Tag Archives: Boots and shoes

Eldon Chambers

punjab_2016

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)

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 It was only a few years old, but being wooden it belonged to a preceding era and was already out of date.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)

City Boot Palace

Built: 1885-1886
Address: 202-206 George Street
Architect: James Hislop (1859-1904)
Builder: Arthur White

Advertisement from supplement of the ‘Evening Star’, 10 April 1893. Ref: Eph-E-BUILDINGS-Dunedin-1893-01. Alexander Turnbull Library http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23156921.

The City Boot Palace! The name conjures up images of a vast array of footwear in a setting of Victorian opulence, perhaps presided over by some magnificently moustachioed manager. It may not have been quite like that, but Dunedin’s Boot Palace did have an air of grandeur which set it apart from most George Street buildings of the 1880s.

The building was erected for Benjamin Throp (1845-1933), a dentist who occupied the upstairs rooms and leased out the lower level. Born in Halifax, Yorkshire, Throp arrived in Dunedin with his mother in 1861 and qualified as a dentist in 1868. In the early days he used only hand instruments, and his equipment and supplies had to be imported from England and the United States, often taking over a year to arrive. Up to 1900 the only anaesthetic he used was cocaine, and he later produced his own nitrous oxide (laughing gas). He also made his own gold plate, having worked as a goldsmith during his youth in Australia. Throp’s meticulous notes held in the Hocken Collections record that he made 37,162 extractions over 37 years.

One day, when fitting the gold mining entrepreneur Alex McGeorge with some false teeth, Throp was offered a partnership in the Electric Gold Dredging Company. This proved to be a lucrative venture that ultimately netted him between £20,000 and £30,000. He retired in 1905 to take up farming at Moa Flat Estate, but his son Frank Throp continued the dental practice at the same address until 1942. Two other sons were killed in action during the First World War. Another dentist, Andrew Aitken, kept the rooms up to 1958, and during this period the building remained in the ownership of the Throp family.

Architect James Hislop designed the building, which was erected on the site of the old Dornwell & Rennie butchery. Tenders were called in June 1885. The contractor was Arthur White and the cost approximately £2,800, but White went bankrupt during the course of the contract because his tender had been too low and he found he couldn’t afford to pay all of the creditors connected with the work.

The building has a foundation of Port Chalmers stone that rises above the footpath, and the two storeys over this are constructed of brick rendered with cement plaster. An abundance of ornamentation includes pairs of Corinthian pilasters, arched and triangular hoods, rustication, and more mouldings than you can shake a stick at. Originally, there was a bold and elaborate parapet with balustrades and pediments that balanced the composition. A pillared verandah for the George Street shop front featured decorative cast ironwork. The overall effect was more ostentatious than elegant, but the building made a confident statement on the busy corner site. It is a good example of the later phase of Victorian Renaissance Revival architecture, which in its more florid forms drew from increasingly eclectic influences combined in unconventional ways. Hislop provided a further example of this movement a few years later when he designed the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition buildings of 1889 in a flamboyant quasi-Moorish style.

The Evening Star published a description in January 1886:

Among the new buildings which are being erected in the City, that designed by Mr James Hislop for Mr Throp, and situated at the corner of George und St Andrew streets, is deserving of description. It has two storeys, and is of Italian design. Constructed of Port Chalmers stone and brick, with cement, it presents a very fine appearance. The exterior of the building is, however, more than equalled by its internal disposition and finish, and its novel and chaste fittings do credit to all concerned. In the lower portion of the building a boot business is to be carried on, the apartments in the upper storey being utilised by Mr Throp in his profession as a dentist. The building has a frontage of 75ft to St Andrew street, and of 23ft 6in to George street, and its height from footpath to parapet is 38ft. The shop fronting George street is 40ft x 23ft 6in by 14ft 6in high, and a show-room behind this is 36ft x 22ft. The latter has a tiled floor and hand-painted windows, and, with the shop, is fitted up in a most picturesque style. Over the footpath in front of the shop there is a cast-iron verandah, roofed almost entirely with glass, and on the corner of the two streets stands a novel pediment containing the name of the premises, ‘The City Boot Palace.’ Three plate-class windows, 7ft6in x 12ft, which give light to the shop, are probably the largest containing one piece of glass in the City. The exterior of the shop is in picked red pine and American walnut. The first floor is approached from St Andrew street, and the entrance vestibule belonging to it is neatly tiled. At the top of the stairs there is a lantern light of especially neat design, and the different apartments are lighted with hand-painted windows. The nine rooms which are contained in the floor are all cemented and decorated with stencillings and paintings, which reflect infinite credit on Mr Scott, who had charge of this department of work. The rooms are all 12ft 6in high, and, with their tiled hearths, over-mantles, dadoes, etc., are most luxurious looking. Special attention has been paid to the ventilating of the building, and the system which Mr Hislop has worked upon cannot fail to be attended with beneficial results. An ingenious piece of mechanism in connection with the building is an electric bell, which rings as anyone ascends the stairs leading to Mr Throp’s apartment. It is worked by two steps as they are trod upon, and the mechanism is so arranged as to be temporarily thrown out of gear by anyone descending the stairs. If Mr Throp is to be visited by burglars, this little device may come in useful in more ways than one. This building has been in course of erection since July, and will be finished in a week or two.

Advertisement from the Otago Witness, 20 February 1907 p.84. Image from Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

Otago Witness, 10 June 1908 p.92. Image from Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

Throp took occupation of his rooms around the beginning of March 1886 , and the Boot Palace opened soon after. The City Boot Palace had been established in 1883, when it succeeded the business of the boot maker John Elliott. The same name was used elsewhere in Australasia: John Hunter’s City Boot Palace in Sydney opened in 1877, and both branches and separate businesses with the name operated in centres that included Adelaide (opened 1882), Brisbane (1888), Perth (1893), and Hobart (1906). In New Zealand there were boot palaces in cities and towns that included Timaru (opened 1885), Invercargill (1885), Oamaru (1886), Napier (1893), New Plymouth (1903), and Christchurch (1906). The name became almost generic and although there may have been some sort of licence or franchise agreement, the New Zealand boot palaces appear to have been independent businesses. The Dunedin manager from 1885 to 1908 was Joseph McLoy McKay, who in the Edwardian period ran humorous advertisements such as the one above, which emphasises the bargain prices and good value of the merchandise. Some featured the character ‘Parsimonious Sam’, whose penny pinching ways were satisfied by the deals to be had at the City Boot Palace, suggesting that they should be good enough for anyone.

The building in 1949, during its days as ‘Fashion Corner’. Perpetual Trustees records, Hocken Collections, S13-583b.

An evocative depiction of the intersection: ‘Street corner’ by Ralph Miller, conté and wash c.1945-1955. Reproduced by kind permission of Brian Miller.

A wartime advertisement for Fashion Corner from Otago Daily Times, 4 July 1944 p.3.

The boot palace ran for over 40 years and eventually vacated the building in 1929. It was then fitted with new shop fronts with mahogany facings and granite, and a new steel hanging verandah. The alterations were designed by the architects Mandeno & Fraser, and the contractors were the Love Construction Company. The women’s clothing store Fashion Corner opened for business in December 1929. It operated until 1958, when the ANZ Bank took the building as a branch office. It was around this time that the parapet ornamentation was destroyed and the St Andrew Street entrance moved. Old interior features have also disappeared through numerous renovations.

In 1983 the architects Salmond & Burt drew up plans for a new bank building on the site, but the scheme was abandoned. After nearly 40 years the ANZ consolidated on a new site in 1997. The ground floor is now occupied by the clothing retailers Jay Jays, making it once again a ‘fashion corner’. Most of the external character remains intact, and with some restoration perhaps the building will one day reiterate the vivacious statement it once made on this busy retail corner.

Newspaper references:
Otago Witness, 21 July 1883 p.29 (J. Elliott at 75 George St), 6 March 1886 p.16 (Throp’s new premises); Otago Daily Times, 30 May 1885 p.3 (Boot Palace business sold by Hislop), 1 April 1886 p.2 (Boot Palace in ‘new premises’), 21 April 1886 p.4 (Arthur White insolvency), 26 November 1889 p.6 (Hislop named as architect); Evening Star 5 June 1885 p.1 (call for tenders for removal of old buildings), 11 June 1885 p.1 (call for tenders for construction);30 January 1886 p.2 (description), 10 December 1929 p.5 (description of alterations).

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
New Zealand Dental Journal, vol. 58 (1962) pp.88-89; vol. 76 (1980) pp.137-188
Sinclair, R.S.M. Kawarau Gold (Dunedin: Whitcombe & Tombs printers, 1962), pp.44-45.
Throp, Benjamin: Dental practice records book. Hocken Collections Misc-MS-0871.
Entwisle, Peter. Draft report DDPL110-35, Dunedin City Council Heritage Schedule Review (and further discussion with the writer).