Tag Archives: 1900s

Dunedin Railway Station: its architect and style

Guest post by Michael Findlay

Built: 1904-1906
Address: 20 Anzac Avenue
Architect: George Troup
Design supervisor: John Coom
Building supervisor: F.W. Maclean (District Engineer)
Foreman of works: John Hall
Contractors: John Walker (masonry), Robert Caldow (carpentry), and others


Dunedin Railway Station c.1925. Reference: The Press Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/1-008316-G

I was recently asked to provide some background knowledge for a Japanese film production company that was intending to feature Dunedin’s railway station in a television series called Giants of Beauty (title loosely translated by the director). Curiosity piqued, I went to locate what I already knew had been written about the station and its architect George Alexander Troup and found surprisingly little that is new. Despite the fact that Troup’s crowning achievement is one of the nation’s most admired buildings, information about it was often repeated from a limited number of sources including a biography written by son Gordon in the 1960s. From this we know that Troup’s ‘nickname’ was Gingerbread George and that he was knighted after a lifetime of dedicated public service. Troup the man remains somewhat shrouded. The other question is why is the Railway Station described as a Flemish Renaissance building?

Some insights into what drove Troup can be found in his early years in Scotland. Gordon Troup recounts that George Troup senior was drowned in the Union Canal in Glasgow in 1874 when his son was aged 11. His death certificate reports that he was found dead in the Forth and Clyde Canal near the South Speirs Wharf, a short walk from where the Troups were living in Port Street. There is no evidence that Troup took his own life but newspapers of the day often carried reports of ‘well dressed men’ found dead in the city’s waterways. However it occurred, the sudden death of George Troup caused the family great distress. It is sad to note that his body was identified by Jane Troup, the eldest daughter. This background of reversal of fortunes is not uncommon in nineteenth century architecture and may have helped shape Troup’s keen sense of social justice and life long bonds to the Presbyterian church. It may also help explain his dedication to the welfare of disadvantaged boys as the Troup family’s relatively comfortable existence was ended abruptly at this point. All that lay ahead was struggle.

George needed an occupation and fortunately Troup’s father had been granted the status of burgess (a freeman of the city) in Aberdeen, allowing his son to study at high school. George boarded at Robert Gordon’s College, founded in 1750 and located in a fine Robert Adam-designed building in the centre of the city. Gordon (1688–1731), a successful merchant, set up the school in his will with his aim being to ‘found a Hospital for the Maintenance, Aliment, Entertainment and Education of young boys from the city whose parents were poor and destitute and not able to keep them in schools, and put them to trades and employment’. Robert Gordon’s College was something of a double-edged sword, offering a way ahead but also a reminder of the circumstances that brought Troup there. Architecture was often seen as a pathway for self-improvement, not as tied to class and privilege as other professions such as law and medicine. On leaving the college, Troup joined the Edinburgh engineer C.E. Calvert as an articled pupil in 1879 at the age of 16. This was an apprenticeship in the tradition of articled pupilage and the trainee was not expected to earn a wage while learning the routines of the profession. In most situations, parents paid to place their sons with an architect. Calvert is noted as being particularly busy in the late 1870s despite the failure of the City of Glasgow Bank and the general downturn of building in Scotland afterwards. Troup left Calvert and joined another Edinburgh architect, John Chesser, as an architectural apprentice. In 1881, Jane and five of her children were living in Edinburgh while George continued his articles. The office was not particularly busy over the two years that Troup spent there and the arrangement ceased following the death of his mother in 1883 from heart disease. George then followed three of his older sisters to New Zealand, working his passage on the freighter S.S. Fenstanton, soon to be wrecked in the Torres Straits. Fortunately, Troup had left the ship in Port Chalmers although the entire crew survived the sinking. Troup was twenty when he arrived in Dunedin. It is not hard to imagine that the younger members of the Troup family wished to place some distance between themselves and the troubles they had faced in Scotland.


George Troup in 1927. S.P. Andrew photographer. Reference: Alexander Turnbull Library 1/1-018930-F.

With four years training in architects’ offices, Troup was already considered qualified but opportunities in Otago were limited by the start of the long depression of the 1880s. Troup gained employment as a surveyor with the Survey Department, working initially with a gang at Ngapara and later in the Central Otago ranges. Using the connections made by his brother-in-law, George Burnett, Troup met with James Burnett, an engineer with the New Zealand Railways Department. Troup entered the Dunedin office in 1886 after studying at the Dunedin School of Mines to improve his engineering skills. He set up house in a modest cottage at 21 Leith Street, Dunedin, with his unmarried sister Christina. While living there Troup would have passed the future site of the Dunedin Railway Station while on his way to the Dunedin office, at that time located in the old Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics’ Institute building in Manse Street. Troup was transferred to the Wellington office in 1888, where at 25 he became Chief Draughtsman. He was later appointed to the role of Office and Designing Engineer, only becoming Officer-in-Charge of the Architectural Branch in 1919. His early work was clearly influenced by William Butterfield, as shown in a private commission for the Wellington Boys’ Institute in conjunction with William Crichton.

Troup was allowed considerable authority in Wellington and his first major building after carrying out timber stations at Oamaru and Whanganui was the new head office for the Railways Department, described as being Jacobean in style. Topped with exuberant Flemish gables and lanterns on the roofline, the building stood out from its more reserved neighbours and asserted the profile of the Railways Department amongst the other government offices housed in the capital. Gordon Troup wrote that the ‘Gingerbread George’ epithet arose at this time (1901-1903) and was associated with the rich design of the Wellington building, not specifically the Dunedin station. ‘Gingerbread architecture’ had quite a specific meaning. It was a way of referring to the North American taste for ornate sawn timber decoration of German and Swiss origin that had reached something of a peak during the fashion for Charles Eastlake’s houses. In America these filled the same niche as the Queen Anne style elsewhere. Eastlake himself decried the use of such decoration as a ‘bizarre burlesque’ so it was hardly meant in a complimentary way.  I somehow doubt that anyone ever used this ‘nickname’ to Troup’s face.

Troup is supposed to have entered two sets of drawings in what was described as a competition for the Dunedin Railway Station in 1903, one in Scots Baronial and the other in Baroque style. No evidence exists that any other architects competed for this prestigious work so we do not know what the other proposals were like. The competition may be seen as an effort to avoid accusations of favouritism by the Railways Department, its ministry headed at the time by Joseph Ward (1856-1930), a noted supporter of South Island interests. Ward followed Richard Seddon as Prime Minister in 1906 and was able to open the station in his new role when it was completed.


Is this the version of the station that Troup preferred? The Gothic details now seem unconvincing compared to the Flemish Renaissance scheme that was finally built. Reference: Alexander Turnbull Library B-064-007.


Sir Joseph Ward laying the foundation stone of the station on 3 June 1904. Photograph by William Williams.
Ref: Alexander Turnbull Library 1/2-140194-G.

The Baroque variant, initially proposed in red brick, was selected and featured an asymmetrical composition with unequal height towers at both ends of long bays. A porte-cochere occupied the central section under a tall triangular pediment. Troup’s son Gordon in his biography suggests that the Scots Baronial or ‘Francois I’ style alternative was favoured by Troup himself. The reference to King Francis of France I refers to the Château de Chambord and the hunting lodges of the French Renaissance and implies a French Renaissance chateau style design.  This description may involve a misattribution as the only two drawings known to exist show stations of similar proportions and layout. One was in a Tuscan Gothic style and not at all like a Scots Baronial or French Renaissance design. The awkward peaked roof that replaced the expected campanile above the square clock tower showed Troup’s hesitancy about going the whole way towards Italian Gothic Revival. The final result suggests he was on safer ground with his alternative Flemish scheme.

So what was Troup intending by using such an exotic manner on what was to be the Government’s flagship building in Dunedin? Like many of his generation, Troup’s architectural taste was influenced by English seventeenth-century Baroque architecture, at that time being reevaluated positively by critics. Being an admirer of John Vanbrugh (1664–1726) stood both for loyalty to the British Empire and a more adventurous spirit that ranged further abroad for influence. Vanbrugh was of Flemish descent and part of an Anglo-Dutch network of Protestant reformists. He introduced the Baroque manner to England with Blenheim Palace (1705–1722) and Castle Howard (1699-1709). Troup also used ideas from Scottish architect James Gibbs (1682–1754) whose distinctive rusticated openings, known as the ‘Gibbs surround’, appear throughout the Dunedin station composition. As with Gibb (who was quietly Catholic), Troup was not strongly Anglophile and remained attached to the eclectic design principles that he applied with great character to his major buildings in Wellington and Dunedin. These models suggest that Troup was not completely convinced by the alternative ‘Wren-aissance’ direction that took a more academic approach to Neo-Renaissance architecture in the late nineteenth century. This involved close attention to the buildings of Christopher Wren (1632–1723), leading architecture towards a simplified and rational classicism.

The design of the Wellington office was broadly symmetrical in its massing, a treatment that suited its urban setting on Featherston Street. The irregular siting of the Dunedin station aligned to the railway line rather than the street grid itself suggests an opportunity for a building to be seen in the round and that allowed for more formal experimentation.  The definition of the Dunedin station design as Flemish Renaissance comes from Troup himself. Architects assisted journalists with these precise terms that went beyond the knowledge of an observer to deliver with any authority. Was Troup familiar with the Flanders area and its building styles? His other passion for breeding Friesian cattle suggests a connection, as does his support for the Dutch/New Zealand painter Petrus Van der Velden (1837–1913). Troup funded the purchase of nineteen of the Netherlander’s paintings for The New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts in 1922. Anglo-Dutch style was popular in late nineteenth-century Britain, particularly in the London suburb of Kensington. Architects such as Richard Norman Shaw and Ernest George popularised tall red brick houses with elaborately shaped gables at the roofline and the style became known as Pont Street Dutch. Something similar was used at Olveston by Sir Ernest George who had introduced the style in London twenty years earlier. Troup’s reasons for using this particular architectural expression remain obscure but seem to be determined by personal choice rather than some random throwing together of architectural elements. Troup was striving after a distinctive local language for railways buildings in order to set them apart in the rapidly maturing streetscape.


Petrus van der Velden. Burial in the Winter on the Island of Marken (The Dutch Funeral) 1875. Reference: Wikimedia Commons.

Revivals of past styles always involve a complex relationship with history. Flemish Renaissance Revival architecture itself began in Belgium during the later part of the nineteenth century. Belgium as a nation had only existed since the 1830s, absorbing part of Flanders and French speaking Wallonia. The search for a national style of architecture to express the rich cultural history of the region focussed on the successful trading cities of the Lowlands. Brussels as its major city was essentially rebuilt along French lines in the mid nineteenth century as the new commercial and political hub of the Belgian nation. In order that it did not appear as a clone of Baron Haussmann’s Paris, a form of local revivalism was used in preference to French Renaissance.


Émile Janlet. Rue des Nations la Belgique, Exposition Universelle 1878. Ernest Ziégler photographer. Reference: Early New Zealand Photographers

Flemish Revival architecture was shown off to the world at the Paris World Exhibition (1878) where the Belgian Pavilion designed by Emile Janlet gained favourable attention. Details of its facade relate closely to George Troup’s station and it is likely that Janlet’s pavilion was published in sources that Troup would have had access to. Albums of photographs of the pavilions were in circulation in New Zealand and have been reproduced in the excellent blog Early New Zealand Photographers and their Successors.  The main characteristic of Flemish Renaissance Revival architecture is the gable which took on a distinctive profile formed with curves and straight line sections. Tall square and octagonal towers offset from the centre of the compositions are also notable. Use was made of polychromatic contrasts of red brick and pale stone. Although a busy composition, Troup’s design pared Janlet’s decoration back to a smaller number of repeated elements able to be assembled from a regular set of parts for economy. Troup, for instance, used standard double hung sashes instead of the transomed multi-section windows used in the Belgian pavilion and elsewhere. There was also the example of the new city stations being built in Amsterdam and Amstel, carried out in a simplified red brick style that blended Gothic and northern Renaissance styles.

The visual height of these buildings was offset by strong horizontal banding. When red brick was combined with pale stone or plaster facings the effect was cheekily called ‘streaky bacon’ and can be seen in John Campbell’s police station and prison (1898) that faces the station across Anzac Square. This visual contrast of materials was accentuated in the railway station by the use of dark basalt stone and Oamaru limestone. Troup’s original brick proposal was closer to its Belgian and Dutch prototypes than the version that was finally built. Stone, particularly when extracted from the railways owned quarry at Kokonga, proved to be a cheaper building material than brick and gave an even more substantial appearance. Troup’s clever economies included using day labour to cut and finish the stone on site. This was then lifted into place by a mobile crane, enabling the building to rise very quickly. Rather than being anachronistic, Flemish Renaissance Revival architecture represented the freedom to experiment with a variety of materials and architectural types as well as signifying a progressive and technological approach.

Troup wanted to place his stamp in Dunedin with its most significant public building of the new century. While it was complementary to Campbell’s Norman Shaw-influenced prison and Gothic Revival law courts just across the road, it was also distinctively different to both, adding a liveliness to the new Government quarter of the city. Dunedin was particularly fortunate to benefit from the creative competition between Troup and Campbell and the interplay between the individual buildings in this key precinct should be the topic for another blog entry. This aspect of generosity and pleasure, if not frivolity, seems a better fit for Troup’s character than the overused sobriquet of ‘Gingerbread George’. We should really stop calling him that.

‘1874 Troup, George’. Statutory registers Deaths 644/7 64.
Berry, Mary Helen. ‘Sir George Troup and the Dunedin Railway Station, 1903-1907: Edwardian Elegance or a Dilemma of Style’. BA (Hons) thesis, Department of History and Art History, University of Otago, 2005.
Irvine, Susan.’ Dunedin Prison (Former)’. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 6 January 2018 from http://www.heritage.org.nz/the-list/details/4035.
Troup, Gordon. George Troup: Architect and Engineer (Palmerston North: Dunmore Press, 1982).
Van Santvoort, Linda. ‘Brussels Architecture in the Last Quarter of the 19th Century – the Search for National Identity Linked to the Desire of Architectural Innovation’. Ghent University Department of Art History.  Retrieved 6 January 2018 from http://www.artnouveau-net.eu/portals/0/data/PROCEEDINGS_DOWNLOAD/LJUBLJANA/LindaVSljubljana.pdf 
Whiffen, Marcus. American Architecture since 1780: A Guide to the Styles (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press: 1992).
Session Cases: Cases Decided in the Court of Session and Also in the Court of Justiciary and House of Lords. Volume 4, Scottish Council of Law Reporting, 1842. p.172

Silverwood Terrace

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Allan Grange

Guest post by Michael Findlay

Built: 1899-1900
Address: Glenelg Street, Bradford
Architects: Not identified
Builders: Jensen Patent Construction Co. Ltd


‘Hiding in plain sight’ is a phrase often used in architectural heritage where the actual significance of a building or place is not revealed by its surface appearance. So it is with Allan Grange, a villa in the suburb of Bradford in Dunedin’s Kaikorai Valley. This two-storey house stands in Glenelg Street, still surrounded by a woodland garden. It is now thought to be the first house constructed of hollow cement block in New Zealand and a close contemporary of the first houses of their type in North America. How it happened is still a bit of a puzzle.

The owner of Allan Grange, Thomas Mackenzie (1853–1930) was an important national figure, representing Clutha in parliament from 1887. He was dispatched to London by the Government as trade commissioner in 1889 and played a major role in promoting local exports, particularly frozen lamb, wool and grain. He returned to Dunedin in 1899 and stood for election in the Waihemo electorate, becoming Minister of Agriculture in 1900 and also Minister of Tourism and Postmaster General. He was Prime Minister briefly in 1912 after the resignation of Sir Joseph Ward, when he returned to London to reprise his earlier role as New Zealand High Commissioner. Somehow Mackenzie also found time for the mayoralty of Roslyn between 1901 and 1905. The history presented to the recent purchasers of the house was that it was built in 1872 and made from Portland stone concrete blocks imported as ships’ ballast, showing how stories around houses often contain facts and speculation mixed together.


Sir Thomas Mackenzie and Peter Henry Buck, in France, during World War I. Ref: Alexander Turnbull Library 1/2-037933-F.

Between his numerous commercial and political activities, Mackenzie developed his seven-acre estate in Kaikorai Valley. Council details are scant but in 1899 he likely engaged the Jensen Patent Construction Company to build a house on the property. The business was set up late in 1898 to exploit patents for Monier construction, a technology pioneered in France for wire reinforced concrete. Its founder was a Danish engineer named Vilhelm Alfred Langevad (or Langevod) who held the patents for ‘Improved Monier System of Construction by Emanuel Jansen’ covering cement products in his home country. Local patent applications were lodged in Wellington in 1899 for constructing floors and manufacturing concrete pipes under the title of ‘E. Jensen’. While in Wellington Langevad made contact with Milburn Lime and Cement Company manager Frank Oakden who had recently returned from a business trip to England and Northern Europe. While overseas, Oakden had purchased new equipment for the Dunedin plant and the patent rights to ‘Silica Portland Cement’ developed by Danish cement chemists and then coming into wide use in Europe and North America.

The manufacture of Portland cement was crucial to the New Zealand economy in the 1890s and a number of competing companies sought to dominate the local trade. During the 1890s, with a view to taking as much as it could of the Australasian market, Milburn invested heavily in new equipment. The company was the first in New Zealand to introduce modern rotary kilns and tube grinding mills to produce Portland cement it warranted was superior to all imported brands. Its products were widely promoted to architects and civil engineers keen to exploit the properties of steel reinforced concrete construction.

In the Milburn company minutes for 1898 it was reported that ‘After conferring with Mr Langevod (sic) we agreed to float a separate company, The Milburn Company taking in hand the formation and if our shareholders support it, subsequently retaining the control to that end the prospectus is prepared…I am well satisfied with Mr Langevod’s ability to manage the concern and have no doubt it will be successful if floated.’ Investors included J.M. Ritchie of the National Mortgage & Agency Co., Dr T.M. Hocken, Bendix Hallenstein and Frank Oakden himself. Oakden had earlier advised the Milburn board that ‘I think it advisable to prevent others so far as possible from becoming interested in the Cement trade. Monier Construction might be the first step to opposition’. The arrangement was beneficial to both parties. The Milburn company could promote its new silica portland cement through built projects while Langevad could operate a modern factory to produce his precast products. The hands off arrangement enabled Milburn to enhance its reputation if the ventures were successful or make a quick exit if not. The Jensen Patent Construction Company was granted a year-long lease on a piece of land next to the Milburn plant in 1899 and set up its new factory with funds from the share float. Backed up by £10,000 in shares, it began seeking construction projects. Few tenders for buildings specifically mentioned concrete and it appears that the Jensen company answered those for masonry structures and used their cast hollow blocks instead of more usual brick or poured solid concrete.


The Milburn Lime and Cement works at the bottom of Frederick Street prior to reclamation of Pelichet Bay. Detail from W.J. Prictor plan. Ref: Alexander Turnbull Library MapColl 834.5292ap 1898.

The precise source of the block moulding system used by Langevad remains obscure but it is not likely to have been part of the raft of patents secured by Harmon S. Palmer of Chattanooga in 1899 and usually given as ‘the start of modern concrete blocks’. There was a boom in this manufacturing method after 1900 and numerous hollow concrete block makers flooded the international market after 1906. The block module used for Allan Grange measures 6 X 9 X 18 inches which suggests an American rather than European origin for the moulds, although Nigeria is one of the only places in the world where blocks of these dimensions are used today. It took until 1924 for the 8 X 8 X 16 block to become standardised and until then numerous variations were tried. A fellow Dane, Niels Nielson, sought to make hollow blocks in Wellington using a Palmer machine under the title Wellington Hollow Concrete Building Block Company. Nielson built a warehouse and a group of houses at Lyall Bay in 1904, reckoned by Nigel Isaacs to be the earliest in New Zealand. This places Allan Grange in an intriguing position, some way ahead of the boom that launched hundreds of competing patent systems in the first decade of the twentieth century.


Hercules Concrete Block Machine catalogue, Rochester, New York, 1907. A typical promotional sheet for one of the great number of North American manufacturers that came into existence after 1900.

One of the main issues with new construction technology is confidence that the system will not fail in use. Local papers were full of bullish promotion of new cement systems including MIlburn with its Silica Portland Cement. Despite opening the plant up for viewing by local architects and engineers and undertaking comprehensive tests of the products, uptake of the new system was modest, at least in terms of the size of Milburn’s expenses on the patents and the re-equipping of their cement works. It was hard going for the Jensen Patent Construction Company as well. It was reported in 1899 that the company was working on a row of shops on the old Queen’s Theatre site in Princes Street and a studio for the artist James Elder Moultray on Frederick Street, near where the Queen Mary Maternity Hospital was later built. The description of the process is mirrored in the construction of Mackenzie’s house and it is likely that Allan Grange was built immediately after Lorie’s store and Moultray’s studio. Mackenzie took up residence at Allan Grange early in 1900, using the address on his voluminous correspondence from March that year.


Allan Grange in 2017.Michael Findlay photo.

Allan Grange was a two-storey gentleman’s farmhouse. It was relatively conventional in appearance with a pair of symmetrical bay windows with a terrace and a recessed sun porch in the centre above. A single-storey wing extended to the rear and the style was simplified Italian. Recent close inspection of the walls showed an unconventional block shape with tuck pointed joints and free blocks used around the contemporary garden as edging clearly showed their hollow form. This did not tally with the supposed construction date of the house of 1872 when hollow block construction was hardly known in the wider world, much less New Zealand. Even so, a construction date of 1899 pushes the house to the front of international developments. The first concrete block houses in America were constructed using related technologies, possibly as early as 1885. Amongst the earliest uses of hollow cement block is a group of seven houses built in that year by the Union Stone and Building Company in Minneapolis. These, as well as an eleven-unit terrace, remain as examples of the very early use of concrete block in North America. Nigel Isaacs notes that a group of houses constructed in 1897 marked a turning point in the technology, observing that ‘It was not until Harmon S. Palmer had experimented for ten years, including building six houses in Chicago in 1897, that he brought together manufacturing and design concepts that led to the creation of the modern hollow concrete block’.

The designer of Allan Grange remains a mystery. Unlike Jensen’s other documented projects no similar newspaper coverage appeared for the construction. A single tender can be found for an architect-designed house in Kaikorai between 1899 and 1900, issued by James Hislop in January 1899. Mackenzie had not returned to Dunedin then so it is unlikely to be for Allan Grange. When James Burnside issued his tender notice for Moultray’s studio it was for a ‘studio in brick’ so it is still possible that a tender was issued for a ‘house in brick’ and it remains to be found. It is possible that an architect was not needed. Vilhelm Langevad was a qualified civil engineer and was clearly able to design and manage civil and industrial projects so a house is certainly within his powers. Mackenzie had previously been a surveyor and equally capable of drawing the house for the Jensen Patent Construction Company to build. The planning and aesthetics do not greatly reflect contemporary architectural thinking so either of these scenarios could explain both the idiosyncratic design and the lack of any tender information in the local newspapers.

This hiatus leaves a number of unanswered questions about how Allan Grange came to be built. It is an assumption that the Jensen Patent Construction Company supplied the blocks but all available evidence points to this conclusion. The lack of any documentation for the project can be put down to the voluntary liquidation of the Jensen Company in 1902 and the Milburn Lime and Cement Company quickly moving on to other forms of hollow block technology. A complex court action over a bridge construction tender possibly hastened their downfall but it is more likely that the company simply failed to make money and its investors wanted out. This was typical in the hard driving cement industry where commercial survival involved both intensive investment in plant and swift U-turns if things did not go well. The closure of the company did not end Langevad’s involvement with Dunedin. He joined the City Council as assistant engineer and later worked as a building inspector. He relocated to New South Wales and managed the design and construction of major cement works in Kandos under the supervision of Frank Oakden. Thomas Evans bought the Jensen equipment and production of Monier concrete pipes began again in Masterton in 1904 under the Cement Pipe Company. The long survival of Allan Grange, a few cracks notwithstanding, points towards the Jensen Patent Construction Company’s early efforts to pioneer hollow concrete block construction in New Zealand and operate at the very edge of this technology in the world.

Note: One of the jewels in the Hocken Pictures Collection is ‘Portrait of Vivien Oakden’ c.1898 by Grace Joel. Also noteworthy is Alfred Cook’s beautiful 1924 watercolour of Lake Logan showing the cement works, held at Toitū Otago Settlers Museum.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times 14 February 1930 (obituary), 8 June 1899 (Otago Agricultural and Pastoral Society),18 September 1889, 25 September 1897 (Milburn Lime and Cement Company Ltd); Chronicle (Adelaide) 3 October 1940 (Mr V.A. Langevad); Evening Star 2 April 1898 (Otago Jubilee Industrial Exhibition); Otago Witness 21 February 1912 p.41 (advertisements), 28 December 1899 (City Improvements).

Other references:
Hall, James P. The Early Developmental History of Concrete Block in America. Masters Thesis, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, 2009.
Isaacs, Nigel. Making the New Zealand House 1792-1982. PhD, Victoria University, 2015
Notes on the Manufacture, Testing, Uses, etc. of Portland Cement. Milburn Lime and Cement Company 1895.
H-10 Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks. Tenth Annual Report of the Registrar. Untitled, 1 January 1899 (Hughes, W.E., Wellington NZ. Constructing Floors (E. Jensen) 11156 14 November 1898, Hughes, W.E., Wellington NZ. Manufacturing Concrete Pipes (E. Jensen) 1116315 November 1898.
Lesley, Robert Whitman, John Baptiste Lober and George S. Bartlett. History of the Portland Cement Industry in the United States. Chicago: International Trade Press, 1924.
Fleming, B.A. Kandos and Rylstone History part 1. Mudgee District History, www.mudgeehistory.com.au/rylstone_kandos/rylstone_kandos1.html
The Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Taranaki, Hawkes Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts
Jensen Patent Construction Company files, Archives New Zealand R1930690.
Milburn Lime and Cement Company Limited: Records. Hocken Collections AG-158.

Emily Siedeberg’s house

Built: 1903
Address: 75 York Place
Architect: James Louis Salmond (1868-1950)
Builder: Stephen Samuel Aburn (1869-1947)


Emily Siedeberg outside her York Place home, in her yellow Clement-Bayard motor car. Image reproduced by kind permission of Steve Clifford.

New Zealand’s first woman medical graduate, Emily Hancock Siedeberg, lived in lower York Place for much of her life. Her handsome residence at number 59 (since renumbered 75) was built in 1903, five years after she went into private practice in Dunedin. Her family connection with the land dated back nearly as far as her birth.

Emily’s father, Franz David Siedeberg, was a Jewish settler from Memel, Prussia (now Klaipėda, Lithuania) and had been a pioneer in the Otago gold dredging industry in the 1860s. He married his second wife, Irish-born Anna Thompson, in 1867, and Emily was born in Clyde on 17 February 1873. She grew up as the second eldest of four children and later remembered a happy childhood with never a cross word between her parents.

Six months after Emily’s birth her family moved to Dunedin, where Franz worked as a builder.  His larger contracts included the construction of the Royal Exchange Hotel (later Standard Insurance building), Albany Street School, and stone abutments for the Jetty Street overbridge. From 1875 the Siedebergs lived in York Place, on a block of land where Franz built four houses. He later acquired adjoining property and built a two-storey wooden house.

Emily was educated at the Normal School (Moray Place) and Otago Girls’ High School, and studied medicine at the University of Otago from 1891 to 1895, graduating in 1896. She furthered her studies in Dublin and Berlin, before returning to Dunedin at the end of 1897. Early the following year she set up practice in one of her father’s York Place houses, in which he had arranged modest consulting and waiting rooms. Emily’s sister, Isabella, was housekeeper and looked after social engagements, and there was also a young maid. At first a horse trap and driver were hired as required, and later Dr Siedeberg had her own gig and employed a lad to drive it.

Franz died suddenly in September 1902, and six months later Dr Siedeberg visited architect James Louis Salmond to commission designs for a new house in front of the old family home. Salmond’s diary records his work on plans at the end of March 1903. He estimated the cost would be over £1500, and Siedeberg requested changes to get the cost under £1200 as the building was financed with a loan. The final drawings were ready in May, and at the end of that month the building contract was awarded to S.S. Aburn, who put in a tender of £1065. Aburn must have considered the job a good example of his work, as one of his advertisements showed his staff posed outside the building.


Advertisement for builder S.S. Aburn from Stone’s Otago & Southland Directory, 1905. Image courtesy of McNab New Zealand Collection, Dunedin Public Libraries.

The house is in the style known as Queen Anne (confusingly, as the revived elements are not specific to the reign of Anne). The bay windows, elaborately decorated gable, and exposed red brick are typical of Salmond, and originally the house also featured his signature chimney stacks. The roof was slate. It is interesting to compare the York Place house with one of Salmond’s timber designs, at 12 Pitt Street.

A photograph taken in the 1910s shows the original exterior appearance, as well as Dr Siedeberg herself in her yellow Clément-Bayard motor car. She was one of the first women in Dunedin to own a car, and was once prosecuted for driving it at faster than a walking pace (a charge she successfully defended). She continued to drive until she was well into her eighties.

On the upper floor of the house were a drawing room and four bedrooms, necessary as Dr Siedeberg’s mother, sister, and younger brother all lived with her. Mrs Siedeberg was resident for twenty years and died in the house in 1923. Isabella, an accomplished artist who had studied at the Dunedin School of Art, stayed until the 1920s, when she moved to Auckland. Harry, the youngest of the family, lived in the house until his marriage in 1911, when he moved to the old family home next door. He was an insurance agent and successful sportsman, who played cricket for New Zealand and was four times national billiards champion. He was also an Otago hockey and football representative.  The older brother, Frank, was New Zealand chess champion and later worked as an engineer in Germany and England.


Emily Siedeberg in graduation dress (Cyclopedia of New Zealand)


Dr Siedeberg-McKinnon in the 1950s (Otago Pioneer Women’s Memorial Association)

An entrance at the side of the house (since closed up) led to Dr Siedeberg’s waiting room, and across the hall was the consulting room, which faced the street. This arrangement kept the front door and hall clear for visitors making use of the corner sitting room where, if it was not time for tea, sherry and biscuits were the favoured refreshments.  Other downstairs rooms were a large dining room, a dressing room, a bedroom for the maid or maids, and a kitchen with adjoining pantry and scullery.

Dr Siedeberg’s niece, Emily Host, left some personal insights into life in the house, although it is not possible to fully verify them. She recalled a large tin bath in the scullery, high off the floor, and most of the time with a thick slab of wood across it for use as a bench. Dr Siedeberg was adamant the maids must take a bath every Saturday, although at least one objected to so much washing and bathing.

This was Elsie, whom Host described as a ‘blowsy blonde’ much addicted to boyfriends. On one occasion a noise was heard and Emily and Isabella came downstairs in gowns and long plaits to find one of these boyfriends climbing out of Elsie’s bedroom window. Afterwards the window was nailed up so that it could only be opened about two inches at the top.

Siedeberg wrote that in early days maids who white aprons and caps and said ‘Yes Miss’ or ‘No Ma’am’ when spoken to. Later they refused to where aprons or caps and became ‘very offhand in answering’.

Host described her aunt as someone who acted and thought according to Victorian principles. She had a sweet, dignified nature, and was very understanding of the human failings of those who were nasty to her.  She shocked her family and a large proportion of Dunedin by not taking a ‘proper’ view of ‘fallen women’, whom she often took into her home and helped.

Dr Siedeberg was Medical Superintendent of St Helen’s Maternity Hospital (the first in New Zealand to have an antenatal clinic), Medical Officer of the Caversham Industrial School, and anaesthetist at the Dental School. She was also an advocate of controversial theories of eugenics. The many organisations she played a leading role in included the New Zealand Society for the Protection of Women, the New Zealand Medical Women’s Association, the National Council of Women, and the Otago Pioneer Women’s Memorial Association. She was awarded a CBE in 1949.

Emily Siedeberg married in Los Angeles during an overseas trip in 1928, at the age of 55. Her husband, James Alexander McKinnon, was the retired manager of the Mosgiel Branch of the National Bank, and Emily became known as Dr Siedeberg-McKinnon. A new house for the couple was built in Cairnhill Street around 1929, and they moved again to Cargill Street around 1938. The second move was, according to Emily Host, so a frailer Mr McKinnon could be nearer to the bowling green.

The York Place house remained in family ownership with rooms rented to various tenants, including Mrs Elizabeth Tweedy who lived there for over twenty-five years. James McKinnon died in 1949 and Emily moved back to her old home around 1954, remaining there into the 1960s. She spent her last few years at the Presbyterian Social Service Association home in Oamaru, where she died on 13 June 1968 at the age of 95.


75 York Place in 2016

In 1969 the house was much altered internally for use by the Otago Polytechnic for its School of Architecture and Building, and it was later used by the School of Art (to 1983) and the School of Nursing (1983-1987). In its more recent history the building has again become a place of medical practice, being the premises of the Dr Safari Appearance Medicine Clinic. Dr Soheila Safari is, in common with Emily Siedeberg, a graduate of the University of Otago, and has also worked as a general practitioner. She established her clinic in 2006 and has been based in York Place since 2008, offering a wide range of cosmetic treatments. Studio rooms are found on the first floor, still accessed by the same beautiful grand staircase built in 1903.

Newspaper references:
Otago Witness, 17 September 1902 p.22 (obituary for F.D. Siedeberg), 23 November 1904 p.62 (F.V. Siedeberg); Otago Daily Times, 10 February 1898 p.2 (new practice in York Place), 4 July 1914 p.5 (motor car).

Other references:
Stone’s, Wise’s, and telephone directories
Electoral rolls
Deeds indexes and registers. Archives New Zealand, Dunedin Regional Office.
Births, Deaths & Marriages online, https://www.bdmhistoricalrecords.dia.govt.nz/Home/
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, vol.4, Otago and Southland Provincial Districts. (Christchurch: The Cyclopedia Company, 1905).
Host, Emily Olga. ‘Emily Siedeberg McKinnon’ (‘Notes made by Mrs Host when visiting the Hocken Library in 1966’). Hocken Collections, Bliss L9 McK H.
McKinnon, Emily H. and Irene L. Starr. Otago Pioneer Women’s Memorial. (Dunedin: Otago Daily Times, 1959).
Sargison, Patricia A. ‘Siedeberg, Emily Hancock’, from the Dictionary of New Zealand. Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, retrieved 25 July 2016 from www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/3s16/siedeberg-emily-hancock
Work diary of James Louis Salmond in Salmond Anderson Architects records. Hocken Collections MS-4111/004.

Special thanks to Dr Soheila Safari and Tina Catlow of Dr Safari Appearance Medicine Clinic.

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.

Matilda Ritchie’s building

Built: 1899-1900
Address: 10 George Street, Port Chalmers
Architect: James Louis Salmond
Builder: Not identified

Photograph by D.A. De Maus showing the arrival in Port Chalmers of the Auckland men, Fourth Contingent, prior to their embarkation for South Africa on 24 March 1900 (Second Boer War). Ref: Port Chalmers Museum.

I love the tall, narrow proportions of this building – accentuated rather than softened by the composition of the facade. It could be seen as a bit fussy, but I find it totally charming and I’m sure it’s a favourite with many others, not least the regulars of the Port Royale Cafe.

In the 1870s the site was occupied by one of a pair of modest two-storey timber commercial structures owned by Matilda Ritchie (1832-1918). She had arrived in Port Chalmers on the Jura in 1858, with her husband Archibald James Ritchie. Mr Ritchie died in 1870 and Matilda became a prominent landowner and businesswoman in her own right. She was described as one of Port’s philanthropists, and ‘very good to people in need’.

Detail from a mid-1870s Burton Brothers photograph showing the site of the present structure. The building on the site has a sign reading ‘Shipping & Family Butcher’. To its left is a matching building with the sign ‘Bread & Biscuit Baker’). Note that most of the buildings are of timber construction. Ref: Te Papa C.011806.

In October 1899, architect James Louis Salmond called for tenders for the ‘erection of a shop and dwelling in George street, Port Chalmers (Brick)’. In the same issue he placed a notice advertising the sale ‘for removal of a two-storeyed wooden building in George Street, Port Chalmers […] Tenders may also be lodged with Mrs Ritchie, Port Chalmers’. A photograph dated March 1900 shows the building in a near complete state, but still with hoardings up and without its shop front.

Detail from the D.A. DeMaus photograph, March 1900. Note that hoardings are still up and the shop front is yet to be completed. The image shows parapet and roof details since removed.

The style of architecture is Renaissance Revival or Victorian Italianate. Originally the roof had an observation platform surrounded by iron railings. This would have provided excellent views of harbour movements, and for the same reason a similar platform was on the roof of the Port Chalmers Hotel. The facade was richly decorated, including plain pilasters with impressive Corinthian capitals on the second floor, and fluted Ionic pilasters on the first floor. The latter referenced the neighbouring building at no.6 (designed by David Ross in 1881), as did a repeated circular motif used on the parapet balustrade, with both showing a sensitivity to context on the part of the architect. The parapet ornamentation is lost but the decoration below survives, including a fine dentil cornice with modillions, and consoles in the second-floor window surrounds. The roof was renewed in 1969 and there are no longer railings in place.

The first tenant of the shop was the watchmaker and jeweller Albert Edward Geddes, who remained until about 1905. Another jeweller, Alfred Isaac Peters, was there c.1915-1930. Among the businesses that followed were cake shops (1950s-1960s), a takeaway bar (1970s), and an office of the law firm Downie Stewart & Co. (1980s). In the 1990s it was occupied by Aero Club Gallery, and it has been the Port Royale Cafe since 1998.

Otago Daily Times, 3 October 1899 p.1 (calls for tenders)
Church, Ian. Port Chalmers Early People, p.684.
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories
Dunedin City Council rates records (with thank to Chris Scott)
Dunedin City Council permit records (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)


J.W. Swift & Co. building

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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