Tag Archives: Dowling Street

Lost Dunedin #4: Gillies & Street Building

Built: 1864-1865
Address: Cr Princes and Dowling streets
Architects: Mason & Clayton
Builders: Not identified
Demolished 1968

A view from 1865 or 1866, looking north along Princes Street and showing the Gillies & Street Building on the corner. The two-storey building adjoining it was the Glasgow Pie House. Image: Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum 26-6-1.

This building, originally owned by land agents Gillies & Street, made a bold and vivacious addition to Dunedin’s architecture on its completion in 1865. It was built two years after the discovery of gold at Gabriels Gully, when new-found wealth from the gold rush was rapidly changing the face of Dunedin. Modest timber structures were making way for brick ones of more substance and pretention, including this, the city’s first corner office block, with its vigorous Florentine styling and rich ornamentation.

Still in his twenties, Robert Gillies had arrived in Otago as a teenager in 1852. His father had been Town Clerk of Rothesay in Scotland, and in Otago became a prominent landowner and member of the first Provincial Council. In 1861 Gillies went into partnership with Charles Henry Street, who had come to Dunedin from England in 1853.

Tenders for construction of the brick and stone building were called in September 1864, and it was complete by March 1865. In addition to the owners’ offices were upstairs rooms taken by the law firm Howorth, Barton, and Howorth.

An 1865 view showing the roof of the uncompleted building in the foreground. Behind it is the Oriental Hotel, with Maclaggan Street running into the distance. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library PAColl-3824-04.

Mason & Clayton were the architects. I can’t be sure which partner was primarily responsible, but the building appears to be more in the style of William Mason, who had designed another richly decorated edifice for Gillies a few years before. The Revived Renaissance design had some delightfully imaginative decorative elements: a statue of a rather humanesque lion sat over the corner doorway, and there may have been another above the Princes Street entrance. Herbert Webb, a staff member in the law firm, said that the partner George Barton was teased because of his likeness to the lion, and so had the statue removed!

Even more remarkable was the cornice, on which dogs’ heads (about 60 in total) looked out above each of the brackets. I like to think that Charles Street may have had some hand in these quirky features. Street was the ‘dear good nephew’ of Edward Lear, the famous author of The Owl and the Pussycat and other nonsense verse. It’s also possible Gillies requested them, or that the architect was bold enough to suggest them himself. Other decoration included barley twist pillars, Corinthian capitals, rusticated arched lintels, and impressive chimneys which echoed those of the Oriental Hotel on the street corner diagonally opposite. Most of the decorative columns on the building were curiously punctuated with rectangular blocks.

A photograph from 1885 or 1886 showing the building after the additions were made. Lettering on the lamp at the hotel entrance reads ‘Donaldson’s Shades’. Above a separate door to the left are the words ‘Glasgow Pie House’. Image: Burton Bros. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa C.011730.

Detail of cornice and chimney. Image: Burton Bros. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa C.011730.

Detail of corner entrance, including the humanesque lion. Pointing hands have been added to the lamp post. Image: Burton Bros. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa C.011730.

It was likely from this building that Herbert Webb observed a lawyer’s client being lowered into the back yard with a rope, in order to escape a bailiff waiting in the outer office. Barton owed large damages following a court case in 1866, and the legend in his office (probably apocryphal) was that he avoided arrest by hiding in a beer barrel that was taken on board a departing ship. In 1868 Henry Howorth went into partnership with W.M. Hodgkins (best remembered today as a painter and the father of Frances Hodgkins), an arrangement which continued to 1884.

Gillies & Street flourished, and in 1875 they moved to new premises in Bond Street. In 1880 a large building was built for them at the corner of Vogel and Rattray streets, adjoining the Terminus Hotel. By that time they were Gillies, Street & Hislop, and in 1884 the firm expanded to form Perpetual Trustees, which is still in operation today.

In 1875 John Donaldson, who owned the adjoining Glasgow Pie House in Princes Street, bought the Gillies & Street building. Additions in 1875 and 1877 (the latter designed by R.A. Lawson) doubled the length of street facades along both Princes and Dowling streets, and replicated the original ornamentation. The new Glasgow Hotel offered thirteen bedrooms, a restaurant and bar, and specialised in catering for large banquets (including some held by William Larnach in the Bank of New Zealand building). Donaldson loved making wedding cakes and one of his daughters recalled one so large it took three men to carry it. In 1877 the first English cricket team to tour Australia and New Zealand stayed in the hotel.

Advertisement from Otago Daily Times, 30 December 1884 p.3. Image: Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

In 1884 Donaldson sold the buildings to the Mutual Life Association of Australasia for £13,500. They opened offices at the corner and prominently displayed their name on the facades. Donaldson continued to run the hotel business in the Dowling Street portion and by the end of the year had opened new dining and supper rooms for the Pie House and what he named ‘The Shades’ (this shared its entrance with the hotel, while the Pie House had its own entrance). The names Glasgow Hotel and The Shades were used (seemingly interchangeably) for some time after that date, but the Pie House closed not long afterwards. From 1896 the pub was known only as the Shades Hotel.

In 1887 Donaldson left to build the Excelsior Hotel on the site of the old Oriental. The Shades continued to operate until it lost its licence in 1903. It then reopened as a dry establishment, known as the Carlton Private Hotel and Dining Rooms up to 1913, and then as Jackson’s Private Hotel. The hotel closed in 1922 but restaurants operated in the second floor space until about 1950, when Lake’s Restaurant closed.

Someone (identified only as ‘D.M.R.’) who recalled the restaurant in its Edwardian days said that for sixpence there were three-course meals of soup, several meats, and trimmings, sweets, and as much tea as one wanted. Upstairs, for an extra threepence, the tables were decorated with flowers, and there were cruets and tomato sauce. The fare was enhanced by a ‘dollop of cream on the pud’, and the addition of an ample supply of fruit cake, scones, and jam.

Advertisement from New Zealand Tablet, 27 August 1886 p.12. Image: Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

The Mutual Life Association left in 1912, after 28 years in the building. Verandahs and new shop fronts were built along the Princes Street frontage in the early twentieth century. The hairdresser Edward Iles took the old Pie House shop in Princes Street as his salon and tobacconists from 1886 to 1912. The tailors T. Young & Co. had rooms on the first floor for forty years from 1915 to 1955. Two sisters, Annie and Mary McIntyre, ran a cake shop at the corner between 1915 and 1938. This became a hardware shop in the 1940s, and was named Hardware Corner Ltd in 1953. The Commercial Bank of Australia was a ground floor tenant on Dowling Street from 1922 onwards, and stayed there until the demolition of the building, afterwards taking space in its replacement. Clubs, lawyers, real estate agents, commission agents, dressmakers, engineers, architects, and an elocution teacher, were among the many others who had upstairs rooms, and after the hotel closed there was a live-in caretaker.

A view looking south down Princes Street, not taken before 1913. By this time verandahs have been added. Image courtesy of Dave McLaren.

A view looking south down Princes Street, taken some time between 1913 and 1919. By this time verandahs and new shop fronts have been added. Image courtesy of Dave McLaren.

The building as it appeared in the early 1940s. Shops are occupied by Ferguson’s Opticians and Electrolux Ltd. On Dowling Street is signage for Lake’s Restaurant and T. Young & Co. tailors. The photography studio on the top floor has generous glazing with the name ‘Esquilant’ prominently displayed. The Commercial Bank of Australia has signage in relief lettering. The small building at the right included Ye Olde English Cake and Tea Shoppe and the office of the architect E.W. Walden. Image: Hocken Collections S08-035b.

William Esquilant’s photography studio opened on the top floor in 1913, and new glazing was put in for him. Esquilant was a keen pigeon fancier, but I don’t know if he made use of his professional rooms for his homing pigeons. In 1945 the studio was taken over by Franz Barta, a Hungarian émigré who had left Europe in 1938 to escape Nazi persecution. He remained there to 1968.

In 1940 architects Miller & White designed a revised facade for owner Kate Thompson. The original decoration was removed but the familiar fenestration patterns remained. The contractors Knox Bros carried out the work, which when finished gave the exterior a simple plastered finish with understated decoration that was fashionable at the time. It gave the building something of a Spanish look.

The Otago Foundation Trust Board had the building demolished in 1968 to make way for their Cargill House office block, which was designed by Ian Dunn of the architecture firm Miller, White & Dunn. That building was completed in 1970 and housed the Inland Revenue Department for many years. In 2004 it became the Scenic Circle Hotel (now Scenic Hotel Dunedin City), which gives some sense of continuity with the days of the Shades.

Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times, 20 September 1864 p.6 (call for tenders), 13 March 1865 p.3 (Howorth, Barton & Howorth), 18 April 1865 p.9 (fully occupied, architects named); 13 October 1875 p.2 (additions and sale of building), 15 October 1875 p.2 (sale of building), 27 October 1875 p.2 (additions), 3 March 1877 p.2 (English cricketers in residence), 9 August 1877 p.4 (additions designed by R.A. Lawson), 11 October 1884 p.2 (purchased by Mutual Life Association), 1 December 1884 p.4 (sale of furniture etc.), 2 October 1893 p.3 (advertisement for The Shades Hotel), 12 November 1896 p.5 (Glasgow Hotel, also known as Shades); Illustrated New Zealand Herald, 1 July 1868 p.6 and supp. (description and illustration); Evening Star, 22 June 1968 (‘Do you remember the Shades Hotel?’), 29 June 1968 (letter to editor), 1 July 1968 (letter to editor), 13 August 1968 (‘They remember Shades Hotel in this city’).

Other references: Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory; Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory; telephone directories; Herbert Webb, ‘The legal profession in Dunedin in “the sixties” of last century and somewhat later’ (Hocken Collections, Misc-MS-1283); Dalziel Architects records (Hocken Collections, ARC-0520).

Farley’s Buildings

Built: 1863
Address: 118-146 Princes Street
Architect: Charles G. Smith
Builder: Not identified

These buildings may be scruffy and disfigured, but they’re among the richest sites of social and cultural history in Dunedin, which makes them more exciting than many structures with grand porticos or pretty turrets. They are also among the very oldest commercial buildings in the city.

Farley’s Buildings were erected for Henry Farley (c.1824-1880), a colourful entrepreneur whose business ventures in Dunedin included the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and Farley’s Arcade (later redeveloped as Broadway). The brick buildings with stone foundations were erected between July and November 1863, and a report in the Daily Telegraph told readers: ‘Mr C.G. Smith is the architect of this very comprehensive pile of buildings, and its design, as a specimen of architecture, is extremely creditable to him’. Not much is known about Charles Smith, but he designed Dunedin’s Theatre Royal (1862), and claimed to have designed theatres in Sydney and San Francisco. He later worked on the West Coast.

Most of the buildings in Princes Street at this time were timber constructions, so Farley’s Buildings represented striking progress at a time when fires were frequent and gold rush money was still only beginning to make an impact. The buildings originally had unrendered brick facades but photographs show that the upper brickwork deteriorated quickly. By 1874 it had been plastered over, although decorative details (including cornices and window surrounds) were preserved in rendered form, and the name ‘Farley’s Buildings’ was added to the parapet in relief lettering. Small additions with windows to Dowling Street were made around the late 1880s, when the street was reformed.

A Daniel Mundy photograph of the buildings taken in 1864, just a few months after they were built (Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum, Album 54)

A photograph taken around 1870 (Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum 57-98-1)

Part of a Burton Brothers panorama from 1874, showing the plastering of the brickwork.

The original block of buildings was the present 126-146 Princes Street. It included five ground-floor shops, upstairs offices, a music/assembly hall, and a photography studio. The studio was in the portion that rises above the Dowling street corner. It was taken by Tait Brothers (Royal Caledonian Photographic Rooms) in late 1863 or early 1864. Later photographers here included Henry Frith, John McGregor (Edinburgh Portrait Rooms), John Gittins Wills (American Photo Company), and Charles Clarke Armstrong. The artist Max Walker had a studio and flat here from 1940 to 1942. He was one of Dunedin’s most out-of-the-closet gay men (at a time when homosexuality was illegal) and was known for his riotous parties. His lease ended after a visit from a particularly rowdy group of Norwegian sailors.

The assembly or concert room originally housed the Dunedin Music Hall, soon better known as Farley’s Hall, under the high roof structure that can still be seen at the northern end of the buildings. It measured 65 feet by 26 feet and was 16 feet high. Events held in the 1860s included balls, dance classes, bazaars, banquets, Nicholas Chevalier’s art exhibition, a wax works display from Madame Sohier’s in Melbourne,  and Mr Hamilton’s practical phrenology demonstrations which included the examination of ‘Living heads of noted men of Dunedin’.  The hall could only hold about 300, so larger new venues were soon favoured for popular entertainments.

An advertisement for one of the lectures of Mrs Charles Fanshawe Evereste (Alice Marryat). Otago Daily Times 5 December 1864 p.6 (Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand)

There were many political meetings: Julius Vogel spoke here as did supporters of James MacAndrew prior to his re-election as Superintendent in 1867. The Otago Provincial Council used the hall as its chambers from 1864 to 1866 (prior to completion of the Provincial Government Buildings), making the buildings a significant site of government in the heady gold rush years. The many other gatherings in the hall took in meetings of company directors, lodges, interest groups, and societies, including the Acclimatisation Society, Caledonian Society, Horticultural Society, Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute, and the Benevolent Institution (which also had offices in the buildings).

The hall was regularly used for religious meetings, notably the Brethren services led by evangelist Alfred Brunton, who was said to have been the first to introduce the colourful Moody and Sankey choruses to Dunedin. One of Brunton’s famous converts was the bush ranger Henry Garrett, who in 1868 became a member of the congregation but brought much embarrassment on them by burgling the chemist shop below. Brunton’s group moved to the Garrison Hall in 1879 but another group continued to meet in Farley’s Hall up to 1900.

Upstairs rooms were set up as offices with the first tenant being the barrister and solicitor G.E. Barton. Thomas Bracken of the Saturday Advertiser had rooms in the building in 1878, but so far I haven’t been able to confirm if he was there in 1876, when he ran a competition to set to music his verses ‘God Defend New Zealand’. It’s possible the words were written here. Other tenants in the nineteenth century included John Irvine (Dunedin’s first professional portrait painter), David Henderson (lithographer), Alfred Boot (dentist), John Hewitt (dentist), Alexander Hunter (surgeon), Edmund Quick (consular agent), and Abraham Solomon (pawnbroker). Solomon, who was a leading member of the local Jewish community, purchased Farley’s Buildings around 1880 and permit records suggest at least part of the block remained in the ownership of the Solomon Estate in the 1930s.

The ground floor shops were originally let to Walsh Brothers (boot and shoe sellers), Thomas Collins (fruiterer and confectioner), McLeod & Gibson (grocers), and Ure & Co. (tea dealers and warehousemen). The remaining shop was subdivided for Thomas Bray (hatter and outfitter) and M. Jones. There have been so many businesses in these buildings since then that I won’t attempt to name them all, but some have had particularly long occupancies.

Stewart Dawson & Co., an Australian-based chain of jewellers still in Dunedin, occupied the corner premises from 1902 to 1979. They carried out major alterations before moving in, combining two shops into one, installing new shop fronts, and putting in compressed-steel wall and ceiling decoration made by the Wunderlich Company of Sydney. The colourful and brightly-lit interior was described in the Cylopedia of New Zealand as having the appearance of a fairy palace. The contractor was James Annand.

The shop of Stewart Dawson & Co. (Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum, 57-64-1)

A Muir & Moodie postcard, c.1905

A Muir & Moodie postcard, c.1905

Cookham House, a footwear store, occupied 132 Princes Street from 1904 and later moved to no. 122 before moving to George Street in 1984. It had been established by John Switzer on another Princes Street site in 1857, although it is unclear if the nineteenth-century history of the firm was continuous (Joseph McKay may have revived the name). Cookham House was associated with the tailors Hamel & McKenzie for many years and continues today in association with Bob Shepherd Menswear.

J.C. Gore Ltd, jewellers, went into business at 131 Princes Street in 1949 and moved across the road to Farley’s Buildings (no. 132) in 1962. The firm closed in 2005 but at the time of writing their old neon sign can still be seen above the verandah.

In October 1906 a fire destroyed the buildings of the New Zealand Bible, Tract, and Book Society, which stood to the north of Farley’s 1863 buildings. These buildings were also owned by Solomon, who replaced them with new additions to Farley’s Buildings that repeated the old facade decoration. James Annand was again the contractor. The Bible Depot remained there into the 1930s and the buildings are now the home of Disk Den, a music shop that was established by Russell and Alma Oaten in Rattray Street in 1958, and which has been on its present site since 1987. Some original decorative plaster ceilings can still be seen inside.

The buildings have seen many physical changes: bullnose verandahs running the length of the buildings were added in 1904 and replaced with hanging verandahs in the 1930s; the facades were re-plastered in the 1940s, when decorative detailing was removed and window openings altered; a large skylight above the hall was removed at some date, and more recently the photography studio has been entirely reclad. Despite these alterations the essential form of the buildings remains intact, and can be more readily seen and appreciated here than in any of Princes Street’s other surviving buildings of the 1860s (most of which are behind later facades). Farley’s Buildings are a rare link with the city’s early history and should be among its most prized heritage.

A photograph showing the roofs, with the former photographic studio at the far left and Farley’s Hall under the rusty roof at the centre.

Newspaper references:

Daily Telegraph, 31 October 1863 p.5 (description); Otago Daily Times, 28 May 1862 p.4 (Theatre Royal), 24 July 1863 p.3 (call for tenders for foundation), 1 August 1863 p.2 (call for tenders), 11 August 1863 p.6 (call for tenders – carpenters and joiners), 16 November 1863 p.10 (Thomas Collins advertisement), 21 November 1863 p.8 (Walsh Bros advertisement), 24 November 1863 p.3 (to let notice – offices), 7 December 1863 p.2 (advertisement for Dunedin Music Hall), 28 August 1865 p.5 (Provincial Council), 27 June 1867 p.1 (phrenology), 4 July 1867 p.1 (accommodation for 300 in hall), 4 March 1873 p.3 (Edinburgh Portrait Rooms), 12 December 1902 p.8 (Stewart Dawson alterations), 26 November 1906 p.3 (Bible Depot fire), 23 February 1907 p.12 (rebuilding), 26 November 1984 p.20 (Cookham House history), 31 July 2010 p.42 (Alfred Brunton); Otago Witness, 20 February 1863 p.4 (Tait Brothers advertisement).

Other references: 

Block plans (1889, 1892, 1927); Cyclopedia of New Zealand, vol.4 (Otago and Southland Provincial Districts) 1905; Stone’s, Wise’s and telephone directories; Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans; information supplied by Peter Entwisle (re Max Walker); Tonkin, Lance, The Real Henry Garrett.

Ahlfeld Buildings (Hallenstein Bros)

Address: 14-16 Dowling Street
Built: 1884
Architect: James Hislop (1859-1904)
Builders: Anderson & Godso

Just one door down from Milford House is a building that isn’t in any publications about Dunedin architecture. That’s probably because, though a handsome Victorian warehouse, it’s one of the more modest and understated. The DCC and others looked into its history but didn’t discover the year it was built or who the architect was, so it posed a bit of a challenge and a chance to carry out some fun detective work.

Hallenstein Brothers’ records at the Hocken hold some answers. Letter books and lease records show that following the completion of his factory, Bendix Hallenstein employed James Hislop to design both this three-storey building and the adjoining two-storey building at no.12 (now part of the Les Mills gym). In July 1884 Hallenstein wrote to his brother Michaelis informing him that he had accepted a low tender of £2,995 for the construction and added: ‘there is hardly any building going on or else we should have had to pay considerably more’. The long depression saw work dry up for builders and architects. There were some cost overruns (the final amount paid to contractors Anderson & Godso was £3,443) but the buildings were ready for occupation before the year was out.

Nos 14 and 16 have a firewall between them, so they might be thought of as separate buildings behind a single facade. The first tenants at no.14 were Philip and John Isaacs (wholesale agents), while at no.16 were Dodgshun & Co. (woollen importers). Neither remained long and the tenant that became most associated with these addresses was Ahlfeld Bros & Co. They took over the lease of no.14 in 1889, and a few years later took on no.16 as well. They were fancy goods merchants and importers, whose stock included Wiesner pianos, Anchor sewing machines and bicycles, Gaedke’s cocoa, and ‘Silver and Brilliant Packet’ starch. They claimed to have branches in London, Hamburg, and Paris. I haven’t found many references to the firm in old news columns, but the sensational divorce case of Adolf Ahlfeld, in which one of his employees was named co-respondent, made national headlines in 1893. There was another scandal in 1905, when local police constables were found to have been criminally involved in a series of burglaries of Ahlfeld Bros and other businesses, and the receiving of stolen goods.

Ahlfeld Bros were in the building until about 1916. Later tenants at no.14 included Gordon & Gotch (wholesale booksellers and stationers), Partridge & Co. (tobacco merchants), the British General Electric Co., A.R. Dickson & Sons (plumbing, heating, and sanitary engineers), and Ambler & Co. At no.16 tenants included the Bristol Piano Co. and R.E. Stevens & Co. (stationers). The flats above were leased by various people and groups, including lawyers, the Scouts’ Assocation, and the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force Association. The clothing factory and Glendermid businesses next door also expanded into the buildings for periods. The architect, James Hislop, had his own professional rooms upstairs in the smaller building at no.12, above the jewellers Berens & Silverston. Hallenstein’s tenants were often other members of the Jewish community.

Hislop is a signficant name on any list of Victorian Dunedin architects, although he has been under-researched and much of his work remains unattributed or little recognised. His Moorish-style main building for the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition of 1889-1890 was one of the most exotic-looking pieces of architecture ever seen in Dunedin. His most familiar design in the city might be the corner portion of Mollison’s building (facaded and now Westpac) on George and Hanover streets.

There are many parallels between Hislop and J.A. Burnside and when I think of one I often think of the other. Burnside was born in New Zealand in 1856 and Hislop was only a year old when he arrived in the colony in 1860. Both men grew up in Dunedin and both were articled to Mason, Wales, and Stevenson in the late 1870s. Hislop went into his own practice in 1880, just a year behind Burnside. They were at the front of a new generation of emerging New Zealand architects that succeeded the generation of Lawson and Ross.

These Dowling Street buildings are early examples of Hislop’s work and he was only 25 years old when he designed them. He references Ross’s factory building in his treatment of the pairs of round-headed windows. The proportions of the building are less like Ross’s work, with narrow bays (emphasising the vertical) and modest pediments. There was a curious incident in 1889 when it appeared as though Hislop was claiming credit (though he wasn’t) for the factory building next door and Ross (no longer a Dunedin resident) wrote a rather crotchety letter of complaint to the editor of the Otago Daily Times.

The facade remains fairly unspoiled and recent painting in sensitive colours shows it off to good effect. The main alterations to it over the years have been the insertion of large glass shop fronts, the moving of the entrance doors, and the insertion of an odd-looking window on the first floor. Finials above the pediments have been removed.

Feldspar purchased the building in 2010 and have been busy carrying out improvements, including strengthening work. On 22 June I was lucky enough to join a group on a site visit to see some of the work that had been done. The upstairs interiors aren’t especially remarkable but have some attractive brickwork and timberwork and a lot of potential. It looks as though they will soon become very attractive spaces for commercial lease.

Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times, 28 December 1889 p.6 (Ross’s complaint), 30 December 1889 p.2 (Hislop’s clarification), 26 May 1893 p.4 (Ahlfeld divorce case); Otago Witness, 14 June 1905 p.34 (‘Dunedin Police Scandal’).

Other references: Cyclopedia of New Zealand, vol. iv, Otago and Southland Provincial Districts (Christchurch: Cyclopedia Company, 1905), p.344 (includes historic image); Bendix Hallenstein letter books (Hocken AG-296/005); Hallenstein Bros general ledger (Hocken AG-295-015/028); Hallenstein Bros leases and conveyances book (Hocken AG-295-038/001).

Hallenstein’s New Zealand Clothing Factory

Address: 18-20 Dowling Street
Built: 1882-1883
Architect: David Ross (1828-1908)
Builders: Meikle & Campbell

Burton Brothers photograph (Hocken Collections AG-295-036/003)

I’ll start with one of my favourites…

Hallenstein Brothers opened New Zealand’s first clothing factory in 1873 on a site off Custom House Square (the Exchange). Just ten years later they put up this fine pile, which company historians later described as their ‘quietly imposing headquarters’. Excavation work began in October 1882. To celebrate the opening of the building, a ball attended by 500-600 staff and friends was held a few doors down the street at the Garrison Hall on 23 July 1883. Contractors Meikle & Campbell received the final payment of their £8,500 bill in October.

The building is larger than it might first appear as its depth (67 metres) is four times greater than the street frontage. The top two floors originally housed the clothing factory, with a showroom and the company’s head office on the first floor, and a warehouse and leased-out premises on the ground floor. As many as 300 employees worked in the factory at one time and I like to imagine the busy traffic up and down the stairs, the activity of the (mostly female) workers on the factory floor, and the ‘pleasant hum of voices’ not overpowered by the rattling away of 80-odd sewing machines (most of them Singers).  An ‘amusing stampede’ to the dining room, where free tea was served, took place daily at exactly 1pm when everyone had to leave the workroom, where windows were opened to ventilate the space. In 1900 the output of the factory was estimated at 3,000 garments a week.

Alice Woodward started at HB’s as a 14-year-old in 1914, earning 5 shillings a week making coats at a time when much of the sewing was still done by hand. She found it run strictly, with the front door shut at precisely 8am and latecomers having to wait outside for fifteen minutes before being let in. Alice stayed for 57 years, retiring as a machinist in 1971, at which time there were about 75 working in the sewing room.

A separate business, Michaelis, Hallenstein and Farquhar, had their offices and a warehouse in the lower part of the building from 1883 to 1957. Renamed Glendermid Ltd in 1918, they were leather merchants and established the large tannery at Sawyers Bay.

Inside the clothing factory (Hocken Collections AG-295-036/003)

Architect David Ross was a Scotsman who worked in Dunedin from 1862 and the factory was one of his last projects here before he moved to Auckland. Ross designed some of Dunedin’s most familiar buildings, including the Congregational Church in Moray Place and the older part of the Otago Museum. Although he sits a little in the shadow of the famous Mr Lawson, he remains the only Dunedin architect to have become a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Ross had travelled extensively in Europe and the USA and his entrepreneurial client, Bendix Hallenstein, had looked at factory design and equipment in England. I wonder how much their observations influenced the Dunedin design, which was enlightened in terms of health and comfort in a decade when conditions in other local factories led to the infamous sweated labour scandal.

This is a renaissance revival building: ‘of the ordinary Italian street description’ according to an advance newspaper report.  It draws strongly from the palazzo, which is seen in such features as the loggia-like arches at the ground floor and small windows on the upper floors. The bold cornices give horizontal emphasis. It’s strong and unfussy, but there’s also much richness in its detail. Some of its features recur in Ross’s work, including the pairs of round-headed windows and the banded rustication. The windows on the top floor of the facade repeat the treatment he used on the ground floor of the museum. The row-of-circles motif he frequently used elsewhere only appears on an alleyway gate.

The ground floor walls of the building are stone, with finely carved Port Chalmers breccia used for the facade and Leith Valley andesite for the other elevations. The upper floors are constructed in triple brick and plastered on the street front. The alleys on either side are among the most delightful in Dunedin and a large boiler survives at the back where the building abuts the stone of Bell Hill. Inside the factory chamber, which was originally ‘delicately adorned in tints of blue and white’, an innovative lantern-like roof structure with many windows and skylights keeps the space well lit.

The facade is little altered. The bridge over the alleyway is an early addition said to have been built to accommodate a board room, the ground floor doorways have been relocated more than once, and a few windows have been replaced unsympathetically. A pleasant but slightly busy paint scheme highlights some of the architectural details. It’s a bit of a shame that signage covers the old clothing factory name with its period lettering but this could be removed in the future.

In 1968 Ted McCoy and Gary Blackman identified the building as the best of Dunedin’s early warehouses. It was registered as a Catergory I Historic Place in 1988, the same year that Hallensteins’ head office left Dunedin. The building has been the home to Milford Galleries since 1989 and is now named ‘Milford House’. The Dowling Street Studios are also to be found here, while another tenant is the Christian Outreach Centre. The building was bought by Feldspar in 2010 and their involvement in heritage re-use projects such as Arrow House and Diesoline Espresso suggests it’s in good hands.

HB6

Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times, 19 September 1882 p.1 (call for tenders), 5 October 1882 p.4 (description – ‘shortly to be proceeded with’),12 October 1882 p.1 (contractors’ notice – excavation), 27 September 1883 p.3 (description following completion), 9 January 1900, p.2 (description); 4 May 1970, p.14 (changes), 21 December 1971, p.12 (Alice Woodward); Otago Witness, 28 July 1883 p.10 (ball to mark opening), 18 August 1883 p.8 (floor area); 7 June 1894, p.35 (description).

Other references: [Bathgate, John] (‘A Citizen’), An Illustrated Guide to Dunedin, and its Industries (Fergusson and Mitchell, 1883), p.102; Cyclopedia of New Zealand, vol. iv, Otago and Southland Provincial Districts (Christchurch: Cyclopedia Company, 1905), pp.306-7; Brasch, Charles and C.R. Nicolson: Hallensteins: The First Century 1873-1973 (Dunedin: Hallenstein Bros, 1972) pp.25-27; McCoy, E.J. and J.G. Blackman, Victorian City of New Zealand (Dunedin: McIndoe, 1968), plt 20; New Zealand Historic Places Trust registration no. 2159; Bendix Hallenstein letterbooks (Hocken AG-296/005); Hallenstein Brothers general ledger (Hocken AG-295-015/028).