Tag Archives: Lawrence & Sons

Barton’s Buildings (Stafford House)

Built: 1928
Address: 2 Manse Street
Architect: William Henry Dunning (1872-1933)
Builders: G. Lawrence & Sons

The building in July 1975, photographed by and reproduced courtesy of Ray Hargreaves. Hocken Collections S13-127b.

For decades, neon signs at Barton’s Corner brightened Dunedin’s night life and made the 1920s butchery buildings a city landmark. Little pink pigs ran along the verandah, green lambs leapt along the parapet, a suited pig doffed his top hat, and a large bullock capped it all off. The signs were especially popular with children, and many parents would slow their cars so the kids could enjoy the display.

The history of occupation on the site goes back to Māori settlement, although the level of the land was reduced by early Eurpean settlers. In 1851 James MacAndrew, later Superintendent of Otago, built a store here. His single storey building was described nearly fifty years later as being ‘more attractive in appearance than any other in embryo Dunedin’.  Macandrew was succeeded by James Paterson, who sold up in 1863.

Meanwhile, in 1853, Benjamin Dawson established Stafford House as a private boarding establishment on the site above in Stafford Street. Under John Sibbald it became Sibbald’s Private Hotel, which was given a license in April 1858.  It was renamed the Provincial Hotel in 1859 and enlarged in 1861. It was probably in 1863 that the timber hotel buildings were extended down to the Manse Street corner, and at the end of the decade the ground floor portion became a shop (it was a grocer’s for some years). This extension was very narrow and a separate brick building took up most of the site facing Manse Street. The occupants of this second building included the Caxton Printing Company from 1889 to 1913.

An advertisement showing the Barton & Trengrove butchery in 1918. It is housed in both the old Provincial Hotel additions (left) and the former Caxton Printing Co. building (right). Otago Witness, 16 October 1918 p.33. Hocken Collections S13-184.

Barton & Trengrove, butchers, opened on the site in 1913 and took both of the old buildings. George Barton was a young Australian who had been making his way to America when he saw an opportunity to go into business in Dunedin. His partner was John Trengrove, and both men were enterprising horse racing enthusiasts. Barton’s pacer Indianapolis rode to victory in the New Zealand Trotting Cup in three successive years and won over £10,000 in stakes. Trengrove sold his share in the butchery in 1924 and from 1928 it was known simply as Barton’s. In the same year a new building was erected, with demolition work started in January.

The building under construction. Otago Witness, 25 September 1928 p.44. Hocken Collections S13-127e.

Permit papers and deposited plans record the work as ‘additions and alterations’, as the new building incorporated an existing basement and some ground floor walls. Steel frame construction was used and the business was able to remain open on the site during the rebuilding. The upper storeys had steel-framed windows with fine decorative detail on the first floor bay windows. There was a light well within the building. The contractors were Lawrence & Sons and the architect was William Henry Dunning, who had previously worked in Tasmania before arriving in Dunedin in 1908. Dunning’s early designs here included the National Bank in Princes Street and Ross Home in North East Valley. A later work was the block of shops at the corner of Albany and George Streets, which has some similar decorative features to Barton’s Buildings, including Art Deco elements.

Dunning’s design was described in an Evening Star newspaper report as being in Renaissance style. This might seem a stretch, but the composition can be read as  ‘stripped classical’, a style then in vogue and used on contemporaneous Dunedin buildings such as Queen’s Buildings and the Public Trust Office. There are also hints of an Egyptian Revival influence, including a winged cartouche at the top of the splayed corner. The facades were finished in white Atlas cement, lined with a block joint, and the shop fronts and internal staircase were finished with terrazzo. Crown Derby tiled panels depicting sheep and Highland steers were fixed to the ground floor facade facing Stafford Street.

Detail from one of the panels of Crown Derby tiles next to the Stafford Street entrance.

Barton’s flourished and a branch was established in Rattray Street in 1930, while George’s brother Douglas operated a butchery in the Octagon. In 1942, following the Japanese bombing of Darwin, an air raid shelter for up to 30 people was built in the basement of the Manse Street building. Quite a few of these were constructed in the central city and other businesses that built or planned shelters around the same time included the D.I.C., Penrose’s, and Woolworths.

George Barton junior eventually returned from service in the Air Force and took over the business together with his brother Reg in 1946. He later remembered that ‘After the war, all of the town was dull and dreary. We thought the place needed brightening up, so we decided to make a statement’. This was when the first of the neon signs were installed.

Neon lights c.1962, photographed by and reproduced courtesy of Bruce Murray.

The gentleman pig on display in Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum.

The signs were made by Claude Neon, who for more than 30 years owned them and leased them to Barton’s. A photograph taken in the early 1960s shows the running pigs, the lambs, and the cattle beast in place, with the name Barton’s displayed vertically down the splayed corner. In 1965 the name sign was replaced by a suited pig built by Trevor Hellyer, who was then a junior at Claude Neon. Hellyer also built the Fresh Freddie fish sign that was a familiar sight in St Andrew Street for 40 years. Another large sign reading ‘Barton’s’ was added to the Manse Street facade.

A night view from 1970, photographed by and reproduced courtesy of Lloyd Godman.

George Barton senior died in 1963 following a fall at the Burnside sale yards. He was 82. George junior and Reg ensured Barton’s remained a family business and took the butchery to its peak, when it employed over 200 staff, including 63 butchers. From 1967 special lamb cuts were exported overseas in a joint venture with PPCS, and major alterations and additions were carried out to allow the increase in production. Trade restrictions made this venture less successful than it might have been. The original shop fronts were taken out in 1969.

Reg Barton said the best way to beat the supermarkets was to offer a different product by going back to old-fashioned ways, and in 1978 the business announced it would revert to selling unpackaged rather than pre-packaged meat. By the end of the decade, however, the firm faced an estimated cost of $100,000 to bring its building up to Health Department requirements. The Manse Street shop closed for the last time on 29 January 1980. Other shops in Rattray Street and the Golden Centre remained open for a little longer (the Octagon shop had closed in 1966). The neon signs were removed in September 1980 and some were put into storage at the Dunedin Museum of Transport and Technology. The restored gentleman pig can now be seen at the Settlers Museum, and some of the running pigs are on display outside Miller Studios in Anzac Avenue.

From 1985 to 1995 Dick Smith Electronics were the ground floor tenants. G.S. McLauchlan & Co. bought the buildings in 1988 and redeveloped them to the plans of Mason & Wales, the work being complete by April 1989. The upper floors were converted to offices, the original central light well was built over, and more than 90 truck loads of rubble were removed from the site. The building was painted grey with details highlighted in white. The original ‘Barton’s Buildings’ lettering was removed and replaced with the new name, ‘Stafford House’ in black plastic lettering. This was a pity as the old lettering had a distinctive period style, and the material and font of its replacement is out of character.

The current name may reference the original Stafford House of the 1850s, although it’s not on the same site.  To add confusion, the pink building on the opposite corner was also known as Stafford House for some years, as was the building that fronts the Golden Centre in George Street.

In the 1990s Stafford House got its current colour scheme and the Pet Warehouse has been the ground floor tenant since 2001. An association with animals continues, but in a very different way!

The building in 2013

Facade detail

Update: Since I wrote this the building has undergone major refurbishment. Below is a view of the exterior taken in September 2014.  The Barton’s name has returned and Dad’s photograph of the neon lights now decorates the lift!

Newspaper references:
Otago Witness, 17 December 1853 p.2 (Benjamin Dawson), 13 May 1854 p.1 (stable), 7 February 1854 p.4 (John Sibbald), 3 May 1856 p.2 (Sibbald), 14 April 1860 p.1 (Provincial Hotel).
Otago Daily Times, 16 November 1861 p.5 (hotel enlargement), 6 April 1863 p.2 (James Paterson), 7 September 1864 p.5 (transfer of licence), 20 June 1872 p.2 (grocery), 3 April 1899 p.6 (Macandrew’s store), 4 April 1963 pp.1 and 3 (obituary of George Johnson Barton), 29 June 1967 p.13 (exporting and expansion), 22 October 1970 p.13 (history of Barton’s),  1 March 1980 p.1 (closure), 4 September 1980 p.1 (neon signs), 17 September 1980 p.5 (signs), 7 April 1989 p.12 (redevelopment), 3 January 1995 p.25 (signs), 24 August 1996 p.1 (signs), 7 April 1989 p.12 (redevelopment), 25 October 2008 (Trevor Hellyer), 23 June 2012 p.36 (obituary of George Hobson Barton).
Evening Star, 27 December 1927 p.2 (description of building), 12 June 1928 p.2 (building progress).

Other references:
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Block plans (1889, 1892, 1927)
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)

The Rio Grande

Built: 1927-1928
Address: 73 Princes Street
Architects: David Gourlay Mowat
Builders: G. Lawrence & Sons

This wee gem often catches my eye. The Rio Grande was the restaurant of Dimitrios Pagonis (1893-1976), a Greek immigrant from the island of Evvia. Pagonis had arrived in Dunedin in 1915, when he went into business as a confectioner and opened the Anglo American Candy Kitchen. He sold the business in 1927, when he commissioned architect D.G. Mowat to replace the 1860s building at 73 Princes Street (part of a larger block of shops) with a new structure. Plans dated 24 August 1927 show a building with three levels (two above the street and one below) on a concrete foundation that would allow the height to be increased to a total of five levels if required. The restaurant occupied the ground floor and basement, and the first floor was used as office space. The builders were Lawrence & Sons.

The building was completed by April 1928, when an Evening Star report described it:

‘Only last week the proprietor of the Rio Grande restaurant served the first meal to the public, and if internal decoration has anything to do with a cafe’s popularity then the Rio Grande should find a warm spot in the heart of patrons. The fibrous plastering has been very well done by Messrs Forman and Nicol, and Messrs Arnold, Brock, and Raffils have put their best work into the lead-lighting arrangements. The kitchen is fitted out with the usual culinary equipment of modern times. From the street the building has a remarkably fine appearance, the marble floor running in from the pavement being quite a feature.’

David Gourlay Mowat (1880-1952) was most active in Dunedin in the 1920s and 1930s. His designs included the St Andrew Street Church of Christ, the Maori Hill Presbyterian Church, Mann’s Buildings at the corner of Manse and High streets, and the building at 232 George Street which is now a McDonald’s restaurant. The last of these was built in 1929 and shares with the Rio Grande a distinctive first-floor window design with arched lintels and leadlight windows described as ‘sashed in the antique style’.  Both buildings have similar decorative mouldings that frame their facades. In the Rio Grande, the international vogue for Egyptian decoration comes through in an understated way through the pilasters and curved entablature. Mowat’s front elevation drawing shows the faint lettering ‘The Rio Grand’ [sic] in the recessed panel that runs across the upper part of the facade. The spelling in later sources varies.

Restaurants operated from the building under various managers for ten years. During the Great Depression street riot of 1932, Pagonis opened the restaurant to rioters for the whole day, feeding them without charge. Not long after this he sold the building and left Dunedin, but he later returned and established the Beau Monde Milk Bar, further south and on the opposite side of Princes Street.

A wartime advertisement. Otago Daily Times, 27 April 1943 p.5.

A wartime advertisement. Otago Daily Times, 27 April 1943 p.5.

View showing the building as it appeared in the mid 1970s with the clock in place. Detail from photograph by Hardwicke Knight.

The jewellers G. & T. Young took the premises in 1938, when new shop fronts and other alterations were designed by architects Salmond & Salmond. The large Birmingham clock that had been a feature outside their previous two premises since 1871 was moved and attached to the facade. G. & T. Young moved to George Street premises in 1988 and the clock was removed in 1990. When the firm went into liquidation in 2009 it was believed to be the oldest jewellery business in New Zealand. It had been established by George Young in 1862, with his brother Thomas admitted as a partner in 1876.

Most recently the Rio Grande building housed Rocda Gallery, and its plaster ceilings are still largely intact. For a small, domestically-scaled commercial building it attracts a lot of admiring comments, perhaps because its modest take on 1920s architectural fashion has more than a little sparkle to it, like a ring in a little jeweller’s box.

Do any readers have historical photographs of this building? I’d love to see a good view of it with the clock still in place.

Newspaper references: Evening Star, 10 January 1928 p.2 (construction progress), 2 April 1928 p.2 (description); 18 December 1928 p.2 (building at 232 George Street); Otago Witness, 18 May 1867 p.11 (earlier buildings), 15 April 1871 p.14 (G. & T. Young clock); Otago Daily Times, 17 April 1867 p.1 (earlier buildings), 14 May 1990 p.3 (clock removed), 27 January 2009 p.4 (liquidation of G. & T. Young).

Other references: Directories (Stone’s, Wise’s, telephone); Jane Thomson,‘Papers relating to Southern People’ (Hocken Archives MS-1926/1347); Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans.

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]).