Tag Archives: E.W. Walden

Whitcombe & Tombs Building

Built: 1915
Address: 168-174 Princes Street
Architect: Edward Walter Walden (after Collins & Harman)
Builders: Fletcher Bros

An artist’s impression of the building. Originally published in the Otago Witness, 21 April 1915, and reproduced here courtesy of the Otago Daily Times.

The old Whitcombe & Tombs Building turns one hundred years old this year. Together with the larger complex of buildings behind, it had a long association with the printing, stationery, and bookselling trades.

In the late 1870s, an L-shaped site with frontages to both Princes and Dowling streets was taken over by Fergusson & Mitchell. This firm of printers had operated in Dunedin since 1862, when Glasgow-born John McNairn Mitchell arrived to start the New Zealand arm of a business he had co-founded in Melbourne. The premises included a printery, bindery, warehouse, and one of the best-stocked stationery shops in the colony. Some very fine examples of typography can be found among their nineteenth-century print productions.

The buildings they acquired included wooden shops dating from the 1860s, as well as brick structures built in 1869 and 1877 to the designs of R.A. Lawson. A serious fire in 1901 was followed by a phase of rebuilding, which included the erection of Clyde Chambers on Dowling Street (this building was demolished in 1990).

Mitchell died in 1914, and in the same year his company was bought out by Christchurch-based competitor Whitcombe & Tombs, which had run a Dunedin branch since 1890. Despite war conditions, business was booming, and George Whitcombe remarked that ‘There is hardly a single novel this season that is worth reading and those we have not got, but we are selling the old ones like hot chips’.

Determined to build one of Australasia’s best book shops on the new site, Whitcombe & Tombs announced that ‘new premises are to be erected almost immediately, and will be in keeping with those occupied by the firm at Christchurch and Wellington’. The architect for the Dunedin work, Edward Walter Walden, closely modelled the façade on the central portion of the larger warehouse in Cashel Street, Christchurch, designed by Collins & Harman in 1906. Classically influenced, in the free Revived Renaissance style, it was an imposing and elaborate three-storey composition with a massive tympanum and square pediment at the centre of the parapet. Despite the entirely fresh street appearance, many of the old buildings remained at the rear.

The Christchurch warehouse of Whitcombe & Tombs designed by Collins & Harman, completed in 1907. Steffano Webb Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/1-005652-G.

The contractors were Fletcher Bros, led by 29-year-old James Fletcher, and the new building was ready for occupation in November 1915, nine months after the construction contract was signed. The cost was nearly £9,000. The book shop was the biggest in Dunedin, and at one time there were about thirty shop staff. The annual sale was a keenly anticipated event. Adjoining the firm’s shop was a smaller one that was leased out, as were some of the offices upstairs.

The buildings were seriously damaged by a fire in May 1955. This originated in the neighbouring Beau Monde Café and took hold in the printing department at the rear. 1,700 metres of hose from fifteen hose deliveries was run out to fight the blaze, and four firemen were injured. Losses exceeded £100,000, and the fire sale that followed attracted huge crowds eager for bargains.

The scene of the fire in May 1955. Photograph originally published in the Evening Star and reproduced here courtesy of the Otago Daily Times.

Plans for the reinstatement the buildings were designed by L.W.S. Lowther and built by Mitchell Bros between 1956 and 1957 at a cost of £36,000. Even allowing for inflation this was more than the cost of the 1915 building. Some structures at the rear were replaced and a hangar-like extension referred to as the ‘cathedral’ was created. The Princes Street frontage was retained but some of the ornamental features were removed (mostly at the parapet level). In later years printing operations centred on separate premises in Castle Street.

In 1971, Whitcombe & Tombs merged with Coulls Somerville Wilkie, and the new name Whitcoulls was introduced in 1973. Whitcoulls joined Dunedin’s retail drift north, away from Princes Street and the Exchange. The firm was one of the founding tenants in the Golden Centre when it opened in 1979, and in 1984 opened a large store on the former Andrew Lees site in George Street. The Princes Street shop continued for a few years before closing its doors for the last time on 30 April 1986. At the time Excelsior Holdings intended to demolish both the old Whitcombe & Tombs building and the Excelsior Hotel next door, and it was thought that Whitcoulls might open an outlet in a new mall on the site. A plan subsequently emerged for a large office tower but this was one of a number of local schemes abandoned around the time of the 1987 share market crash.

A clue to building’s old identity can still be seen by pedestrians. In the late 1990s, when Diggers Bar and Saloon occupied the old shop space, 1950s tile were lifted from the entrance to reveal a beautiful mosaic tile floor. At the centre can be seen the monogram ‘W&T Ltd’.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 12 June 1869 p.1 (tender notice for G. & T. Young premises), 20 December 1876 p.2 (Beissel fire), 5 February 1877 p.1 (tender notice for Beissel premises), 30 July 1877 p.7 (description of Beissel premises), 1 March 1879 p.1 (Fergusson & Mitchell additions), 20 January 1915 p.1 (tender notice for removal of buildings), 8 October 1979 pp.23-40 (Golden Centre), 6 March 1984 p.24 (George Street store), 30 April 1986 p.3 (closure of Whitcoulls), 9 May 1955 p.1 (fire); Otago Witness, 14 August 1869 p.17 (description of G. & T. Young premises); New Zealand Tablet, 13 June 1879 p.18 (Fergusson & Mitchell occupy Beissel premises); Evening Star, 9 May 1955 p.1 (fire).

Other references: 
Waite, Noel. Books for a Nation: The Whitcoulls Story (Auckland: Whitcoulls, 2008)
Ingram, John and Paul Clements. Ready Aye Ready: 150 Years of Dunedin Fire Brigades 1861-2011 (Dunedin: Dunedin Fire Brigade Restoration Society, 2010)
Block plans (1869, 1889, 1892, 1927)
Permit records and deposited plans, Dunedin City Council
Stone’s, Wise’s and telephone directories
Entwisle, Peter. R.A. Lawson’s Architectural Works (unpublished list, 2013)
Whitcoulls records, Auckland War Memorial Museum MS-99-95 (with thanks to Philippa Robinson for her help)

McCarthy’s Buildings

Built: 1907
Address: Cr Stuart and Castle streets
Architect: Walden & Barton
Builders: G. Simpson & Co.

I’ve posted about a few Lower Stuart Street buildings now and there’s a reason why many of them are from the Edwardian period. The development of Lower Stuart Street progressed apace after the site of the new railway station was finally settled in 1902. It was obvious that a lot of foot traffic would soon be using the street, and it wasn’t long before modest wooden buildings disappeared and vacant sites were built on. Within about ten years a dozen substantial new buildings went up. This one was built for A. &. W. McCarthy Ltd, an old firm of gunsmiths, locksmiths, and fishing equipment specialists. Samuel McCarthy had set up business in Dunedin in 1861, originally as a gunsmith, locksmith, and bellhanger. Sam’s sons Arthur and Walter took over in 1890 and the firm then took on its familiar ‘A. & W.’ name.

An advertisement from the Otago Witness, 18 January 1894, p.44.

An advertisement from the Otago Witness, 18 January 1894, p.44.

McCarthy’s new building went up in 1907. Tenders were called in February and the building was completed before the year was out, with the firm moving from their old premises at 65 Princes Street. The architects were Walden & Barton and the building pairs nicely with the Sweeting’s fish shop on the other side of Stuart Street, which they also designed in 1907. The architecture is a composite Edwardian style that draws from various periods, sometimes loosely called ‘Queen Anne’, and transitioning towards more modern styles. The building is large and handsome and on a prominent corner, yet somehow it manages to be unassuming. It’s sympathetic in scale and design with its grandiose neighbours, the Law Courts and the Railway Station. The gentle curves to the first-floor window surrounds are a nice touch, and pilasters, cornices, and recessed panels give interest to the facades. The pediment above the stairway entrance would have been more prominent before the hanging verandah was added. The building contractors were G. Simpson & Co.

McCarthy’s remained in the building for some 90 years but in its later years the shop itself was moved to the old dairy co-operative premises next door in Castle Street. Five generations of the family ran the business. They became the leading importer of English guns and increasingly specialised in fishing equipment. They were famous for their catalogue service (which even drew in overseas customers) and for a time they had branches in Invercargill and Palmerston North. They had shops and offices in the Stuart Street building, as well as workshops for their own manufacturing department. Children were paid to collect bags of cocoon bodies, which were used to make fishing lures. McCarthy’s fishing reels are now collectors items.

The shop kept a modest appearance and Cormac McCarthy recalled: ‘There were a lot of customers over on the West Coast who used to buy the mail order catalogues. They were often terribly disappointed when they got to Dunedin for the first time. They expected a place about three times as big as Arthur Barnett, with rows and rows of guns and fishing rods, and here was this little shop with an old bloke with a beard running around.’

Perhaps unusually for a gunsmith, Arthur McCarthy was a pacifist. He studied socialism and Marxism and opposed conscription during World War I. He was a labour movement activist and became national secretary of the United Labour Party in 1912, and later became involved in the Social Credit movement.  According to his grandson he had a reputation for having a fiery temper and giving firm advice. Caroline Martin recorded that ‘one of the more colourful stories about A.P. McCarthy involved prostitutes from the Railway Hotel next door who were in the habit of throwing their used unmentionables into the shared courtyard below’.

A. & W. McCarthy went into liquidation in 1999, by which time they claimed to be the oldest family-run business in Australasia. The firm’s stock and name were bought by Centrefire, which currently trades as Centrefire McCarthy’s in Moray Place. An immense accumulation of antique stock and memorabilia was sold by auction.

Lower Stuart Street around the 1970s. Photograph by Hardwicke Knight.

Many others have leased premises in McCarthy’s Buildings, which originally included six ground floor shops. The fruiterers, Steel’s, occupied the shop at 10 Stuart for 77 years from 1921 to 1988. Upstairs, an unarmed combat training school has occupied the building for the last 75 years.

Wrestling teacher and unarmed combat instructor Harry Baldock (1905-1991) moved to Dunedin in 1929 and opened a new gymnasium upstairs in the building in 1938. His school became known as the Baldock Institute. During the Second World War, Baldock was the New Zealand chief unarmed combat instructor and physical training instructor at Burnham camp as well as Forbury and Wingatui camps. He taught national wrestling champions and hosted many visiting international wrestlers. His wife, Iris, was a masseuse and physiotherapist who had worked as a nurse at convalescent hospitals for returned soldiers during the war.

McCarthyDetail2

In 1973 Geoff (‘Tank’) Todd began training at the Baldock Institute, initially in weight training, physical culture, wrestling, boxing, and Jiu Jitsu, and later unarmed combat. Todd took over the school in 1986 and it became Todd Group, which refocused towards unarmed combat. As of 2013, the group has an instructing team of over 100 instructors and 30 depots worldwide. It also operates a 280 acre 100-man accommodation training camp. Todd Group still runs a gymnasium at 6 Stuart Street. You can read more about their history on their website.

In 2005 the Stuart Street Potters Co-operative opened a gallery and shop at no.12. Koru Gallery arts co-operative occupies the corner shop.

The exterior of building has changed little apart from the addition of hanging verandahs in 1938. Even the original shop fronts remain; and inside, tongue-and-groove wall linings can still be seen. The building is currently owned by Allied Press.

McCarthyDetail

Newspaper references:

Otago Daily Times, 8 August 1906 p.8 (removal of old buildings), 18 February 1907 p.6 (call for tenders), 11 May 1907 p.12 (description), 24 December 1993 p.13 (‘In the family for 132 years’ by Caroline Martin), 18 May 1999 p.2 (McCarthy’s in liquidation), 18 June 1999 p.4 (Centrefire purchase), 24 June 1999 p.3 (McCarthy’s auction). Accessed from Papers Past (National Library of New Zealand).

Other references:

Colbert, Roy. ‘Generation Game’ in North and South, no.126 (September 1996), p.16; McCarthy, A.C. ‘McCarthy, Arthur Peter (1862-1947)’ in Southern People: A Dictionary of Otago-Southland Biography (Dunedin: Longacre Press, 1998), pp.293-294; 80 Years of Combative Excellence [DVD]. Dunedin: Todd Group, [2007]; Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory; Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory; telephone directories; Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans.

Sweeting’s

Built: 1907-1908
Address: 49-51 Stuart Street
Architects: Walden & Barton
Builder: Joseph Eli White (1853-1917)

This building is a wee gem – I love its honest, ungentrified Edwardian appearance and the quirky arrangement of the different window sizes on the first floor. The strong lines of the cement facings look very effective against the brickwork, and the tilework and old bullnose verandah add to its charm. It is an example of the style referred to (quite misleadingly) as ‘Queen Anne’.

Originally a fishmongery, poultry dealers, and dining rooms, it was built for a syndicate led by Francis Joseph Sullivan (c.1858-1914). Sullivan was a big name in the local fishing industry.  Since the early 1890s he had been a fish retailer, the local agent of the Bluff Oyster Company, and an active supporter of the fish hatchery at Portobello. He owned Dunedin’s first fishing trawlers and squeezed out some of the traditional line fishers, which didn’t make him popular with everyone. He was also one of New Zealand’s largest rabbit exporters, owning large processing works in both Otago and Southland.

Architects Walden & Barton called for tenders in July 1907. I don’t know which of the partners, Edward Walter Walden or Joseph Barton, was mainly responsible for the design. Walden (1870-1944) had previously been in partnership with James Hislop. His later designs include the Mayfair Theatre, Andersons Bay Presbyterian Church, Hallenstein’s building in the Octagon, and St Margaret’s College. The elder man, Barton (1853-1917), had previously worked in Dunedin as a building contractor, making the same transition as builder/architects such as Hardy, Winchester, and Forrest before him.

The building was completed around January 1908. According to a description in the Otago Daily Times: ‘The shop downstairs is a room 23ft by 24ft: the floors are Minton encaustic tiles; the walls from floor to ceiling are glazed tiles; a dark cream tile is used for a dado, with embossed tile necking and white glazed tiles above; the ceilings are all of ornamental metal, tastefully picked out in different colours; the counters and window fittings are all of picked marble, sand finish, the woodwork being white enamel finish […] Immediately at the rear of the shop is a large dining room, 32ft by 28ft. This room is finished with red pine dadoes, mantels, and tiled hearths, the floors being dressed off very smoothly and left a natural wood finish. The ceilings are divided up into bays of embossed metal, with electric lights round the walls and hanging from the centre of each bay. From the shop a goods lift runs to the ladies’ dining room on the first floor. This room has a separate entrance from Stuart Street; it is 28ft by 20ft. Immediately adjoining it is a special set of lavatories and basins and hat and cloak rooms specially fitted up for the patrons. In addition to the two large dining rooms there are three smaller suites of rooms splendidly lit and neatly finished.’

Joseph Eli White was the builder. The subcontractors were Andrew Lees (painting and decorating), W.H. Newman (plastering and tile work), Briscoe & Co. (pressed metal ceilings) and A. & T. Burt (plumbing and electric work).

The restaurant was named ‘Sweeting’s Dining Rooms’,  presumably after the famous Sweeting’s Fish Restaurant of Queen Victoria Street, London (opened 1889). The Dunedin restaurant was taken over by Findlay Bros (1920-1925) and then Charles Tabor (c.1928-1939) before closing. There were a few colourful incidents in the early years. In 1910 there was a bit of a punch-up on the street (with a follow up in the supper room) between a drunk staff member and a patron. Among other things, the staff member didn’t take kindly to criticism of the way the geese had been plucked.  The following year there was some violence between members of rugby teams from Port Chalmers and Dunedin.  The Dunedin boys were heard referring to Port Chalmers as ‘Dogtown’, and according to Truth (New Zealand’s most sensationalist newspaper): ‘the quickest way to cause a riot and to raise an insurrection is to call an inhabitant of Port Chalmers a dweller in Dogtown’. Truth also had fun reporting an incident that involved Maggie Moore, an employee of Sweeting’s. In 1915 she was ‘charged with using obscene language in a telephone box at the Octagon at the unearthly hour of midnight’.

The fishmongery remained under the Sweeting’s name until the end of 1921. It became the Salisbury Butchery in 1922, and continued under that name until it became the MMM Butchery in 1957. MMM had many branches in Dunedin and was part of a chain which originated in Christchurch in the early 1940s. Why it was called MMM I don’t know, but a local nickname was the ‘Maggoty Meat Market’! MMM became Hellaby meats around 1985. The butchery became King Dick’s Emporium of Fine Meats from about 1988 and finally closed around 1993.

A separate building in Gaol (now Dunbar) Street had originally been set aside for the curing of fish and the sale of rabbits and poultry, and another was used for fish cleaning. It looks as though these were later rebuilt into the more substantial adjoining structure that survives today. Smallgoods were processed here, with Salisbury Smallgoods occupying the space until they moved around 1969.

Galaxy Books and Records (run by Bill Brosnan) opened in the building in 1977 and remained there until about 1998 when it moved to Great King Street. There was also a takeaway bar for a time. Fight Times, a martial arts supplies shop, has operated from the site since about 2004. The business is part of the Todd Group, who are the building owners.

Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times, 7 February 1890 p.3 (notice for F.J. Sullivan), 13 July 1907 p.11 (call for tenders), 31 January 1908 p.3 (description); Otago Witness, 2 February 1899 p.4 (Sullivan and rabbits), 9 September 1903 p.55 (complaints re trawlers), 18 April 1906 p.11 (Sullivan’s comments on the fishing industry); New Zealand Truth, 9 July 1910 p.7 (fight in the street), 8 July 1911 p.7 (‘Dogtown’ incident), 9 October 1915 p.5. (Maggie Moore).

Other references: Stones Otago & Southland Directory, Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory, telephone directories.