Tag Archives: Port Chalmers

Port Chalmers Police Station

Built: 1939-1940
Address: 35 George Street, Port Chalmers
Architects: Public Works Department (under John T. Mair)
Builder: Robert Mitchell

PortChalmersPoliceStation_frontage

Cabinet approved a grant to build a new police station at Port Chalmers in August 1938. This was late in the first term of the first Labour Government, a busy time in the history of public works programmes in New Zealand. It was announced that: ‘the new police station, which will be of modern design, will be situated in George Street near the war memorial. The offices will be on the ground floor, and the top floor will be designed as a dwelling for the sergeant in charge.’ In April 1939 it was reported that the plans had been completed by the Public Works Department, and tenders would soon be called. The estimated cost of the construction was £4,500.

The Government Architect at the time was John Thomas Mair (1876-1959), best known in Dunedin today as the designer of the former Chief Post Office. Mair took up the job in 1923 and retired in 1941, so this design came near the end of his career. I do not know what roles he took upon himself for this project, with various other architectural staff in the department also involved.

Construction was underway by September 1939, the month war was declared, and in April 1940 the station was described as ‘nearly completed’, together with surprised comment that a foundation stone had not been laid. After some delay the completed building was officially opened by the Minister of Police, P.C. Webb, in a public ceremony on 18 August 1941. The Commissioner of Police, D.J. Cummings, said he had been shocked at the condition of the old station when he visited five and a half years before. In the new building the cells were electrically heated, but he ‘wished it to be understood that they constituted only a “bed-and-breakfast flat,” and there would be no permanent residents’.

The architecture combines Moderne with English Domestic influences. It is well harmonised, with exposed brickwork and details that include architecturally-conceived signage, an expertly-sculpted coat of arms, a flagpole, delicate cornice, and curved garden walls. I particularly like the way the metal windows are arranged along the facade, mostly in groups of three, but two in groups of two, and in each case with banded plasterwork between (originally a gold colour as it was elsewhere on the facade). The building also has some of my favourite chimney pots in all Dunedin!

The Port Chalmers Police Station remains in use as a patrol base with counter service, and although of course it is operated very differently from the way it was 70 years ago, it still looks very much the same.

I am not going to go into a detailed history of local policing for this post, but I can’t end without referring to Sgt Stewart Guthrie, officer in charge on 13 November 1990, the day he was killed by David Gray in the mass shooting at Aramoana. Guthrie was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his courage and heroism that day, and I often think of him when I see this building.

PortChalmersPoliceStation_sign

PortChalmersPoliceStation_facade

PortChalmersPoliceStation_chimney

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 18 August 1938 p.10 (Cabinet approval), 15 April 1939 p.12 (plans completed), 29 September 1939 p.4 (photograph showing progress), 9 April 1940 p.6 (nearly completed), 19 August 1941 pp.5-6 (opening), 23 April 2003 p.6, 24 April 2003 p.4 (proposed cutting of Sergeant’s position), 4 October 2011 p.9 (‘Port police station change proposed’); Evening Star, 19 August 1941 p.2 (opening).

Sutton Brothers Store

Built: 1874-1875
Address: 21 George Street, Port Chalmers
Architects: Mason & Wales
Builders: Lambeth & Findlay, Kent & Brown

When I’m in Port Chalmers I often admire the distinctive Tiger tea, ‘It’s so good it goes further’, advertising on the front of this building. I’m sure many have a similar fondness for it – Tiger signs were once seen on so many southern dairies and grocery stores, but they’re now relatively scarce.

The building was a general store, with a residence above, for 110 years. It was built between 1874 and 1875 as an investment for John Thomson, whose name has come up on this blog before. Thomson (1813-1895) was born at Dewartown, near Dalkeith in Scotland, and after working in coal mining had charge of a sawmill on the estate of the Duke of Buccleugh. He arrived at Port Chalmers in 1848 and worked saw milling and then managing the Government stores, before briefly going to the goldfields. He was afterwards a sheep and cattle inspector, and his Otago Witness obituary stated that he was ‘greatly respected for his sterling manliness of character’. He had established the Dalkeith subdivision in the 1860s, and owned various adjoining properties on the eastern side of George Street.

The architect was N.Y.A. Wales of Mason & Wales. The carpenters were Lambeth & Findlay, the stonemasons Kent & Brown, and the plasterer Edwin Philp. The cost was £898. The building was completed in March 1875, but just seven months later was damaged in a fire that destroyed buildings on its north side. The first storekeepers were Sutton Brothers. The business was managed by Edward Sutton to 1891, then by William Sutton to about 1903.

Detail from an 1870s photograph showing the building as it appeared when new. Ref: D.A. De Maus Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library 1/2-003211-G.

Detail from another D.A. De Maus photograph, taken in the 1880s. Ref: Alexander Turnbull Library 1/1-002569-G.

The store as it appeared in the 1890s or early 1900s. Ref: Port Chalmers Museum. D.A. De Maus photographer.

The store was run by Jonathan Emerson as Emerson’s Store from about 1903 to 1931, when it became MP Stores. The original MP Stores had been established in Timaru in 1913 as ‘a cash store, with minimum deliveries, in order to enable the proprietors to only charge the public for the goods bought by the individual customer, and not for the bad debts of the non-payer, and also to keep running expenses to a minimum’. MP might have stood for ‘minimum purchase’ but I’m not sure about that, and if there was a direct business link between the Timaru stores and the Port Chalmers one I haven’t discovered it. The name was changed to MP Foodmarket around 1963 and the business continued under that name until it closed around 1985. Since about 1986 Koputai Manufacturing Jewellers have occupied the ground floor.

The style of the architecture is Renaissance Revival. Originally, rusticated pilasters topped by corbels flanked the shopfront, with quoins above on the first floor. The composition was topped by a bracketed cornice, and a blind parapet with a modest pediment, small urns, and finials. The principal change to the outward appearance of the building has been the replastering of the facade in the 1950s. This involved the removal of original mouldings such as the cornice, quoins etc., and the filling in of the centre window on the first floor. Other changes included the addition of a suspended verandah, and the replacement of the shopfront. The side elevations are in a more original state, and the exposed breccia stonework is a delight – well worth searching out if you’re not familiar with it already. Just look for Mr Tiger.

Newspaper sources:
Otago Daily Times, 4 October 1875 p.3 (fire); Timaru Herald 11 August 1913 p.1, 17 July 1920 p.9 (MP Stores).

Other sources:
Stone’s, Wise’s, and telephone directories
Church, Ian. Some Early People and Ships of Port Chalmers. Dunedin: New Zealand Society of Genealogists, c.1990. pp.784-5.
Port Chalmers rates records (with thanks to Chris Scott, DCC Archives)
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)

Matilda Ritchie’s building

Built: 1899-1900
Address: 10 George Street, Port Chalmers
Architect: James Louis Salmond
Builder: Not identified

Photograph by D.A. De Maus showing the arrival in Port Chalmers of the Auckland men, Fourth Contingent, prior to their embarkation for South Africa on 24 March 1900 (Second Boer War). Ref: Port Chalmers Museum.

I love the tall, narrow proportions of this building – accentuated rather than softened by the composition of the facade. It could be seen as a bit fussy, but I find it totally charming and I’m sure it’s a favourite with many others, not least the regulars of the Port Royale Cafe.

In the 1870s the site was occupied by one of a pair of modest two-storey timber commercial structures owned by Matilda Ritchie (1832-1918). She had arrived in Port Chalmers on the Jura in 1858, with her husband Archibald James Ritchie. Mr Ritchie died in 1870 and Matilda became a prominent landowner and businesswoman in her own right. She was described as one of Port’s philanthropists, and ‘very good to people in need’.

Detail from a mid-1870s Burton Brothers photograph showing the site of the present structure. The building on the site has a sign reading ‘Shipping & Family Butcher’. To its left is a matching building with the sign ‘Bread & Biscuit Baker’). Note that most of the buildings are of timber construction. Ref: Te Papa C.011806.

In October 1899, architect James Louis Salmond called for tenders for the ‘erection of a shop and dwelling in George street, Port Chalmers (Brick)’. In the same issue he placed a notice advertising the sale ‘for removal of a two-storeyed wooden building in George Street, Port Chalmers […] Tenders may also be lodged with Mrs Ritchie, Port Chalmers’. A photograph dated March 1900 shows the building in a near complete state, but still with hoardings up and without its shop front.

Detail from the D.A. DeMaus photograph, March 1900. Note that hoardings are still up and the shop front is yet to be completed. The image shows parapet and roof details since removed.

The style of architecture is Renaissance Revival or Victorian Italianate. Originally the roof had an observation platform surrounded by iron railings. This would have provided excellent views of harbour movements, and for the same reason a similar platform was on the roof of the Port Chalmers Hotel. The facade was richly decorated, including plain pilasters with impressive Corinthian capitals on the second floor, and fluted Ionic pilasters on the first floor. The latter referenced the neighbouring building at no.6 (designed by David Ross in 1881), as did a repeated circular motif used on the parapet balustrade, with both showing a sensitivity to context on the part of the architect. The parapet ornamentation is lost but the decoration below survives, including a fine dentil cornice with modillions, and consoles in the second-floor window surrounds. The roof was renewed in 1969 and there are no longer railings in place.

The first tenant of the shop was the watchmaker and jeweller Albert Edward Geddes, who remained until about 1905. Another jeweller, Alfred Isaac Peters, was there c.1915-1930. Among the businesses that followed were cake shops (1950s-1960s), a takeaway bar (1970s), and an office of the law firm Downie Stewart & Co. (1980s). In the 1990s it was occupied by Aero Club Gallery, and it has been the Port Royale Cafe since 1998.

References:
Otago Daily Times, 3 October 1899 p.1 (calls for tenders)
Church, Ian. Port Chalmers Early People, p.684.
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories
Dunedin City Council rates records (with thank to Chris Scott)
Dunedin City Council permit records (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)

 

John Thomson’s building

Built: 1877
Address: 23-25 George Street, Port Chalmers
Architect/designer: Not identified
Builder: Not identified

Sometimes I come across an honest wee building of little pretension, that I’m unable to attribute to any particular designer or builder. This can be a bit frustrating, as I’m the sort of person who likes classifying things and even finds it fun, but sometimes I should just put my trainspotting-like tendencies aside. Simple buildings often suit their function most effectively and can contribute as much to the character of a place as grander ones, while shedding light on different layers of history.

This building in George Street, Port Chalmers, is a plain and relatively utilitarian example of Victorian architecture that was likely designed by the builder who constructed it. Containing two shops with residential space above, it’s of a type seen elsewhere (there’s another example further along the same street) with a hipped roof left visible rather than screened behind a parapet, giving it a somewhat domestic appearance. The brickwork facing the street was originally exposed, as it still is on the side walls, and early photographs show a verandah that was removed in the twentieth century.

In the mid 1870s the site was a vacant space, and its development seems to have been delayed by a need to excavate part of the hillside. A report in the Otago Daily Times of 30 July 1877 stated: ‘In George street, Port Chalmers, a fine two storey brick building is just about completed, next to the general store of Sutton Brothers. It was erected for Mr John Thomson, and is thirty feet square by twenty-four feet high, and comprises two places of business, with dwelling rooms above. One of them is already in occupation as a soft goods store’. The description of the building as ‘fine’ should be seen in the context of the other buildings in the street, which were mostly simple timber structures viewed as inferior and less permanent.

Detail from a 1905 photograph by Muir & Moodie. Ref: Te Papa C.011810.

The building was an investment for John Thomson (1813-1895), who owned various adjoining properties on the eastern side of the street, and had established the Dalkeith subdivision in the 1860s. Thomson was born at Dewartown, near Dalkeith in Scotland, and after working in coal mining had charge of a sawmill on the estate of the Duke of Buccleugh. He arrived at Port Chalmers in 1848 and worked saw milling and then managing the Government stores, before briefly going to the goldfields. He was afterwards a sheep and cattle inspector, and his Otago Witness obituary stated that he was ‘greatly respected for his sterling manliness of character’. He was survived by his wife, seven children, and nearly forty grandchildren.

William Scott was the first tenant of the northern shop (rated at £60) and Mrs Lean took the smaller southern shop (rated at £30). Scott was a tailor who had previously occupied premises a few doors further north, and he remained in his new premises until about 1893. The other shop was a butchery for Francis Lean, Lean & Harrison, and then J.W. Harrison (from c.1881). Harrison remained in the shop until 1903 and faded signage for his business is still visible on the southern wall. The building was sold from the estate of Elsie Thomson in 1906.

Later occupants have included the laundry proprietor Yat Lee (c.1906-1912), watchmaker and jeweller Cecil Rose (c.1924-1936), greengrocer Sam Shum (c.1936-1950), and greengrocer Peter Kan (1950-1980). At the time of writing the shops are occupied by The Changing Room (no.23) and Blueskin Bay Honey and Supply Co. (no.25).

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 16 April 1862 p.2 (Dalkeith subdivision), 30 July 1877 p.3 (City Improvements), 19 October 1903 p.6 (to let), 17 September 1906 p.8 (sale); Otago Witness, 5 December 1895 p.15 (obituary for John Thomson).

Other references:
Church, Ian. Port Chalmers and its People (Dunedin: Otago Heritage Books, 1994), p.71.
Church, Ian. Some Early People and Ships of Port Chalmers (Dunedin: New Zealand Society of Genealogists, n.d.) pp.312, 719.
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories
Port Chalmers rates records (with thanks to Chris Scott)
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)

Marine and Royal hotels

Built: 1880-1881
Address: 31 and 52 George Street, Port Chalmers
Architect and builder: Gordon McKinnon

The Portsider (former Marine Hotel)

The former Royal Hotel, with 1867 stable buildings on the left

In 1880 Gordon McKinnon was a young architect and contractor based in Port Chalmers, with commissions to design and build two hotel buildings in George Street. Born in Peterhead, Scotland, in 1856, he was the son of Captain Gordon McKinnon, a former whaling ship master who took his family to Otago in 1862. The seaman later captained various vessels and worked as a coastal pilot. Despite the promising start to his career, the younger McKinnon is not mentioned in any books about Dunedin architecture, and the hotel buildings appear to be his most significant works in New Zealand. This made me curious!

The first of the two pubs was the Marine Hotel, now known as the Portsider. The land on which this building stands was excavated and developed later than most of George Street, and at the end of the 1870s was still vacant. In April 1880 the Otago Daily Times reported that construction work was underway:

We have before noticed the fact that many improvements are being carried on in Port Chalmers and among the most prominent of them is the very handsome structure now in course of erection for Mr [William] McLauchlan. It is intended for a hotel, and is situated in the very centre of George street. The style of the building is the decorated Italian, and is from the pencil of a young though very capable architect, Mr Gordon McKinnon, who, although not a native of the Port, has been connected with it from his earliest infancy, and it affords us very great pleasure to record the fact of so fine a building being erected from the designs of this meritorious and rising young artist. The edifice is of the most solid character, being composed of Port Chalmers bluestone foundation, with brick and cement upper works.

The Marine Tavern in the early 1970s. Photo by Daphne Lemon, Hocken Collections S14-585a.

Inside, the ‘very ornamental’ public bar was adjoined by a snuggery, and there was also a commercial room with a separate street entrance. Assembly and dining rooms could be combined to form a single large space for balls, concerts, and other gatherings, serviced from a kitchen at the rear. Through the central street entrance was a grand staircase with elaborately-cut woodwork balusters, and on the first floor were a sitting room, four double bedrooms, six single bedrooms, toilets, warm and cold baths, and showers. A large billiard room was described as ‘one of the handsomest we have seen, its decorations being extremely tasteful and elegant, and the ceiling, which is a masterpiece of plasterwork, is to be finished by a centre flower and elaborate cornice’.

A license was issued in September 1880, with John Thomson the licensee. The hotel survived the 1902-1905 no-license period in Port Chalmers and the longest serving publicans were Edward McKewan (1909-1923) and Fred Carter (1926-1947). One of the claims for the Marine was that it was the first hotel in New Zealand to participate in a meals-on-wheels scheme for the elderly, which began in 1965. The hotel became the Marine Tavern in 1967 and in 1976 closed for extensive rebuilding and renovations before reopening as the Portsider Tavern in 1977. The redevelopment project was designed by Allingham Harrison & Partners and included major rearward and southward extensions, and internal rearrangements. Today the exterior retains most of its original decorative features, including pilasters, Corinthian capitals, cornices, swags, and a scrolled pediment. Finials that originally surmounted the blind parapet have been removed and entrances and windows have changed, with somewhat awkward new arches combined with mullioned aluminium-framed bay windows. The render finish to the facade now has a slurry coat.

McKinnon’s other hotel project was the partial rebuilding of the Royal Hotel. This hostelry had been established in 1861 with Thomas Christmas Bowern as licensee, and a photograph taken later in that decade shows a large three-storey timber structure with a separate stone and brick stable (the latter was built in 1867 and still stands). From 1876 the proprietor was James Morkane, a ‘zealous and practical’ Catholic from Tipperary, Ireland, five of whose ten children joined religious orders. Between 1880 and 1881 the front portion of the hotel was rebuilt for Morkane to McKinnon’s design, with a foundation of Port Chalmers bluestone and walls above in brick.

The new frontage for the Royal was described in the Otago Daily Times as very handsome and ornamental in character, with a ‘chastely decorated’ facade finished in cement render. A first-floor loggia with large Doric pillars and ornate cast-iron railings extended along the front of the building. This feature was unusual in Dunedin but less so in Australia, and had many precedents in the Italian Renaissance architecture that was the revived style used for the design. On the ground floor were a spacious billiard-room, bar, and bar parlour, approached by a lofty entrance hall with a handsome staircase leading to the first floor, on which there was a large dining room and two sitting rooms. On the second floor were six new bedrooms ‘fitted with the most recent appliances for comfort’.

The Royal Hotel in the late 1860s. Photo by D.A. De Maus, Alexander Turnbull Library 1/1-002555-G.

The Royal Hotel in the late 1860s, with the stable buildings on the left. Photo by D.A. De Maus, Alexander Turnbull Library 1/1-002555-G.

The rebuilt Royal Hotel frontage as it appeared in the 1880s. Photo courtesy of Port Chalmers Maritime Museum Collection.

Plans to rebuild accommodation in the rear portion of the hotel appear not have been realised, as the hotel was refused a license in 1885 when it was described as being in a ‘dilapidated and ruinous condition’. The buildings afterwards became a club and a boarding house, and the rear part was eventually demolished. The main uses of the McKinnon-designed portion have been residential, with shops on the ground floor. The loggia was built in at some time before 1920,  a balustraded parapet and  finials were removed in 1947, and fire escapes were added in 1951, but the building retains much of its original character.

And McKinnon? He was declared bankrupt in 1881, likely as a consequence of the hotel projects, and left Dunedin before he could create a sizeable body of work. He went on, however, to enjoy a successful career as an architect in New South Wales, where he established the firm Gordon McKinnon & Sons. His designs included the Parramatta Park gatehouse, Cherrybrook Uniting Church, the School of Arts at Bowral, Symonds’ Building in Sydney (Pitt Street), additions to the house Adamshurst at Albury, and the town halls in Forbes, Inverell, and Albury. He died of heart failure at Katoomba, New South Wales, on 30 June 1922. He was survived by his wife and five sons.

Parramatta Park gatehouse (1885). Photo by Ryan Tracey.

Cherrybrook Uniting Church (1889). Photo by Peter Liebeskind.

Cherrybrook Uniting Church (1889). Photo by Peter Liebeskind.

Forbes Town Hall (1891). Photo by Mattinbgn.

Albury Town Hall (1908). Photo by OZinOH.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 30 April 1880 p.3 (description of Marine Hotel), 9 September 1880 p.2 (license granted for Marine Hotel), 19 February 1881 supp. p.1 (description of Royal Hotel), 5 March 1881 p.3 (insolvency of Gordon McKinnnon), 3 June 1885 p.4 (Royal Hotel loss of license), 28 May 1991 p.1 (meals-on-wheels); Sydney Morning Herald, 5 July 1922 p.9 (obituary for Gordon McKinnon)

Other references:
Dunedin City Council permit records, deposited plans, and rates records
Rev. H.O. Bowman research papers, Hocken Collections MS-0994 box 1 (list of licensees)
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories

Thanks to Chris Scott and Glen Hazelton for their help with Dunedin City Council records.

Dodds’ Building

Built: 1881
Address: 6 George Street, Port Chalmers
Architect: David Ross
Builder: Not identified

Detail from photograph by D.A. De Maus taken in March 1900. Ref: Port Chalmers Museum.

Detail from photograph by D.A. De Maus taken in March 1900. Ref: Port Chalmers Maritime Museum.

Port Chalmers was home to fewer than 130 inhabitants in 1861, but within five years its population increased to over 2,000 due to the town’s function as the major port servicing a booming province in the midst of a gold rush. By the end of the decade George Street, the main thoroughfare, included a variety of double-storey commercial buildings, mostly constructed of timber.

Photographs taken in the 1860s and 1870s show the site at 6 George Street as a vacant lot between two-storey wooden buildings. In April 1881 the architect David Ross called for tenders for the ‘erection of two shops and dwelling in Port Chalmers for Mr George F. Dodds, chemist and druggist’. George Fawcit Dodds (1838-1894) was born in Jedburgh, Scotland, and had worked for twenty years in a ‘leading house’ in Scotland.

Detail from a mid-1870s Burton Brothers photograph showing the empty building site, immediately to the right of the sign reading ‘Shipping & Family Butcher’. The buildings fronting George Street are of timber construction. Ref: Te Papa C.011806.

Detail from a Burton Brothers photograph taken in the 1880s, showing the building from the rear. It is the one with the higher roof. Ref: Te Papa C.011788.

A photograph taken in 1900 shows that the northern shop was larger than the southern one. The style of the architecture was Renaissance Revival, with decoration including Ionic pilasters and a dentil cornice. The parapet balustrade featured the repeating circle motif that was a signature ornament of David Ross. At the centre was a dormer window with a small triangular pediment above.

In 1888 G.F. Dodds moved to Akaroa and was succeeded in the Port Chalmers business by his son, Nicholas Dodds (1864-1939), who continued on the site for the next fifty years. It became the UFS (United Friendly Society) Dispensary around 1938, when the UFS moved from its previous address in Grey Street. It remained at 6 George Street until 1987, when it moved to no. 27, ending 106 years of pharmacy operations in the building.

The smaller shop initially appears to have been used by G.F. Dodds and then Samuel Wilson as a lemonade/aerated water factory. It was afterwards occupied by watchmaker James Falconer (c.1892-1898), William Gowan Fail (c.1898-1901), an Evening Star Co. branch office (c.1901-1927), milliner Miss M. Millar Tait (c.1927-1929), and bootmaker Ernest Carl Brown (c.1930-1935).

Later changes included new internal partitions (1940), the addition of fire escapes (1951), and further alterations (1964, 1974). The two separate shops have been combined to make one large one, and the original roof structure with attic level has been removed and replaced with a flat roof. The dormer window and ornamented facade parapet have been replaced with a plain blind parapet, giving the facade a more anonymous appearance than it once had.

In the 1990s the building housed the shop Presence, and it is now home to Arleah’s Collectables.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 4 April 1881 p.4 (call for tenders)

Other references:
Church, Ian. Port Chalmers Early People, pp.182-183.
Stone’s, Wise’s, and telephone directories
Dunedin City Council rates and permit records (with thank to Chris Scott and Glen Hazelton)
Thanks also to Gordon Allfrey of Port Chalmers Maritime Museum.