the Dunedin City Council last week in reference to the Asiatic question […] Mr. H.E. Stephens said one shop had been opened in Dunedin, and they knew the Chinese were feeling for about a dozen other businesses. In the North, the trade was practically run by the Chinese. They were not desirable citizens, for they were not bound by our laws, could work as they liked, and were therefore unfair competitors. In California it was proposed to keep Asiatics from buying or holding land, and it was time something was done here. Mr W.C. Ruffell said what they really aimed at was the elimination of foreigners. They thought New Zealand should be white.

Ruffell’s shop became an outlet of Star Stores for nearly thirty years from 1930. It was then Adkins Foodmarket (1959-1973), Adams Fruit (1973-1987), and the clothing retailer Slick Willy’s (1987-2004), before Jonathan’s took it.

The southernmost shop (present no. 186) was leased by the confectioner Robert Brown in 1882 and was kept by his family for nearly seventy years. In later years it traded as Brown & Son, Brown’s Cafeteria, and Brown’s Cake Shop. It became Jordon’s Milk Bar around 1953, and photographs from the Hocken Collections show a slick American-influenced hangout of the rock ‘n roll era. It was a place where ‘milkbar cowboys’ gathered outside on Sunday afternoons (the Beau Monde was the spot on Friday nights), the coolest among them with Triumph Speed Twin and Thunderbird motorcycles. Inside, Oriental fans were a feature of the decoration. As well as traditional milkshake flavours, the Fla-va-tru range (‘America’s Latest!’) included: Blue Lagoon, Fruti Tuti, Chop Suey (can anyone enlighten me on that one?), Fruit Salad, Yankee Doodle, Smoky Joe, Nutti Cream, Butterscotch, Mint Julep, and Pink Lemonade. A wide variety of chocolates were sold, from Nestlé and Cadbury bars through to Winning Post, Caley’s Majestic, and Cadbury’s Centennial boxes. The snack bar offered spaghetti, baked beans on toast, poached eggs on toast, tomato soup and toast, and hot pies. Jordon’s closed in 1969 and was replaced by the Four Seasons Restaurant, which was in turn succeeded by Buyck’s Restaurant (1975-1980), the Pig ‘n Whistle Restaurant (1980-1982), and the Capri Coffee Lounge (1982-1987). The closure of the Capri ended the space’s role as an eatery after more than a century. Meanwhile, upstairs was dieting HQ, as Weight Watchers had their premises there for twenty years from 1976. The downstairs shop was occupied by Payless Shoes from 1987 to 1996, before the current tenant, Dollar Store 123, opened for business in 1998.

The street frontage of Jordons Milk Bar in 1957, complete with Melody Master jukebox. Ref: Hocken Collections P11-012, S14-117c. Ritchie’s Studio photograph.

The interior of Jordons Milk Bar in 1957. Ref: Hocken Collections P11-012, S14-117b. Ritchie’s Studio photograph.

Staff of Jordons Milk Bar, Yvonne third from right. Ref: Hocken Collections P11-012, S14-117a.

The property arm of Irvine & Stevenson retained a financial interest in the buildings up to 1962. The corner premises went into the ownership of Hugh & G.K. Neil, and the remainder to the Butler Family who named their portion Larent Buildings. I’m unsure why this name was chosen, as I haven’t found any obvious links between the name and the building, but it may have been because it was an investment property and ‘Larent’ is an anagram of ‘Rental’! The first floor windows in this part were replaced in 1970, giving the buildings their present lopsided appearance. The original verandah, cornice, and parapet have also been destroyed and their restoration together with the first floor windows would transform the building from its somewhat awkward and unassuming look to a striking and handsome feature of the street.

So as not to confuse things, I’ll treat the historical development of the old factory buildings separately in the next post. So, as they say:

To be continued….

A recent view

Facade detail showing incised decoration

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 22 October 1873 p.2 (James Irvine, ham and bacon), 18 January 1882 p.2 (auction of leasehold), 20 January 1883 p.2 (description of George Street buildings), 3 June 1887 p.1 (opening of pork and provision shop), 19 May 1894 supp. (description of Irvine & Stevenson premises), 27 January 1908 p.7 (freezing plant), 20 November 1919 p.10 (‘The Preserving Industry’), 8 November 2008 p.6 (‘Recalling Dunedin’s Dark Days’ by Mark Price); Evening Post (Wellington), 28 June 1920 p.6 (W.C. Ruffell)

Other references:
Irvine & Stevenson’s St George Co. Ltd records, Hocken Collections UN-016
Stevenson, Geoffrey W., The House of St George: A Centennial History 1864-1964 (Dunedin: Irvine & Stevenson’s St George Co. Ltd, [1964])
Baré, Robert, City of Dunedin Block Plans (Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, [1889])
Jones, F. Oliver, Structural Plans of the City of Dunedin NZ, ‘Ignis et Aqua’ series, [1892]
Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters’ Associations of New Zealand, block plans, 1927
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)
Thanks to Allan Dick for his memories of Dunedin milk bars.

Note: some occupancy dates may be a year out either way due to reliance on annual directories.

The Haywood Street house – just how old is it?

The story of this house is well known: it was built in or about 1858 and saved from demolition by Dr George Emery (1923-2005), who had it removed from its original location above Moray Place (off View Street) and reconstructed on the lower part of his property in Haywood Street, Mornington. A fine house for such an early date, it really is a marvel of settler craftsmanship. It also has an interesting history of occupation, with those who lived in it including the medical superintendents Edward Hulme and Isaiah De Zouche, and the art dealer Ambrose Chiaroni. It has a Category II registration with Heritage New Zealand.

A question has been niggling me though: was it really built in 1858? I recently attended a very interesting and well-researched talk by Peter Entwisle at the Otago Museum: All Shapes and Sizes – Domestic Architecture in Victorian Dunedin – The Colonial Bay Villa. I won’t summarise the talk here, but the Haywood Street house proved an intriguing and difficult example to place in the development of Dunedin’s domestic architecture, as the pre-gold rush date seemed at odds with a number of its features and influences on local design at the time. Rather than trying to reconcile the style of house to the year 1858, I’ve been wondering if the building has been misdated.

Dr Emery did much good research himself, as did Lois Galer, and early rates records suggest improvements on the site around 1858. The new information I am throwing into the mix is photographic evidence, which suggests that the house as we know it was in fact built a few years later. The image below is dated 1862, and this is confirmed by the presence of the Theatre Royal in Princes Street and the original Otago Boys’ High School under construction. It has been used to illustrate the history of the house before, but through the digital technology of Te Papa’s Collections Online it is possible to zoom in on the detail and discover more. The detail shows the verandah to be only partially constructed, an incomplete chimney, window openings without joinery or glazing, and the general appearance of a building site. An earlier cottage may well have been incorporated into the structure, but it seems that the house in its final form was under construction in the middle part of 1862. This is only four years different from the established date, but they are a significant four years in terms of Dunedin’s history, as they place the house in the thick of the gold rush period rather than ahead of it. It would be interesting to re-investigate the history of the house in the light of this knowledge, taking another look at the land records. This may be of niche interest, but because of the house’s established status as a ‘forerunner’, from an historian’s point of view it’s well worth the trouble of putting it in accurate context.

This little detective exercise is also a good example of the value of institutions making high-resolution copies of images available to researchers. Thank you Te Papa!

1862_FullImage

‘Princes Street, Dunedin in 1862’. Te Papa O.000858/01.

Detail, Te Papa O.000858/01

References:
Galer, Lois. Houses of Dunedin: An Illustrated Collection of the City’s Historic Homes (Dunedin: Hyndman, 1995)