Tag Archives: 1930s

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)

James McNeish mentioned the Albert and its publican in his 1957 book, Tavern in the Town. Describing it as a ‘student pub’, he wrote:

‘Its bar-room displays toby jugs of enough nationalities to start a revolution […] Henry Allan is the present landlord of the Royal Albert, a publican with a dual passion: toby jugs and roses. He has been collecting jugs since 1937. He is probably our only publican who wears a fresh rose in his buttonhole each day.’

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 papers, Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hākena MS-3290/049.
McNeish, James. Tavern in the Town (Wellington: A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1957).
Tod, Frank, Pubs Galore (Dunedin: the author, 1984).

Manchester Unity Chambers

Built: 1882-1883 / 1932-1933
Address: 134-142 Stuart Street
Architects Edmund Roach / Mandeno & Fraser
Builders: Francis Wilkinson / Alfred Edward Silver

The story of this building begins in the nineteenth century with the people who built it: the Oddfellows.

The Hand-and-Heart Lodge, Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows, was founded in 1848 and was the first of the ‘friendly society’ lodges in Otago. By 1882 there were 127 Manchester Unity lodges throughout New Zealand. They provided financial benefits and social services to affiliated families and individuals, and filled an important role in their communities in the days before the welfare state and modern health and life insurance systems. They also organised social activities for their members. The origins of the Oddfellows can be traced to the English guild system, when members of trades without enough fellows to form their own guild joined together to form mixed guilds: the odd fellows. Manchester Unity was one of many manifestations of the movement and was formed when members seceded from the Patriotic Order of Oddfellows in 1813.

This building (in its original form) was built between September 1882 and January 1883, following the expiry of the lease on the lodge’s previous hall in George Street.  There was much ceremony for the laying of the foundation stone, with a procession headed by Krull’s brass band, speeches read from a specially erected platform, and children singing the New Zealand anthem. Newspaper reports referred to the architecture as ‘classic style’, however, it would be more accurate to describe the building as a palazzo in the Renaissance revival style. It was constructed in stone and brick with a cement-rendered façade and corrugated iron roof. The façade decoration included pilasters with Corinthian capitals, window pediments, a dentil cornice, a balustraded parapet, and finials. Francis Wilkinson (1834-1902) was the builder and the contract price was £2,825. Edmund Martin Roach (1835-1912) was the architect. Born in Islington, London, Roach began his career as a contractor and had been Inspector of Works to the Otago Provincial Government before joining the practice of architect David Ross. Roach’s most familiar designs are the Baptist halls in Hanover Street and Primitive Methodist Church buildings (built in two stages) in Dundas Street.

The building as it appeared around the turn of the twentieth century, with the shop of the Madras Tea Importing Co. Ltd on the left, and John Chambers & Son (engineers and importers) on the right (Cyclopedia of New Zealand).

As the ‘mother lodge’ the Hand-and-Heart Lodge provided facilities for the wider Oddfellows community, as well as to many other groups, including Masons, Druids, Foresters, the Gaelic Society, the Disciples of Christ, the Rationalist Church, and the Theosophical Society. Activities included meetings, socials, concerts, lectures, dancing classes, cooking classes, and election meetings. The building also contained shops fronting Stuart Street.

Between 1932 and 1933 the building was extended and remodelled to designs by architects Mandeno & Fraser at a cost of between £6,000 and £7,000. With rearward additions it may have as much as doubled in size. The building contractor was Alfred Edward Silver (1878-1960) and the decorator Edwin Longworth. Many features of the original façade decoration were retained, including four of the eight first-floor pilasters with Corinthian capitals, five of the seven window pediments, and part of the cornice. The finials and balustraded parapet were entirely removed. Art deco detailing was added, including the name of the building (‘Manchester Unity Chambers’) and the date of reconstruction (‘1933’). A hanging verandah was added and new shopfronts included brown and orange ceramic tiles and lead-lighted windows. The extensive additions included a new meeting hall on the second floor, the roof of which is the highest point of the structure. It was remarked that the reconstruction was a major building project in Dunedin during a time of economic depression.

The facade is an example of the widespread facelifting of Victorian and Edwardian  buildings in the art deco and stripped classical styles. In Dunedin, this particular brand of’ ‘remodelling’ began around 1929 (Allbell Chambers), and continued through the 1930s and 1940s, with  examples including the City Hotel (1936-1937), Harris Shoes (1939), NMA (1940), UFS (1940), and Paterson & Barr (1948). One of the last decorative examples was the Hotel Central (1953). From the 1940s onwards these facelifts tended to become more crude and simple, and by the 1950s-1970s they were usually a fairly brutal treatment involving the removal of any ornament and a flush cemented finish (e.g. the Standard Building and the Atheneum). When looking at these buildings the overall proportions and the retention of old sash windows are often a giveaway. Why do it? It was sometimes a solution to maintenance problems (e.g. crumbling stone balustrades) but it was also a reaction against unfashionable Victorian architecture, and a way to make a building appear more modern. I’ve seen one building report from the period which recommends one of these facelifts as an inexpensive way to significantly increase the building value.  My personal view is that it’s shame that so many of our Victorian buildings now look so disfigured and confused, but they do give a building an interesting layered history and some of the best examples work well and are quite delightful.  The Manchester Unity Chambers are particularly appealing, and unusual in the way they have retained some of the old decorative detail.

The Lodge relocated to the Glasgow Street Friendly Society Rooms in 2007, having sold the building some years earlier. It disbanded in 2012, by which time it was known as the Otago Friendly Society. The corner shop was occupied by Eclipse Radio from 1939 to 1993. Something of a local institution, over time it added televisions, model supplies, and computers to its business.  The upper shop has been home to The Perc (originally The Percolator) cafe since 1992 and another cafe, Sugar, now occupies the corner shop. With their unspoilt tile-work and leadlights they have two of the best preserved 1930s shopfronts in Dunedin. The many occupants of the offices have included insurance agents, accountants, solicitors, dressmakers, music teachers, incorporated societies, and currently the Zuma web and design studio. Hopefully, the future of the building will be as colourful as its past.

Eclipse Radio ephemera addressed to my grandfather.

Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times, 9 May 1882 p.2 (description), 12 May 1882 p.1 (call for tenders), 25 September 1882 pp.2-3 (description and laying of foundation stone), 24 January 1883 p.2 (hall used for first time), 21 July 1933 p.10 (opening ceremony for reconstructed building), 13 February 1993 p.3 (closure of Eclipse Radio and Computers), 30 April 2007 p.4 (relocation of Unity Otago Lodge), 21 July 2012 p.1 (Otago Friendly Society disbanded); The Star, 14 June 2007 p.19 (re-opening of The Perc).

Other references: Cyclopedia of New Zealand, vol.4 (Otago and Southland Provincial Districts, pp.289-90); plans for alterations, Dunedin City Council records.