Tag Archives: Art deco

Otago Pioneer Women’s Memorial Building

Rebuilt: 1934-1935
Address: 362 Moray Place
Architect: Cecil Gardner Dunning
Builders: Love Construction Co.

One of Dunedin’s more jazzy and original expressions of the Art Deco style has been home to the Otago Pioneer Women’s Memorial Association for 75 years.

In the nineteenth century its Moray Place site was part of a large coal and firewood yard. In 1909 a single-storey structure was built for the consulting engineer William James as an office, together with a shop he rented out. An extension followed in 1913.

362Moray_Site1874

The site as it appeared in 1874, with Stuart Street in the foreground. Detail from Burton Bros panorama. Te Papa O.025698.

Elevation and section plans of the original building, erected for William James in 1909.

The building gained an additional storey and its distinctive style in 1934 and 1935, through work carried out for new owners S.R. Burns & Co. by the Love Construction Co. Stanley Burns was a decorated returned soldier, who served in France in the First World War. He ran a tailoring business in Dunedin before setting up a company dealing in shares and the promotion of subsidiary companies with diverse interests in property, printing, caravans and camping equipment, cosmetics, and other areas.

The architect for the work, Cecil Gardner Dunning, was the South-African-born son and former practice partner of another local architect, William Henry Dunning. The younger Dunning’s other Dunedin designs include the former customhouse (now Harbourside Grill) and numerous private residences.

The facade as it appeared c.1935.

Bold and contrasting colours originally emphasised the angular design of the facade, likely including a warm red like the one recently revealed on the former Victoria Insurance Building in Crawford Street. The interior continued the theme, with its modern fittings, bevelled glass doors, and fashionable terrazzo flooring in the foyer and on the stairs.

The top floor was fitted out as a beauty salon for the subsidiary Roxana Ltd, ‘in accordance with modern trend and tastefully furnished to provide the maximum comfort to clients’. Much of this fit-out remains. Decorative elements included wood panelling in Pacific maple and Australian walnut ply, carnival glass windows, and black Vitrolite (an opaque pigmented glass) at the cosmetic counter and pay desk.

Sandford Sinclaire, a graduate of the Wilfred Academy of New York, managed the skincare and make-up side of the business. From a six by four foot cubicle, described as his cosmetical laboratory, came Roxana Beauty Preparations, with their ‘special exotic properties anticipated to appeal to women of fashion throughout New Zealand’. Equipment included what promoters claimed to be the country’s first Dermascope complexion analysis machine. The ‘coiffure section’ under the direction of Miss MacDonald, previously of Melbourne and Sydney, boasted the latest in hair-waving machines.

Sinclaire was dismissed for incompetence after less than a year and the salon closed in August 1937. Cosmetics continued to be produced for a short period under a new Eudora brand. By 1941 Burns’s small empire was crumbling amid financial losses and fraud (he was imprisoned in 1943) and his building was sold to the newly-formed Otago Pioneer Women’s Memorial Association.

Dr Emily Siedeberg-McKinnon, the founding president of the association, was New Zealand’s first woman medical graduate. She worked as a general practitioner in Dunedin from 1897, and among her many other roles was Medical Superintendent of St Helen’s Maternity Hospital. Her house in York Place features in a previous post on this blog.

In 1928 she visited the Women’s Building in Vancouver, Canada. Over one hundred women’s groups used this new and central facility, which inspired her to promote something similar for Dunedin. She did not find an opportunity until 1936, when the recently-elected Labour Government announced extensive plans and regional funding for the upcoming New Zealand Centennial celebrations. Provincial committees were established, and on 31 July 1936 Siedeberg-McKinnon chaired a meeting to explore the idea of a memorial to Otago’s pioneer women. Proposals included a memorial arch, the cleaning up of slum areas, and a quaintly-described ‘home for gentlewomen of slender means’, but the delegates representing thirty-nine women’s organisations agreed they should pursue the idea of a women’s community building. The Otago Women’s Centennial Council was formed to further the project.

Dr Emily Siedeberg-McKinnon (1873-1968)

The new group had the support of Dunedin’s Labour mayor, Edwin Cox, and in February 1938 its proposal gained formal approval from the Provincial Centennial Council. It agreed that a women’s building should be one two major memorials for Otago, with the other being a cancer block at the public hospital.

In the following months Siedeberg-McKinnon outlined a proposal for a two-storey building with five committee rooms, a conference and concert room, a public lounge, two smaller lounges, a kitchen, and caretaker’s quarters. It would be available to both women and men and be similar in size to the Order of St John building in York Place. An obelisk dedicated to Otago pioneer women might be placed outside the entrance. The cost was estimated at between £7,500 and £10,000.

Cox was defeated at the local body elections in May, and while fundraising plans progressed, opposition to the scheme was finding traction. Earlier opposition had included some saying that women had no business wanting to go to meetings, and that their place was the home and the care of children. Sexism was a constant obstacle, and so were competing interests for the available funding. In September the new committee of the Provincial Centennial Council rescinded the original decision in favour of other schemes, cutting off access to the expected government subsidy. Siedeberg-McKinnon pointed to political and class bias, and to businessmen who favoured putting more money towards the national exhibition in Wellington, furthering their own commercial interests.

Perspective drawing of proposed community building on the Garrison Hall site, between Dowling and Burlington Streets. H. McDowell Smith architect.

Siedeberg-McKinnon encouraged supporters not to ‘crumple up at the first set back’ and plans continued to be developed for a general Memorial Community Building on the Garrison Hall site, between Dowling and Burlington street. The Provincial Committee again rejected the plans, and by this stage it was obvious it would not support funding any women’s or community building.

Dispirited, Siedeberg-McKinnon had a vivid dream in which she climbed from a walled enclosure, found her way through marshy ground, and looked up to see a large unfinished building with scaffolding around it. Encouraged, she found support to renew her efforts and led the formation of the Otago Pioneer Women’s Memorial Association at an ‘indignation meeting’ on 14 March 1939. The new name was necessary as legislation reserved the word ‘centennial’ for official projects and the group had been threatened with legal action.

Successful fundraising and a mortgage allowed the purchase of the Burns & Co. building and the refurbished property opened on 23 February 1942. Intended as temporary accommodation, the association remains there three-quarters of a century later.

The largest room was the hall. Other spaces included a boardroom and a lounge. A small chapel on the first floor named the Shrine of Remembrance was dedicated on Otago Anniversary Day 1946. Designed by architect Frank Sturmer, it was furnished with an oak chair made by Dunedin’s first cabinetmaker, John Hill, and a new oak refectory table by local Swedish-born cabinetmaker Alfred Gustafson.

Robert Fraser designed a memorial stained-glass window set within three gothic arches, but due to his failing health the work was taken on and executed by John Brock. The central panel shows Christ walking on water and his disciples in a rowing boat. The left-hand panel illustrates a migrant family departing Britain, and the right-hand panel depicts arrival in Otago. The arrival panel includes mother and daughter figures, the ship Philip Laing, a whare, and native flora including ferns and cabbage trees. The shrine was later decommissioned and the window was moved to the foyer. The inscription beneath the window reads:

This window commemorates the safe arrival in Otago of all those Pioneer Women who braved the dangers of the long sea voyage to assist in the settlement of the Province of Otago and is a tribute to their sterling qualities of character, their foresight, their self sacrifice and their powers of endurance through many hardships. A recognition by those who have reaped the benefit, spiritual or material.

The hall and rooms were made available to a wide range of community groups, and not exclusively women’s organisations. Those using the building in the 1940s and 50s included the Dunedin Kindergarten Association, Lancashire and Yorkshire Society, Rialto Bridge Club, Dunedin Burns Club, Federation of University Women, Practical Psychology Club, Sutcliffe School of Radiant Living, Musicians’ Union, Radio DX League, Otago Women’s Hockey Association, Registered Nurses’ Association, and many more. In 1960 over fifty organisations were using the hall and rooms. The Dunedin Spiritualist Church met in the building for nearly 50 years, from 1945 to 1994.

In 1958, the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Association purchased a new property in York Place and again entered a period of active fundraising. It appeared to be close to realising Siedeberg-McKinnon’s vision for a purpose-built building, but again fell short of its ambitious target. Instead, the unique venue they had developed was maintained and continues to provide a valuable community asset today.

With this post I mark five years of blogging on this website. Thanks all for reading.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 8 March 1937 p,27 (outline of aims), 3 August 1937 (community building proposed), 9 February 1938 p.6 (approval by Provincial Centennial Council), 4 October 1938 p.5 (attitude of committee opposed), 15 March 1939 p.10 (OPWMA formed), 24 April 1940 p.6 (annual meeting, history), 30 April 1941 p9 (need for headquarters), 23 October 1941 p.9 (building purchased), 24 February 1942 pp.3-6 (opening), 28 May 1942 p.6 (‘aims partly realised’), 25 March 1946 p.6 (memorial window), 30 May 1960 pp.4 and 10 (fundraising), 6 June 1960 pp.4 and 14 (usage); Evening Star 18 October 1938 p.1 (description of proposed building), 25 October 1938 p.7 (illustration of proposed building); 30 October 1958 (‘new building nearer realisation’), 14 May 1960 p.2 (fundraising), 24 May 1960 p.2 (fundraising); Weekly News (Auckland), 29 October 1941 p.14 (‘Headquarters as Pioneer Memorial’); The Press (Christchurch), 2 April 1936 p.11 (Sinclaire, wrongful dismissal case), 16 September 1943 p.6 (charges of fraud against Burns), 30 November 1943 p.7 (sentencing of Burns).

Other references:
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory, various editions 1884-1954.
Baré, Robert, City of Dunedin Block Plans Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, [1889].
Jones, F. Oliver, Structural Plans of the City of Dunedin NZ, ‘Ignis et Aqua’ series, [1892].
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Chris Scott, Archivist)
Booking diaries from Otago Pioneer Women’s Memorial Association Inc. records, Hocken Collections MS-3156.
Newspaper clippings from Dr Emily Hancock Siedeberg-Mckinnon papers, Hocken Collections MS-0665/046 and 047.
McKinnon, Emily H. and Irene L. Starr. Otago Pioneer Women’s Memorial. (Dunedin: Otago Daily Times, 1959).
‘Eudora Limited, formerly Roxana Limited’. Defunct Company and Incorporated Society files, Archives New Zealand Regional Office, R43267.
‘Eudora Limited [Previously Roxana Limited] – Director’s Minute Book’. Archives New Zealand Dunedin Regional Office, R9071585.
‘S.R. Burns & Company Limited’. Defunct Company and Incorporated Society files, Archives New Zealand Regional Office, R43322.

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

 

Union Steam Ship Company offices

Built: 1882-1883
Address: 49 Water Street
Architect: David Ross (1828-1908)
Builders: Bateman & Stait

The office building as it appeared in the 1880s, with the store building adjoining it at the left rear. Image: Burton Brothers, Hocken Collections S10-221c.

The Union Steam Ship Company was a giant of colonial commerce. It became both the largest shipping company in the southern hemisphere and the largest private employer in New Zealand. Established by James Mills in Dunedin in 1875, it grew out of a shipping business started by John Jones and later managed by Mills. By 1882 it operated coastal and inter-colonial shipping routes, with a fleet of twenty-one steamers and a further four on order. At this time its head office was at the corner of Liverpool and Bond streets.

Flag of the Union Steam Ship Company. Image: Museum of Wellington City and Sea 2005.4970.90.

Flag of the Union Steam Ship Company. Image: Museum of Wellington City and Sea 2005.4970.90.

In September 1882 the company appointed prominent local architect David Ross to design a new office building and adjoining store, to be built on recently reclaimed Harbour Board land fronting Water Street. The following month the contract for construction was awarded to Bateman & Stait, who submitted the lowest tender of £6,526 (less £375 if minarets and parapets were left off). Although this was a large sum for a Dunedin building, it was modest compared with the cost of a ship. the company’s two largest new ships of 1883 (the Tarawera and the Hauroto) each cost over £60,000. The building project took approximately a year to complete and was finished around November 1883.

Detail cropped from Muir & Moodie photograph. Image: Te Papa C.012197.

Detail cropped from Muir & Moodie photograph. Image: Te Papa C.012197.

Detail cropped from Muir & Moodie photograph. Image: Te Papa C.012197.

The main building was brick, rendered in cement plaster, with concrete foundations and a half-sunk Port Chalmers stone basement that rose six feet above the footpath. The roof was slate. Elaborately decorated elevations were described in the Otago Daily Times as ‘tasteful, although anything but gaudy’, and it was reported that ‘in point of external appearance the structure will not be rivalled by any other of its kind in the city’. The style was essentially Renaissance Revival (‘modern Italian’), but the fanciful roofline featured an array of minarets that probably drew from English Tudor models, and a square-based dome was suggestive of the French Second Empire style. Some proposed decorative details, ‘an emblematic design (globe, anchor, cable &c.) enclosing a clock’, were not finished as intended.

Ross had spent time in both France and the United States a few years before, and what he saw there likely influenced the design, which was a departure from his earlier work. While the building was still under construction he won the competition for the design of the Auckland Harbour Board offices with a strikingly similar composition.

That looks familiar! David Ross also designed the Auckland Harbour Board offices in Quay Street, Auckland (1883). Its exterior decoration was removed in 1958 and the building was demolished in 1969. Image: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W890.

The Tarawera, one of the large new vessels which entered service for the Union Company in 1883. Image: John Dickie, Alexander Turnbull Library 1/2-031815-G http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23208710

The Tarawera, one of the large new vessels which entered service for the Union Company in 1883. It cost £61,000 to build and was 2,003 gross tons. Image: John Dickie, Alexander Turnbull Library 1/2-031815-G http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23208710

The neighbouring store building fronting Cumberland Street had a simpler but complementary design and the combined height of its four storeys were the same as the three storeys of the offices. The store included a hydraulic goods lift at one corner and the building reportedly contained ‘every convenience for the reception and despatch of the various materials needed on board the Company’s steamers’. The top storey of the office portion was also initially used as storage space. On the lower floors were counters, desks and other carved timber fittings of polished cedar and walnut. The large shipping hall on the ground floor (22 x 32 feet) featured parquet flooring and handsome cornices, and the vestibule was paved with Minton tiles and had iron gates. On the same level were also a smoking room for visiting ship captains, a reading room (with ‘all the principal Colonial journals’), a telephone room (for that relatively newfangled invention), the Engineer’s Office, and other staff offices. The first floor included the board room, James Mills’ own office, the deputy manager’s office, and the bookkeeping department. Heating was by F.H. Asbury’s low-pressure steam system, and there were also open fireplaces in some rooms.

The building remained the head office of the Union Steam Ship Company from 1883 to 1921. The company’s headquarters then transferred to Wellington and the Water Street building was used by the Dunedin branch office, which only needed the ground floor. Meanwhile, on the corner diagonally opposite, the National Mortgage and Agency Company had outgrown its premises, so in 1929 the Union Company and the NMA came to an arrangement to exchange buildings. The two firms had a long association, and had mutual directors for some years.

Established in 1864, the NMA was a stock and station company that became the second largest wool broker in New Zealand. The company’s historian, Gordon Parry, described its fortunes in the interwar years: ‘Bemused by topsy-turvy trading conditions and unpredictable price fluctuations, the National Mortgage bounced through the troublesome time of the late 20s and into the threatening 30s rather like one of its staff members following a narrow sheep trail in a poorly sprung runabout’.

The outward appearance of the building changed little in its first decade of NMA ownership, the few alterations including new signage and lettering (for example ‘USSCo’ was changed to ‘NMACo’’ on the basement grilles). In 1940, however, it underwent a major transformation. Most of the building’s original exterior decoration was destroyed in remodelling designed by architects Mandeno & Fraser (the specification is initialled Mandeno) and carried out by W.H. Naylor Ltd. Such facelifts were common in Dunedin at the time, influenced by fashion and iconoclasm, and often triggered by maintenance issues such as crumbling masonry. Existing masonry was bolstered back or filled in, and surfaces replastered in a fashionable quasi-Art Deco style, with restrained decoration and contrasting colour effects. The end result didn’t look quite like a twentieth century building, as the overall proportions and most of the windows were unchanged. The stone basement was not altered and the grand entrance doors were also retained.

The building at the time of the NMA centennial celebrations in 1964. Image: Hocken Collections S10-221e.

The building in 2010, prior to redevelopment.

The building in 2013, after redevelopment.

NMA moved its head office to Wellington in 1970 and the Dunedin building became a branch office. The company merged with Wright Stephenson & Co. in 1972 and the new company (Wrightson NMA) vacated the Water Street premises in 1977. The building was renamed Vogel House and during the 1980s and 1990s it was used as a rehearsal venue for bands and other musicians. The Dunedin Sound group The Chills had a space on the south of the first floor and recorded their single Doledrums there in 1984. Other groups that rehearsed in the building included the Kaftans, the Moomins, and Jim’s Live Deer Recovery. The building was later the venue of a two-week squat installation by artist Georgiana Morrison (1995) and the show ‘Dereliction’ by Kim Pieters (1996).

Steve Macknight’s NMA Properties Ltd redeveloped the building between 2010 and 2012. The exterior was renovated to approximately its 1940 appearance, one of the exceptions from this being the addition of a slightly incongruous cornice at parapet level. Paint was stripped from the stonework and plasterwork, and the latter was restored to a beautifully warm and complex colouring. Few of the original interior features had survived earlier alterations, however, remnants of plaster cornices and entrance features were retained. Brick walls and roof structures were exposed, making the most of surviving historic fabric. Major earthquake strengthening (to 67% of the new building standard) included new poured concrete floors and tying back of walls. The redevelopment was granted $20,000 from the Dunedin Heritage Fund in 2010 and won the 2013 Dunedin Heritage Re-Use Award. Current tenants include Wine Freedom and Psychology Associates.

It is a pity that the building is not the spectacular example of Victorian exuberance it once was, but this in no way diminishes its significance as a rich site of cultural and economic history. Historian Gavin McLean describes it as ‘New Zealand’s most important office building’. I nominated it as an historic place to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust in 2010 and it is yet to be assessed, but thanks to the work of enthusiastic local developers its future looks good, and it is once more an attractive and widely appreciated part of Dunedin’s Warehouse Precinct.

The main entrance, including original doors.

Original basement stonework and grille.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 10 September 1883 p.4 (description), 28 July 1977 p.11-18 (removal of Wrightson NMA); Evening Post (Wellington), 6 March 1929 p.8 (building exchange).

Other references:
Baré, Robert. City of Dunedin Block Plans (Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, 1889).
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories
‘A Citizen’ [John Bathgate]. An Illustrated Guide to Dunedin and its Industries (Dunedin: Fergusson & Mitchell, 1883), pp.140-142.
McLean, Gavin. 100 Historic Places in New Zealand (Auckland: Hodder Moa Beckett, 2002), pp.122-123.
Parry, Gordon. NMA: The story of the first 100 years: The National Mortgage and Agency Company of New Zealand Ltd 1864-1964 (London and Dunedin: NMA. 1964).
Minutes. Union Steam Ship Company records, Hocken Collections AG-292-3/1/2
Tabulated abstracts of accounts. Union Steam Ship Company records, Hocken Collections AG-292-7/9/1
Mandeno & Fraser specification for 1940 remodelling (with thanks to Oakley Gray architects)
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)
Information about band rehearsals in the building supplied by James Dignan.

Facade detail.

View across the intersection of Water and Vogel streets.

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).

Barton’s Buildings (Stafford House)

Built: 1928
Address: 2 Manse Street
Architect: William Henry Dunning (1872-1933)
Builders: G. Lawrence & Sons

The building in July 1975, photographed by and reproduced courtesy of Ray Hargreaves. Hocken Collections S13-127b.

For decades, neon signs at Barton’s Corner brightened Dunedin’s night life and made the 1920s butchery buildings a city landmark. Little pink pigs ran along the verandah, green lambs leapt along the parapet, a suited pig doffed his top hat, and a large bullock capped it all off. The signs were especially popular with children, and many parents would slow their cars so the kids could enjoy the display.

The history of occupation on the site goes back to Māori settlement, although the level of the land was reduced by early Eurpean settlers. In 1851 James MacAndrew, later Superintendent of Otago, built a store here. His single storey building was described nearly fifty years later as being ‘more attractive in appearance than any other in embryo Dunedin’.  Macandrew was succeeded by James Paterson, who sold up in 1863.

Meanwhile, in 1853, Benjamin Dawson established Stafford House as a private boarding establishment on the site above in Stafford Street. Under John Sibbald it became Sibbald’s Private Hotel, which was given a license in April 1858.  It was renamed the Provincial Hotel in 1859 and enlarged in 1861. It was probably in 1863 that the timber hotel buildings were extended down to the Manse Street corner, and at the end of the decade the ground floor portion became a shop (it was a grocer’s for some years). This extension was very narrow and a separate brick building took up most of the site facing Manse Street. The occupants of this second building included the Caxton Printing Company from 1889 to 1913.

An advertisement showing the Barton & Trengrove butchery in 1918. It is housed in both the old Provincial Hotel additions (left) and the former Caxton Printing Co. building (right). Otago Witness, 16 October 1918 p.33. Hocken Collections S13-184.

Barton & Trengrove, butchers, opened on the site in 1913 and took both of the old buildings. George Barton was a young Australian who had been making his way to America when he saw an opportunity to go into business in Dunedin. His partner was John Trengrove, and both men were enterprising horse racing enthusiasts. Barton’s pacer Indianapolis rode to victory in the New Zealand Trotting Cup in three successive years and won over £10,000 in stakes. Trengrove sold his share in the butchery in 1924 and from 1928 it was known simply as Barton’s. In the same year a new building was erected, with demolition work started in January.

The building under construction. Otago Witness, 25 September 1928 p.44. Hocken Collections S13-127e.

Permit papers and deposited plans record the work as ‘additions and alterations’, as the new building incorporated an existing basement and some ground floor walls. Steel frame construction was used and the business was able to remain open on the site during the rebuilding. The upper storeys had steel-framed windows with fine decorative detail on the first floor bay windows. There was a light well within the building. The contractors were Lawrence & Sons and the architect was William Henry Dunning, who had previously worked in Tasmania before arriving in Dunedin in 1908. Dunning’s early designs here included the National Bank in Princes Street and Ross Home in North East Valley. A later work was the block of shops at the corner of Albany and George Streets, which has some similar decorative features to Barton’s Buildings, including Art Deco elements.

Dunning’s design was described in an Evening Star newspaper report as being in Renaissance style. This might seem a stretch, but the composition can be read as  ‘stripped classical’, a style then in vogue and used on contemporaneous Dunedin buildings such as Queen’s Buildings and the Public Trust Office. There are also hints of an Egyptian Revival influence, including a winged cartouche at the top of the splayed corner. The facades were finished in white Atlas cement, lined with a block joint, and the shop fronts and internal staircase were finished with terrazzo. Crown Derby tiled panels depicting sheep and Highland steers were fixed to the ground floor facade facing Stafford Street.

Detail from one of the panels of Crown Derby tiles next to the Stafford Street entrance.

Barton’s flourished and a branch was established in Rattray Street in 1930, while George’s brother Douglas operated a butchery in the Octagon. In 1942, following the Japanese bombing of Darwin, an air raid shelter for up to 30 people was built in the basement of the Manse Street building. Quite a few of these were constructed in the central city and other businesses that built or planned shelters around the same time included the D.I.C., Penrose’s, and Woolworths.

George Barton junior eventually returned from service in the Air Force and took over the business together with his brother Reg in 1946. He later remembered that ‘After the war, all of the town was dull and dreary. We thought the place needed brightening up, so we decided to make a statement’. This was when the first of the neon signs were installed.

Neon lights c.1962, photographed by and reproduced courtesy of Bruce Murray.

The gentleman pig on display in Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum.

The signs were made by Claude Neon, who for more than 30 years owned them and leased them to Barton’s. A photograph taken in the early 1960s shows the running pigs, the lambs, and the cattle beast in place, with the name Barton’s displayed vertically down the splayed corner. In 1965 the name sign was replaced by a suited pig built by Trevor Hellyer, who was then a junior at Claude Neon. Hellyer also built the Fresh Freddie fish sign that was a familiar sight in St Andrew Street for 40 years. Another large sign reading ‘Barton’s’ was added to the Manse Street facade.

A night view from 1970, photographed by and reproduced courtesy of Lloyd Godman.

George Barton senior died in 1963 following a fall at the Burnside sale yards. He was 82. George junior and Reg ensured Barton’s remained a family business and took the butchery to its peak, when it employed over 200 staff, including 63 butchers. From 1967 special lamb cuts were exported overseas in a joint venture with PPCS, and major alterations and additions were carried out to allow the increase in production. Trade restrictions made this venture less successful than it might have been. The original shop fronts were taken out in 1969.

Reg Barton said the best way to beat the supermarkets was to offer a different product by going back to old-fashioned ways, and in 1978 the business announced it would revert to selling unpackaged rather than pre-packaged meat. By the end of the decade, however, the firm faced an estimated cost of $100,000 to bring its building up to Health Department requirements. The Manse Street shop closed for the last time on 29 January 1980. Other shops in Rattray Street and the Golden Centre remained open for a little longer (the Octagon shop had closed in 1966). The neon signs were removed in September 1980 and some were put into storage at the Dunedin Museum of Transport and Technology. The restored gentleman pig can now be seen at the Settlers Museum, and some of the running pigs are on display outside Miller Studios in Anzac Avenue.

From 1985 to 1995 Dick Smith Electronics were the ground floor tenants. G.S. McLauchlan & Co. bought the buildings in 1988 and redeveloped them to the plans of Mason & Wales, the work being complete by April 1989. The upper floors were converted to offices, the original central light well was built over, and more than 90 truck loads of rubble were removed from the site. The building was painted grey with details highlighted in white. The original ‘Barton’s Buildings’ lettering was removed and replaced with the new name, ‘Stafford House’ in black plastic lettering. This was a pity as the old lettering had a distinctive period style, and the material and font of its replacement is out of character.

The current name may reference the original Stafford House of the 1850s, although it’s not on the same site.  To add confusion, the pink building on the opposite corner was also known as Stafford House for some years, as was the building that fronts the Golden Centre in George Street.

In the 1990s Stafford House got its current colour scheme and the Pet Warehouse has been the ground floor tenant since 2001. An association with animals continues, but in a very different way!

The building in 2013

Facade detail

Update: Since I wrote this the building has undergone major refurbishment. Below is a view of the exterior taken in September 2014.  The Barton’s name has returned and Dad’s photograph of the neon lights now decorates the lift!

Newspaper references:
Otago Witness, 17 December 1853 p.2 (Benjamin Dawson), 13 May 1854 p.1 (stable), 7 February 1854 p.4 (John Sibbald), 3 May 1856 p.2 (Sibbald), 14 April 1860 p.1 (Provincial Hotel).
Otago Daily Times, 16 November 1861 p.5 (hotel enlargement), 6 April 1863 p.2 (James Paterson), 7 September 1864 p.5 (transfer of licence), 20 June 1872 p.2 (grocery), 3 April 1899 p.6 (Macandrew’s store), 4 April 1963 pp.1 and 3 (obituary of George Johnson Barton), 29 June 1967 p.13 (exporting and expansion), 22 October 1970 p.13 (history of Barton’s),  1 March 1980 p.1 (closure), 4 September 1980 p.1 (neon signs), 17 September 1980 p.5 (signs), 7 April 1989 p.12 (redevelopment), 3 January 1995 p.25 (signs), 24 August 1996 p.1 (signs), 7 April 1989 p.12 (redevelopment), 25 October 2008 (Trevor Hellyer), 23 June 2012 p.36 (obituary of George Hobson Barton).
Evening Star, 27 December 1927 p.2 (description of building), 12 June 1928 p.2 (building progress).

Other references:
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Block plans (1889, 1892, 1927)
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)

The Rio Grande

Built: 1927-1928
Address: 73 Princes Street
Architects: David Gourlay Mowat
Builders: G. Lawrence & Sons

This wee gem often catches my eye. The Rio Grande was the restaurant of Dimitrios Pagonis (1893-1976), a Greek immigrant from the island of Evvia. Pagonis had arrived in Dunedin in 1915, when he went into business as a confectioner and opened the Anglo American Candy Kitchen. He sold the business in 1927, when he commissioned architect D.G. Mowat to replace the 1860s building at 73 Princes Street (part of a larger block of shops) with a new structure. Plans dated 24 August 1927 show a building with three levels (two above the street and one below) on a concrete foundation that would allow the height to be increased to a total of five levels if required. The restaurant occupied the ground floor and basement, and the first floor was used as office space. The builders were Lawrence & Sons.

The building was completed by April 1928, when an Evening Star report described it:

‘Only last week the proprietor of the Rio Grande restaurant served the first meal to the public, and if internal decoration has anything to do with a cafe’s popularity then the Rio Grande should find a warm spot in the heart of patrons. The fibrous plastering has been very well done by Messrs Forman and Nicol, and Messrs Arnold, Brock, and Raffils have put their best work into the lead-lighting arrangements. The kitchen is fitted out with the usual culinary equipment of modern times. From the street the building has a remarkably fine appearance, the marble floor running in from the pavement being quite a feature.’

David Gourlay Mowat (1880-1952) was most active in Dunedin in the 1920s and 1930s. His designs included the St Andrew Street Church of Christ, the Maori Hill Presbyterian Church, Mann’s Buildings at the corner of Manse and High streets, and the building at 232 George Street which is now a McDonald’s restaurant. The last of these was built in 1929 and shares with the Rio Grande a distinctive first-floor window design with arched lintels and leadlight windows described as ‘sashed in the antique style’.  Both buildings have similar decorative mouldings that frame their facades. In the Rio Grande, the international vogue for Egyptian decoration comes through in an understated way through the pilasters and curved entablature. Mowat’s front elevation drawing shows the faint lettering ‘The Rio Grand’ [sic] in the recessed panel that runs across the upper part of the facade. The spelling in later sources varies.

Restaurants operated from the building under various managers for ten years. During the Great Depression street riot of 1932, Pagonis opened the restaurant to rioters for the whole day, feeding them without charge. Not long after this he sold the building and left Dunedin, but he later returned and established the Beau Monde Milk Bar, further south and on the opposite side of Princes Street.

A wartime advertisement. Otago Daily Times, 27 April 1943 p.5.

A wartime advertisement. Otago Daily Times, 27 April 1943 p.5.

View showing the building as it appeared in the mid 1970s with the clock in place. Detail from photograph by Hardwicke Knight.

The jewellers G. & T. Young took the premises in 1938, when new shop fronts and other alterations were designed by architects Salmond & Salmond. The large Birmingham clock that had been a feature outside their previous two premises since 1871 was moved and attached to the facade. G. & T. Young moved to George Street premises in 1988 and the clock was removed in 1990. When the firm went into liquidation in 2009 it was believed to be the oldest jewellery business in New Zealand. It had been established by George Young in 1862, with his brother Thomas admitted as a partner in 1876.

Most recently the Rio Grande building housed Rocda Gallery, and its plaster ceilings are still largely intact. For a small, domestically-scaled commercial building it attracts a lot of admiring comments, perhaps because its modest take on 1920s architectural fashion has more than a little sparkle to it, like a ring in a little jeweller’s box.

Do any readers have historical photographs of this building? I’d love to see a good view of it with the clock still in place.

Newspaper references: Evening Star, 10 January 1928 p.2 (construction progress), 2 April 1928 p.2 (description); 18 December 1928 p.2 (building at 232 George Street); Otago Witness, 18 May 1867 p.11 (earlier buildings), 15 April 1871 p.14 (G. & T. Young clock); Otago Daily Times, 17 April 1867 p.1 (earlier buildings), 14 May 1990 p.3 (clock removed), 27 January 2009 p.4 (liquidation of G. & T. Young).

Other references: Directories (Stone’s, Wise’s, telephone); Jane Thomson,‘Papers relating to Southern People’ (Hocken Archives MS-1926/1347); Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans.

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).