Tag Archives: 1870s

Silverwood Terrace

Built: 1902-1904
Address: 134-144 Albany Street
Builder: James Small

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Silverwood Terrace is the almost forgotten name of a row of houses in Albany Street, close to the university campus. Still further lost in history is the large and sprawling wooden home this name came from. Silverwood stood behind the terrace until its demolition in 1923.

Percival Clay Neill lived at the original Silverwood from 1872. His posthumous claim to fame is as the great-grandfather of actor Sam Neill, but in his own day he was one of Dunedin’s most successful merchants. Born in Belfast, Ireland, he founded Neill & Company, a firm that imported wines, spirits, and other goods. It later merged with R. Wilson & Co. to become Wilson Neill & Co. Neill was also the French Consul from 1873.

In 1877, Neill moved to Chingford, North East Valley. He subdivided the Silverwood property but kept the house as his town residence until 1882, when the solicitor Edward Chetham Strode purchased it. Around this time it was described as a thirteen-room house with ‘pantry, and cellar, stable, loose boxes, coach house, laundry, tool house, fowl house, and cow house. Water laid on to the house, stable, and garden’.

It was at Silverwood that Strode died of typhoid fever in 1886, at the age of 34. His wife, Jessie, left for England soon afterwards.

A view from about 1889, looking along Albany Street towards the harbour. The future Silverwood Terrace site is where the trees meet the road on the right-hand side. The old house is obscured. Image: Te Papa C.018395. Detail from Burton Bros photograph.

Later occupants of Silverwood included the warehouseman Allan Broad (1841-1930), who was manager of the Mutual Stores and a foundation member of the Hanover Street Baptist Church. He was followed by William Reid (c.1834-1909), a prosperous seed merchant turned florist, resident from about 1890 to 1898. Reid had worked at the Royal Norfolk Nurseries in England and had an international reputation as a collector of native ferns and shrub seeds, which he exported. His daughter, Annie Elsom, followed the same profession and became a successful businesswoman in Christchurch.

From 1898, Silverwood was the home of James and Elizabeth Small. Born in Forfar, Scotland, around 1843, James married the slightly older Elizabeth Gall at Dundee in 1873. The following year the couple arrived in Dunedin, where James became a successful building contractor. His first major project was the Dominican Priory in Smith Street, designed by Frank Petre and built between 1876 and 1877. The innovative use of poured concrete in this building is celebrated today, but Small’s contribution remains overlooked. Petre’s call for tenders specified a brick building, and Small submitted the only tender for concrete construction. This was identified as the more cost-effective option, and it seems likely concrete was Petre’s plan from the beginning, with the tenders for brick construction being called to determine an alternative price.

James Small (c.1843-1919). Image: DCC Archives

Small was the contractor for the Grand Hotel (1882-1883), designed by Louis Boldini. Image: Te Papa O.034103. Burton Bros photographers.

The collaboration continued. Other buildings designed by Petre and constructed by Small and his team included the Exchange Buildings on Liverpool Street (now Guardian Apartments), the Equitable Insurance buildings (Phoenix House), an office building for the Otago Harbour Board (Donald Reid Building), and the Catholic Basilica in Wellington.

Small was the main contractor for three buildings designed by Louis Boldini: the Grand Hotel, Butterworth Bros warehouse, and the AMP Society’s buildings. These were among the most impressive commercial buildings of Victorian Dunedin, each with an elaborate four-storey stone facade.  They were notable for extensive structural use of iron and concrete, including concrete floors on iron joists.

Small built the six Silverwood Terrace houses next to his own home between 1902 and 1904. It is likely he designed them himself, as I have found no record of an architect’s involvement and the surviving plans show only sketchy drafting. The first building permit, issued in November 1902, was for the two houses closest to Clyde Street. The permit for the middle two houses followed in April 1903, and the final two were approved in November 1903.

Detail from a Dunedin Drainage and Sewerage Board plan dated 1905. Albany Street runs across the bottom of the image. The large footprint of Silverwood can be seen at the centre, and the new terrace has only been pencilled in. Image: DCC Archives.

Terraces were not typical of New Zealand housing, but they were relatively numerous in the urbanised environment of central Dunedin. More than twenty historic examples stand in the city today. The earliest dates from the 1870s and the latest from about 1914, by which time public transport and private cars were providing easier access to the suburbs, and blocks of flats were beginning to find favour. Usually built as investment properties or speculative builds, the grandest terraces were handsomely finished for a market that included working professionals and the genteel. At the other end of the spectrum were rough wooden tenements rented to the poor.

Silverwood Terrace, though not among most expensive, is one of the better examples. Built in brick, it has a neatly cemented street front, with exposed brickwork at the back and sides. Its style is plain and unfussy, with simple cornices and other mouldings, and a touch of the Italianate about it. Variations in the design contribute to a pleasing rhythm: the middle two houses have faceted bays grouped together at the centre, while the outer houses have square bays with the balconies grouped together. The overall effect is approximately symmetrical, although the houses at the Clyde Street end are narrower than the rest. The cast iron balcony railings are excellent examples of their type, and provide the most ornate features.

The terrace is sympathetic to the slightly older semi-detached houses next door, which date from about 1896. On the corner of Clyde Street a slightly later house with exposed brickwork, built in 1907, is also in harmony.

Each of the Smalls’ houses had a conventional floor plan. The two largest rooms were on the ground floor, with the one facing the street presumably intended as a parlour. A long hallway ran through to a single-storey extension at the rear, housing the kitchen and scullery. Stairs were at the centre and at right angles to the hall, due to the narrowness of the buildings. On the first floor were four bedrooms and a small bathroom. There were five fireplaces in each house. Toilets were in outhouses.

The houses remained in the ownership of the Smalls for nearly twenty years, and were sometimes referred to as Small’s Terrace. Neither this nor the Silverwood name appears to have remained in use for long.  Street directories give some insight into the backgrounds of the Smalls’ first tenants. The heads of the households were two widows, a mechanical engineer, a storeman, a bootmaker with his own business, and a retired seedsman. Most stayed only a few years, but after her husband’s death Margaret Buchanan remained at no.136 until her passing in 1923, and John and Catherine Mitchell lived at no.140 until 1930.

Elected to the Dunedin City Council in 1905, James Small served as a councillor for thirteen years, as Chairman of the finance committee, and as an elected member of the Dunedin Drainage Board. He died at Silverwood on 3 March 1919, aged 75.  The following day the flag of the Grand Hotel flew at half-mast, as a mark of respect to its builder. Obituaries describe Small as an unassuming, unostentatious, and capable man, who ‘worked hard and keenly in his own quiet way for the good of Dunedin as a whole’.

Elizabeth Small gave ‘unostentatiously to the poor and needy of the neighbourhood’ until her health declined. She died on 24 July 1923. The couple had no children and Elizabeth’s estate, with the exception of a few bequests to friends, was left to charity. Silverwood was demolished later that year, the Otago Daily Times recording that in the early days ‘it was among the most handsome residences in the city. But it did not escape the changes of time, and, after a period of retiring shabbiness, the last straw has been placed on the camel’s back and tenders for removal have been called.’

The Silverwood Terrace houses went to auction in 1925. Notices described them as being of superior construction, and no.134 as a ‘splendid double-storey brick residence, containing 7 commodious rooms, bathroom, hot and cold water, washhouse, copper and tubs, and conveniences; handsome appearance; freehold section’.

The main outward change in recent years has been the replacement of wood-framed sash windows with aluminium framed ones, but the original style and glass remains on one of the houses. A uniform colour scheme helps to show off the architecture. The houses are now student flats, and according to the Dunedin Flat Names Project, no.138 has been known as both ‘Wards Manor’ and ‘Mope on in’. Perhaps the old name ‘Silverwood’ might again become familiar.

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Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times 2 February 1872 p.2 (birth of Neill’s daughter), 5 November 1874 p.1 (reference to house as ‘Silverwood’), 16 March 1897 p.4 (Reid’s advertisement), 4 March 1919 p.6 (James Small obituary), 6 March 1919 p.5 (appreciation of Small); Evening Star 10 January 1873 p.2 (Mrs Neill’s advertisement),), 27 February 1878 p.3 (subdivision), 2 March 1882 p.3 (sale of Silverwood), 15 March 1886 p.3 (Mrs Strode), 27 February 1906 p.5 (reference to Small’s Terrace), 18 October 1909 p.4 (death of William Reid), 4 March 1919 p.6 (James Small obituary), 6 March 1919 p.5 (appreciation of James Small), 10 March 1919 p.6 (tribute to Small), 23 July 1923 p.8 (Elizabeth Small obituary), 4 September 1923 p.6 (demolition of Silverwood), 5 September 1925 p.24 (sale of properties), 23 April 1930 p.7 (Allan Broad obituary); Lyttelton Times 6 January 1886 p.4 (Strode obituary); Otago Witness 28 December 1920 p.53 (correction).

Other sources:
Directories (Stone’s, Wises, and telephone)
Dunedin City Council Archives, including building register, permit plans, and drainage records
Death registration of James Small

Dreaver’s Buildings

Built: 1878-1879
Address: 149-165 George Street
Designer: William Grasby
Builders: Finck & Grasby

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From the 1870s to the 1950s, the enterprising Dreaver family made George Street their place of business. Elizabeth Creilman McHoul was born in Glasgow, and worked as a domestic servant before migrating to Otago in 1870. In 1873 she married James Dreaver, who opened a toy and fancy goods store. Mrs Dreaver opened a second family business, the Red Flag Drapery, in June 1877.

In November 1878, a fire destroyed eight wooden buildings in George Street, including the Dreavers’ property. No time was wasted in erecting new premises, which opened for business on 22 February 1879. They were built by Finck & Grasby and designed by William Grasby of that firm. Constructed of brick, they comprised a block of three shops with living apartments above. All were owned by the Dreavers, who occupied the southernmost portion. Their first tenants were Miss Vaile, who ran a ‘Young Ladies’ Seminary’, and Hans Pauli, who purchased James Dreaver’s fancy goods business.

The Otago Daily Times reported that ‘seldom, indeed, are blocks of buildings turned out in such a complete manner’. The flats each had coal ranges in the kitchens, fireplaces in the bedrooms, and gas and water connections. Workrooms for the drapery were built behind the shop, and there were brick washhouses and other outbuildings.  The shops had tongue-and-groove linings and were fronted with large plate-glass windows. The cemented facade above was in the simple Revived Renaissance style favoured for commercial buildings at the time. After 137 years the first floor still outwardly looks much the same, though missing are a string course below the dentil cornice, and a modest arched pediment at the centre of the parapet.

Elizabeth Dreaver’s early advertisements offered costumes to fit at a few hours’ notice and described the firm as the cheapest house in the city. The Red Flag name was not used after the rebuilding, and the business became popularly known as Mrs Dreaver’s. Stock included dresses, jackets, skirts, mackintoshes, children’s wear, and feather boas. Dreaver’s had its own dressmaking department and became well-known for a parcel post service (with money back guarantee) offered to country customers.

Mrs Dreaver was an expert milliner and at a carnival at the Columbia Rink she won first prize from about 100 entries for the most original hat, with a design representing a pair of roller skates. She also won the prize for the smallest hat. Other milliners who worked for her included Miss Graham, formerly head milliner to Mrs W.A. Jenkins, and Mrs Mitchell, who had worked at Madame Louise’s in London’s Regent Street.

In 1885 Elizabeth left Dunedin for Scotland, she said due to bad health, and after five months returned with a stock of purchases made in London and Paris.  In the following years she vigorously promoted the ‘scientific’ method of pattern cutting that was revolutionising sewing around the world. She was one of the first in New Zealand to import the pattern books of the Butterick Publishing Company, which then had over 1,000 agencies throughout the United States and Canada. She became Otago’s sole agent for American Scientific System of Dresscutting, gave lessons at Otago Girls’ High School, and offered board to out-of-town pupils. By 1893 she had taught the system to 700 people.

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A Muir & Moodie postcard showing George Street from St Andrew Street. Dreavers is on the right, below the tower.

Hans Pauli remained in the northern shop until 1892. His name became familiar to the public through his outspoken opposition to the organised movement for early shop closing. From 1883 to 1903 ‘Professor and Madame’ McQueen ran one of Dunedin’s leading hairdressing establishments from the middle shop, to which they added the Bon Marche children’s clothing shop in 1898.

The drapery expanded to take over all three shops in 1904, not long before the death of James Dreaver on New Year’s Day 1905. In the first decades of the twentieth century Elizabeth Dreaver continued to manage the business, which some advertisements described as the ‘Shrine of Fashion’. A hairdressing and beauty salon became part of the operation.

In 1920 a new company was formed, Dreavers Ltd, with Elizabeth Dreaver holding 73% the shares and her children Hugh, James, and Catherine, each holding 9%. Additions were made at the back of the property in 1909, and in 1925 Mandeno & Fraser designed stylish new shop fronts, with arches over recessed entrances, and decorative tiles and glass. Fletcher Construction were the builders. A section of this work survives in altered form as the front of the northern shop, where the name ‘Dreavers Ltd’ can still be seen in the mosaic floor.

Further rearward additions were carried out in 1944, leading to the saddest event found in researching this story. A shopper named Alice McMillan (58) was killed when a beam fell through a skylight into the mantle department.

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A 1945 advertisement

Elizabeth Creilman Dreaver died at her home in Clyde Street on 30 November 1934, aged 86. Dreavers continued to trade until 1952, its old premises afterwards becoming the Bruce Shop, a retail store for Bruce Woollens. This closed in the mid-1960s, when the name of the block was changed from Bruce Buildings to Perth Buildings.

Other businesses to occupy the buildings have included the Otago Sports Depot, a Queen Anne Chocolate (Ernest Adams) shop, Ace Alterations, Martins Art Furnishers, and Don Kindley Real Estate. One shop is currently vacant, while another is taken by Brent Weatherall Jewellers. The third contains the $ n’ Sense bargain shop, which harks back nicely to the toys and fancy goods shop at the beginning of the Dreaver’s story in George Street.

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A 1925 shop front, surviving in altered form. Decorative windows were removed and original timber window joinery (with more slender profiles than shown here) replaced in 2012.

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‘Dreavers Ltd’ mosaic tiles

Newspaper references:
Evening Star, 16 June 1877 p.3 (Red Flag Drapery), 29 November 1878 p2 (fire), 27 December 1920 p.3 (registration of company); Otago Witness, 10 August 1878 p.21 (advertisement), 6 September 1879, p.3 (advertisement), 29 April 1887 p.9 (sole rights), 4 January 1905 p.47 (death of James Dreaver); Otago Daily Times, 22 December 1874 p1 (toy shop advertisement), 15 January 1879 p.1 (description of buildings), 4 June 1879 p.3 (description following completion), 29 December 1884 p.3 (advertisement), 26 March 1887 p.3 (advertisement), 29 August 1944, p.6 (inquest into the death of Alice McMillan), 19 March 2011 p.46 (‘Stories in Stone’); North Otago Times 3 May 1890 p.4 (lessons at Otago Girls’ High School).

Other references:
Stone’s, Wise’s and telephone directories
Baré, Robert, City of Dunedin Block Plans Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, [1889].
Jones, F. Oliver, Structural Plans of the City of Dunedin NZ, ‘Ignis et Aqua’ series, [1892].
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans
Dunedin City Council cemeteries database

Shipping list for Robert Henderson, 1870 (Otago Gazette)
Register of Otago and Southland Marriages 1848 to 1920 (St Andrew’s Parish)
Death registration for Elizabeth Dreaver (1934/10770)

Hotel Central

Built: 1873
Address: 90-108 Princes Street
Architects: Mason & Wales
Builders: Wood & Steinau

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The buildings as they appeared c.1907. Ref: Collection of Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, Box 57 Number 200.

Since the demolition of its northern neighbour in the 1980s, the facade of 100-108 Princes Street has come to a slightly raggedy end, and the off-centre word ‘Hotel’ has looked a bit peculiar without the word ‘Central’ that once followed it. Although the two buildings that formed the Hotel Central had an integrated facade, they were separated by a party wall and had distinct roof structures. They were even built under separate contracts for different clients.

The surviving portion was built for the drapers Thomson, Strang & Co., and the demolished one for Dunning Bros. Built in 1873, the buildings replaced wooden structures that were only about ten years old, but which in a period of rapid development were already seen as the antiquated stuff of pioneer days. The architects were Mason & Wales and the contractors Wood & Steinau.

The buildings were described in the Otago Daily Times as ‘very handsome’ but it was remarked that ‘their elevation and length appear to be altogether out of harmony with the irregularity of the comparatively small structures opposite’. The facade originally featured a bracketed cornice and most of the first-floor windows were hooded. Stone was used for the foundations and ground floor, and brick for the upper floors.

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Detail from a Burton Bros panorama, showing the buildings as they appeared in 1874, not long after their completion. Ref: Te Papa C.025695.

Who were the Dunning brothers? Alfred Theodore Dunning and Frederick Charles Edward Dunning were English settlers who started out as fruiterers in Princes Street in 1864. Frederick left the partnership in 1871, but did return for a few years later in the decade. In 1874 Alfred was granted a license for the City Dining Rooms, which he opened upstairs in the new building. He established a hotel across the upper floors of both buildings, and from 1878 the establishment was known as Dunning’s Central Hotel and Café. The portion above the drapery contained bedrooms, while rooms in the northern part included a dining room, offices, and a large billiard room.

Alfred was known for his joviality, uprightness in business, and warm-heartedness, but although he did well in the hotel business he was less successful when he left in 1881 to take up theatrical management. He lost most of his money in opera ventures and died in Melbourne in 1886 at the age of 41. Frederick became a fruiterer in Christchurch, where he died in 1904 after falling from his cart.

The drapery firm Thomson, Strang & Co. had started out as Arkle & Thomson in 1863. J.R. Strang became a partner in 1866 and the firm operated from its new premises for just under ten years, closing in 1883. From 1885 to 1928 the ground floor of this southern end of the buildings housed Braithwaite’s Book Arcade. Joseph Braithwaite had established his business in Farley’s Arcade in 1863 before the move to Princes Street. The store had a horseshoe-shaped layout that extended into Reichelt’s Building on the south side, and the horseshoe theme was carried through to distinctive frames over the two entrances. It was claimed over 10,000 people once visited the arcade on a single day, and Braithwaite’s became so well-known that it was considered a tourist attraction. It was a popular place to shelter from bad weather, and everyone from unchaperoned children to the local business elite might be seen browsing the shelves. By 1900 the business employed thirty sales men and women. The footprint of the arcade changed a few times as it moved in and out of neighbouring shops.

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Detail from c.1907. At the centre is the lamp for Haydon’s Central Hotel. On the left is one of the entrances to Braithwaite’s Book Arcade. The shop on the right was occupied by the jeweller James Bremner. Note the pilasters with their Corinthian capitals. Ref: Collection of Toitu Otago Settlers Museum.

The Central Hotel’s license was transferred to John Golder in 1881, and he reportedly installed one of the largest plate glass windows in the colony. He was succeeded by Robert T. Waters, who changed the name to the Baldwin Hotel, perhaps after the celebrated hotel of the same name in San Francisco. After Waters came Charles Nicholson, James D. Hutton, and Thomas Cornish. During Cornish’s time the name changed back to Central Hotel, and later licensees were James Macdonald, E.J. Power, William H. Haydon, and Catherine J. Haydon. The license was lost in 1909, and the establishment afterwards continued as a private hotel and boarding house. It was known as Jackson’s Hotel from about 1922 to 1936, when it became Hotel Central.

The hotel featured in an unusual example of pioneering photography, for Dunedin at least. In 1903 a couple were photographed in a bedroom of the City Hotel from an opposite room in the Central Hotel, and the evidence was used in a divorce case. The respondent claimed she was only playing cards with the co-respondent, whom she described as an elderly, very short, stout, bald-headed, and not at all good-looking friend. The jury were unconvinced and a divorce was granted.

Tragedy occurred in 1900 when William O’Connell, a 76-year old miner from Nevis, died after falling from one of the rear windows during the night, into the yard below.

From 1916 the buildings included the entrance to the Empire Theatre (a cinema), complete with terrazzo flooring and marble mosaics. In 1935 the theatre’s entrance was moved from Princes Street to Moray Place, and two shops were built in the place of the old entry.

The history of the shops is complex as over one hundred businesses have operated from them over the years, and partitions were sometimes put up to turn a large shop space into two smaller ones, or taken down to restore a larger space. Most of the businesses that were in the buildings for five years or more are in the list below. The dates are mostly compiled from directories and newspapers advertisements and so are only an approximate.

Thomson, Strang & Co. (1873-1883)
Raymond & Howard, chemists (1874-1884)
J. Wilkie & Co., stationers etc. (1879-1885)
August Fettling, jeweller (1880-1885)
Alexander Allen, tobacconist (1883-1896)
Stewart Dawson & Co., jewellers (1884-1891)
Alex W. McArthur, jeweller and optician (1888-1894)
William Macdonald, hosier (1889-1894)
William Reid, florist (1894-1907)
J.J. Dunne, hosier and hatter (1896-1906)
James Bremner, jeweller and optician (1898-1914)
William Aitken & Sons, tailors (1902-1907)
Elizabeth Rodie, draper (1906-1919)
E.H. Souness, watchmaker and jeweller (1908-1915)
Elite Tea Rooms (1915-1973)
Sucklings Limited, photographic specialists (1919-1931)
Watkins & Neilson, mercers and tailors (1922-1927)
The Horse Shoe, fancy goods dealers (1928-1934)
Adams Bruce Ltd (1928-1935)
Piccadilly Shoppe, lingerie specialists (1928-1982)
‘The Ideal’, frock and knitwear specialists (1930-1988)
Marina Frocks (1935-1954)
Cameron’s Central Pharmacy (1935-1985)
Tip Top Milk Bar (1935-1955, succeeded by the City Milk Bar 1955-1961)
E. Williams, toilet salon (1936-1944)
Johns of London, beauty specialists (1944-1956)
Newall’s Chinaware (1954-1972)
London House, menswear (1957-1967)
Carlton Bookshop (1962-1984)
Rob’s Wool Shop (1972-1986)
Southern Cross Jewellers (2002-2015)

Some businesses moved to different shops within the buildings, including Sucklings (around 1928) and the Ideal (around 1954). The Tip Top is perhaps a surprise inclusion on the list – the ‘no.2 shop’ was here while the more widely remembered ‘no. 1’ operated from the Octagon corner.

One of the longest-lasting enterprises in the buildings was the Elite Tea Rooms. Established by Hannah Ginsberg as the Elite Marble Bar in 1915, it advertised a tastefully decorated lounge room, a menu of fifty different iced drinks and ice creams, and a wide range of hot drinks including coffee, Bovril, and Horlick’s. For many years, from 1919 onwards, it was run by Jean Dunford and Sarah Mullin, and the business remained on the site until about 1973.

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Advertisement from the Evening Star, 8 November 1919 p.6

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A 1960s view

The facades were stripped of their Victorian decoration in 1952 and remodelled to the designs of architect L.W.S. Lowther, incorporating late use of the Art Deco style. The name ‘Hotel Central’ was added in plain sans serif capitalised relief lettering at the parapet level. Directories and advertising suggest that the names ‘Hotel Central’ and ‘Central Hotel’ were sometimes used interchangeably. The private hotel’s last entry in Wise’s directory was in 1977, but it would be could to pin down the date of its closure more accurately.

The northern building was demolished in 1987 to make way for additions to the Permanent Building Society building (now Dunedin House). This was remodelled in the postmodern style fashionable in the 80s, and its new features included tinted and mirrored glass, supersized pediments, and shiny columns. The older building now looks cut in half, but the changes made to the facade in the 1950s have exaggerated that effect. It recently changed ownership, so perhaps more change is in store in the not distant future.

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The surviving building in 2016

Newspapers references:
Otago Daily Times, 1 August 1873 p.1 (call for tenders), 8 August 1873 p.3 (demolition progress), 1 September 1873 p.2 (accident); 22 November 1873 p.3 (progress – ‘out of harmony’); 24 December 1873 p.1(grand opening); 6 June 1874 p.4 (opening of public dining room); 2 September 1874 p.3 (court dispute – contractors), 30 October 1873 p.2 (accident during construction), 3 February 1876 p.3 (Dunning Bros partnership notice), 18 November 1878 p.3 (Dunning’s Central Hotel advertisement), 26 May 1881 p.3 (to let, retirement of Dunning), 9 July 1881 p.2 (largest plate glass windows in the Colony), 21 November 1883 p.3 (winding up of Thomson Strang), 23 April 1900 supp. (Braithwaite’s Book Arcade), 26 September 1900 p.7 (fatal accident), 22 June 1909 p.4 (license refused), 4 March 1916 p.11 (Empire Theatre); Otago Witness, 13 June 1874 p.2, 4 (opening of dining rooms), 2 September 1874 p.3 (dispute); Evening Star, 22 October 1915 p4 (Elite Marble Bar), 16 April 1935 p.2 (theatre entrance replaced with shops).

Other references:
Stone’s, Wise’s, and telephone directories
Baré, Robert, City of Dunedin Block Plans. Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, [1889].
W.H. Naylor Ltd: Records (Hocken Collections AG-712/036), plans for 1952 remodelling.

Ross & Glendining, High Street factory

Built: 1900-1901 (incorporating 1875 fabric)
Address: 167 High Street
Architect/Designer: Charles Lomax
Builders: Day labour (under Lomax)

An image from ‘Beautiful Dunedin’ (1906), taken when the building was relatively new.

My last post looked at Ross & Glendining’s 1866 warehouse on Stafford Street, and its later redevelopment as a hat factory. I briefly mentioned the adjoining factory buildings facing High Street, and this post expands on that part of the complex. Perhaps another time I’ll look at the company’s large warehouse further down High Street, demolished in 1970.

The High Street factory’s origins go back to 1875, when a warehouse and bonded store was built on the site. The building was on two levels, including the bluestone basement. The structure above was brick, with a cemented front. The architect was N.Y.A. Wales of Mason & Wales, and plans still held by the firm show a tramway connecting the building with the Stafford Street warehouse behind. James Hood was the contractor and the building cost £4,274.

Part of an original drawing for the 1875 building, reproduced courtesy of Mason & Wales Architects.

Between 1900 and 1901 two new floors, with extensions over the right-of-way, were made to create a new clothing factory. The designer was Charles Lomax, Ross & Glendining’s Building Inspector, who also supervised the construction work. According to an obituary, Lomax was originally from Blackburn, Lancashire, and as well as building the Roslyn Woollen Mills ‘carried out the erection of every warehouse belonging to the firm in New Zealand, also preparing the plans’. This description was not quite accurate, as others were also involved with building and design work for the company, but it would probably be true to say that no other person had a greater hand in the design and construction of the company’s buildings.

The rebuilt High Street factory was described in the Evening Star:

The factory operations are at present carried on in the two-storeyed building next the warehouse, but this is found to be inadequate for the trade. The new building will cover an area with a frontage of 66ft and 115ft deep. Including a spacious basement, of a uniform height of 12ft, there will be four storeys, the ground and first floors being 14ft high and the top one 12ft. The basement is to have a limer rock floor, the material for which has been imported from France. This makes a damp-proof floor, which is easier on the feet than one made of wood. It is used for the basement in the present warehouse, and has given every satisfaction. In the basement the engine for driving the machinery used throughout the factory will be located. The floors are to be supported by iron columns and steel joists, the building to be of brick with cement facings and slate roof. On a projection from each floor the lavatories and other conveniences are arranged for. The first floor is divided off into apartments for the office, finishing room, cutting room, pressing room, and dining room. The second and third floors are to be devoted to the operative departments of the factory, the different machines being driven by steam-power. A lift will travel from top to bottom of the building, connecting with all the floors. As was to be expected in a building of this description, ample provision has been made for lighting. There are six large windows to each floor in the front, and an equal number at the back, and these will ensure splendid light throughout the rooms. The front has been designed in no particular set style, but it will have an attractive appearance, although not being profusely ornamental, and will be in keeping with the effectiveness of the general run of large buildings in Dunedin.

Stephen Jones (whose history of Ross & Glendining I highly recommend) states that a nine horsepower Campbell oil engine replaced the old factory’s three horsepower Otto gas engine. This allowed the number of sewing machines to be increased, ‘there being over sixty Wilson & Wheeler and almost thirty Singer machines of various types installed in the factory by January 1902’.

The yard space and outbuildings separating the main Stafford and High Street buildings were eventually redeveloped. Additions in 1930 housed the company’s boot factory, relocated from Princes Street South, and a further two further storeys were added between 1937 and 1938. The architects for both stages of this work were Miller & White, with Thomas Ferguson the contractor.

The first stage of the boot factory additions, designed by Miller & White in 1930. Further floors were added 1937-1938.

Ross & Glendining was acquired by UEB Industries Ltd in 1966, and subsequently merged into Mosgiel Woollens Ltd, which retained a knitwear division in the building until it went into receivership in 1980. Later occupants included J. McGrath & Co, and in more recent years the building has been known as South Pacific House. Current occupants include NZ Fight & Fitness Academy.

The facade remains much as it did in 1901, although looking naked at the top where the balustrade and central pediment were removed in 1937. The fire escape likely dates from the 1940s, and 1941 work included the installation of louvre windows and the relocation of the main door from the centre to the side of the frontage. Sam Lind tells me that you can still identify the location in the basement where the engine running the belts would have been, and there is some evidence of the tramway that ran between the buildings. Some of the ironwork of the overhead shafts survives. Though most old fittings have been removed, the old stairs, floors, and brickwork all remain appealing interior features.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times 20 April 1875 p.2 (description), 24 September 1906 p.4 (Lomax obituary); Evening Star 15 December 1900 p.1 (description of rebuilt premises)

Other references
Fahey, W.H. Beautiful Dunedin: its environs and the cold lakes of Otago (Dunedin: Evening Star Co., 1906)
Jones, S.R.H. Doing Well and Doing Good : Ross & Glendining, Scottish Enterprise in New Zealand (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2010)
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans

Thanks to Mason & Wales Architects for access to early plans, and to Sam Lind for more recent information about the building.

Ross & Glendining, Stafford Street

Built: 1866 / 1874 / 1919
Address: 8 Stafford Street
Architects: John McGregor / Mason & Wales / W.H. Dunning
Builders:  McKay & Goodfellow / H.C. McCormack / Fletcher Bros

The building in the late 1930s. Ref: Hocken Collections AG-512/288.

Ross & Glendining Ltd was at one time the largest manufacturing company in New Zealand, and part of a thriving domestic industry in textiles and clothing.

John Ross was born at Caithness in the north of Scotland, and Robert Glendining came from Dumfries in the south. Ross managed a drapery in his native country before coming to Dunedin in 1861, bringing with him thousands of pounds worth of stock. He became a partner in Begg, Christie & Co. and within a year bought out the firm. He went into business with the recently arrived Glendining in August 1862, just as the discovery of the Dunstan goldfield brought a fresh ‘rush’ to Otago.

The company moved from retail to wholesale trade, and in 1866 built a brick and stone warehouse, some of which survives within the present 8 Stafford Street. The builders were McKay & Goodfellow and the architect was John McGregor (I’ll return to the intriguing Mr McGregor and his other designs of the 1860s and 70s  in a later post). Elaborately decorated in the Venetian Gothic style, the Oamaru stone facade of the warehouse featured pairs of arched windows, and columns of Port Chalmers bluestone topped by carved capitals. Ornamental ironwork included an unusual parapet railing, and finials on the first-floor sills.

An illustration of the building from ‘Beautiful Dunedin’ (1906), taken not long after it was converted to a hat factory. The original portion is on the right (the entrance shown being at its centre).

HockenCollections_S09_529j

Looking down Stafford Street towards Princes Street around the 1880s. Ref: Hocken Collections S09-529j.

Ross & Glendining established the Roslyn Woollen Mill in Kaikorai Valley in 1879, and soon after went into manufacturing, opening branches throughout the colony. Extensive additions to the Stafford Street buildings were built in 1874, with Mason & Wales the architects and H.C. McCormack the contractor. The facade was extended further up the street and McGregor’s original details were carefully replicated, an Otago Daily Times report remarking that ‘instead of the patchwork appearance which generally characterises additions to buildings, the building, as complete, is carried out on one plan, and looks accordingly’.

The basement level was used for packing and record entry. The ground floor was fitted with counters and shelving for trading manchester, and offices were put in the front of the addition. The upper floor was used for warehouse purposes, and housed fancy goods, hosiery, and haberdashery departments. A hydraulic lift made by Frazer, Wishart, & Buchanan was capable of lifting weights of up to one and a-half tonnes. ‘Clarke’s patent self-acting steel shutters’ were the latest in fire protection measures, and a brick wall two feet thick separated the warehouse from neighbouring wooden buildings.

The building at 8 Stafford Street is best understood in relation to some of Ross & Glendining’s adjoining and nearby buildings. In 1875 a new bonded warehouse was built facing High Street, back-to-back with the original premises. The two buildings were connected by a tramway across a large yard, where there were stables and other outbuildings. In 1893 the company moved its offices and warehouse to an entirely new site further down High Street, opposite the end of Manse Street (where Broadway now begins). The clothing factory moved into adjoining premises.

The old Stafford-High complex remained in company ownership but was leased to tenants until about 1900, when major redevelopment began and the entire site was turned to factory use. This work was designed and overseen by Charles Lomax, the company’s Inspector of Works. The High Street clothing factory was completed in 1901, its almost entirely rebuilt structure including a further two storeys, with an 18 metre high chimney behind (to save confusion I’m saving full description of this building for another post).

Work on the Stafford Street portion began in 1902, and in January 1904 it reopened as a hat factory, where fur, wool, felt, and straw hats were produced. Two years later, the top floor was converted to a mantle and costume factory, but the major rebuilding came in 1919 when a new four-storey block was built at the rear, and two additional storeys were added to the front portion. This was when the Stafford Street building took on its current outward appearance.

A 1918 drawing shows the addition of just one floor and retention of the old facade below, however, a plan deposited in March 1919 shows a total of five floors (including basement) and an entirely remodelled facade in a transitional style reminiscent of the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The designer was William H. Dunning, a Tasmanian-born architect whose other work in Dunedin included the National Bank in Princes Street, Ross Home in North East Valley, the RSA Buildings in Moray Place, and Barton’s Buildings. Fletcher Bros were the builders.

 

Plan lodged August 1918, showing the original proposal for one additional floor. Dunedin City Council Archives.

Plan lodged March 1919, showing the final design with two additional floors and an entirely new facade. Dunedin City Council Archives.

Large windows are a striking feature of the design, and a report in the Evening Star noted: ‘An important principle, copied from America, is as to the lighting. The whole front is practically a window, and in daytime the workers are getting the greatest amount of sunlight that is possible under a roof.’

About 110 young women were employed in the building. The hat factory remained on the first floor, and shirts were made on the second. The third floor housed the costume and mantle departments, and the Evening Star gave a full description of it:

There are 100 Singer machines in this room, electrically driven. The only foot action for the worker is the use of the treadle for regulating speed. The harder she presses the faster the machine runs. The presser-foot on each machine is operated by the knee, leaving both hands free for guiding. The installation of the electric iron saves gas fumes, and two electric cutters are able to save a lot of heavy work. The pressers’ room on the same floor is supplied with a steam press of the very latest type, saving a lot of time and labour. The making of dress buttons being forced on us as a result of the war, six machines are provided for that purpose. The woven material used in making the costumes and other goods is from the firm’s own Roslyn mills, so that the finished articles as sent to the shops are to all intents and purposes produced from our own resources except for linings and thread. This being the case, it is very gratifying that Mr C. W. L. King, the manager, is able to show a variety of goods that for material, style, and make can be put alongside the best productions of Australia or Europe. Consideration of this phase of the subject leads one to the belief that the diversity of design in such a factory is not only good for business but food for the workers, inasmuch as it must be much more interesting to be engaged on varied work that touches the domain of art, and has some individuality about it, than to stick for days and weeks at one mechanical operation of the prosaic and unromantic order.

The fourth floor was an ‘up-to-date dining room on the restaurant model’, where morning tea was provided at 10 o’clock, and midday meals could be heated. Apparently it wouldn’t do for the male staff to eat with them, so the men had a separate dining room above. The flat roof was ‘available as a promenade for the girls’, and from it there were good views the harbour.

In 1924 a fire significantly damaged the top floor (32 firemen fought the blaze). In 1930 a new boot factory building of utilitarian design was erected on the middle of the site, between the two main buildings. Miller & White were the architects and Thomas Ferguson was the building contractor. The same architects and contractor were responsible for the addition of a further two storeys to this structure over the summer of 1937-1938.

Advertisement from the Northern Advocate, 22 June 1922 p.6 (Papers Past).

Ross & Glendining was acquired by UEB Industries Ltd in 1966, and subsequently merged into Mosgiel Woollens Ltd.  Mosgiel vacated the Stafford Street building in 1973, and Sew Hoy & Sons occupied it until about 1980. Mosgiel retained a knitwear division in the High Street building until it went into receivership in 1980.

A variety of businesses operated from 8 Stafford Street over the next three decades, and between 2010 and 2011 it was partially converted to apartments. Current redevelopment plans by owners Jason and Kate Lindsey will create a start-up and tech business hub, ‘for creatives, consultants and entrepreneurs alike’. This seems a fitting turn for the site of one of the most successful commercial enterprises ever to have come out of Dunedin.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 3 May 1866 p.3 (tender notice), 18 June 1866 p.5 (new Stafford Street building description), 27 October 1866 p.1 (advertisement), 1 April 1874 p.2 (Stafford Street additions description); 20 April 1875 (new High Street building description) p.2; 15 April 1893 p.3 (new warehouse) , 1 April 1901 p.1 (plumbing tenders – High Street), 15 June 1903 p.3 (‘an important industry), 23 July 1918 p.7 (Stafford Street additions description); Evening Star, 8 July 1919 p.3 (description of additions); New Zealand Herald, 28 April 1924 p.6 (fire).

Other references:
Stone’s, Wise’s and telephone directories
Baré, Robert, City of Dunedin Block Plans Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, [1889].
Jones, F. Oliver, Structural Plans of the City of Dunedin NZ, ‘Ignis et Aqua’ series, [1892].
Fahey, W.H. Beautiful Dunedin : its environs and the cold lakes of Otago. Dunedin: Evening Star Co., 1906.
Jones, S.R.H. Doing Well and Doing Good : Ross & Glendining, Scottish Enterprise in New Zealand. Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2010.
Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters’ Associations of New Zealand, block plans, 1927
Dalziel Architects records, Hocken Collections (MS-2750/143 and MS-2758/272)
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)
Thanks to Peter Entwisle for pointing out the Mackintosh connection

Sutton Brothers Store

Built: 1874-1875
Address: 21 George Street, Port Chalmers
Architects: Mason & Wales
Builders: Lambeth & Findlay, Kent & Brown

When I’m in Port Chalmers I often admire the distinctive Tiger tea, ‘It’s so good it goes further’, advertising on the front of this building. I’m sure many have a similar fondness for it – Tiger signs were once seen on so many southern dairies and grocery stores, but they’re now relatively scarce.

The building was a general store, with a residence above, for 110 years. It was built between 1874 and 1875 as an investment for John Thomson, whose name has come up on this blog before. Thomson (1813-1895) 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 had established the Dalkeith subdivision in the 1860s, and owned various adjoining properties on the eastern side of George Street.

The architect was N.Y.A. Wales of Mason & Wales. The carpenters were Lambeth & Findlay, the stonemasons Kent & Brown, and the plasterer Edwin Philp. The cost was £898. The building was completed in March 1875, but just seven months later was damaged in a fire that destroyed buildings on its north side. The first storekeepers were Sutton Brothers. The business was managed by Edward Sutton to 1891, then by William Sutton to about 1903.

Detail from an 1870s photograph showing the building as it appeared when new. Ref: D.A. De Maus Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library 1/2-003211-G.

Detail from another D.A. De Maus photograph, taken in the 1880s. Ref: Alexander Turnbull Library 1/1-002569-G.

The store as it appeared in the 1890s or early 1900s. Ref: Port Chalmers Museum. D.A. De Maus photographer.

The store was run by Jonathan Emerson as Emerson’s Store from about 1903 to 1931, when it became MP Stores. The original MP Stores had been established in Timaru in 1913 as ‘a cash store, with minimum deliveries, in order to enable the proprietors to only charge the public for the goods bought by the individual customer, and not for the bad debts of the non-payer, and also to keep running expenses to a minimum’. MP might have stood for ‘minimum purchase’ but I’m not sure about that, and if there was a direct business link between the Timaru stores and the Port Chalmers one I haven’t discovered it. The name was changed to MP Foodmarket around 1963 and the business continued under that name until it closed around 1985. Since about 1986 Koputai Manufacturing Jewellers have occupied the ground floor.

The style of the architecture is Renaissance Revival. Originally, rusticated pilasters topped by corbels flanked the shopfront, with quoins above on the first floor. The composition was topped by a bracketed cornice, and a blind parapet with a modest pediment, small urns, and finials. The principal change to the outward appearance of the building has been the replastering of the facade in the 1950s. This involved the removal of original mouldings such as the cornice, quoins etc., and the filling in of the centre window on the first floor. Other changes included the addition of a suspended verandah, and the replacement of the shopfront. The side elevations are in a more original state, and the exposed breccia stonework is a delight – well worth searching out if you’re not familiar with it already. Just look for Mr Tiger.

Newspaper sources:
Otago Daily Times, 4 October 1875 p.3 (fire); Timaru Herald 11 August 1913 p.1, 17 July 1920 p.9 (MP Stores).

Other sources:
Stone’s, Wise’s, and telephone directories
Church, Ian. Some Early People and Ships of Port Chalmers. Dunedin: New Zealand Society of Genealogists, c.1990. pp.784-5.
Port Chalmers rates records (with thanks to Chris Scott, DCC Archives)
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)

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)

Thomas Bedford Cameron, architect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caversham Presbyterian Church (1882)

Caversham Presbyterian Church (1882)

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

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

Courtesy of Martina and Andrew Kelly.

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

A recent image of Ivanhoe.

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

Selected works:

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

*indicates buildings still standing

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

Other references:
Baré, Robert, City of Dunedin Block Plans (Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, [1889])
Jones, F. Oliver, Structural Plans of the City of Dunedin NZ, ‘Ignis et Aqua’ series, [1892]
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
‘Caversham Presbyterian Church, 61 Thorn Street, Dunedin’. New Zealand Historic Place Trust registration record (1996) retrieved 14 February 2014 from http://www.historic.org.nz/TheRegister/RegisterSearch/RegisterResults.aspx?RID=7319
Bauchop, Heather. ‘Empire Hotel, 396 Princes Street, Dunedin’. New Zealand Historic Place Trust registration record  (2012) retrieved 14 February 2014 from http://www.historic.org.nz/TheRegister/RegisterSearch/RegisterResults.aspx?RID=9548#
Entwisle, Peter. Draft report B133 (312-314 George Street), Dunedin City Council Heritage Schedule Review, 2013.
Entwisle, Peter. Draft report B404 (Moray Terrace), Dunedin City Council Heritage Schedule Review, 2012.
Knight, Hardwicke and Niel Wales. Buildings of Victorian Dunedin: An Illustrated Guide to New Zealand’s Victorian City  (Dunedin: McIndoe, 1988).
Trotter, Oive. Dunedin’s Crowning Glory: The Town Clock Tower (Dunedin: the author, 1994)

Prince of Wales Hotel

Built: 1876
Address: 474 Princes Street
Architect: David Ross (1828-1908)
Builders: Forrest & McGill

The Prince of Wales Hotel in 1864, photographed by Daniel Mundy. Lettering on the lamp reads ‘Free Concert Every Evening’. Image: Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum.

George Davis opened the original Prince of Wales Hotel, a two-storeyed timber building, in 1862. Davis had previously run the Spread Eagle Hotel in Melbourne and his new establishment had a bar parlour, dining room, two parlours, taproom, kitchen, sixteen bedrooms, and stabling for six horses. A concert room was at the rear, and the license allowed opening till ten o’clock. One concert in 1864 featured songs, glees, local sketches, and burlesques performed by Miss Annie Hall (billed as the Yorkshire Nightingale and dialect vocalist), J. Hull (Dunedin favourite and local composer), Mr Francis (talented vocalist), and E.F. Morris (inimitable comic vocalist and duettist).

The hotel was rebuilt in 1876 for Robert T. Waters and Catherine Ryan to the design of architect David Ross and re-opened on 18 October that year. The ground floor housed a billiard room, dining room, two bars, bar parlour, hall, and kitchen. On the first floor were another billiard room, two parlours, and three bedrooms. The second floor accommodated eleven rooms used as bedrooms and parlours. Outbuildings comprised sheds, kitchen, sculleries, and servants’ bed-rooms. The building contractors were Forrest & McGill, and the partner Robert Forrest would later design many hotels himself, including the Excelsior and the St Kilda.

The Prince of Wales has a bluestone basement and outer ground floor walls. Other walling is brick and the street front is cement plastered and decorated in the Italian Renaissance Revival style. The circular motifs, banded rustication, and to a lesser extent the rosettes, are recurring elements in Ross’s designs. Prince of Wales feathers in relief and a crown sculpture feature prominently on the parapet pediment. Other features include paired pilasters with Corinthian capitals, recessed panels, and finials (once removed, but later reinstated). The overall composition is slightly asymmetric, with the bay to the left of the centre being wider than the one to the right.

The hotel not long after it was rebuilt in 1876, and before the addition of fire escapes. Image: Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum, 26-32-1.

Advertisement following refurbishment in 1886. From Otago Witness, 19 November 1886 p.18 (Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand).

When the main trunk railway between Dunedin and Christchurch opened in 1878 a large transparency by the artist Thomas Nicholson was placed above the entrance of the hotel as part of the street decorations. This included a portrait of Sir Julius Vogel, who as Colonial Treasurer had initiated massive public works schemes through overseas borrowing. The words ‘Advance New Zealand’ appeared on either side of the portrait, with a locomotive and carriages beneath along with the inscription: ‘Success to the Iron Horse’. It was reported in the Oamaru Mail that a Member of Parliament who stayed at the hotel found the eyes of the portrait (illuminated by gaslight or sunlight outside) staring into his room. He said: ‘Oh, that the original only possessed half the transparency of the representation’.

Major refurbishments included one for Alfred Short in 1886 and another for William Haydon in 1895, when the hotel was described in a newspaper promotional piece as having cheerful and handsome interiors. The upper two floor contained bedrooms, sitting rooms (one for boarders and one for visitors), and two bathrooms (one on each floor). The street level arrangements were also described:

On the ground floor is the bar — well supplied with liquors of the most approved brands, the bar parlour, and, to the back, a well designed commercial room. Opposite to the bar is the cafe — a large apartment — furnished in the style signified by the name, and duly provided with newspapers, time tables, and other literature of a suitable sort. Behind is the dining room, a spacious hall, lighted from above, and where guests at choice may have their meals at a table d’hote, filling the centre of the room, or at small tables set around the walls. On the opposite side of the passage is a retired sitting room where business requiring isolation and quiet may be transacted.

The hotel has had its tragedies. In 1914 a young Scotsman named Hughie Stewart shot and killed himself in one of the upstairs bedrooms. His love for a barmaid at the Gridiron Hotel, on the opposite side of the street, had been unrequited. The woman refused to marry him because he was Presbyterian and she was Catholic. The note the man left quoted Tennyson: ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’. Not long after this came the horrors of the First World War. The publican’s son, James Andrews of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, died of wounds in France in 1916.

There were the usual minor assaults and other disturbances common to hotels, and of course plenty of happy and convivial times. One of the more curious incidents involved the poet James K. Baxter. In 1947 Baxter celebrated his twenty-first birthday by crawling into the Prince of Wales ‘on my hands and knees, dead sober, and barking at the ulcerous Scots barman. He heaved me out on the street. I had returned with a young policeman, whom I told that I had been refused a drink even though I was over age, and left them wrangling at the bar.’

Carnarvon Station, a railway-themed restaurant which included an authentic Victorian railway locomotive and carriages, opened in 1980. Although its entrance was from the old hotel, the restaurant proper was in an adjoining building. The restaurant closed in 1988 when it was gutted in a severe fire which also damaged the Prince of Wales building.

Michael Coughlin’s restaurant Bell Pepper Blues opened in 1992 and remained until 2010. Coughlin said that the name of the restaurant combined his interests in southeast American cooking and blues music (referencing Eric Clapton’s ‘Bell Bottom Blues’). Food writer and restaurant reviewer Charmian Smith described Bell Pepper Blues as Dunedin’s highest profile fine-dining restaurant. Coughlin is now chef of the Pier 24 restaurant at St Clair, and there is no bar or restaurant on the Prince of Wales site. A second-hand goods shop, Bob’s Place, opened in 2013. It still faces the street with one of Dunedin’ finest and most intact nineteenth century hotel facades.

To finish, the list below names licensees from 1862 to 1984 and is based on earlier compilations by R.W. Willett and Frank Tod. Adjustments have been made from references found in newspapers online (through the Papers Past website).

1862-1864: George Davis
1864-1866: Ellen Tully
1866-1867: Nicholas John Coneys
1867-1874: Henry C. Pike
1874-1876: James Cummings
1876-1882: Robert Thomas Waters (briefly with Catherine Ryan)
1882: William Eames
1882-1885: Bonifacio Zurbano (born in Spain)
1886: James Dillon
1886-1891: Alfred Short
1891-1892: William Robert Doyle
1892-1895: Patrick Fagan
1895-1898: William Henry Haydon
1898-1900: Archibald Shaw
1900-1903 Dugald McLeod
1903-1907: James McKewen
1907: Archibald Fraser
1907-1909: Alexander Gray
1909-1912: Alexander Stewart
1912-1913: Matthew Andrew Tubman
1913-1920: Henry Thomas Andrews
1920-1923. Ernest Cyril Branson
1924-1935: C. Hinchcliff
1935-1940: Janet Hinchcliff
1940-1944: Leslie Z. Griffin
1944-1945: E. Barraclough
1945-1947: S.A. Youngson
1947-1949: G.E. Warnock
1949: R.F.S. Brett
1949-1951: G. O’Connor
1951-1954: M.G. Kofoed
1954-1957: C. O’Connor
1957-1958: D. O’Connor
1958-1960: A.J. Tarleton
1960-1973: Bertie George
1974-1975: Fred Morgan and Gordon Johnstone
1976-1984: Carnarvon Hotel Ltd, Stewart Wilson manager

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 16 April 1862 p.3 (description of original hotel), 11 September 1863 p.8 (advertisement), 30 March 1864 p.6 (advertisement), 19 October 1876 p.3 (description), 7 September 1878 p.3 (decorations), 14 May 1914 p.8 (Hugh Stewart), 1 July 1988 p.1 (Carnarvon Station fire), 15 January 2010 (‘September swan song for Bell Pepper Blues’); Oamaru Mail, 20 September 1878 p.2 (Julius Vogel); New Zealand Tablet, 11 January 1895 p.19 (promotional piece); Star Weekender, 6 April 1980 p.28 (Carnarvon Station opening).

Other references:
Baré, Robert. City of Dunedin Block Plans (Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, [1889])
Jones, F. Oliver. Structural Plans of the City of Dunedin NZ (‘Ignis et Aqua’ series [1892])
McKay, Frank. The Life of James K. Baxter (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1990, p.98)
Tod, Frank. Pubs Galore: History of Dunedin Hotels 1848-1984 (Dunedin: Historical Publications, [1984])
‘Ocean Views’ in NZ Today, no.35 (Jul/Aug 2010) pp.64-65
Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters’ Associations of New Zealand, block plans, 1927
Stone’s, Wise’s and telephone directories

Louis Boldini, architect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lithograph depicting Braemar, Woodend. Image: private collection.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boldini's unmarked grave in Maldon Cemetery

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

Selected works:

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

*indicates buildings still standing

Primary references:

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

Secondary references:

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

Acknowledgments:

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