Tag Archives: 1930s

Eldon Chambers

Built: 1866, remodelled 1939
Address: 192 Princes Street
Architects: R.A. Lawson (1866), Clere, Clere & Hill (1939)
Builders: Not identified (1866), W. McLellan Ltd (1939)

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A bright red facade in Princes Street invites the attention of passers-by, but few would guess that behind this 1930s front is a 150-year-old building.

Its story begins with John Switzer. Born in Winchester, Hampshire, in 1830, Switzer was the son of a bootmaker. He followed his father’s trade and after a period in Australia arrived in Dunedin with his wife and infant daughter in September 1857. Within two months he established a boot and shoe warehouse, later named Cookham House after the ‘Cookham’ hobnail boots imported from England. There was a similarly named business in Christchurch, owned by George Gould.  Switzer sold his business in 1863, not long before opening a new Cookham Store in Rattray Street.

M07456 - John William Switzer, 1890

John Switzer. Ref: City of Victoria Archives, Canada, M00235.

Switzer was a director of the Dunedin Gas Light & Coke Co. and his many other business ventures included Hyde Home Station in Southland. He only owned the property for a year, but the gold rush township afterwards established there was called Switzers after him. It later became known by its present name, Waikaia. John’s wife Harriet introduced European birds to Otago, including starlings, blackbirds, and thrushes. The Switzers owned a small farm, Grand View, in Opoho.

In 1864 Switzer was a shareholder of the new Dunedin Boot and Shoe Company. He became the manager of its outlet opened under the familiar Cookham House name, on what is now part of the Southern Cross Hotel site on Princes Street. At the end of 1865 the company decided to move a block north, to the address that has since become 192 Princes Street. The building then on the site was occupied by the auctioneers G.W. Moss & Co., with offices above known as Princes Street Chambers. It was only a few years old, but being wooden it belonged to a preceding era and was already out of date.

eldon_toitu_1864

An 1864 photograph of Princes Street. The building on the right of  the lower one with the dormers was on the site of the present 192 Princes Street. Ref: Collection of Toitu Otago Settlers Museum.

Architect R.A. Lawson called for tenders for a new building in December 1865. This was early in Lawson’s career. The design for First Church that had brought him to Dunedin was yet to be built, but he was well-established after three years living and working here. His design for the Boot Company was brick, with a bluestone basement and an Oamaru stone front. The Otago Daily Times promised it would be a ‘handsome structure’. It was representative of a new class of building in Dunedin, as the wealth brought by the gold rush began to be reflected in the buildings of the new city.

Photographs show an elaborately ornamented Gothic Revival facade. First-floor decoration included clustered pilasters with Corinthian capitals, grapes and floral decoration, and a carved head in the keystone above the central window. A verandah was built, but despite being approved by the Building Surveyor it fell foul of building ordinances and the City Council would not allow it. It seems the verandah was removed, as it does not appear in a photograph taken in the 1870s.

eldon_hocken_1923

J. Wilkie & Co. and Eldon Chambers in 1923. At this time the building retained most of its original appearance, though the shop front had been rebuilt and included leadlight windows. Ref: Coulls Somerville Wilkie records, Hocken Collections MS-2248/031.

eldon_hocken_1923_detail

Facade detail. Ref: Coulls Somerville Wilkie records, Hocken Collections MS-2248/031.

The upper part of the building was named Eldon Chambers. This followed the original Eldon Chambers in London, which took their name from the English barrister and politician Lord Eldon (1751-1838). The name was repeated in many locations in Britain, Australasia, and elsewhere (there were at least seven Eldon Chambers in New Zealand alone), typically for buildings with rooms for lawyers and other professionals. The first occupants of the Dunedin chambers were Prendergast, Kenyon & Maddock (lawyers), George Brodie (inspector of bankruptcy), Dick & Fleming (land agents etc.), Dr Alfred Eccles, and H.F. Hardy (architect).

In 1867 Lawson designed two adjoining buildings for Matheson Bros and J.W. Robertson. These were given a much simpler facade treatment, but integrated with Eldon Chambers through the continuation the parapet cornice and other details in the same style.

In March 1867 a fire broke out in the cellar of Swizter’s building, but damage was confined to that space. Evidence at the inquest exposed the precarious state of Switzer’s finances. He had bought the stock and trade of the company a few months before, and suspicion was raised that he set the fire to get the insurance money. He was charged with arson. The trial took place over six weeks and ended with Switzer’s acquittal, but in the meantime he was bankrupted. Once his affairs were settled he left New Zealand for London, and a few years later emigrated with his family to Canada.

princesst_toitu_1864

Princes Street in the 1870s. Eldon Chambers is the fourth building from the left. Ref: Collection of Toitu Otago Settlers Museum. R. Clifford & Co. photograph.

After Switzer’s departure his old shop was occupied by a succession of tailors, before the printers J. Wilkie & Co. opened a warehouse and stationery factory. The firm made various additions at the back to cope with their expanding business, and in 1892 moved their manufacturing to another site, keeping a warehouse and retail shop in Princes Street.

A full list of those occupying Eldon Chambers would be too long to list here, but some had particularly long associations. A connection of over thirty-five years belonged to the Dick family:  the parliamentarian Thomas Dick and his son Thomas H. Dick were commission agents. An even longer record belonged to Herbert Webb, who had rooms for over fifty years. His succession of law firms in Eldon Chambers began with Dick & Webb in 1877. This was followed by Duncan, Macgregor & Webb, then Herbert Webb’s sole practice, and finally Webb & Allan. Herbert Webb died in 1928, after collapsing on the nearby Dowling Street corner. His old firm moved out in 1930 but its successor, Webb Farry, is still in existence.

achanlonportrait

A.C. Hanlon (1866-1944)

Alfred Hanlon, admitted to the bar on 20 December 1888, took an office in Eldon Chambers in New Year 1889. He furnished it with a plain deal kitchen table covered with oilcloth, three cane chairs, and a letter press. He waited three months for his first client. He later wrote:

‘I was now thoroughly daunted, and I think that at times I almost hated the office and all its associations. Little wonder then that I could not dissemble my eagerness whenever I heard a footstep outside the door. The months dragged hopelessly by, and still boy enough to be moved at their passing, I bade each a melancholy farewell. It came to this, that every time I heard a step I trembled. Would it reach my door? With feverish haste I would fling open my largest law book – “Benjamin on Sales” – on to the table, and when the knock came my too studiedly casual “Come in” arose from a head buried in the large tome. But it was all to no purpose. My carefully staged scene made no impression, because the caller was always another debt collector.’

Eventually Hanlon got a case defending a pedlar known as Dr Shannon from a charge of purchasing a bottle of Hood’s Corn Solvent under false pretences. He was successful and the case was dismissed. Hanlon was ten years in Eldon Chambers and in that time became one of New Zealand’s most celebrated criminal lawyers. In 1895 he famously but unsuccessfully defended the so-called ‘Winton baby farmer’, Minnie Dean, the only woman hanged by the State in New Zealand. It was probably in Eldon Chambers that he wrote his famous brief, now preserved in the Hocken Collections. During a fifty year career Hanlon was retained in twenty murder trials and he was made a K.C. in 1930.

Wilkie & Co. merged into Coulls Somerville Wilkie in 1922, but a shop specialising in stationery and gifts continued to trade under the name Wilkies until 1927. It was then rebranded under new ownership as Bells Limited, and remained on the site until 1939.

wilkiesadvertisement_1927

A 1927 advertisement for Wilkies from the Otago Daily Times. Ref: Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

In 1939 the building was extensively altered to the designs of Wellington architects Clere, Clere & Hill for new owners Boots the Chemist. This pharmacy chain had been established in England in 1849 and set up its New Zealand operation in 1935. The Oamaru stone facade was removed and an entirely new front in brick and concrete was built in the streamline Moderne style. Staircases and columns were removed from the interior and new beams were installed. W. McLellan Ltd were the builders. According to the Evening Star:

‘The external appearance of the building has been carefully thought out. Black terrazzo and bronze metal have been used to telling effect for the double window fronts. An innovation for Dunedin consists of the huge Neon signs which are recessed so that they appear to form an integral part of the building. The whole layout has been designed with an eye to a keynote of solidarity and permanence. Although appointments are modern, as is evidenced by the glassed-in dispensary, open to the public eye, simplicity has been the primary aim. There is a complete absence of such materials as chromium plate – anything, in fact, which may prove subject to the dictates of fashion. Instead, the furnishings are carried out in light-stained oak. The surgical section is finished in white enamel, and the surgical fitting room – particularly spacious for this purpose – is carried out in white and navy blue. Lighting is exceptionally good, and the floors are finished with ‘Rublino,’ a particularly durable covering. A completely new fibrous plaster ceiling was, of course, necessitated by the extent of the alterations. At the rear of the shop are store rooms and offices, tea rooms, and toilets for the assistants.’

boots_hocken_1939

The building following alterations for Boots the Chemists completed in 1939. Ref: Coulls Somerville Wilkie records, Hocken Collections MS-2248/034.

In 1959 the Hob-Nob Coffee Garden was built in the basement for owner-operator Ted Paterson. The café was a good place for a toastie pie and coffee, and was known for its cheese rolls and corn rolls. The Hob Nob lasted until about 1970 when it briefly became the Van Dyke Expresso Bar [sic]. It was the Hibiscus Coffee Garden for approximately eight years, before its closure around 1979.

In its heyday Boots employed as many as seventeen staff in its Dunedin shop. After 50 years in Princes Street it closed its doors in September 1990. A company executive from Wellington said: ‘The city fathers have killed that part of town. Once it was the prime business area in the city. Now it is disgracefully tatty.’ He thought Boots should have pulled out years before, but ultimately the parent company had decided to close all of its retail outlets in New Zealand.

Rebel Warehouse was in the building for a year or two before the New Canton Restaurant moved there in 1993. The original Canton Café had operated from a building on the opposite side of the street since 1961, and from 1978 under the ownership and management of Kee and Sanny Young. Mrs Young, who grew up in Macau and Hong Kong, was the chief cook. She later recalled: ‘You couldn’t get Chinese food then. No bean sprouts, or pastry, or noodles … It was very difficult to buy our food, so we opened the restaurant. But it was too busy. We could only seat 50 and lost bookings, so … we moved across the road to here’.

The New Canton closed in February 2013 and the Punjab Restaurant has since taken its place – the latest chapter in a century and a half of business activity at 192 Princes Street.

Newspaper references:
Otago Witness, 5 September 1857 p.4 (shipping notice), 21 November 1857 p.4 (advertisement for John Switzer, boot maker), 22 October 1864 p.13 (blackbirds and starlings), 27 May 1865 p.4 (thrushes), 6 July 1867 p.3 (sale of Grand View Farm); Otago Daily Times, 26 May 1863 p.1 (advertisement for Cookham Store), 28 May 1863 p.6 (Dunedin Gas Light & Coke Co.), 6 August 1863 p.3 (sale of business to Trood), 8 March 1866 p.4 (verandah), 20 March 1867 p.4 (fire), 25 April 1867 p.5 (inquest into fire), 24 June 1867 p.5 (trial and verdict), 20 September 1867 p.5 (Matheson Bros and J.W. Robertson buildings), 3 October 1877 p.3 (Dick & Webb), 22 December 1888 p.2 (Hanlon admitted to bar), 5 March 1889 p.4 (Hanlon’s first client), 5 May 1927 p.3 (advertisement for Wilkies), 21 March 1928 p.7 (Herbert Webb obituary), 21 September 1990 p.5 (closure of Boots), 22 September 1990 p.8 (editorial re closure), 17 January 2013 p.1 (closure of New Canton); Dunstan Times, 27 July 1866 p.4 (advertisement for Dunedin Boot & Shoe Co.); Evening Star, 12 December 1939 p.3 (alterations for Boots).

Other references:
Blair, E.W. and E. Kerse. On the Slopes of Signal Hill (Dunedin: Otago Heritage Books, 1988).
Catran, Ken. Hanlon: A Casebook (Auckland: BCNZ Enterprises, 1985).
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, vol.4, Otago and Southland Provincial Districts (Christchurch: The Cyclopedia Company, 1905), p.357.
Donaldson, Janine E. Seeking Gold and Second Chances: Early Pioneers of Waikaia and District (Waikaia: Waikaia Book Committee, c.2012).
Hanlon, A.C. Random Recollections: Notes on a Lifetime at the Bar (Dunedin: Otago Daily Times & Witness, 1939).
Dunedin City Council building records
Directories (Harnett’s, Stone’s, Wises, and telephone)

Port Chalmers Police Station

Built: 1939-1940
Address: 35 George Street, Port Chalmers
Architects: Public Works Department (under John T. Mair)
Builder: Robert Mitchell

PortChalmersPoliceStation_frontage

Cabinet approved a grant to build a new police station at Port Chalmers in August 1938. This was late in the first term of the first Labour Government, a busy time in the history of public works programmes in New Zealand. It was announced that: ‘the new police station, which will be of modern design, will be situated in George Street near the war memorial. The offices will be on the ground floor, and the top floor will be designed as a dwelling for the sergeant in charge.’ In April 1939 it was reported that the plans had been completed by the Public Works Department, and tenders would soon be called. The estimated cost of the construction was £4,500.

The Government Architect at the time was John Thomas Mair (1876-1959), best known in Dunedin today as the designer of the former Chief Post Office. Mair took up the job in 1923 and retired in 1941, so this design came near the end of his career. I do not know what roles he took upon himself for this project, with various other architectural staff in the department also involved.

Construction was underway by September 1939, the month war was declared, and in April 1940 the station was described as ‘nearly completed’, together with surprised comment that a foundation stone had not been laid. After some delay the completed building was officially opened by the Minister of Police, P.C. Webb, in a public ceremony on 18 August 1941. The Commissioner of Police, D.J. Cummings, said he had been shocked at the condition of the old station when he visited five and a half years before. In the new building the cells were electrically heated, but he ‘wished it to be understood that they constituted only a “bed-and-breakfast flat,” and there would be no permanent residents’.

The architecture combines Moderne with English Domestic influences. It is well harmonised, with exposed brickwork and details that include architecturally-conceived signage, an expertly-sculpted coat of arms, a flagpole, delicate cornice, and curved garden walls. I particularly like the way the metal windows are arranged along the facade, mostly in groups of three, but two in groups of two, and in each case with banded plasterwork between (originally a gold colour as it was elsewhere on the facade). The building also has some of my favourite chimney pots in all Dunedin!

The Port Chalmers Police Station remains in use as a patrol base with counter service, and although of course it is operated very differently from the way it was 70 years ago, it still looks very much the same.

I am not going to go into a detailed history of local policing for this post, but I can’t end without referring to Sgt Stewart Guthrie, officer in charge on 13 November 1990, the day he was killed by David Gray in the mass shooting at Aramoana. Guthrie was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his courage and heroism that day, and I often think of him when I see this building.

PortChalmersPoliceStation_sign

PortChalmersPoliceStation_facade

PortChalmersPoliceStation_chimney

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 18 August 1938 p.10 (Cabinet approval), 15 April 1939 p.12 (plans completed), 29 September 1939 p.4 (photograph showing progress), 9 April 1940 p.6 (nearly completed), 19 August 1941 pp.5-6 (opening), 23 April 2003 p.6, 24 April 2003 p.4 (proposed cutting of Sergeant’s position), 4 October 2011 p.9 (‘Port police station change proposed’); Evening Star, 19 August 1941 p.2 (opening).

Milburn Lime & Cement Co. head office

Built: 1937-1938
Address: 90 Crawford Street
Architects: Salmond & Salmond
Builders: W.H. Naylor Ltd

View from Crawford Street, 2015

The Dunedin building industry enjoyed a brief period of reinvigoration between the Great Depression and the Second World War. Many big businesses were keen to project an image of vitality and modernity, and the clean lines of the Milburn Lime and Cement Company’s new head office in Crawford Street certainly did that, while in its fabric the building was a showpiece for the company’s chief product.

Concrete construction revolutionised building methods in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the Milburn company was largely built on its rapid development. The firm was founded in 1888, when a syndicate of businessmen acquired the assets of James McDonald, including established lime works at Milburn and a small cement works at Walton Park. The new company’s principal cement works were at Pelichet Bay, from 1890 to 1929, and then at Burnside from 1929 to 1988. Milburn took over many smaller businesses and became one of Otago’s largest companies. In 1937, it commissioned the architects Salmond & Salmond to design a two-storey office head office building in Crawford Street.

The lime works at Milburn (Hocken 89-025)

The cement works at Burnside, opened in 1929 (Hocken 89-025)

Magazine advertisement, 1929

Crawford Street lies on land reclaimed in the 1860s and 1870s, and extrapolates the original street plan of Charles Kettle. As with Filleul Street, there is a story that it was named after someone who happened to be in the surveyor’s office on the day a name was needed, although at best that’s probably a simplistic tale. In this case the man was George Crawford, an early settler who arrived on the Philip Laing in 1848. From 1869 the site of the Milburn building was owned by Briscoe & Co., which established a yard there. In 1905 an open shed was erected on part of the site, and the following year a brick store building designed by James Louis Salmond was built. An adjoining, almost identical, store was constructed in 1907. This work coincided with the erection of a four-storey warehouse, designed by Walden & Barton, on the site immediately to the north. Briscoe’s kept stores on the western side of Bond Street until 1956, and retained the large warehouse until 1972, but sold the ones on the site we’re looking at to Milburn in 1935. The buildings there were all removed, including their foundations, but the specification for the new building allowed for the reuse of roof timbers and ironwork, as well as bricks (for internal partitions).

An 1865 view showing reclamation work. Crawford Street runs along the edge of the harbour and the arrow points to the approximate site of the Milburn building. (ref: Alexander Turnbull Library PAColl-3824)

2. Detail from 1874 photograph by Burton Bros, looking south and showing Crawford Street on the left (ref: Te Papa C.012064)

J.L. Salmond’s drawing for a store which stood on part of the site from 1907 to 1937

Council of Fire & Accident Underwriters’ Associations block plan, amended and updated to about 1940 (from the 1927 edition), showing the Milburn (formerly Briscoe) site in yellow, and the other Briscoe sites in green.

The partner in Salmond & Salmond responsible for the design was Arthur Louis Salmond (1906-1994), son of practice founder James Louis Salmond. He had been in the first intake of full-time students at the Auckland University School of Architecture in 1926, and after completing his thesis requirement from Dunedin undertook further study in London, before returning to Dunedin to join his father’s practice in 1933. He was quick to employ modernist methods and style, notably in a private house for T.K. Sidey in Tolcarne Avenue. His design for the Milburn building a few years later sits in striking contrast with the adjoining warehouse on the Police Street corner, designed by his father thirty years before. The Plunket Society’s Truby King Harris Hospital at Andersons Bay (1938) is a particularly good example of his work around this time, and for further reading I highly recommend report on that building prepared by Michael Findlay and Heather Bauchop for Heritage New Zealand.

Tenders for the construction of the Milburn building closed in April 1937, but the lowest received (£14,990) was considered too high, so plans were modified and in June W.H. Naylor Ltd were contracted to build more modest premises at a cost of £10,635. A separate central heating contract of £735 was fulfilled by George W. Davies & Co., and the building was ready for occupation by July 1938. There was warehouse storage on the ground floor with dual vehicle entrances to both Crawford and Bond streets, allowing large vehicles to drive right through. Administrative offices were on the first floor, where a further three suites of offices were let out.

In many ways the building was conventional – essentially a box with hipped roofs behind its parapets – but the Moderne facades were strikingly different from almost anything else in the city at the time, even if the nature of the site gave little scope for some of the streamlining effects and variations of form associated with this style.

Salmond & Salmond drawing dated June 1937

Salmond & Salmond floor plans dated June 1937

From Crawford Street, c.1938 (ref: Hocken Collections 89-025)

View from Crawford Street, c.1938 (Hocken 89-025)

Facade detail (Hocken 89-025)

View from Bond Street, c.1938 (Hocken 89-025)

Unusual features were glass bricks, which let filtered light into the stairwell facing Crawford Street, as well as adding visual interest to the exterior. The building was one of the first in New Zealand to use them. The Evening Star reported that they had previously been used in one private residence in Dunedin, and that they were also to be incorporated in the rebuilding of the Dunedin Savings Bank in Dowling Street (another Salmond & Salmond project). This slightly predated the first major use in Auckland: extensive additions to the Chief Post Office made in 1938.

Glass blocks were used in the nineteenth century, but their practicality as a building material was advanced markedly by Friedrich Keppler, who in 1907 patented a system for building walls of prismatic bricks within reinforced concrete frameworks. The architects Walter Gropius and Le Cobusier were among the early adopters of glass bricks, and they were famously used in the latter’s Maison de Verre of 1928-1932. Mass-manufacture only occurred after the Owen-Illinois Glass Company of Chicago introduced the first pressed-glass blocks in 1932, and promoted them at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933. In 1935 the company brought out Insulux, the first widely-used hollow glass brick, and other American manufacturers soon followed with similar products.

A building reported as ‘Australia’s first glass brick building’ was erected for Thomas H. Webb & Co. in Adelaide in 1935 using imported bricks. From 1936 Insulux bricks were produced in Australia under the Agee brand by the Australian Window Glass Pty Ltd, and they found extensive use almost immediately. They were used to prominent effect in Alkira House in Melbourne, and by the end of 1936 were being incorporated into the design of residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings. The Milburn building used the Agee bricks, which were imported through local agents Paterson & Barr.

Advertisement from the New Zealand Herald, 23 February 1938 p.17

The Hecht Company’s Streamline Moderne warehouse in Washington DC was also built in 1937, when glass brick was at the height of its international fashion. Image courtesy of ‘Joseph’ on Flickr.

Facade detail, showing glass bricks

The building was constructed on a floating foundation with a concrete base, due to the reclaimed nature of the land. The concrete structure above was reinforced with steel rods, and the bluestone aggregate given a Snowcrete white cement finish, tinted to a cream colour. On the Crawford Street elevation the company name was set back into the plaster and flanked by a simple ornamental frieze, with additional touches of colour (red or green) used sparingly to suit the unfussy design. Mosaic and other tiles to the foyer were green and gold in colour, complementing the finish of the masonry. A simpler facade for Bond Street featured the company name prominently in relief lettering, and as on the other elevation the windows were steel framed with slender profiles. Skylights were installed in the roof, which was covered with Fibrolite corrugated asbestos sheets. The interior was simply fitted out, with rimu skirtings and internal doors, and a main reception counter of Oregon with a kauri top.

Early tenants in the building included Donaghy’s Rope & Twine Co., Otago Fruit & Produce, the Ewing Phosphate Co. (owned by Milburn), and the Otago-Southland Manufacturers’ Association. In 1963 Milburn merged with the New Zealand Cement Company to form New Zealand Cement Holdings Ltd. The head office remained in Dunedin until 1974, when it moved to Christchurch and the company vacated the Crawford Street building. New Zealand Cement Holdings became Milburn New Zealand in 1988 and now trades as Holcim New Zealand Limited (a division of a company headquartered in Switzerland).

In 1974 the building became the office of the large textile firm Mosgiel Limited, which remained until the company collapsed in 1980. The old vehicle entrances have now long been closed and those on Crawford Street converted to shop fronts. The one to the south had been enlarged in 1965, giving the east elevation a slightly lopsided look.

Occupants over the past three decades have included (dates approximate):

WEA Education 1984-1992
People’s Market 1988-1992
Timbercraft Furniture 1993-1997
Reidpaints Limited 1993-2003
Arthouse Dunedin Inc. 1994-1995
Dunedin Craft Centre 1996-2003
Central Lighting Warehouse (Bond Street) 2000-2011
Gordon Crichton Lighting 2000 to date
Elite Fitness 2003-2008
Jennian Homes 2009 to date
McRobie Studios (Bond Street) 2011 to date

The original exterior finishes have been painted over a number of times over the years and the last repainting (a project supported by the Central City Heritage Re-use Grants Scheme) happily reduced the impact of signage and decluttered the Crawford Street facade. The building looks well cared for, and has been kept productive. A still simpler colour scheme to Crawford Street would restore some of the horizontal emphasis and clean simplicity of the original design. The building remains evocative of the the style and spirit of its age, and in a way it stands as a monument of concrete, to concrete.

This post has some of my favourite images used on the blog so far – found trawling the uncatalogued depths of the massive collection of Milburn records held by the Hocken. I hope you enjoy them. I especially love the shot of the crisp new building with the smoky urban skyline behind!

View from Bond Street, 2015

Tiles in Crawford Street entrance

Newspaper references:
Otago Witness, 31 March 1898 p.9 (naming of Crawford Street); Otago Daily Times, 17 January 1863 p.5 (reclamation), 16 February 1864 p.9 (reclamation), 29 April 1864 p.5 (reclamation), 18 May 1864 p.11 (reclamation), 23 August 1865 p.4 (reclamation), 24 December 1873 p.3 (Dunedin and Clutha Railway line), 19 March 1906 p.1 (tenders), 30 November 1993 (Timbercraft); Evening Star, 29 June 1937, p.2 (description), 8 March 1938 p.3 (glass brick in Dunedin);The Mail (Adelaide), 18 January 1936 p.12 (Thomas H. Webb building in Adelaide); Sydney Morning Herald, 25 June 1936 p.11 (manufacture of glass bricks); The Farmer and Settler (Sydney), 26 January 1938 p.16 (glass bricks in Australia)

Other sources:
Stone’s, Wise’s and telephone directories
Block plans
Salmond, Arthur L. ‘Ten Generations’ (Hocken Collections MS-3889)
Salmond Anderson Architects records (Hocken Collections MS-3821/148, MS-3821/1824, MS-3821/2287)
Milburn New Zealand Limited records (Hocken Collections 89-025, 89-085 box 6)
Briscoe & Company Ltd records (Hocken Collections MS-3300/071)
Permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)
Findlay, Michael and Heather Bauchop. ‘Truby King Harris Hospital (Former), DUNEDIN (List No. 9659, Category 1)’ (Heritage New Zealand, ‘Report for a Historic Place’, 2014)
Morton, Harry, Carol Johnston, and Barbara Chinn. Spanning the Centuries: The Story of Milburn New Zealand Limited (Christchurch, Milburn New Zealand, 2002)
Neumann, Dietrich, Jerry G. Stockbridge, and Bruce S. Kaskel. ‘Glass Block’ in Thomas C. Jester (ed.) Twentieth-Century Building Materials: History and Conservation (Washington DC: McGraw-Hill, 1995)
Patterson, Elizabeth A. and Neal A. Vogel. ‘The Architecture of Glass Block’ in Old House Journal. Vol xxix no.1 (Jan-Feb 2001) pp.36-51.

The Perry residence

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

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

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

Fred and Lygia Perry, Dunedin Town Hall, 1947

Watercolour by Thomas Lusk (Mandeno & Fraser)

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

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

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

Stained glass windows above the stair landing

The original private entrance

First floor plan, drawn in October 1930

Ground floor plan, drawn in October 1930

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The kitchen

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

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

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

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

The former sitting room

Door handle detail

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

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

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

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

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

The weeping elm in 1950

The rear, north-facing elevation of the house

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

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

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

Ship’s complement, HMS Achilles, c.1941

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

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

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

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

The Perry family outside the sitting room, c.1950

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

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

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

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

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

PerryHouse_Garage

 

Otago Harbour Board offices

Built: 1884 (remodelled 1936)
Address: 43 Jetty Street
Architect: F.W. Petre (1847-1918)
Builder: James Small

The Otago Harbour Board probably spent more money on construction and development than any other body in 1880s Otago, but they were quite frugal when it came to their office buildings. The Victoria Channel in the Otago Harbour cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to develop, but when the Board commissioned architect F.W. Petre to design new offices in March 1884, it was with the brief that the cost should be no more than £2,000.

The Board had been constituted in 1874, succeeding the Harbour Department of the Provincial Government. Its first purpose-built offices were erected in Cumberland Street in 1877 and demolished in 1885 because they impeded the completion of street realignment. The land selected for replacement offices at the corner of Jetty and Vogel streets was owned by the Board and had been reclaimed in works carried out in the late 1870s.

Francis William Petre (1847-1948) may have been the first New Zealand-born architect, and he earned the nickname ‘Lord Concrete’ for his innovations and many designs in that material. His best-known works included the Catholic cathedrals of Dunedin and Christchurch, and the Dominican Priory in Smith Street. His surviving commercial buildings are scarce, but include the Guardian Royal Exchange Buildings and Mansfield Apartments (both in Liverpool Street). Petre was at home working in both Classical and Gothic styles, but for the Harbour Board he used the Renaissance Revival (Italian) style generally favoured for commercial designs. The proportions and rhythm of the building (including arched windows to both floors) foreshadow his later design for the Equitable Insurance Building (Phoenix House). This more elaborate stone and brick building was erected between 1886 and 1887 on the corner of Rattray and Vogel streets, and shared with the Harbour Board offices the same builder and clerk of works.

Francis William Petre, architect.

Tenders for construction were called in May 1884 and James Small’s tender for £2,239 was accepted subject to ‘reduced cornices’. By December the building was close enough to completion for the Board to hold its first meeting in the new boardroom, and the final cost was recorded in their hefty ledger (now held in the Hocken Collections) as £2,590. The demand for reduced cornices is the likely reason that the proportions of the building were not entirely convincing, with the parapet looking a little mean in relation to the rest of the elevations. A small parapet pediment highlighted the main entrance on Vogel Street, but this entrance was later moved to Jetty Street, reorientating the building. The depth of the building was narrow, with the footprint being a U shape (almost an L shape) that left space for a small yard behind. This allowed valuable natural light to penetrate through windows in the rear wall, but the yard was progressively built over by later owners from about 1923 onwards.

The Harbour Board occupied the building from 1884 to 1899, when it considered such weighty issues as a proposed harbour bridge (a hot topic for some years), the strike of 1890, the construction of large new wharves, and the retrenchment that came with the long depression. In 1899 the Board’s offices moved to modest new premises and these were in turn replaced in 1912. Occupants of the Jetty Street buildings after 1899 included the Government Shipping Office, and the grain and seed merchants Ronaldson & Farquharson.

The building c.1935. The principal entrance is no longer in its original location, having been removed from the central bay facing Vogel Street to one of the bays in Jetty Street. (Toitū/Otago Settlers Museum 80-30-1)

The building after its 1936 remodelling. The old slate roof and chimneys remained in place. The entrance was again moved, this time to the far end of the Jetty Street frontage. It has a striking leadlight window. (Toitū/Otago Settlers Museum 80-27-1)

From 1923 to 1974 the building was the head office of Donald Reid & Co., one of Otago’s largest stock and station agencies.  The company’s offices had previously been in their nearby wool and grain store in Vogel Street.  Extensive interior and exterior remodelling in the Art Deco style was designed by the architects Stone & Sturmer in 1936. The following year the same architects designed a large new wool store for Reid’s in Parry Street. Architect Gorton R. Stone had travelled with a firm representative in Australia investigating store design, and appears to have been the partner that Reid’s principally dealt with.

The remodelling of Victorian buildings in Art Deco and emerging modernist styles was popular in Dunedin from the early 1930s onwards. Stone & Sturmer were also responsible for redesigns of the Masonic Hotel (Angus Motors), Royal Albert Hotel, and Bell Hill House. Mandeno & Fraser’s revamp of the Manchester Unity Chambers was another early example. 43 Jetty Street building still reads as a Victorian design due to the retention of most of the original fenestration and glazing. The rhythm of the longer facade with its bays and arches is a pared back version of what existed previously,  although new decorative elements were introduced through stepped mouldings and horizontal grooves. A new ground floor entrance across two bays incorporated large leadlight windows, and leadlights were also a prominent feature of the interior. The name ‘Donald Reid & Company Limited’  was added at parapet level in Art Deco lettering (this survives beneath hoardings).  Two bays on Vogel Street were replaced with utilitarian plastering and glazing (lavatories and services were moved to this location). The Love Construction Company was awarded the contract for the work (after submitting the low tender of £2,555) and exterior plastering was carried out by W. Ashton & Sons (£250).

In 1974 the offices of Donald Reid & Co. moved to 1 Vogel Street. Later occupants of their old premises included the photographer Ross Coombes. The Vogel street facade was again altered in 1976 when the former central bay was extensively altered with a large roller door put in at ground floor level and ‘Brownbuilt’ cladding installed above. Large hoardings at parapet level advertised Woodstock Furniture for many years, gradually losing letters like the Sunshine Foods sign in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (for those who know their seventies sitcoms).

In recent years the building has looked tired and rundown, but In October 2012 its owners received a $10,000 grant from the Dunedin Heritage Fund towards earthquake strengthening and adaptive re-use. It looks as though its next chapter will be a brighter one, and it will be interesting how the unusual layout is reworked, and if the exterior is closely returned to its 1880s or 1930s appearance. It is one of the earliest Vogel Street buildings, on a key corner site, and could become one of the gems of the Warehouse Precinct rejuvenation.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 16 May 1884 p.4 (plans accepted), 3 December 1884 p.4 (meeting in new offices), 12 May 1886 p.4 (Equitable Insurance).

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]
Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters’ Associations of New Zealand, block plans, 1927
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories
Minute book, Otago Harbour Board records, Hocken Collections (AG-200-11/02/06)
Ledger, Otago Harbour Board records, Hocken Collections (AG-200-11/13/02)
Minutes. Reid Farmers records, Hocken Collections (00-121)
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)
Angus, John H. Donald Reid Otago Farmers Ltd : a history of service to the farming community of Otago (Dunedin, 1978).

Dunedin’s first state house

Built: 1937
Address: 11 Wilkinson Street, Liberton
Builders:
Love Construction Co. Ltd

For this post I set myself the challenge of finding Dunedin’s first state house. By state house, I mean a residence from the housing scheme of the first Labour Government of 1935 to 1949.

The state did have a go at social housing earlier in the century. Twenty houses were built at the Windle Settlement in Belleknowes under the Liberal Government’s Workers’ Dwelling Act of 1905, and another eleven houses were built in Dunedin under the 1910 Act, but these projects never developed into the ambitious schemes that had been intended. Meanwhile, the Railways Department had a history of building housing for its workers, and local councils also developed schemes. The Dunedin City Council built rental houses for low-income families in Clyde Street in the 1920s, and in the 1930s it subsidised private housing developments, with 270 houses built when land was opened up at Clyde Hill in 1937.

The housing crisis of the early 1930s was made worse by the Great Depression, with some low-income urban families living in slum-like conditions. Michael Joseph Savage’s Labour Party came to power in the 1935 general election. The party’s electoral platform for housing was modest (chiefly extending state loans already in place), but in their 1936 budget the new government declared plans to build 5,000 state rental houses throughout New Zealand. John A. Lee, who had himself been raised by a solo mother in squalid conditions in Dunedin, was Under Secretary to the Minister of Finance and had the responsibility of overseeing the state housing scheme in its first years. By 1939, fifty-seven state houses were being completed every week and over 30,000 state houses would be built by the time Labour left office in 1949.

A leaflet from Labour’s 1938 election campaign. Ref: Eph-A-NZ-LABOUR-1938-01-010. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23034888.

The first state house developments in Dunedin were at Pine Hill and Wakari. Corstorphine is probably the suburb most associated with this type of housing in Dunedin, but it wasn’t developed until the 1940s. Newspapers from early 1937 refer to a proposed new settlement Liberton in Pine Hill, which apparently took its name from a place in Edinburgh. This may have been due to its association with a local identity, but there also was a default way of finding new names in Dunedin: look at a map of Edinburgh and see what hadn’t been used! Intriguingly, the name of the original Liberton is widely said to have been a corruption of ‘Leper Town’, as a leper colony was supposed to have been sited there. This theory now appears to be discredited and the name may come from the Old English words hlith (hillside) and beretun (barley farm). Three new streets in the Dunedin settlement were arranged in a horseshoe fashion on former Otago Education Board land. They were named after past secretaries of the Board: James Wilkinson, Patrick Pryde, and John Hislop.

A contract to build the Dunedin houses was awarded to the Love Construction Company in April 1937 and soon a small army of construction workers was at work on Pine Hill. Sixty-four dwellings were constructed. The houses were of similar finish with tile roofs and brick exteriors, and the trademark square-paned casement windows, but the designs were varied. The Evening Star noted that Liberton ‘was not being built to a definite geometric pattern, and cannot be criticised on the grounds that every house is exactly similar to its neighbour’. Some local real estate agents were doubtful that the scheme would succeed in such a location. ‘What is the use’, said one, ‘of houses carrying a low rent if they are so far out of the town that the occupiers will have to spend a large sum every week in bus fares?’. For this reason they suggested Green Island, with its easy access to the railway.

On 18 September 1937 New Zealand’s ‘first state house’, at 12 Fyfe Lane in Mirimar, Wellington, was officially opened by the Prime Minister. At the same time, houses in Liberton were already nearing completion, with roofing and glazing completed on some of them, but none were occupied until March 1938. Factors contributing to this may have included the logistics around services for the scheme, or drawn out application processes for tenancies.

So which house was the first? To be consistent with the acknowledged first state house in Wellington, I looked for the first house tenanted in Dunedin. The Otago Daily Times and Evening Star newspapers recorded that the first tenants moved in on 1 March 1938 and featured photographs of their house, though without naming the street or number. After taking a look around the area, I have identified the house as 11 Wilkinson Street.

11 Wilkinson Street on its completion.

Moving in day at 11 Wilkinson Street, 1 March 1938.

Who lived here? Electoral rolls and directories record that the first couple to live at no.11 were Alf and Beryl Seamer. Beryl was 28 years of age, and Alf was a 32-year-old civil servant who worked for the Department of Agriculture. I checked the Pine Hill School records but the Seamers did not have children enrolled there. They remained in the house until 1942, when they moved to the North Island (where they had come from originally). Bill and Esma Lobb were the next to move in and they stayed at the address until 1950.

These days Pine Hill is a mixed area including state houses, ex state houses, and newer private dwellings. The earliest houses are mostly grouped together in Dalmore. As in many suburbs, there are fewer shops than there used to be but there is still a dairy. There are two schools (one state, one private) and two churches (Presbyterian and Anglican). In recent years local gang tensions have sometimes made the news. Wilkinson Street is an appealing spot with its sunny outlook, semi-rural views, and some established trees. Some houses appear down at the heel, but others look lovingly maintained. Where Corstorphine has more of the later weatherboard designs with more uniformity, there is a nice variation on a theme here. Considering the large number of state houses that have been sold under different administrations since the 1990s, I was a little surprised to find that Housing New Zealand still own 11 Wilkinson Street. Of the twenty-eight original state houses in the street, five are still owned by the Crown corporation. No.11 looks mostly original from the outside, although one of the gable ends has been reclad and false shutters at the front have been removed. I hope it will be preserved – sometimes, modest little buildings are more significant than appearances suggest.

A White’s Aviation aerial view of Liberton taken in April 1947. Pine Hill School is at the centre. Ref: WA-06367-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/30652431

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 8 April 1937 p.12 (‘The Liberton project – its success doubted’), 19 April 1937 p.10 (Dunedin contract let), 31 August 1937 p.4 (progress), 2 March 1938 p.4 (‘Liberton homes – first tenant moves in’).

Other references:
Findlay, Michael. Dunedin Contextual Thematic History. (Dunedin City Council, 2009).
O’Brien, Rebecca. First State House. (New Zealand Historic Places Trust register entry, 2002).
Schrader, Ben. We Call it Home: A History of the State House in New Zealand (Auckland: Reed Books, 2005)

Thanks to the Dunedin Public Library for access to their newspapers for photography.

Royal Albert Hotel

Built: 1880 / 1939
Address: 387 George Street
Architects: Louis Boldini / Stone & Sturmer
Builders: Norman Wood / D.P. Murphy

A Labour Day procession makes its way south along George Street, some time between 1892 and 1896. The Royal Albert Hotel can be seen on the right. The bay with the shop front at the left-hand end was added in 1882. (Hocken Collections S09-219e)

There has been a pub on the site of The Bog Irish Bar for nearly 150 years. In April 1864, James Ramage Hood was granted a license for a new public house named the Black Bull Hotel. An early photograph shows it was a single-storey wooden structure. Hood was succeeded as licensee by William and Margaret Carveth (from 1866 to 1877), and Johann Luks (1877-1879).

Luks was a German immigrant who had previously worked as a fruiterer in George Street. In late 1878 he commissioned the architect Louis Boldini to design a new hotel building, but was declared bankrupt in August 1879 before the project could go ahead. Daniel White purchased the fourteen-year lease on the property the same month, and in December was granted a license for the establishment which he gave a new name: the Royal Albert Hotel. The replacement building was erected in 1880 by contractor Norman Wood to Boldini’s plans, and completed by October. It was built of brick, with ornate cemented facades in the revived Italian Renaissance style, and made the most of a tricky triangular site. The ground floor had a bar, three sitting rooms, a dining room, and a kitchen. There were nine bedrooms and a sitting room on the first floor.

Louis Boldini was the only Italian or Continental European architect who worked in Dunedin in the late nineteenth century, and as most of his work has been destroyed this building is a significant survivor. Boldini’s most impressive designs included the second Dunedin Synagogue, the AMP Building, Butterworth Brothers’ warehouse, and the Grand Hotel. Of these only the Grand remains (as the Dunedin Casino within the Southern Cross Hotel).

Daniel White, first licensee of the Royal Albert Hotel (Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum, A566-1)

Daniel White (c.1834-1907), known to some as ‘Black Dan’, was born on the Caribbean Island of St Thomas. He arrived in Dunedin in 1859 and initially worked as a barman at the Provincial Hotel. After running a restaurant called the Epicurean, he opened the Crown Hotel at the intersection of Rattray and Maclaggan streets in 1862. He was later the founding proprietor of Royal Hotel in Great King Street, the Queen’s Hotel in Castle Street, and the Ravensbourne Hotel. He was also a West Harbour Borough councillor.

Given his surname, his nickname, and his ethnicity, it’s not surprising that White got rid of the Black Bull name! For many years he was one of the most respected publicans in Dunedin, but in 1882 he was refused a renewal of his license for the Royal Albert Hotel on grounds of ‘immorality’. Separated from his wife of twenty years, he had fathered children by two of his servants, one of whom he had been found guilty of beating (for which he was fined one pound). He was forced to give up the Albert, but eventually returned to the Queen’s Hotel in 1888 and remained there for ten years. His last pub was the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel in Russell Street. White died in December 1907 at the age of 73.

The Albert passed to Francis O’Kane in 1882, and to Joseph Strong before the year was out. Building additions, again designed by Boldini, extended the hotel in a southwards direction. The next licensees were Robert Allen (1883-1889), Alfred Low (1889-1890), Mary Campbell (1890-1892), and Michael Moloney (1892-1896). The hotel was refurbished during Moloney’s time and alterations designed by architects Mason & Wales were carried out. Moloney was succeeded by John McLeod (1896-1900), Margaret Braun (1900-1904), Thomas Laurenson (1904-1907), Robert McClintock (1907), George McGavin (1907-1911), Michael Cahill (1911-1912), Eliza Cahill (1912-1918), and Sarah Laurenson (1918-1928).

Advertisement from the New Zealand Tablet, 4 November 1892 p.24 (Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand)

The longest serving publican of the Royal Albert Hotel was Henry Mathie Allan, who ran the business from 1928 to 1961 together with his wife, Frances Annie Allan. Above the corner entrance can still be seen the words: ‘H.M. Allan, Licensed to Sell Fermented & Spirituous Liquors’. This wording was uncovered when layers of paint were stripped from the fanlight in 2007. Harry Allan was the son of Eliza Cahill, one of the earlier licensees. He had a keen interest in trotting and owned a number of horses, the most successful of which were Blue Horizon and Will Cary. In Allan’s time the hotel underwent its most radical transformation. The architects Stone & Sturmer (Gorton R. Stone and Frank Sturmer) were commissioned to design extensive internal alterations, a large extension facing London Street, and an art deco makeover of the old exterior. The work was carried out in 1939 by D.P. Murphy and cost £5,443. Stone & Sturmer reworked a number of other nineteenth-century facades in Dunedin during the 1930s, including the Victoria Hotel in St Andrew Street (since demolished) and the Victoria Chambers in Crawford Street. As with Mandeno & Fraser’s remodelling of the Manchester Unity Chambers, previously discussed in this blog, the final result is a marriage of two styles and periods.

Perspective drawing by Stone & Sturmer, architects (Evening Star, 21 March 1939 p.3, with thanks to Dunedin Public Libraries)

Perspective drawing by Stone & Sturmer, architects (Evening Star, 21 March 1939 p.3, with thanks to Dunedin Public Libraries)

An Evening Star newspaper report stated: ‘The exterior of the building will be changed to suit present-day tastes with coloured plaster ornaments rising from a brown-tiled base’. Boldini’s ornamentation was removed and plastered over, but the first floor window openings remained and the building retained much of its original rhythm and some of its Victorian character. The new decoration included fluting, floral motifs, and string courses with scroll patterns. Leadlight windows were installed in the first floor and for the fanlights. The ground floor windows were enlarged but mostly filled with glass bricks, the idea being to let light in but keep noise out and the temperature stable. The new private bar was ‘modern to the extreme with colours of black, red, cream, and chromium predominating in a design of sweeping curves and horizontal lines’. It featured a 100-foot continuous counter. The London Street additions were likewise modern in style, with a flat-roofed building erected over the old yard space.

RoyalAlbert_GaryBlackman

View from George Street, August 1963. Reproduced by kind permission of the photographer, Gary Blackman.

The building in 1983, photographed by Frank Tod (Hocken Collections S13-531a)

The building in 1983, photographed by Frank Tod (Hocken Collections S13-531b)

Edward and Lindsay Young bought the hotel 1963 and remained the licensees to 1977. They gave up the accommodation side of the business and in 1971 the London Lounge bistro opened on the first floor, taking space previously used for bedrooms. A New Zealand Breweries publication reported: ‘The decor shows foresight and courage: a challenging psychedelic (cloth) wallpaper, brightly-hued lampshades, vari-coloured seats, [and] contrasting drapes’.  A tavern license was issued in 1978 when the Royal Albert Hotel became the Royal Albert Tavern.

The next big makeover came after Michael Bankier bought the tavern in 1988. The Royal Albert was renamed the Albert Arms and given a Scottish theme, complete with Royal Stuart tartan carpet. The menu included ‘Kildonald Fried Chicken’, ‘Loch Lomond Salmon Salad’ and ‘Isle of Orkney Pork Chops’. Loch Lomond is not known for its salmon, nor Orkney for its pigs, but the names were only intended to be fun. The ground floor windows were reglazed to allow patrons to watch what is one of Dunedin’s most buzzing street corners, and the exterior was repainted in a distinctive green and red colour scheme selected by Peter Johnstone and Sue Medary of the Design Consultancy. The refurbished bar and restaurant opened in June 1989.

The green and red colour scheme of 1989-2007, photographed  by Axel Magard in 2000.

The green and red colour scheme of 1989-2007, photographed by Axel Magard in 2000 (Creative Commons license)

For a short period from 2004 the Albert Arms returned to the ‘Royal Albert’ name and the bar was branded as Albie’s, but the large Albert Arms sign remained on the parapet. The most recent refurbishment came in 2007, when the Royal Albert became The Bog Irish Bar, one of a chain of four bars in Auckland, Christchurch, and Dunedin. The exterior was repainted blue, with gold and grey detailing. The London Lounge closed but a new restaurant was later opened in the space. Steel grilles were added in front of four first floor windows and a variety of textured and coloured glass panes installed in the existing ground floor windows. There are many appealing features,  but to me it’s a pity that the old name has gone and there is no celebration of the site’s own 149-year history amidst the large amount of generic Irish history that decorates the interior.

There is a curiosity in the exterior plasterwork in that two dates, 1859 and 1939, are engraved on the parapet. The second commemorates the rebuilding, but the first is something of a mystery. The original 1880 decoration also featured the 1859 date. The site was first licensed in 1864, so is the reference to 1859 a mistake? Was Dan White referring to the year he first arrived in Dunedin? Or was there some other business on the site from this date? It’s something to ponder – perhaps over a beer!

The building in 2013

View from London Street, showing the 1939 additions on the right

Detail featuring the ‘Royal Albert Hotel’ name and the dates 1859 and 1939

Leadlight window with the name of Harry Allan, licensee from 1928 to 1961

Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times, 20 April 1864 p.4 (Black Bull Hotel), 15 June 1864 p.4 (Black Bull Hotel), 12 August 1879 p.1 (bankruptcy of Luks), 23 August 1879 p.4 (sale of hotel), 3 December 1879 p.3 (transfer of license), 13 May 1880 p.2 (White in City Police Court), 5 October 1880 p.2 (description of new building), 19 June 1882 p.2 (White’s license), 25 July 1882 p.2 (additions),  3 April 1894 p.3 (alterations by Mason & Wales), 23 March 1911 p.12 (‘Black Dan’), 25 March 1961 p.2 (hotel sold), 19 June 1961 p.3 (retirement of Harry Allan), 14 June 1989 p.21 (refurbished as Albert Arms), 24 May 2007 p.10 (refurbished as The Bog Irish Bar), 18 October 2007 p.22 (The Bog); Evening Star, 31 December 1878 p.1 (call for tenders), 31 July 1882 p.2 (additions), 21 March 1939 p.3 (description of rebuilding); Otago Witness, 6 September 1879 p.15 (sale of hotel).

Other references: Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans; Frank Tod, Pubs Galore (Dunedin, 1984); Frank Tod papers, Hocken Collections (MS-3290/049).