Tag Archives: Milk bars

Hotel Central

Built: 1873
Address: 90-108 Princes Street
Architects: Mason & Wales
Builders: Wood & Steinau

HotelCentral_TOSM_57_200_1_small

The buildings as they appeared c.1907. Ref: Collection of Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, Box 57 Number 200.

Since the demolition of its northern neighbour in the 1980s, the facade of 100-108 Princes Street has come to a slightly raggedy end, and the off-centre word ‘Hotel’ has looked a bit peculiar without the word ‘Central’ that once followed it. Although the two buildings that formed the Hotel Central had an integrated facade, they were separated by a party wall and had distinct roof structures. They were even built under separate contracts for different clients.

The surviving portion was built for the drapers Thomson, Strang & Co., and the demolished one for Dunning Bros. Built in 1873, the buildings replaced wooden structures that were only about ten years old, but which in a period of rapid development were already seen as the antiquated stuff of pioneer days. The architects were Mason & Wales and the contractors Wood & Steinau.

The buildings were described in the Otago Daily Times as ‘very handsome’ but it was remarked that ‘their elevation and length appear to be altogether out of harmony with the irregularity of the comparatively small structures opposite’. The facade originally featured a bracketed cornice and most of the first-floor windows were hooded. Stone was used for the foundations and ground floor, and brick for the upper floors.

HotelCentral_TePapaO.025695

Detail from a Burton Bros panorama, showing the buildings as they appeared in 1874, not long after their completion. Ref: Te Papa C.025695.

Who were the Dunning brothers? Alfred Theodore Dunning and Frederick Charles Edward Dunning were English settlers who started out as fruiterers in Princes Street in 1864. Frederick left the partnership in 1871, but did return for a few years later in the decade. In 1874 Alfred was granted a license for the City Dining Rooms, which he opened upstairs in the new building. He established a hotel across the upper floors of both buildings, and from 1878 the establishment was known as Dunning’s Central Hotel and Café. The portion above the drapery contained bedrooms, while rooms in the northern part included a dining room, offices, and a large billiard room.

Alfred was known for his joviality, uprightness in business, and warm-heartedness, but although he did well in the hotel business he was less successful when he left in 1881 to take up theatrical management. He lost most of his money in opera ventures and died in Melbourne in 1886 at the age of 41. Frederick became a fruiterer in Christchurch, where he died in 1904 after falling from his cart.

The drapery firm Thomson, Strang & Co. had started out as Arkle & Thomson in 1863. J.R. Strang became a partner in 1866 and the firm operated from its new premises for just under ten years, closing in 1883. From 1885 to 1928 the ground floor of this southern end of the buildings housed Braithwaite’s Book Arcade. Joseph Braithwaite had established his business in Farley’s Arcade in 1863 before the move to Princes Street. The store had a horseshoe-shaped layout that extended into Reichelt’s Building on the south side, and the horseshoe theme was carried through to distinctive frames over the two entrances. It was claimed over 10,000 people once visited the arcade on a single day, and Braithwaite’s became so well-known that it was considered a tourist attraction. It was a popular place to shelter from bad weather, and everyone from unchaperoned children to the local business elite might be seen browsing the shelves. By 1900 the business employed thirty sales men and women. The footprint of the arcade changed a few times as it moved in and out of neighbouring shops.

HotelCentral_TOSM_57_200_1_detail

Detail from c.1907. At the centre is the lamp for Haydon’s Central Hotel. On the left is one of the entrances to Braithwaite’s Book Arcade. The shop on the right was occupied by the jeweller James Bremner. Note the pilasters with their Corinthian capitals. Ref: Collection of Toitu Otago Settlers Museum.

The Central Hotel’s license was transferred to John Golder in 1881, and he reportedly installed one of the largest plate glass windows in the colony. He was succeeded by Robert T. Waters, who changed the name to the Baldwin Hotel, perhaps after the celebrated hotel of the same name in San Francisco. After Waters came Charles Nicholson, James D. Hutton, and Thomas Cornish. During Cornish’s time the name changed back to Central Hotel, and later licensees were James Macdonald, E.J. Power, William H. Haydon, and Catherine J. Haydon. The license was lost in 1909, and the establishment afterwards continued as a private hotel and boarding house. It was known as Jackson’s Hotel from about 1922 to 1936, when it became Hotel Central.

The hotel featured in an unusual example of pioneering photography, for Dunedin at least. In 1903 a couple were photographed in a bedroom of the City Hotel from an opposite room in the Central Hotel, and the evidence was used in a divorce case. The respondent claimed she was only playing cards with the co-respondent, whom she described as an elderly, very short, stout, bald-headed, and not at all good-looking friend. The jury were unconvinced and a divorce was granted.

Tragedy occurred in 1900 when William O’Connell, a 76-year old miner from Nevis, died after falling from one of the rear windows during the night, into the yard below.

From 1916 the buildings included the entrance to the Empire Theatre (a cinema), complete with terrazzo flooring and marble mosaics. In 1935 the theatre’s entrance was moved from Princes Street to Moray Place, and two shops were built in the place of the old entry.

The history of the shops is complex as over one hundred businesses have operated from them over the years, and partitions were sometimes put up to turn a large shop space into two smaller ones, or taken down to restore a larger space. Most of the businesses that were in the buildings for five years or more are in the list below. The dates are mostly compiled from directories and newspapers advertisements and so are only an approximate.

Thomson, Strang & Co. (1873-1883)
Raymond & Howard, chemists (1874-1884)
J. Wilkie & Co., stationers etc. (1879-1885)
August Fettling, jeweller (1880-1885)
Alexander Allen, tobacconist (1883-1896)
Stewart Dawson & Co., jewellers (1884-1891)
Alex W. McArthur, jeweller and optician (1888-1894)
William Macdonald, hosier (1889-1894)
William Reid, florist (1894-1907)
J.J. Dunne, hosier and hatter (1896-1906)
James Bremner, jeweller and optician (1898-1914)
William Aitken & Sons, tailors (1902-1907)
Elizabeth Rodie, draper (1906-1919)
E.H. Souness, watchmaker and jeweller (1908-1915)
Elite Tea Rooms (1915-1973)
Sucklings Limited, photographic specialists (1919-1931)
Watkins & Neilson, mercers and tailors (1922-1927)
The Horse Shoe, fancy goods dealers (1928-1934)
Adams Bruce Ltd (1928-1935)
Piccadilly Shoppe, lingerie specialists (1928-1982)
‘The Ideal’, frock and knitwear specialists (1930-1988)
Marina Frocks (1935-1954)
Cameron’s Central Pharmacy (1935-1985)
Tip Top Milk Bar (1935-1955, succeeded by the City Milk Bar 1955-1961)
E. Williams, toilet salon (1936-1944)
Johns of London, beauty specialists (1944-1956)
Newall’s Chinaware (1954-1972)
London House, menswear (1957-1967)
Carlton Bookshop (1962-1984)
Rob’s Wool Shop (1972-1986)
Southern Cross Jewellers (2002-2015)

Some businesses moved to different shops within the buildings, including Sucklings (around 1928) and the Ideal (around 1954). The Tip Top is perhaps a surprise inclusion on the list – the ‘no.2 shop’ was here while the more widely remembered ‘no. 1’ operated from the Octagon corner.

One of the longest-lasting enterprises in the buildings was the Elite Tea Rooms. Established by Hannah Ginsberg as the Elite Marble Bar in 1915, it advertised a tastefully decorated lounge room, a menu of fifty different iced drinks and ice creams, and a wide range of hot drinks including coffee, Bovril, and Horlick’s. For many years, from 1919 onwards, it was run by Jean Dunford and Sarah Mullin, and the business remained on the site until about 1973.

EliteTeaRooms

Advertisement from the Evening Star, 8 November 1919 p.6

HotelCentral_1960s

A 1960s view

The facades were stripped of their Victorian decoration in 1952 and remodelled to the designs of architect L.W.S. Lowther, incorporating late use of the Art Deco style. The name ‘Hotel Central’ was added in plain sans serif capitalised relief lettering at the parapet level. Directories and advertising suggest that the names ‘Hotel Central’ and ‘Central Hotel’ were sometimes used interchangeably. The private hotel’s last entry in Wise’s directory was in 1977, but it would be could to pin down the date of its closure more accurately.

The northern building was demolished in 1987 to make way for additions to the Permanent Building Society building (now Dunedin House). This was remodelled in the postmodern style fashionable in the 80s, and its new features included tinted and mirrored glass, supersized pediments, and shiny columns. The older building now looks cut in half, but the changes made to the facade in the 1950s have exaggerated that effect. It recently changed ownership, so perhaps more change is in store in the not distant future.

HotelCentral_2016

The surviving building in 2016

Newspapers references:
Otago Daily Times, 1 August 1873 p.1 (call for tenders), 8 August 1873 p.3 (demolition progress), 1 September 1873 p.2 (accident); 22 November 1873 p.3 (progress – ‘out of harmony’); 24 December 1873 p.1(grand opening); 6 June 1874 p.4 (opening of public dining room); 2 September 1874 p.3 (court dispute – contractors), 30 October 1873 p.2 (accident during construction), 3 February 1876 p.3 (Dunning Bros partnership notice), 18 November 1878 p.3 (Dunning’s Central Hotel advertisement), 26 May 1881 p.3 (to let, retirement of Dunning), 9 July 1881 p.2 (largest plate glass windows in the Colony), 21 November 1883 p.3 (winding up of Thomson Strang), 23 April 1900 supp. (Braithwaite’s Book Arcade), 26 September 1900 p.7 (fatal accident), 22 June 1909 p.4 (license refused), 4 March 1916 p.11 (Empire Theatre); Otago Witness, 13 June 1874 p.2, 4 (opening of dining rooms), 2 September 1874 p.3 (dispute); Evening Star, 22 October 1915 p4 (Elite Marble Bar), 16 April 1935 p.2 (theatre entrance replaced with shops).

Other references:
Stone’s, Wise’s, and telephone directories
Baré, Robert, City of Dunedin Block Plans. Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, [1889].
W.H. Naylor Ltd: Records (Hocken Collections AG-712/036), plans for 1952 remodelling.

Irvine & Stevenson buildings (part one)

Built: 1882
Address: 186-198 George Street
Architect: John Arthur Burnside (1857-1920)
Clerk of WorksJohn Wright

An 1890s photograph by W.R. Frost. The grocery store and two other shops face George Street under the verandah. At the left of the image are the factory buildings.

‘St George’ was one of the most successful brands to come out of Dunedin, becoming a household name throughout New Zealand as well as exporting to overseas markets. Irvine & Stevenson’s St George Company produced jams, soups, tinned meat and fish, other preserved foods, and household products such as laundry crystals. In terms of buildings, it was generally associated with the old Keast & McCarthy brewery site in Filleul Street, where it operated a preserving works from 1897 to 1977. Before that, however, it was based on a site at the corner of St Andrew and George Streets, and that’s what this story is about.

In the early 1860s James Irvine owned three grocery stores in Kilsyth, near Glasgow. In 1863 he came to Dunedin with his wife, Jane, to start a new life in what was then a booming gold rush town. He opened a shop in Filleul Street, and was one of the first bacon curers in the city. The store relocated to George Street (between Hanover and St Andrew streets) around 1870.

William Stevenson was 23 years younger than James Irvine. He came out from Scotland as a boy, and at the age of 21 became a partner in the grocery firm Stevenson & Ford, which occupied one of ‘several insignificant wooden buildings’ on the corner of George and St Andrew streets. There had been a grocery store on the site since James Wallace opened for business in 1864. Immediately to its south were premises occupied by Robert Brown’s cake shop (established in 1879), and next to this was the Oddfellows’ Hall (erected in 1862). Behind these structures were brick stables, and a double cottage facing St Andrew Street.

Stevenson married Irvine’s daughter, Barbara, in 1881, and the following year the two men went into partnership as Irvine & Stevenson. They opened a temporary shop in the Southampton Buildings (now part of the Golden Centre mall) while a block of three new shops and offices was built on leasehold land occupied by the old Stevenson & Ford store, Brown’s shop, and the Oddfellows’ Hall. The architect J.A. Burnside called for tenders in April 1882, and by the following January the building was complete. Irvine & Stevenson used the corner shop as their grocery store, and beneath it was a large storage cellar. Two smaller shops fronting George Street were leased out: one of them to Robert Brown and the other to the drapers M.W. Green & Sons.

A late 1880s view, showing Irvine & Stevenson’s buildings behind the A. & T. Inglis store. They include the tall chimney stack and the building immediately to its right. Ref: Te Papa O.002091.

Constructed from brick, with a stone foundation and a slate roof, the buildings cost £2,898. An Otago Daily Times reporter wrote approvingly:

Although appearance has not been the main object in view, it must be admitted that the front elevation of the buildings displays an exceptionally neat style of architecture, and that the block is by no means the least creditable of many fine buildings in the city. It is needless to remark that the buildings are of a substantial character, while the dimensions mentioned show that they are commodious.

The architecture was loosely Renaissance Revival in style, showing some of the emerging eclecticism also apparent in James Hislop’s design for the Boot Palace (1885-1886) on the opposite corner. Features included rounded corners to the window heads, and small chimneys integrated with the St Andrew Street parapet. The incised decoration above the windows was uncommon in Dunedin with other examples from around the same time including the Coulls Culling warehouse in Crawford Street (since demolished), and the former Dowson’s building at 305 George Street. The verandah was described as one of the best in the city. It had a glazed roof, and its iron pillars and ornate fretwork were manufactured locally by Barningham & Co.

The appointed builder was Henry Martin, but he met with financial difficulty and his contract was terminated before the project was far advanced. Subsequent work was carried out through various contracts, with John Wright apparently acting as Clerk of Works. A few years before Wright had performed a similar role in the building of the Terminus Hotel, also designed by Burnside.

Behind the shops and offices, a two-storey building was erected for curing ham and bacon. It was completed a little later in 1883 and cost a further £555. Between 1886 and 1887 ‘sheds’ were demolished and replaced with a smoke house for sausages at a cost of £275. In 1888 a jam factory building and a large chimney stack were built on the site previously occupied by cottages. They were likely designed by R.A. Lawson, as company accounts shows fees paid to him in connection with the project, which cost £815.

Label for tinned boiled mutton. Ref: Alexander Turnbull Library Eph-C-MEAT-1900s-03.

Irvine & Stevenson registered their ‘St George’ trademark in 1885, and it’s possible (though perhaps unlikely) that the idea for the name was inspired by the streets where the company buildings were sited: St Andrew and George. The brand symbol was a shield containing the image St George on horseback, slaying a dragon. By 1889 the company was producing 300 cases of jam per week, with stoneware jars from Graham Winter & Co.’s Milton Pottery Works. Jam production moved to the former Peacock & Co. premises in Moray Place, soon after Irvine & Stevenson bought it as their ‘no. 2’ factory in 1891.

In 1894 the original complex was described as having 100 x 66 feet of floor space on each of its two storeys. Activities included bacon curing, sausage making, tea blending, coffee and pepper grinding, and washing powder manufacture. There was also a short-lived diversification into confectionery. The Keast & McCarthy brewery premises were acquired in 1896, and the company opened new preserving works there the following year. A freezing plant was installed with insulated rooms and compressed-air freezing machine with enormous pistons. Industrial operations in the rear buildings continued until the structures were rebuilt as shops in 1929, but I’ll leave this for further discussion in my next post.

The shop on the corner was occupied by Irvine & Stevenson’s grocery store for thirty-one years up to 1913, when the company sold it to focus on manufacturing activities. A grocery store remained on the site for another ten years, first run by McIlroy Bros, and then B.J. McArthur. In 1922 the shop and upstairs rooms were taken by the optometrists Hugh & G.K. Neill, who over time developed the complementary photography business Hugh & G.K. Neill Photographics Ltd. In 1997 Neill’s Camera & Video became Jonathan’s Camera & Video, which expanded into the shop next door. Jonathan’s Photo Warehouse remains in the middle shop today, while the corner site is once again in the hands of the optometrists Milburn & Neill (the current iteration of the old firm), who have now been based in the building continuously for over ninety years.

The corner hasn’t always been a peaceful spot. In 1892 George Street was the scene of demonstrations in support of the Saturday half-holiday movement, and one of Irvine & Stevenson’s plate glass windows was smashed. There were also demonstrations during the Great Depression, and it was at this intersection where in April 1932 protestors stopped the taxi carrying the Mayoress, Helen Black, attempting to pull her out and overturn the vehicle. She had been involved in running a relief depot where there was anger that chits for supplies were handed out rather than money orders. It was also said that there was some resentment towards Mrs Black for handing out relief wearing white gloves – a symbol of privilege. These days any altercations at this location are likely to be of the late night drunken variety.

A 1925 advertisement for Hugh & G.K. Neill reproduced from a Dunedin Choral Society programme.

A view of George Street in 1949, showing a ‘St George Jam’ neon sign on top of the building. Ref: Hocken Collections 96-106 (box 96), reproduced at builtindunedin.com courtesy of Perpetual Trust.

The middle shop was originally occupied by a succession of small draperies: M.W. Green & Sons, Carter & Co., and William McBeath, before Irvine & Stevenson put their own retail butchery in the space. For twenty years from 1910 it was occupied by the fruiterer William Carlton Ruffell, whose views on Chinese taking up his line of business reflected some of the racism in New Zealand society at the time. The Evening Post (Wellington) reported in 1920:

A deputation from the Dunedin Retail Fruiterers Association waited on the Dunedin City Council last week in reference to the Asiatic question […] Mr. H.E. Stephens said one shop had been opened in Dunedin, and they knew the Chinese were feeling for about a dozen other businesses. In the North, the trade was practically run by the Chinese. They were not desirable citizens, for they were not bound by our laws, could work as they liked, and were therefore unfair competitors. In California it was proposed to keep Asiatics from buying or holding land, and it was time something was done here. Mr W.C. Ruffell said what they really aimed at was the elimination of foreigners. They thought New Zealand should be white.

Ruffell’s shop became an outlet of Star Stores for nearly thirty years from 1930. It was then Adkins Foodmarket (1959-1973), Adams Fruit (1973-1987), and the clothing retailer Slick Willy’s (1987-2004), before Jonathan’s took it.

The southernmost shop (present no. 186) was leased by the confectioner Robert Brown in 1882 and was kept by his family for nearly seventy years. In later years it traded as Brown & Son, Brown’s Cafeteria, and Brown’s Cake Shop. It became Jordon’s Milk Bar around 1953, and photographs from the Hocken Collections show a slick American-influenced hangout of the rock ‘n roll era. It was a place where ‘milkbar cowboys’ gathered outside on Sunday afternoons (the Beau Monde was the spot on Friday nights), the coolest among them with Triumph Speed Twin and Thunderbird motorcycles. Inside, Oriental fans were a feature of the decoration. As well as traditional milkshake flavours, the Fla-va-tru range (‘America’s Latest!’) included: Blue Lagoon, Fruti Tuti, Chop Suey (can anyone enlighten me on that one?), Fruit Salad, Yankee Doodle, Smoky Joe, Nutti Cream, Butterscotch, Mint Julep, and Pink Lemonade. A wide variety of chocolates were sold, from Nestlé and Cadbury bars through to Winning Post, Caley’s Majestic, and Cadbury’s Centennial boxes. The snack bar offered spaghetti, baked beans on toast, poached eggs on toast, tomato soup and toast, and hot pies. Jordon’s closed in 1969 and was replaced by the Four Seasons Restaurant, which was in turn succeeded by Buyck’s Restaurant (1975-1980), the Pig ‘n Whistle Restaurant (1980-1982), and the Capri Coffee Lounge (1982-1987). The closure of the Capri ended the space’s role as an eatery after more than a century. Meanwhile, upstairs was dieting HQ, as Weight Watchers had their premises there for twenty years from 1976. The downstairs shop was occupied by Payless Shoes from 1987 to 1996, before the current tenant, Dollar Store 123, opened for business in 1998.

The street frontage of Jordons Milk Bar in 1957, complete with Melody Master jukebox. Ref: Hocken Collections P11-012, S14-117c. Ritchie’s Studio photograph.

The interior of Jordons Milk Bar in 1957. Ref: Hocken Collections P11-012, S14-117b. Ritchie’s Studio photograph.

Staff of Jordons Milk Bar, Yvonne third from right. Ref: Hocken Collections P11-012, S14-117a.

The property arm of Irvine & Stevenson retained a financial interest in the buildings up to 1962. The corner premises went into the ownership of Hugh & G.K. Neil, and the remainder to the Butler Family who named their portion Larent Buildings. I’m unsure why this name was chosen, as I haven’t found any obvious links between the name and the building, but it may have been because it was an investment property and ‘Larent’ is an anagram of ‘Rental’! The first floor windows in this part were replaced in 1970, giving the buildings their present lopsided appearance. The original verandah, cornice, and parapet have also been destroyed and their restoration together with the first floor windows would transform the building from its somewhat awkward and unassuming look to a striking and handsome feature of the street.

So as not to confuse things, I’ll treat the historical development of the old factory buildings separately in the next post. So, as they say:

To be continued….

A recent view

Facade detail showing incised decoration

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 22 October 1873 p.2 (James Irvine, ham and bacon), 18 January 1882 p.2 (auction of leasehold), 20 January 1883 p.2 (description of George Street buildings), 3 June 1887 p.1 (opening of pork and provision shop), 19 May 1894 supp. (description of Irvine & Stevenson premises), 27 January 1908 p.7 (freezing plant), 20 November 1919 p.10 (‘The Preserving Industry’), 8 November 2008 p.6 (‘Recalling Dunedin’s Dark Days’ by Mark Price); Evening Post (Wellington), 28 June 1920 p.6 (W.C. Ruffell)

Other references:
Irvine & Stevenson’s St George Co. Ltd records, Hocken Collections UN-016
Stevenson, Geoffrey W., The House of St George: A Centennial History 1864-1964 (Dunedin: Irvine & Stevenson’s St George Co. Ltd, [1964])
Baré, Robert, City of Dunedin Block Plans (Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, [1889])
Jones, F. Oliver, Structural Plans of the City of Dunedin NZ, ‘Ignis et Aqua’ series, [1892]
Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters’ Associations of New Zealand, block plans, 1927
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)
Thanks to Allan Dick for his memories of Dunedin milk bars.

Note: some occupancy dates may be a year out either way due to reliance on annual directories.