This page is for queries and general discussion about the history of Dunedin buildings.
This is a great blog, and what you’re doing is really important. The archival work is excellent and the writing is a pleasure to read. The photographs are a valuable record – any chance of plans being included at some stage?
Thanks very much Jeremy – it’s great to get your feedback. Yes, I will include plans at some stage and have come across a lot of good ones, though not for the buildings I’ve written about so far. They’re usually a fair bit more expensive to reproduce than the old photographs and where they’re still held by architectural firms I don’t like to make too much of a nuisance of myself. If I find a particularly nice one for a story I’ll definitely make an effort to include it.
I with Jeremy think this is a great blog. All the buildings you list have been demolished since the year I was born so its kind of personal to read through the list about buildings I have been in and even worshipped in. Thanks for a great blog. Do you need any help with additional pictures or need anyone to go and get pics of particular buildings or features of the city?
Thanks Ray – I appreciate the kind words. If anyone wants to help, the most useful thing they can do is look in their personal and family photograph collections for old images of Dunedin buildings and street scenes. Even photos as late as the 1980s can be gold. 1960s colour slides can reproduce wonderfully well with a good scanner.
I have a couple of buildings I’m curious about which might interest you. At the top of the delicately designed and executed Dowling St steps is a small enclosure overlooking the Princes/Dowling Sts corner. Within this enclosure is a large, odd concrete shape. It looks like a sacrificial altar or searchlight mount – I’ve always wondered why it’s there.
The other is on Crawford St, just south of Queens Gardens. Maritime House is the only building I’ve seen of it era to feature Maori decoration on the facade.
Also of interest in that area, the Metropolitan Club, Bond St, and the now pet shop on the corner of Manse and Stafford Sts seem to my admittedly less than educated eye to be rare examples of 1920s Egyptomania. The latter, plus the nearby and now empty building on the corner of Manse and High Sts are rare examples of fascist symbolism in architecture.
Thanks for your comment Gregor. I know the buildings but haven’t done any detailed research on them. I’d like to write about the old Barton’s Building (Pet Warehouse) some time and I think you’re on to something with the Egyptian touches, which seem to be mixed with an overall stripped classical style. The old lettering on the parapet emphasised your point unlike the plastic ones there now. Maritime House looks as though it’s an earlier building facelifted around the 1940s when it gained the crossed meres and other details. I had wondered if it was by Miller & White (who did the church at Otakou around that time) but that turned out to be a dead end. Council ‘deposited plans’ might shed some light on it, and also on the Dowling Street steps. I don’t know why the steps have that altar-like feature – it’s a quirky structure. I have a very long list of buildings to research but I’ll keep those ones in mind.
The small block at the top of the Dowling Street Steps was for a First World War gun. I played on when a young lad.
This from a newspaper . . .
It is safer to be looking at a German 77 millimeter field gun from the breach end.
Thanks Doug. I followed this up after Gregor’s comment but didn’t get as far as posting anything further here. The step were built around 1927 and it seems the gun there was one of many war trophies distributed around the country in the 1920s. It is said to have been taken to the tip and buried in 1936, when other trophy guns around the city were also either scrapped or buried. This seems to have been instigated by the ‘No More War’ pacifist movement and the Council eventually decided that the guns were ‘something in the nature of a deification of warfare’.
Yes, Dave I believe you are right about the destruction of some of the guns but I also believe I can remember playing on the Dowling Street gun when a small child in town with my parents, so the date of about 1936 in this case would be too early. I believe it was only the carriages that were scrapped as the barrels were too heavy to cart away so were dropped where they stood and buried just a few feet down, as was the case recently of the guns at the Queen’s Gardens.
Thanks Doug, hopefully through photos and other records the full story will emerge. More interesting digging about to do!
I have a newspaper photo of this gun so if you want it can you please contact me and I will forward it too you. It’s not a very good photo but the best I could lay my hands on at the time.
I’m sure your list is very long – I look forward to each item. I’ve been exploring the town ever since I took afternoons off school to take photos and see what’s down the old back alleys.
Thanks Gregor. Dunedin is rich pickings for heritage explorers!
In the Demolitions section, I am intrigued by the entry
“1968. Commercial Bank building, Princes and Dowling streets”
This seems to be the building I worked in from 1957 until about 1962. The business on the corner was called “Hardware Corner” (I believe) but I have a quite good photo of it taken around 1914 and would like to know more about it. Some tenants at that time were John O’Neill (Lawyer), Franz Barta (Photographer) and JRG Hanlon (Engineer). Is there more information on this building? Thanks in advance
Hi Dave. That’s a building I’m intending to write about at some point in the next few months. The corner portion was built in the 1860s but it was later extended in both directions. It was face-lifted in the 1940s and eventually made way for Cargill House. For most years there are Stone’s and/or Wise’s directories that will list who occupied it. Hocken have a good post-facelift photograph which you can see at: http://goo.gl/XikI9. I’d be interested to see your photograph.
Thanks for your quick reply and the location of the Hocken photo. Very nostalgic since as a young man I sat in the corner window of the first floor working away for around 5 years. Send me an email address and I can send you a good scan of the 1914 (circa) image by return.
You’re welcome Dave – and thanks kindly for the offer of the scan. I’ll e-mail you my address.
I would love to see some pics of Parkview (Willows) in Princes St. I lived there with my family about 40 years ago. They were owned by my grandparents, Anthony and Ruby Joseph and when they passed, by my mother and her siblings.
Someone else was asking me about that terrace recently. The Otago Daily Times ran an image when they announced the demolition (17 November 1976 p.5). It can also be seen in ‘Dunedin: A Portrait of Today and Yesterday’ by Graham Stewart, and some Whites Aviation aerial shots. I haven’t come across a nice clear photographic print though. Do you know when your grandparents bought it?
I never heard it being called the Willows.
I am still waiting on a proof from the ODT.
I’m not sure when the name changed, it may have been relatively early on. I hope they’re able to get you a good copy of that picture – it’s a great record.
Hello there, I have in my back yard a seat that has a cast iron frame with two fold-up wooden seats. The name Barningham and Co. Dunedin has been cast into the iron. We think the seat may be from an old tram. Do you have any thoughts or information you can shed on the age and history of this seat?
Hi Cheryl, I’m not aware of any surviving company records of Barningham & Co., although I know of at least one surviving catalogue of theirs (in the Hocken Collections). The best bet might be a tram expert, or the records of the Tramways Department held by Dunedin City Council Archives (http://www.dunedin.govt.nz/services/archives).
The Willows name disappeared between 1920 and 1923 Post Office directories.
I waited for about four years, but they cannot locate many of the proofs they had…
Hi I was looking for information on the physical address of “the City Hotel Dunedin” which is referred to as being operating around 1975. Any help much appreciated.
Hi Sean, the City Hotel (built 1877 and demolished 1986) was on the south east corner of Moray Place and Princes Street where Otago House is now. Street view: https://goo.gl/maps/mDgna. Historic images: http://goo.gl/znKEIp and http://goo.gl/3qcJA4.
Hi David – This was perfect and really helpful – you are an incredible resource and long may you continue doing what you do – Have you considered getting council support for the upkeep and development of this resource? I think it would be a good use of public money to support our heritage history!
Thanks for the kind words Sean. Although I’m doing my own thing with this blog, the DCC have been very helpful in providing information and some research I have done for them I have been able to recycle here.
Hi David – great site; only just discovered it’s a blog! Have you looked into the history of the Female Refuge / Forth Street Maternity Hospital = Batchelor Maternity Hospital at all? Or into the location of the first Fever Hospital? I’m looking into these at present, and would be interested to share information
Thanks Fiona – and welcome! I don’t know a lot about those sites, although I did look into the Female Refuge a little for the Joseph L. Shaw post (he designed the 1888 building). I have a few references to the new hospital in Forth Street opened in 1907, but they’d all be discoverable on Papers Past now. I’m not sure about precursors to the Fever Hospital in Butts Road – though the Heritage New Zealand report and the research for that could be useful. Have you found some relevant theses/dissertations?
Hi David. I’ve read about the change from the building being the Dunedin Female Refuge to the Maternity Hospital. I hadn’t known about the 1888 rebuilding, so thank-you for that. I’ll take a look in the papers at that time.
Heritage New Zealand has nothing on the first Fever Hospital, nor can the DCC Archivist tell me where exactly it was. From my research it was on the Town Belt, close to Hawthorne Ave. Building started in November/December 1875, and it was dismantled in Jan/Feb of 1878 and transported to become part of the Industrial School. The entire history of the building was plagued by controversy. Robert Stout managed to have it closed in the middle of the epidemic, just days before the Gloucester sailed into port with Smallpox on board. The Mayor, C.S. Reeves used his casting vote against the status quo to have the Fever Hospital re-opened. I’ve incorporated the story of the Fever Hospital into a novel I’ve written – as far as I’m aware no one’s written anything about it before. I am currently working on a new novel which mentions the Female Refuge. The creation of the Refuge is a great story: unlike the Auckland and Christchurch Refuges the Dunedin ladies were able to establish and run the Refuge themselves, and bought, extended, and had paid off the buildings and were self-sustaining within three years!
From reading Papers Past it appears that Shaw may have designed the 1887/8 addition, rather than a replacement Refuge. He also prepared designs for lying in wards for the Refuge, which were never built.
Yes, you’re quite right – the tender notice is for additions, although it can be difficult to work out exactly what ‘additions’ means in context. Sometimes they are quite minor and sometimes they are bigger than the the original structure (perhaps unlikely in this case). I can’t say I’ve tried very hard to find out about that but you might find more detail. I know Shaw’s wife, Juliet, was on the management committee. All the best with your writing – a great subject.
Hi David. The others are correct – this is a wonderfully informative and interesting blog – even from as far away as Tasmania! I arrived at your site while trawling for information on a segment of my family, two bothers, William Bruce and Albert Line QUENNELL. They were both bricklayers (and sons of a master builder /bricklayer from Surrey, England). The Quennell brothers emigrated from Melbourne to Dunedin around about 1902-4, formed the company W.B.Quennell and Sons and apparently were instrumental in putting up many of Dunedin’s brick buildings in the first 2 decades of the 2oth century. Just wondered if you had come across references to the Quennells in your research? WIll get back to reading more of your posts now…….
That’s very interesting about Quennell & Sons – thanks Peter. I must admit I didn’t know anything about them but it’s a subject area I would like to explore more. My own grandfather, and his father and grandfather before him, were bricklayers in Mosgiel (their name was McLeod). Thanks also for your kind words about the blog.
I notice that in your info about the Gillies and Street building (demolished 1968) you refer to Donaldson’s Pie Shop etc. I have an interest in the demolished building because a relative T.J. Treacey operated the Carlton Private Hotel and Dining Rooms from that building before going bankrupt in 1906. I was recently in Dunedin and took a photo of an old four storey building on the cnr of Princes and Dowling Street – carved in stone in one corner is Donaldson’s Est 1862. Can you tell me anything about this building. Is this building related to the Pie man?
Hi Terri – yes, it was the same man. John Donaldson moved to the corner diagonally opposite where he built the building you photographed, which he called the Excelsior Hotel.
In the early 1900s my grandfather came to NZ and worked for Hogg & Co. He was a craftsman and built stairways. Two of these I am aware of are still in existence.
1) Penrose Building George St.
2) The stairway and surrounding woodwork on the Earnslaw at Queenstown.
In the 1930s he established his business with my father as hatblock makers.
Great history – thanks John. What was your grandfather’s name?
My grandfather Alexander (Sandy) Stuart worked at Hogg & Co. as a moulder from the time he finished his technical education in Dunedin aged 16 until he was called up for service in World War 1 aged 20 in 1916. His mouldings would have been in many Dunedin buildings, but of course there is no information now on which ones!
Thanks Stuart – no doubt some of those mouldings are admired and appreciated by the people who live/work with them.
My grandfather was Charles Fredrick Williamson. He was born in England and migrated to USA in the 1880s. He went to Newark and was employed by Thomas Edison until the late 1890s when he returned to England. While in the USA he married and had three children. After returning my father William was born in England. In the early 1900s the family came to Dunedin to work and live. He went on to work for Hogg & Co. When of age my father trained as a joiner at Hoggs before war service. In the 1920s Charles moved to NE Valley and set up his hatblock making business with my father William. My father continued to run the business after the death of Charles. Hat blocks bearing the ‘WILLIAMSON DUNEDIN’ embossed stamp are still sought after on trademe. Charles’s first born son (James) became an engineer, based on Andersons Bay Rd, and designed patented and made machinery to produce the NZ iconic JAY TEE paper cake cups. Still available in NZ.
That’s very interesting John – thanks for sharing the info. I should look more into Hogg & Co. some time.
Can you give me a pointer as to when there was a fire in the Dunedin office of the Lands Department that apparently destroyed a lot of the early records pertaining to many of Otago’s early sheep runs please? I can’t seem to find a reference to it via Google, but I’m told it was a significant event.
Hi John – do you think it’s possible this refers not to the Dunedin office but to the infamous Hope Gibbons fire in Wellington in 1952? Lands and Survey records were among those destroyed: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/41758/hope-gibbons-fire-1952
Hi David, Thanks for the response. I had found reference to the Hope Gibbons building fire, but my information was that it happened in Dunedin. I did check with the Dunedin office of Archives NZ, and the bloke I spoke to said they had complete records for the period I was interested in, i.e. 1858-1930, so I’ll have to quiz my source more closely. Great blog. Have found out much interesting and useful information. Thanks, John Clark.
Thanks John – glad you’ve found the blog useful. There are so many stories about archives lost in fires – sometimes they turn out to be true or partly true but I’m always a bit suspicious!
Feasgar math! I am a descendent of John Thomson of Dalkeith and I appreciate the care taken over the history of a couple of his former buildings in Port Chalmers. The ancient history feels close to me as in the Scottish way we grew up with stories from my mother who was taken by her mother to visit John THOMSON’s daughter Janet Ramsay Bennett STEWART (nee THOMSON) at the original Dalkeith homestead which later burnt down and was replaced by the current art deco building. When I last visited DALKEITH with my mother during the 1998 150th anniversary of Otago we went to Port Chalmers and Dalkeith where much of the original orchard was still intact. Will certainly dig through my mothers photos next time I visit my brother one that may be of interest we gifted to the Hocken Library but it is of John Thomson’s son Richard Dodds THOMSON and his wife Matron Elizabeth Ann and daughter Nurse Alberta outside the former Prince Alfred Hotel which they had converted into The Prince Alfred Institute and Dispensary a maternity hospital and chemist shop at 276 Castle Street, Dunedin. The building is sadly long gone but the photo is a beauty!! Richard was a drinking buddy of Thomas Bracken and they ended up bankrupts … so there is plenty to be read on the subject in the newspapers of the day.
Thanks Claire – it’s always great to hear of family connections to the places in the stories. Those photos sound good!
Has this fascinating blog mentioned the Chingford stables in North East Valley? They were the property of P.C. Neill, who is a story in himself. The actor Sam Neill is his descendant.
Hi Nelson – I haven’t written about Chingford here apart from a piece about J.L. Shaw, who was the architect of the house but not the stables. Agree there’s a great story there. Mason & Wales still have the original plan for the stables.
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