Tag Archives: Great King Street

Dunedin in Kodachrome 2

In an earlier post I touched on the colours and qualities of mid-century Kodachrome film, and the research value of old slides. I am always eager to find more images of Dunedin in Kodachrome, and over the past few years have spent a lot of time working through slides of the late Hardwicke Knight. More recently, well-known photographer Gary Blackman has introduced me to his own wonderful collection.

Any student of Dunedin architecture should be familiar with Ted McCoy and Gary Blackman’s Victorian City of New Zealand (1968). It was the first book dedicated to the subject of Dunedin’s historic buildings, and opened the eyes of many to the beauty and value of the city’s built heritage. A number of the buildings featured have since been destroyed.

During the period Gary was taking some of the black and white images shown in the book, and even much earlier, he was also shooting in colour.  The slides were primarily intended as documentary records, but naturally the photographer’s skill in composition, framing, and other technical and artistic elements, is ever apparent.

The passage of time has added further dimensions. Some images are evocative through their sense of oldness – of the kind sometimes mimicked through Instagram filters. Conversely, a sense of freshness is often even more striking. There can be something unsettling about an image that looks as though it might have been taken yesterday, but shows a scene that has undergone radical transformation. Scenes that have only undergone partial transformation can be the most disconcerting, as familiar points of reference hammer home that this really is the same place. In other cases, it is amazing how little a place has changed in fifty or sixty years.

With special thanks to Gary for sharing them, here is a group of his images taken in Great King Street, all in 1963:

The first looks east towards the Otago Museum. The building in the foreground was a Congregational church before it was purchased by the Catholic Church in 1932. It was demolished around 1971 to make way for the present Holy Name Church. Buildings and blossom are together the subjects. The gold of the museum’s masonry harmonises with the church’s timbers – a colour once ubiquitous for Dunedin buildings but relatively uncommon today. Motor cars (then older models) give a sense of period.

The second image looks south along Great King Street, and makes a study of telegraph poles and wires. Gary tells me that at first he avoided such infrastructure, before increasingly incorporating and sometimes even featuring it. This particular image was used in a talk in which he illustrated the ‘visual clutter imposed on our streets by poles and wirescape’.  The photograph was taken from a position approximately outside where Galaxy Books is today (just north of Moat Street), and the Wellingtonia in the distance, then already over a century old, is a familiar point of reference. In 1963 the one-way system was still five years away.

The final slide, taken in the mid-morning sun, shows a modest dwelling opposite the North Ground. It stood south of the Dundas Street corner, near where Coupland’s Bakeries is now situated. Unfortunately this charming little home with its pretty lacework was demolished long ago. It is contextualised in this image by the houses on the hillside, while the glimpse of the attached barber’s shop provides a delightful contrast.

All images in this post © Gary Blackman 1963

Albyn House

Built: 1861
Address: 558 Great King Street
Architect: Not identified
Builder: Not identified

Albyn House as it appeared around 1960. Hardwicke Knight photo.

A magnificent Wellingtonia, thought to be more than 140 years old, stands opposite the North Ground on Great King Street. Its great height gives context to the even older wooden building behind it: Albyn House. Built as the Albion Hotel, it predates the Otago Gold Rush, and might be the oldest surviving building in North Dunedin.

An early photograph shows the hotel set back from a roughly formed street, in almost rural isolation. In 1861, a traveller whose observations were published in the Lyttelton Times found just two buildings of note in North Dunedin. One was the original Knox Church and the other was the Albion, which he thought ‘for external appearance and internal comfort is superior to any in Canterbury’.

The two-storeyed structure appears modest now, but it was impressive in newly-hatched Dunedin, and a storekeeper in Great King Street advertised his business as ‘nearly opposite that magnificent building, The Albion Hotel’. The architecture drew from the Georgian tradition, and with its small central bay and pediment was similar to George Greenfield’s design for the custom house (built 1862, demolished 1973) in High Street. Where the custom house was stone and brick with a portico, timber materials and a verandah gave the Albion a more Colonial look. Arches and six-pointed stars were striking features of the entrance porch. The building was also reminiscent of the brick Linwood House in Christchurch (1857, demolished 2011).

The first proprietors, John Henry Noding and Ernest Cleland Mais, were granted a license in April 1861, but by October Noding was the sole proprietor. Like many advertisers he indulged in a little exaggeration, claiming that accommodation was ‘unsurpassed in the Colony, combining the freedom of a Hotel, with the comforts of an English Home.’ Robert Ellis opened livery and bait stables in connection with the hotel.

Advertisement from Otago Daily Times, 25 November 1861. Ref: Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

An advertisement from the Otago Daily Times, 25 November 1861. Ref: Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

A wee kerfuffle made the papers at the end of 1861. Noding claimed that one of his guests, Captain Peter Greig, had demanded alcohol after hours and been very noisy, ‘playing leap frog and other improper games in the parlour’. Greig was asked to leave, but refused and threatened to horsewhip his landlord. On Noding’s instructions the housemaid turned out the captain’s belongings and locked his bedroom, but he broke down the door. Greig was prosecuted, and following his spirited defence the magistrate remarked that he was obviously still under the effects of excitement. Greig apologised, explaining that he was not well, his feet were damp, and he had on a pair of new boots, which hurt his feet! He was ordered to pay damages, but fellow guests claimed he had done nothing wrong and criticised Noding as a poor host and a difficult man to live with. Five of them left the hotel in solidarity with the captain, and signed a letter in support, published in the Otago Daily Times.

John McNeill bought the Albion at the end of 1862, and soon altered and reopened it, advertising ‘delightfully airy’ bedrooms, private sitting rooms for ladies, and all the comforts of home. The table, he boasted, was ‘daily furnished with every variety and luxury of the season, and the very best wines’. Within months the hotel changed hands again, with John Flanagan the new publican.

Members of the North Dunedin Cricket Club held meetings in the building, including one on 6 February 1864, the day they officially opened the North Ground. On one occasion a perambulator was stolen from the verandah and taken on a little adventure as a ‘lark’ – evidence, should it be needed, that alcohol-influenced pranks in the area predate the university and its students by some years. Flannagan failed to make a success of the business and the hotel closed in 1865. After being bought by the mortagees, John McNeill and James Finch, it was sold to Daniel Campbell in 1866.

Detail from a late 1860s photograph showing the building from the rear (at centre). All Saints' Church is also prominent. Ref: Hocken Photographs Album 073.

Detail from a late 1860s photograph showing the building from the rear (at centre). All Saints’ Church is also prominent. Ref: Hocken Photographs Album 073.

An early 1880s view showing Albion House (as it was then known) at the centre right. Detail from Burton Bros photograph. Ref: Te Papa C.012457.

An early 1880s view showing Albion House (as it was then known) at the centre right. Note the size of the tree. Detail from Burton Bros photograph. Ref: Te Papa C.012457.

For the next eighteen years the building was Campbell’s private residence, and was known as Albion House. Campbell had arrived from Edinburgh in 1851, and was the first printer and manager of the Otago Witness, and later Managing Director of the Otago Daily Times. His daughters Maggie and Nellie were each married at Albion House by Rev. Dr Donald Stuart.

Campbell left Dunedin in 1883, and in 1884 a boarding house was established in the building by Mrs Susan James. She initially leased the property before purchasing it in 1888, when she changed the name from Albion House to Albyn House. Albion is the oldest known name for the island of Great Britain, and Albyn is a variant with romantic literary associations. It is not known why Mrs James changed the name, but it may have been to avoid confusion with another Albion House, or the Albion Hotel in Maclaggan Street.

Susan James ran Albyn House until 1901, and after leasing it to other operators returned to a hands-on role from 1908 to 1914. It was briefly run by J.A. Goodman, and his sale notice in 1916 gives an interesting list of some of the furnishings: ‘Walnut sideboard, leather suite, dining table, fenders and brasses, occasional tables, poles and curtains, pictures, linoleums, Axminster carpet, carpet runners, wicker chairs, hall stand, overmantel, ornaments, china and crystal, double and single bedsteads, bedroom suite, wardrobes, duchesse chests, washstands, ware, toilet glasses, bedding, blankets, napery, kitchen furniture, utensils, garden tools, furniture of 20 rooms’.

An advertisement from the Otago Motor Club annual, 1930.

An advertisement from the Otago Motor Club annual, 1930. The verandah was still open at this time.

Later proprietors included Margaret Durrand, Jane McIvor (c.1919-1932), Annie Christeson (1936-1960), Ivy Harborne (1960-1973), and A.P. Sutherland (1973-1987). Residents in the early years included clergy, medical students, clerks, and music teachers. Notable individuals included W.H. Trimble, who became the first Hocken Librarian, and Whampoa Fraser, the first principal of what is now Fraser High School in Hamilton. Albyn House was also used by tourists and travellers, and increasingly by single men looking for low-cost accommodation. In 1970 it was converted from a boarding house to bedsits.

Simon Rae remembers living there in 1960, when he was a student in his first year at the University of Otago. ‘Mrs Chris’ was the landlady and the boarders were ‘all younger single men, a wonderful mix, workers and students’. They knew the times when Sputnik could be observed and would go over to the North Ground to spot it in the night sky.

Some additions to the building appear to have been removed, as have the brick chimneys that were attached to the external walls. A stair mysteriously leads up to the attic space. Decorative ironwork that once graced the frontage has gone, as have four finials from the parapet, and aluminium-framed windows make incongruous replacements for the original double-hung sashes. The verandah was partially closed in during the mid-twentieth century. After 154 years however, however, the building retains the essentials of its original character. The buff colour scheme, of a type once common, adds to its old-fashioned charm.

Albyn House is not only possibly the oldest building in North Dunedin, but also likely Dunedin’s oldest remaining hotel building. It survives as one of the few built links to the city’s early pioneer days.

Newspaper references:
Otago Witness, 20 April 1861 p.5 (license granted), 8 June 1861 p.5 (cook, housemaid, waiter), 27 April 1861 p.3 (‘magnificent building’), 20 July 1861 p.4 (Ellis’ stables), 26 October 1861 p.4 (partnership dissolved), 20 Feb 1864 p.14 (perambulator); Otago Daily Times, 7 December 1861 p.2 (Noding and Grieg), 8 December 1862 p.2 (sale notice), 20 January 1863 p.3 (advertisement), 16 June 1866 p.5 (disputed settlement), 19 June 1866 p.5 (disputed settlement), 6 February 1864 p.4 (opening North Ground), 29 January 1878 p.2 (wedding), 25 November 1879 p.2 (wedding), 31 March 1884 p.3 (boarding and accommodation house established), 23 July 1885 p.1 (advertisement), 26 October 1888 p.3 (purchase by Mrs James), 1 April 1889 p.1 (Albyn House), 4 August 1908 p.8, (departure of Mrs Heatley), 26 October 1908 p.2 (return of Mrs James), 21 February 1914 p.12 (for lease), 12 February 1916 p.14 (A. Goodman); Lyttelton Times, 4 January 1862 p.9 (description of Dunedin).

Other references:
Stone’s, Wise’s and telephone directories
Certificate of title, vol.71 fol.123
Deeds indexes, Archives New Zealand, Dunedin Regional Office (with thanks to Amy Coleman)

Thanks to William Duncan for his help when I visited the site.

Gleeson’s Terrace

Built: 1903-1904
Address: 618-626 Great King Street
Architect: Percy William Laing (1859-1915)
Builders: Peter Campbell and/or Henry Charles Foster

This terrace is one of the most unusual and distinctive in Dunedin. Its balconies with bullnose verandahs and lashings of decorative cast iron fretwork would look quite at home in Melbourne but are almost exotic here. Terraces featured significantly in Dunedin’s early housing and more than twenty rows still stand from their heyday period of 1876-1912, not including terrace-like pairs of semi-detached houses. There were once many more. The simplest ones were working-class tenements but the fancier ones were marketed to white collar workers and professionals. They were a good investment option for early landlords, particularly before electric tram services opened up the suburbs, and with land in the industrialised central city at a premium.

I’ve titled this post ‘Gleeson’s Terrace’ because these houses were built for William Gleeson, but as far as I know this was not a name used historically. Gleeson (1841-1917) was the proprietor of the Rainbow Hotel in George Street and in 1902 he also owned the Annandale Arms, a two-storeyed wooden hotel which stood on the site of the terrace. The Annandale Arms was refused a license in June that year and the old building was soon torn down. In October tenders were called for the erection of the terrace. In addition to the three two-storeyed ‘villas’ at the front of the property, a row of four single-storey dwellings was built at the rear. These survive but cannot be seen from the street and are only accessible via a private right-of-way (so I haven’t included photographs of them).

After the terrace was built the next-door neighbour on the southern side sued Gleeson, as the building encroached onto her land and it was claimed that water swept from its roof onto hers. She was awarded some damages and it was ordered that decorative features at the top of the building that projected over her property be removed.

The builders were Peter Campbell and/or Henry Foster. The architect was Percy Laing, whose signature can be seen on the deposited plans on file at the Dunedin City Council. Laing was a Dunedin boy who went to Otago Boys’ High School and was trained by that pre-eminent Dunedin architect, R.A. Lawson. He afterwards went to Melbourne where he was employed by N. Billing & Son. After returning to Dunedin he worked with Robert Forrest before establishing his own practice in 1903, the year this terrace was built. Laing died in a climbing accident near Ben Lomond saddle in 1915, at the age of 56. His other designs include Ramsay Lodge at 60 Stafford Street and the Kensington Hotel (later remodelled in art deco style).

This terrace is a little old-fashioned looking for 1903 and could easily be mistaken for an earlier building, although the front walls and fire walls perhaps give it away as later. It is derived from a style popular in Australia in the 1880s and the architect’s time working in Melbourne largely explains the connection, although it would be interesting to know what his client’s instructions were. The deposited plans differ from the finished building in that they show a balustraded parapet with finials. They also show a cornice that was probably built and later removed.  The plans don’t show the iron lacework as it appears. This was produced very nearby at Barningham & Co.’s Victoria Foundry in George Street (opposite Knox Church), and possibly chosen straight from their catalogue. The company’s name can be seen at the base of the verandah posts. Barningham’s were well-known for manufacturing the ‘Zealandia’ brand of coal ranges and their 1903 advertisements referred to ‘verandah castings of all kinds’.

The first resident of the southernmost house (then number 308) was Frances Grant, who taught singing and piano. The other two houses were occupied by painter/decorators. Two of the three houses were soon converted to flats (upstairs and downstairs), and for this reason new front doors were installed. Few tenants stayed long and occupants included a butcher, a draper, engineers, a brewer, a grocer, a police sergeant, a railway guard, and a barman. Special mention should be made of the Lindsay family. Robert and Sara Lindsay’s family moved into the southernmost house around 1928. Robert was a blacksmith. Annie Lindsay remained there until her death at the age of 97 in 2007, when the house was still in very original condition, retaining its kauri fireplace surrounds with tile insets. The houses now appear to be used as student accommodation, being handy to the university.

Otago Daily Times, 4 February 1907 p.6. The street numbers were changed in 1910 and 308 corresponds with the present 618.

The terrace looked pretty rough in 2009 but by 2010 a lot of love, money, and expertise had obviously gone into renovations and restoration. The balcony no longer slumps and mismatching timber railings put in over the years have been removed and replaced with replicas of the original ironwork. The result is impressive.

Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times, 2 June 1903 p.4 (license refused to Annandale Arms), 27 October 1903 p.6 (call for tenders), 4 December 1903 p.7 (Gleeson fined re drainage), 5 August 1905 p.3 (legal dispute re land), 4 February 1907 p.6 (advertisement for Frances Grant); 6 April 1915 p.3 (death of Percy Laing), 28 April 2007 (advertisement in property supplement); New Zealand Tablet, 1 October 1903 p.32 (Barningham advertisement).

Other references: Dunedin City Council deposited plans, Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory, Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory.