Address: 19 Vogel Street
Architect: Robert Forrest (c.1832-1919)
Builders: King & Co. (bricklaying), John Blackie (carpentry)
Vogel Street is home to some of Dunedin’s most substantial Victorian warehouses. This one, which has frontages to both Vogel and Cumberland streets, was built for the importing and general merchants Hogg, Howison, Nicol & Co. The firm had recently succeeded Hogg & Hutton, who traded as grocers in Dunedin from 1863, and the partners were James Hogg, Charles Macandrew Howison, and Lancelot Douglas Nicol. The building site was only formed after 1879, when a large-scale harbour reclamation project began. Being handy to the harbour, railway, and central business district, the newly formed Vogel Street was a logical location for large commercial warehouses. It extended an established precinct of similar warehouses centred around Crawford and Bond streets, the latter having been named after the bonded warehouses that sprang up there twenty years before.
Tenders for the construction work were called in May 1881, and the building was complete by the following January. It was a three-storey structure, not including the concrete cellar and an attic level. Because of the poor quality of the land, the foundation was laid on a system of planking, with ‘a wall of concrete three feet in depth, surmounted by Port Chalmers stone, laid right round in inverted arches, in order to equalise the weight on the foundations by throwing it on the piers’. Above the ground floor the walls were built from 250,000 bricks, and arched throughout. Strong kauri storey posts ran right through from the cellar, carrying cross-beams fourteen inches by ten inches which took the floor joists.
Stores were spread over three levels with an entrance on Cumberland Street and a lift capable of raising loads of up to 1,500kg at a time. They housed the firm’s imported goods, which included tea, tobacco, sauces, hardware, guano fertiliser, and many other things. The office entrance was on Vogel Street, and the first floor included separate rooms for each partner of the firm, a general office for about eight clerks, and a room for commercial travellers connected with the firm. The office partitions were kauri and cedar, with glass on the upper part. An impressive counter was framed in cedar with sunk panels of plain kauri, raised panels of mottled kauri, and fitted with mouldings in rewarewa (New Zealand honeysuckle).
Robert Forrest designed the building, which was one of his earlier works after he gave up being a building contractor to become a full-time architect. King and Co. were the contractors for the bricklaying, and John Blackie for the carpentry work. The Vogel Street and Cumberland Street facades were essentially identical. Renaissance Revival was the style used for their design, which included pilasters, quoining, a bold cornice, and a high parapet and pediment (with volutes and acroteria) which masked the gable ends of the roof structure. Each facade was cemented and tuck-pointed, ‘to give it a lighter appearance’.
A second building, immediately to the south, was erected for Hogg Howison between 1887 and 1888, and let to the Mutual Agency Company of New Zealand. Its design closely resembled the first building, the most obvious difference being that the outer bays of the first and second floor facades were given pairs of windows rather than single ones. It was later occupied by Remshardt & Co. (wool, skin, and hide merchants), and later still by Milne Bremner Ltd (wholesale wine, spirit, and grocery merchants). It survives, but its facades were stripped of decoration in the 1940s and it is no longer the close match with its neighbour that it once was. Between 2006 and 2008 the Milne Bremner Building was redeveloped and strengthened to a high standard by Adrian Thompson and his company Hyperstella.
Hogg, Howison, Nicol & Co. wound up in 1895, and their building was taken by Scoular Bros & Co. (importers) from 1896 to 1900. From 1903 to 1938 it was owned and occupied by Paterson & Barr Ltd, ironmongers and hardware merchants. They soon built an iron yard and store for heavy goods on the half section immediately to the north, and in 1929 they commissioned the architect W.H. Dunning to design a second three-storey warehouse for that site, to work as an extension. Tenders were called in December 1929 and Thomas Ferguson was awarded the contract. The brickwork and mouldings of Dunning’s design suggest something transitioning from the so-called ‘Queen Anne’ style, which was really eclectic rather than characterised by the architecture of Anne’s reign. The glazing has a more modern aesthetic.
Paterson & Barr moved to High Street in 1938, where they continued to trade into the 1980s. The tyre and rubber merchants E.W. Pidgeon & Co. occupied a portion of the Vogel Street building from 1938 to 1962. A large fire in 1942 gutted the upper part, which included the softgoods factory of J.W. Bradley and its fifty workers. It may have been after the fire that the prominent cornices, gable ends, and elaborate parapet ornamentation were removed, and the tuck-pointed brickwork to the facades rendered. These features are not present in an aerial photograph dated September 1946.
From 1952 to 1989 the buildings were home to the Dunedin Working Men’s Club. Established in 1938, this was a social club which had a bar and provided facilities for darts, snooker, pool, indoor bowls, and table tennis. In 1976 the club boasted a membership of over 1,800. It admitted women from 1980 and in 1989 it changed its name to the Dunedin Metropolitan Club and moved to Melville Street.
The building is looking rather scruffy these days, but hopefully it will play an important part in the revitalisation of Vogel Street that has included the recent sympathetic redevelopment of the nearby NMA and Donald Reid buildings.
Otago Daily Times, 18 April 1881 p.4 (tenders for bricks), 6 May 1881 p.4 (tenders for foundations and construction), 10 January 1882 p.2 (description on completion), 3 February 1887 p.3 (fire), 25 August 1942 p.2 (fire), 28 August 1942 p.4 (fire), 22 December 1976 p.16 (history and description of Dunedin Working Men’s Club), 10 March 1989 p.3 (admission of women), 28 February 1989 p.5 (name change and removal of club to new premises); Evening Star, 3 December 1929 p.2 (call for tenders), 7 January 1930 p.2 (contract to Ferguson)
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, vol.4 (Otago and Southland Provincial Districts), 1905.
Baré, Robert, City of Dunedin Block Plans Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, .
Jones, F. Oliver, Structural Plans of the City of Dunedin NZ, ‘Ignis et Aqua’ series, .
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Dunedin City Council permit and rates records