Tag Archives: Jewish community

Dresden Building (Capitol Building)

Built: 1912-1913
Address: 67-69 Princes Street
Architects: Salmond & Vanes
Builder: G. Lawrence & Sons

At the end of the nineteenth century there were two big music firms in New Zealand: Charles Begg & Co. and ‘The Dresden’. The head offices and showrooms of these businesses were right next door to each other in Princes Street.

The Dresden Pianoforte Manufacturing & Agency Company had been established by David Theomin and Frederick Michaelis in 1883, in part of an older block of buildings designed by David Ross and built in 1867. These premises, between the Octagon and Moray Place in Princes Street, included a music warehouse (for sale of instruments, sheet music etc.), piano and organ showrooms, piano manufacturing workshops, a concert room, and rooms for professional music teachers. The company claimed that its Dunedin premises alone never held fewer than 200 to 250 large instruments, such as pianos, organs, and harmoniums. An innovative hire purchase scheme was hugely successful, and by 1907 the Dresden had 258 employees, and branches or agencies in 60 towns throughout New Zealand.

A contract for the erection of a new seven-storey building designed by Salmond & Vanes was signed on 17 February 1912. The site was immediately to the south of the old one, where two other buildings from Ross’s 1867 block were demolished. The old Dresden premises (facelifted in the 1940s) survive today and are occupied by Moray Gallery and Toast Bar. Salmond & Vanes’ records in the Hocken Collections include two sketch drawings which show some of the evolution of the design. They are for buildings one storey lower than the final design, apparently on the original site, and one features striking half-timbered gables in Tudor style. Because of the fall of the land, two of the levels would be built below the street.

Hocken Collections MS-3821

The total cost of the building was £18,504, putting it among the most expensive erected in Dunedin in the first two decades of the twentieth century. £1,000 was spent on tiling alone, with the exterior decorated with yellow and black Faience tiles manufactured by the Leeds Fireclay Company (Burmantofts Pottery). Yellow and black were the Dresden company colours. The overall style was a mixture Tudor Revival and Art Nouveau styles with three three-storeyed oriel window bays, and arched window openings on the top floor. The building is one of the city’s earliest examples of reinforced concrete construction; and steel framing for the frontage included a 10-tonne girder manufactured by A. & T. Burt, reported to be the largest girder put into a Dunedin building up to that time. It was also among the tallest buildings in the city, with the hill it was built on giving it a higher total elevation than the larger New Zealand Express Company building in Bond Street. The builders were G. Lawrence & Sons, with Turnbull & Jones contracted for the electrical work and George Davies & Co. for the heating. Completion of the work was recorded by Salmond & Vanes on 20 June 1913. Theomin must have been pleased with it, as the following year his company commissioned the same architects to design a branch building in Cashel Street, Christchurch, which though smaller was very similar in style.

Sheet music department

Organ showroom

Christchurch branch building

In 1912 the piano was at the peak of its popularity in New Zealand, with more pianos imported that year than in any other before or since. Annual imports had increased gradually from 1,200 in 1878 to 5,700 in 1912. Most were German, but the First World War soon changed that. In 1915 the Dresden Piano Company changed its name to the Bristol Piano Company ‘for reasons which will be obvious to patriotic citizens’. There is evidence of real prejudice against the firm and its owners. A correspondent from Gisborne wrote to the sensationalist Truth newspaper complaining that Theomin was German, favoured German products, and employed Germans in influential positions. The paper defended the company’s founder, explaining that he was born in England and was the son of a Prussian Jew. The firm’s new name was taken from Theomin’s birthplace: Bristol. Other German or German-sounding names were changed during the war or shortly afterwards: the Dunedin Liedertafel became the Royal Dunedin Male Choir, Brunswick Street in South Dunedin became Loyalty Street, and members of the Hallenstein family altered their name to Halsted.

Advertisement from the Evening Star, 2 January 1915, explaining the name change

Examples of sheet music written by Dunedin musicians and published by the Bristol Piano Company: ‘British Boys’ (1915) and ‘Tropical Moon’ (1930)

The Bristol Piano Company building was a hub of musical activity in the 1920s and even had its own concert chamber, but the depression, new forms of entertainment, and declining sales of pianos, were hard on the company. In 1933 the Dunedin building was sold to a syndicate of Dunedin businessmen and rebuilt as shops and professional offices. It was noted at this time that a stone wall constructed by convict labour in 1862 could still be seen in the basement. The building was renamed the Capitol Building and is still known by that name. The Bristol Piano Company moved to Dowling Street and ceased trading in Dunedin in 1936. The national company went into liquidation in 1938. A later music firm in Dunedin called the Bristol Piano Company was a separate entity.

Occupants of offices in the building have included lawyers, doctors, and dentists. In the early years many of the rooms were taken by music teachers and the Barth School of Music (1921-1972) were long-standing tenants. This school was run by three sisters: Beatrice, Irene, and Ruby. They had a room each on the fourth floor for individual lessons, and there was a classroom where they taught theory to the younger pupils and hosted meetings. They were leading members of the Society of Women Musicians of Otago, and Beatrice administered the Dunedin Centre of Trinity College of Music.

A photography studio designed by the architects Miller & White was added above the existing top storey of the building in 1933. This was originally occupied by the photographer J.J. Webster, and in 1954 was taken over by Campbell Photography, which continued there to 1986. The lawyers Albert Alloo and Sons are now the longest-standing occupants of the building.

Much of the façade detail has been destroyed or covered over, including decorative tilework, parapet railings and detailing, and capitals. The arched window openings on the fourth floor have been replaced with square ones. The essential form of the building remains unchanged, however, and the original window joinery of the oriel windows is also mostly intact. Maybe it will return to the yellow and black Dresden colours one day. For nearly 60 years the building was much higher than its neighbours, until Evan Parry House was built on the site of the Bristol’s old rivals, Begg’s. It still makes a strong statement today, being tall and imposing among a collection of mostly lower buildings, and bringing variety to the streetscape.

Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times, 17 April 1867 p.1 (erection of old building), 23 April 1900 p.4 (about the company), 1 September 1909 p.3 (about the company), 22 August 1912 p.6 (new building); Otago Witness 18 May 1867 p.11 (old building); Grey River Argus, 7 January 1915 p.5 (name change); N.Z. Truth, 10 April 1915 p.7 (Theomin and Germany); Evening Star, 31 May 1933 p.3 (image and reference to wall). All references except the Evening Star sourced from Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

Other references: Dalziel Architects records, Hocken Collections (MS-2758/0727); Salmond Anderson Architects records, Hocken Collections (MS-3821); Stone’s and Wise’s directories; Suzanne Court, ‘Barth, Beatrice Mary’ from Dictionary of New Zealand Biography; W.H. Morton Cameron, Ports and Cities of the World (London: Globe Encyclopedia Co., [1924]).

Lost Dunedin #1: Eden Bank House

Address: 9 Regent Road
Additions by David Ross (1874) and Louis Boldini (1881)
Not known
Demolished circa 1966

We’re lucky to have so many historic buildings in Dunedin but a lot have been lost to demolition, including this one. I’m as interested in the lost buildings as much as the surviving ones, and although they’re gone they can be appreciated on some levels through photographs and other records.

The original building at the corner of Regent Road and Queen Street was one of a few rental houses built for Robert Murray, who lived nearby.  When new in 1863 it was described as a large, elegant, and substantial stone and brick residence. Known as Eden Bank House, it was the home of a Polish prince (!), Konstantine Drucki-Lubecki, who had left his country after taking part in the failed revolution of 1831. Lubecki’s English wife Laura (known as Madame Lubecki) ran a ladies’ school for boarders and day pupils at Eden Bank from 1863 to 1864. The name chosen for the house might have been a straightforward biblical reference, but it might also have been taken from the ship Eden, which took the Lubeckis from Europe to Australia in 1838. ‘Bank’ presumably referred to the steep incline at the front of the property.

The Lubeckis’ residency was brief and the house next appears to have been rented by Miss I.M. Cary who also ran it as a ladies’ school, using the name Ellerslie House, from 1864 to 1865.

Maurice Joel, one of Dunedin’s most successful brewers and a prominent member of the Jewish community, purchased the house in 1867. It became known as Eden Bank again, and remained the Joel family home for nearly four decades.  In 1874 Joel commissioned David Ross to design major brick additions, including verandahs. In the previous eleven years Ross had also designed a shop, various brewery buildings, and a hotel (the Captain Cook) for Joel. Further additions in 1881 were designed by the Italian-born architect Louis Boldini, who also the designer of the magnificent synagogue that opened in Moray Place the same year. Joel was President of the Jewish Congregation at the time.

Maurice Joel

With its alterations and additions Eden Bank was an imposing house in the Italian renaissance style, drawing from Venetian models. In Ross’s 1874 design it is likely that a single a verandah ran the entire length of the frontage. The striking central bay and pediment with elaborate ornamentation appear to be Boldini’s work. The loggia was particularly unusual for Dunedin, although this feature was seen more often in Melbourne.

The Joel children were artistically gifted. Grace Joel is celebrated as one of New Zealand’s best early painters and she painted and taught at her studio in Eden Bank in the 1890s. Her sisters, Blanche and Lily, both became professional music teachers and were accomplished piano and voice performers respectively.

Joel leased Eden Bank to the government in 1905, when it became St Helens Maternity Hospital. The government later purchased the property. It was the second of seven hospitals in Prime Minister Richard Seddon’s maternity hospital scheme, which aimed to provide modern maternity services at low cost to women of the ‘citizen class’.  The hospitals were named after St Helens in Lancashire, the birthplace of Seddon. Dr Emily Siedeberg-Mckinnon, New Zealand’s first woman medical graduate, was superintendent for 33 years. Alice Holford, who supervised most deliveries and oversaw training of midwives, medical students, and nurses, was matron for 24 years. The hospital was a great success but eventually more modern facilities were needed and it closed in 1938 following the completion of the new Queen Mary Maternity Hospital in Cumberland Street. By that time 5,500 babies had been born at St Helens (some in a cottage adjoining  the house) and 200 midwives had been trained there.

The house in 1905, seen from the corner of Queen Street, showing the extent of David Ross’s additions (on the right)

St Helens Hospital then became St Helens Hostel, a hall of residence for Home Science students at the University of Otago. It closed following the completion of the new Studholme Hall buildings in 1961. It was used for little more than storage until 1962, when the government put it on the market. It had not been drastically altered over the years, although Ross’s verandahs had been replaced with balconies (one on the north side was glazed in). At the time of the sale the building was described as being in excellent condition, with only minor renovations required to restore it to its condition of the 1870s. Unfortunately it was not saved. I found entries for St Helens Lodge in the Dunedin telephone directory up to 1966, and it was presumably around this date that it was demolished. The large block of flats now on the site dates from the late 1970s.

Historic images: View of the front of the house c.1905, Hocken Collections S12-549c (University of Otago Medical Library: Historical Collection). View from Queen Street corner, Hocken Collections S12-614a (Otago Witness, 2 August 1905 p.44). Advertisement from Otago Daily Times, 6 July 1863 p.3 (National Library of New Zealand http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz). Portrait of Maurice Joel from Cyclopedia of New Zealand, vol. iv, Otago and Southland Provincial Districts (Christchurch: Cyclopedia Company, 1905), p.291.

Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times, 7 March 1863 p.3 (joinery work), 12 June 1863 p.3 (‘to let’ notice),  6 July 1863 p.3 (Madame Lubecki’s advertisement), 12 March 1864 p.2 (Madame Lubecki’s advertisement), 25 May 1864 p.1 (Miss Cary’s advertisement), 10 December 1866 p.3 (sale of property), 16 October 1874 p.3 (call for tenders by Ross), 2 February 1897 p.1 (Grace Joel’s advertisement), 24 January 1938 p.4 (St Helens Hospital closing ceremony); 22 May 1962 p.5 (sale by government); Evening Star, 7 January 1881 p.1 (call for tenders by Boldini), 28 February 1881 p.1 (further tender notice); Otago Witness, 2 August 1905 p.33 (purchase by government).

Other references: Siedeberg-McKinnon, Emily, ‘My own history of nursing in Otago and the work at St Helens up to its closing day’ (typescript, Hocken Collections MS-1621/027).

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.


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).