Tag Archives: Princes Street

A Maclaggan Street vista

It can be interesting to look at some of the changed vistas along our city streets. Here is a Gary Blackman image of Maclaggan Street taken in August 1963, and an approximate comparison from February 2017. The silhouette of the First Church spire is prominent in the earlier picture, but obscured by Scenic Hotel Dunedin City (formerly Cargill House) in the later one. Philip Laing House on the right, opened in 1973, is the other large addition. The magnificent AMP Building designed by Louis Boldini was demolished in 1969. All of the buildings visible on the left and right hand sides of Maclaggan Street have been pulled down, with the exception of the Crown Hotel on the Rattray Street corner. These included the western end of the old Broadway Arcade, taken down in 1970. Today the realigned Broadway is a busy traffic route, and Harvey Norman (left) and The Warehouse (right) take up much of the remaining real estate. Notable survivors on Princes Street (seen here from behind) include the former Excelsior Hotel and Everybody’s Theatre with their fascinating roofscapes. The Calder Mackay building, covered in scaffolding in August 1963, is still standing, as is Speight’s Shamrock Building to its left. The telegraph poles and their busy wirescape have been removed. Of course one photograph was taken in winter and the other in summer, but the trees that now bring greenness for much of the year are another addition.

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Eldon Chambers

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Built: 1866, remodelled 1939
Address: 192 Princes Street
Architects: R.A. Lawson (1866), Clere, Clere & Hill (1939)
Builders: Not identified (1866), W. McLellan Ltd (1939)

A bright red facade in Princes Street invites the attention of passers-by, but few would guess that behind this 1930s front is a 150-year-old building.

Its story begins with John Switzer. Born in Winchester, Hampshire, in 1830, Switzer was the son of a bootmaker. He followed his father’s trade and after a period in Australia arrived in Dunedin with his wife and infant daughter in September 1857. Within two months he established a boot and shoe warehouse, later named Cookham House after the ‘Cookham’ hobnail boots imported from England. There was a similarly named business in Christchurch, owned by George Gould.  Switzer sold his business in 1863, not long before opening a new Cookham Store in Rattray Street.

M07456 - John William Switzer, 1890

John Switzer. Ref: City of Victoria Archives, Canada, M00235.

Switzer was a director of the Dunedin Gas Light & Coke Co. and his many other business ventures included Hyde Home Station in Southland. He only owned the property for a year, but the gold rush township afterwards established there was called Switzers after him. It later became known by its present name, Waikaia. John’s wife Harriet introduced European birds to Otago, including starlings, blackbirds, and thrushes. The Switzers owned a small farm, Grand View, in Opoho.

In 1864 Switzer was a shareholder of the new Dunedin Boot and Shoe Company. He became the manager of its outlet opened under the familiar Cookham House name, on what is now part of the Southern Cross Hotel site on Princes Street. At the end of 1865 the company decided to move a block north, to the address that has since become 192 Princes Street. The building then on the site was occupied by the auctioneers G.W. Moss & Co., with offices above known as Princes Street Chambers. It was only a few years old, but being wooden it belonged to a preceding era and was already out of date.

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An 1864 photograph of Princes Street. The building on the right of  the lower one with the dormers was on the site of the present 192 Princes Street. Ref: Collection of Toitu Otago Settlers Museum.

Architect R.A. Lawson called for tenders for a new building in December 1865. This was early in Lawson’s career. The design for First Church that had brought him to Dunedin was yet to be built, but he was well-established after three years living and working here. His design for the Boot Company was brick, with a bluestone basement and an Oamaru stone front. The Otago Daily Times promised it would be a ‘handsome structure’. It was representative of a new class of building in Dunedin, as the wealth brought by the gold rush began to be reflected in the buildings of the new city.

Photographs show an elaborately ornamented Gothic Revival facade. First-floor decoration included clustered pilasters with Corinthian capitals, grapes and floral decoration, and a carved head in the keystone above the central window. A verandah was built, but despite being approved by the Building Surveyor it fell foul of building ordinances and the City Council would not allow it. It seems the verandah was removed, as it does not appear in a photograph taken in the 1870s.

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J. Wilkie & Co. and Eldon Chambers in 1923. At this time the building retained most of its original appearance, though the shop front had been rebuilt and included leadlight windows. Ref: Coulls Somerville Wilkie records, Hocken Collections MS-2248/031.

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Facade detail. Ref: Coulls Somerville Wilkie records, Hocken Collections MS-2248/031.

The upper part of the building was named Eldon Chambers. This followed the original Eldon Chambers in London, which took their name from the English barrister and politician Lord Eldon (1751-1838). The name was repeated in many locations in Britain, Australasia, and elsewhere (there were at least seven Eldon Chambers in New Zealand alone), typically for buildings with rooms for lawyers and other professionals. The first occupants of the Dunedin chambers were Prendergast, Kenyon & Maddock (lawyers), George Brodie (inspector of bankruptcy), Dick & Fleming (land agents etc.), Dr Alfred Eccles, and H.F. Hardy (architect).

In 1867 Lawson designed two adjoining buildings for Matheson Bros and J.W. Robertson. These were given a much simpler facade treatment, but integrated with Eldon Chambers through the continuation the parapet cornice and other details in the same style.

In March 1867 a fire broke out in the cellar of Swizter’s building, but damage was confined to that space. Evidence at the inquest exposed the precarious state of Switzer’s finances. He had bought the stock and trade of the company a few months before, and suspicion was raised that he set the fire to get the insurance money. He was charged with arson. The trial took place over six weeks and ended with Switzer’s acquittal, but in the meantime he was bankrupted. Once his affairs were settled he left New Zealand for London, and a few years later emigrated with his family to Canada.

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Princes Street in the 1870s. Eldon Chambers is the fourth building from the left. Ref: Collection of Toitu Otago Settlers Museum. R. Clifford & Co. photograph.

After Switzer’s departure his old shop was occupied by a succession of tailors, before the printers J. Wilkie & Co. opened a warehouse and stationery factory. The firm made various additions at the back to cope with their expanding business, and in 1892 moved their manufacturing to another site, keeping a warehouse and retail shop in Princes Street.

A full list of those occupying Eldon Chambers would be too long to list here, but some had particularly long associations. A connection of over thirty-five years belonged to the Dick family:  the parliamentarian Thomas Dick and his son Thomas H. Dick were commission agents. An even longer record belonged to Herbert Webb, who had rooms for over fifty years. His succession of law firms in Eldon Chambers began with Dick & Webb in 1877. This was followed by Duncan, Macgregor & Webb, then Herbert Webb’s sole practice, and finally Webb & Allan. Herbert Webb died in 1928, after collapsing on the nearby Dowling Street corner. His old firm moved out in 1930 but its successor, Webb Farry, is still in existence.

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A.C. Hanlon (1866-1944)

Alfred Hanlon, admitted to the bar on 20 December 1888, took an office in Eldon Chambers in New Year 1889. He furnished it with a plain deal kitchen table covered with oilcloth, three cane chairs, and a letter press. He waited three months for his first client. He later wrote:

‘I was now thoroughly daunted, and I think that at times I almost hated the office and all its associations. Little wonder then that I could not dissemble my eagerness whenever I heard a footstep outside the door. The months dragged hopelessly by, and still boy enough to be moved at their passing, I bade each a melancholy farewell. It came to this, that every time I heard a step I trembled. Would it reach my door? With feverish haste I would fling open my largest law book – “Benjamin on Sales” – on to the table, and when the knock came my too studiedly casual “Come in” arose from a head buried in the large tome. But it was all to no purpose. My carefully staged scene made no impression, because the caller was always another debt collector.’

Eventually Hanlon got a case defending a pedlar known as Dr Shannon from a charge of purchasing a bottle of Hood’s Corn Solvent under false pretences. He was successful and the case was dismissed. Hanlon was ten years in Eldon Chambers and in that time became one of New Zealand’s most celebrated criminal lawyers. In 1895 he famously but unsuccessfully defended the so-called ‘Winton baby farmer’, Minnie Dean, the only woman hanged by the State in New Zealand. It was probably in Eldon Chambers that he wrote his famous brief, now preserved in the Hocken Collections. During a fifty year career Hanlon was retained in twenty murder trials and he was made a K.C. in 1930.

Wilkie & Co. merged into Coulls Somerville Wilkie in 1922, but a shop specialising in stationery and gifts continued to trade under the name Wilkies until 1927. It was then rebranded under new ownership as Bells Limited, and remained on the site until 1939.

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A 1927 advertisement for Wilkies from the Otago Daily Times. Ref: Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

In 1939 the building was extensively altered to the designs of Wellington architects Clere, Clere & Hill for new owners Boots the Chemist. This pharmacy chain had been established in England in 1849 and set up its New Zealand operation in 1935. The Oamaru stone facade was removed and an entirely new front in brick and concrete was built in the streamline Moderne style. Staircases and columns were removed from the interior and new beams were installed. W. McLellan Ltd were the builders. According to the Evening Star:

‘The external appearance of the building has been carefully thought out. Black terrazzo and bronze metal have been used to telling effect for the double window fronts. An innovation for Dunedin consists of the huge Neon signs which are recessed so that they appear to form an integral part of the building. The whole layout has been designed with an eye to a keynote of solidarity and permanence. Although appointments are modern, as is evidenced by the glassed-in dispensary, open to the public eye, simplicity has been the primary aim. There is a complete absence of such materials as chromium plate – anything, in fact, which may prove subject to the dictates of fashion. Instead, the furnishings are carried out in light-stained oak. The surgical section is finished in white enamel, and the surgical fitting room – particularly spacious for this purpose – is carried out in white and navy blue. Lighting is exceptionally good, and the floors are finished with ‘Rublino,’ a particularly durable covering. A completely new fibrous plaster ceiling was, of course, necessitated by the extent of the alterations. At the rear of the shop are store rooms and offices, tea rooms, and toilets for the assistants.’

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The building following alterations for Boots the Chemists completed in 1939. Ref: Coulls Somerville Wilkie records, Hocken Collections MS-2248/034.

In 1959 the Hob-Nob Coffee Garden was built in the basement for owner-operator Ted Paterson. The café was a good place for a toastie pie and coffee, and was known for its cheese rolls and corn rolls. The Hob Nob lasted until about 1970 when it briefly became the Van Dyke Expresso Bar [sic]. It was the Hibiscus Coffee Garden for approximately eight years, before its closure around 1979.

In its heyday Boots employed as many as seventeen staff in its Dunedin shop. After 50 years in Princes Street it closed its doors in September 1990. A company executive from Wellington said: ‘The city fathers have killed that part of town. Once it was the prime business area in the city. Now it is disgracefully tatty.’ He thought Boots should have pulled out years before, but ultimately the parent company had decided to close all of its retail outlets in New Zealand.

Rebel Warehouse was in the building for a year or two before the New Canton Restaurant moved there in 1993. The original Canton Café had operated from a building on the opposite side of the street since 1961, and from 1978 under the ownership and management of Kee and Sanny Young. Mrs Young, who grew up in Macau and Hong Kong, was the chief cook. She later recalled: ‘You couldn’t get Chinese food then. No bean sprouts, or pastry, or noodles … It was very difficult to buy our food, so we opened the restaurant. But it was too busy. We could only seat 50 and lost bookings, so … we moved across the road to here’.

The New Canton closed in February 2013 and the Punjab Restaurant has since taken its place – the latest chapter in a century and a half of business activity at 192 Princes Street.

Newspaper references:
Otago Witness, 5 September 1857 p.4 (shipping notice), 21 November 1857 p.4 (advertisement for John Switzer, boot maker), 22 October 1864 p.13 (blackbirds and starlings), 27 May 1865 p.4 (thrushes), 6 July 1867 p.3 (sale of Grand View Farm); Otago Daily Times, 26 May 1863 p.1 (advertisement for Cookham Store), 28 May 1863 p.6 (Dunedin Gas Light & Coke Co.), 6 August 1863 p.3 (sale of business to Trood), 8 March 1866 p.4 (verandah), 20 March 1867 p.4 (fire), 25 April 1867 p.5 (inquest into fire), 24 June 1867 p.5 (trial and verdict), 20 September 1867 p.5 (Matheson Bros and J.W. Robertson buildings), 3 October 1877 p.3 (Dick & Webb), 22 December 1888 p.2 (Hanlon admitted to bar), 5 March 1889 p.4 (Hanlon’s first client), 5 May 1927 p.3 (advertisement for Wilkies), 21 March 1928 p.7 (Herbert Webb obituary), 21 September 1990 p.5 (closure of Boots), 22 September 1990 p.8 (editorial re closure), 17 January 2013 p.1 (closure of New Canton); Dunstan Times, 27 July 1866 p.4 (advertisement for Dunedin Boot & Shoe Co.); Evening Star, 12 December 1939 p.3 (alterations for Boots).

Other references:
Blair, E.W. and E. Kerse. On the Slopes of Signal Hill (Dunedin: Otago Heritage Books, 1988).
Catran, Ken. Hanlon: A Casebook (Auckland: BCNZ Enterprises, 1985).
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, vol.4, Otago and Southland Provincial Districts (Christchurch: The Cyclopedia Company, 1905), p.357.
Donaldson, Janine E. Seeking Gold and Second Chances: Early Pioneers of Waikaia and District (Waikaia: Waikaia Book Committee, c.2012).
Hanlon, A.C. Random Recollections: Notes on a Lifetime at the Bar (Dunedin: Otago Daily Times & Witness, 1939).
Dunedin City Council building records
Directories (Harnett’s, Stone’s, Wises, and telephone)

Hotel Central

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

Prince of Wales Hotel

Built: 1876
Address: 474 Princes Street
Architect: David Ross (1828-1908)
Builders: Forrest & McGill

The Prince of Wales Hotel in 1864, photographed by Daniel Mundy. Lettering on the lamp reads ‘Free Concert Every Evening’. Image: Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum.

George Davis opened the original Prince of Wales Hotel, a two-storeyed timber building, in 1862. Davis had previously run the Spread Eagle Hotel in Melbourne and his new establishment had a bar parlour, dining room, two parlours, taproom, kitchen, sixteen bedrooms, and stabling for six horses. A concert room was at the rear, and the license allowed opening till ten o’clock. One concert in 1864 featured songs, glees, local sketches, and burlesques performed by Miss Annie Hall (billed as the Yorkshire Nightingale and dialect vocalist), J. Hull (Dunedin favourite and local composer), Mr Francis (talented vocalist), and E.F. Morris (inimitable comic vocalist and duettist).

The hotel was rebuilt in 1876 for Robert T. Waters and Catherine Ryan to the design of architect David Ross and re-opened on 18 October that year. The ground floor housed a billiard room, dining room, two bars, bar parlour, hall, and kitchen. On the first floor were another billiard room, two parlours, and three bedrooms. The second floor accommodated eleven rooms used as bedrooms and parlours. Outbuildings comprised sheds, kitchen, sculleries, and servants’ bed-rooms. The building contractors were Forrest & McGill, and the partner Robert Forrest would later design many hotels himself, including the Excelsior and the St Kilda.

The Prince of Wales has a bluestone basement and outer ground floor walls. Other walling is brick and the street front is cement plastered and decorated in the Italian Renaissance Revival style. The circular motifs, banded rustication, and to a lesser extent the rosettes, are recurring elements in Ross’s designs. Prince of Wales feathers in relief and a crown sculpture feature prominently on the parapet pediment. Other features include paired pilasters with Corinthian capitals, recessed panels, and finials (once removed, but later reinstated). The overall composition is slightly asymmetric, with the bay to the left of the centre being wider than the one to the right.

The hotel not long after it was rebuilt in 1876, and before the addition of fire escapes. Image: Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum, 26-32-1.

Advertisement following refurbishment in 1886. From Otago Witness, 19 November 1886 p.18 (Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand).

When the main trunk railway between Dunedin and Christchurch opened in 1878 a large transparency by the artist Thomas Nicholson was placed above the entrance of the hotel as part of the street decorations. This included a portrait of Sir Julius Vogel, who as Colonial Treasurer had initiated massive public works schemes through overseas borrowing. The words ‘Advance New Zealand’ appeared on either side of the portrait, with a locomotive and carriages beneath along with the inscription: ‘Success to the Iron Horse’. It was reported in the Oamaru Mail that a Member of Parliament who stayed at the hotel found the eyes of the portrait (illuminated by gaslight or sunlight outside) staring into his room. He said: ‘Oh, that the original only possessed half the transparency of the representation’.

Major refurbishments included one for Alfred Short in 1886 and another for William Haydon in 1895, when the hotel was described in a newspaper promotional piece as having cheerful and handsome interiors. The upper two floor contained bedrooms, sitting rooms (one for boarders and one for visitors), and two bathrooms (one on each floor). The street level arrangements were also described:

On the ground floor is the bar — well supplied with liquors of the most approved brands, the bar parlour, and, to the back, a well designed commercial room. Opposite to the bar is the cafe — a large apartment — furnished in the style signified by the name, and duly provided with newspapers, time tables, and other literature of a suitable sort. Behind is the dining room, a spacious hall, lighted from above, and where guests at choice may have their meals at a table d’hote, filling the centre of the room, or at small tables set around the walls. On the opposite side of the passage is a retired sitting room where business requiring isolation and quiet may be transacted.

The hotel has had its tragedies. In 1914 a young Scotsman named Hughie Stewart shot and killed himself in one of the upstairs bedrooms. His love for a barmaid at the Gridiron Hotel, on the opposite side of the street, had been unrequited. The woman refused to marry him because he was Presbyterian and she was Catholic. The note the man left quoted Tennyson: ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’. Not long after this came the horrors of the First World War. The publican’s son, James Andrews of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, died of wounds in France in 1916.

There were the usual minor assaults and other disturbances common to hotels, and of course plenty of happy and convivial times. One of the more curious incidents involved the poet James K. Baxter. In 1947 Baxter celebrated his twenty-first birthday by crawling into the Prince of Wales ‘on my hands and knees, dead sober, and barking at the ulcerous Scots barman. He heaved me out on the street. I had returned with a young policeman, whom I told that I had been refused a drink even though I was over age, and left them wrangling at the bar.’

Carnarvon Station, a railway-themed restaurant which included an authentic Victorian railway locomotive and carriages, opened in 1980. Although its entrance was from the old hotel, the restaurant proper was in an adjoining building. The restaurant closed in 1988 when it was gutted in a severe fire which also damaged the Prince of Wales building.

Michael Coughlin’s restaurant Bell Pepper Blues opened in 1992 and remained until 2010. Coughlin said that the name of the restaurant combined his interests in southeast American cooking and blues music (referencing Eric Clapton’s ‘Bell Bottom Blues’). Food writer and restaurant reviewer Charmian Smith described Bell Pepper Blues as Dunedin’s highest profile fine-dining restaurant. Coughlin is now chef of the Pier 24 restaurant at St Clair, and there is no bar or restaurant on the Prince of Wales site. A second-hand goods shop, Bob’s Place, opened in 2013. It still faces the street with one of Dunedin’ finest and most intact nineteenth century hotel facades.

To finish, the list below names licensees from 1862 to 1984 and is based on earlier compilations by R.W. Willett and Frank Tod. Adjustments have been made from references found in newspapers online (through the Papers Past website).

1862-1864: George Davis
1864-1866: Ellen Tully
1866-1867: Nicholas John Coneys
1867-1874: Henry C. Pike
1874-1876: James Cummings
1876-1882: Robert Thomas Waters (briefly with Catherine Ryan)
1882: William Eames
1882-1885: Bonifacio Zurbano (born in Spain)
1886: James Dillon
1886-1891: Alfred Short
1891-1892: William Robert Doyle
1892-1895: Patrick Fagan
1895-1898: William Henry Haydon
1898-1900: Archibald Shaw
1900-1903 Dugald McLeod
1903-1907: James McKewen
1907: Archibald Fraser
1907-1909: Alexander Gray
1909-1912: Alexander Stewart
1912-1913: Matthew Andrew Tubman
1913-1920: Henry Thomas Andrews
1920-1923. Ernest Cyril Branson
1924-1935: C. Hinchcliff
1935-1940: Janet Hinchcliff
1940-1944: Leslie Z. Griffin
1944-1945: E. Barraclough
1945-1947: S.A. Youngson
1947-1949: G.E. Warnock
1949: R.F.S. Brett
1949-1951: G. O’Connor
1951-1954: M.G. Kofoed
1954-1957: C. O’Connor
1957-1958: D. O’Connor
1958-1960: A.J. Tarleton
1960-1973: Bertie George
1974-1975: Fred Morgan and Gordon Johnstone
1976-1984: Carnarvon Hotel Ltd, Stewart Wilson manager

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 16 April 1862 p.3 (description of original hotel), 11 September 1863 p.8 (advertisement), 30 March 1864 p.6 (advertisement), 19 October 1876 p.3 (description), 7 September 1878 p.3 (decorations), 14 May 1914 p.8 (Hugh Stewart), 1 July 1988 p.1 (Carnarvon Station fire), 15 January 2010 (‘September swan song for Bell Pepper Blues’); Oamaru Mail, 20 September 1878 p.2 (Julius Vogel); New Zealand Tablet, 11 January 1895 p.19 (promotional piece); Star Weekender, 6 April 1980 p.28 (Carnarvon Station opening).

Other references:
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])
McKay, Frank. The Life of James K. Baxter (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1990, p.98)
Tod, Frank. Pubs Galore: History of Dunedin Hotels 1848-1984 (Dunedin: Historical Publications, [1984])
‘Ocean Views’ in NZ Today, no.35 (Jul/Aug 2010) pp.64-65
Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters’ Associations of New Zealand, block plans, 1927
Stone’s, Wise’s and telephone directories

Lost Dunedin #4: Gillies & Street Building

Built: 1864-1865
Address: Cr Princes and Dowling streets
Architects: Mason & Clayton
Builders: Not identified
Demolished 1968

A view from 1865 or 1866, looking north along Princes Street and showing the Gillies & Street Building on the corner. The two-storey building adjoining it was the Glasgow Pie House. Image: Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum 26-6-1.

This building, originally owned by land agents Gillies & Street, made a bold and vivacious addition to Dunedin’s architecture on its completion in 1865. It was built two years after the discovery of gold at Gabriels Gully, when new-found wealth from the gold rush was rapidly changing the face of Dunedin. Modest timber structures were making way for brick ones of more substance and pretention, including this, the city’s first corner office block, with its vigorous Florentine styling and rich ornamentation.

Still in his twenties, Robert Gillies had arrived in Otago as a teenager in 1852. His father had been Town Clerk of Rothesay in Scotland, and in Otago became a prominent landowner and member of the first Provincial Council. In 1861 Gillies went into partnership with Charles Henry Street, who had come to Dunedin from England in 1853.

Tenders for construction of the brick and stone building were called in September 1864, and it was complete by March 1865. In addition to the owners’ offices were upstairs rooms taken by the law firm Howorth, Barton, and Howorth.

An 1865 view showing the roof of the uncompleted building in the foreground. Behind it is the Oriental Hotel, with Maclaggan Street running into the distance. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library PAColl-3824-04.

Mason & Clayton were the architects. I can’t be sure which partner was primarily responsible, but the building appears to be more in the style of William Mason, who had designed another richly decorated edifice for Gillies a few years before. The Revived Renaissance design had some delightfully imaginative decorative elements: a statue of a rather humanesque lion sat over the corner doorway, and there may have been another above the Princes Street entrance. Herbert Webb, a staff member in the law firm, said that the partner George Barton was teased because of his likeness to the lion, and so had the statue removed!

Even more remarkable was the cornice, on which dogs’ heads (about 60 in total) looked out above each of the brackets. I like to think that Charles Street may have had some hand in these quirky features. Street was the ‘dear good nephew’ of Edward Lear, the famous author of The Owl and the Pussycat and other nonsense verse. It’s also possible Gillies requested them, or that the architect was bold enough to suggest them himself. Other decoration included barley twist pillars, Corinthian capitals, rusticated arched lintels, and impressive chimneys which echoed those of the Oriental Hotel on the street corner diagonally opposite. Most of the decorative columns on the building were curiously punctuated with rectangular blocks.

A photograph from 1885 or 1886 showing the building after the additions were made. Lettering on the lamp at the hotel entrance reads ‘Donaldson’s Shades’. Above a separate door to the left are the words ‘Glasgow Pie House’. Image: Burton Bros. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa C.011730.

Detail of cornice and chimney. Image: Burton Bros. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa C.011730.

Detail of corner entrance, including the humanesque lion. Pointing hands have been added to the lamp post. Image: Burton Bros. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa C.011730.

It was likely from this building that Herbert Webb observed a lawyer’s client being lowered into the back yard with a rope, in order to escape a bailiff waiting in the outer office. Barton owed large damages following a court case in 1866, and the legend in his office (probably apocryphal) was that he avoided arrest by hiding in a beer barrel that was taken on board a departing ship. In 1868 Henry Howorth went into partnership with W.M. Hodgkins (best remembered today as a painter and the father of Frances Hodgkins), an arrangement which continued to 1884.

Gillies & Street flourished, and in 1875 they moved to new premises in Bond Street. In 1880 a large building was built for them at the corner of Vogel and Rattray streets, adjoining the Terminus Hotel. By that time they were Gillies, Street & Hislop, and in 1884 the firm expanded to form Perpetual Trustees, which is still in operation today.

In 1875 John Donaldson, who owned the adjoining Glasgow Pie House in Princes Street, bought the Gillies & Street building. Additions in 1875 and 1877 (the latter designed by R.A. Lawson) doubled the length of street facades along both Princes and Dowling streets, and replicated the original ornamentation. The new Glasgow Hotel offered thirteen bedrooms, a restaurant and bar, and specialised in catering for large banquets (including some held by William Larnach in the Bank of New Zealand building). Donaldson loved making wedding cakes and one of his daughters recalled one so large it took three men to carry it. In 1877 the first English cricket team to tour Australia and New Zealand stayed in the hotel.

Advertisement from Otago Daily Times, 30 December 1884 p.3. Image: Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

In 1884 Donaldson sold the buildings to the Mutual Life Association of Australasia for £13,500. They opened offices at the corner and prominently displayed their name on the facades. Donaldson continued to run the hotel business in the Dowling Street portion and by the end of the year had opened new dining and supper rooms for the Pie House and what he named ‘The Shades’ (this shared its entrance with the hotel, while the Pie House had its own entrance). The names Glasgow Hotel and The Shades were used (seemingly interchangeably) for some time after that date, but the Pie House closed not long afterwards. From 1896 the pub was known only as the Shades Hotel.

In 1887 Donaldson left to build the Excelsior Hotel on the site of the old Oriental. The Shades continued to operate until it lost its licence in 1903. It then reopened as a dry establishment, known as the Carlton Private Hotel and Dining Rooms up to 1913, and then as Jackson’s Private Hotel. The hotel closed in 1922 but restaurants operated in the second floor space until about 1950, when Lake’s Restaurant closed.

Someone (identified only as ‘D.M.R.’) who recalled the restaurant in its Edwardian days said that for sixpence there were three-course meals of soup, several meats, and trimmings, sweets, and as much tea as one wanted. Upstairs, for an extra threepence, the tables were decorated with flowers, and there were cruets and tomato sauce. The fare was enhanced by a ‘dollop of cream on the pud’, and the addition of an ample supply of fruit cake, scones, and jam.

Advertisement from New Zealand Tablet, 27 August 1886 p.12. Image: Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

The Mutual Life Association left in 1912, after 28 years in the building. Verandahs and new shop fronts were built along the Princes Street frontage in the early twentieth century. The hairdresser Edward Iles took the old Pie House shop in Princes Street as his salon and tobacconists from 1886 to 1912. The tailors T. Young & Co. had rooms on the first floor for forty years from 1915 to 1955. Two sisters, Annie and Mary McIntyre, ran a cake shop at the corner between 1915 and 1938. This became a hardware shop in the 1940s, and was named Hardware Corner Ltd in 1953. The Commercial Bank of Australia was a ground floor tenant on Dowling Street from 1922 onwards, and stayed there until the demolition of the building, afterwards taking space in its replacement. Clubs, lawyers, real estate agents, commission agents, dressmakers, engineers, architects, and an elocution teacher, were among the many others who had upstairs rooms, and after the hotel closed there was a live-in caretaker.

A view looking south down Princes Street, not taken before 1913. By this time verandahs have been added. Image courtesy of Dave McLaren.

A view looking south down Princes Street, taken some time between 1913 and 1919. By this time verandahs and new shop fronts have been added. Image courtesy of Dave McLaren.

The building as it appeared in the early 1940s. Shops are occupied by Ferguson’s Opticians and Electrolux Ltd. On Dowling Street is signage for Lake’s Restaurant and T. Young & Co. tailors. The photography studio on the top floor has generous glazing with the name ‘Esquilant’ prominently displayed. The Commercial Bank of Australia has signage in relief lettering. The small building at the right included Ye Olde English Cake and Tea Shoppe and the office of the architect E.W. Walden. Image: Hocken Collections S08-035b.

William Esquilant’s photography studio opened on the top floor in 1913, and new glazing was put in for him. Esquilant was a keen pigeon fancier, but I don’t know if he made use of his professional rooms for his homing pigeons. In 1945 the studio was taken over by Franz Barta, a Hungarian émigré who had left Europe in 1938 to escape Nazi persecution. He remained there to 1968.

In 1940 architects Miller & White designed a revised facade for owner Kate Thompson. The original decoration was removed but the familiar fenestration patterns remained. The contractors Knox Bros carried out the work, which when finished gave the exterior a simple plastered finish with understated decoration that was fashionable at the time. It gave the building something of a Spanish look.

The Otago Foundation Trust Board had the building demolished in 1968 to make way for their Cargill House office block, which was designed by Ian Dunn of the architecture firm Miller, White & Dunn. That building was completed in 1970 and housed the Inland Revenue Department for many years. In 2004 it became the Scenic Circle Hotel (now Scenic Hotel Dunedin City), which gives some sense of continuity with the days of the Shades.

Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times, 20 September 1864 p.6 (call for tenders), 13 March 1865 p.3 (Howorth, Barton & Howorth), 18 April 1865 p.9 (fully occupied, architects named); 13 October 1875 p.2 (additions and sale of building), 15 October 1875 p.2 (sale of building), 27 October 1875 p.2 (additions), 3 March 1877 p.2 (English cricketers in residence), 9 August 1877 p.4 (additions designed by R.A. Lawson), 11 October 1884 p.2 (purchased by Mutual Life Association), 1 December 1884 p.4 (sale of furniture etc.), 2 October 1893 p.3 (advertisement for The Shades Hotel), 12 November 1896 p.5 (Glasgow Hotel, also known as Shades); Illustrated New Zealand Herald, 1 July 1868 p.6 and supp. (description and illustration); Evening Star, 22 June 1968 (‘Do you remember the Shades Hotel?’), 29 June 1968 (letter to editor), 1 July 1968 (letter to editor), 13 August 1968 (‘They remember Shades Hotel in this city’).

Other references: Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory; Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory; telephone directories; Herbert Webb, ‘The legal profession in Dunedin in “the sixties” of last century and somewhat later’ (Hocken Collections, Misc-MS-1283); Dalziel Architects records (Hocken Collections, ARC-0520).

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.

Farley’s Buildings

Built: 1863
Address: 118-146 Princes Street
Architect: Charles G. Smith
Builder: Not identified

These buildings may be scruffy and disfigured, but they’re among the richest sites of social and cultural history in Dunedin, which makes them more exciting than many structures with grand porticos or pretty turrets. They are also among the very oldest commercial buildings in the city.

Farley’s Buildings were erected for Henry Farley (c.1824-1880), a colourful entrepreneur whose business ventures in Dunedin included the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and Farley’s Arcade (later redeveloped as Broadway). The brick buildings with stone foundations were erected between July and November 1863, and a report in the Daily Telegraph told readers: ‘Mr C.G. Smith is the architect of this very comprehensive pile of buildings, and its design, as a specimen of architecture, is extremely creditable to him’. Not much is known about Charles Smith, but he designed Dunedin’s Theatre Royal (1862), and claimed to have designed theatres in Sydney and San Francisco. He later worked on the West Coast.

Most of the buildings in Princes Street at this time were timber constructions, so Farley’s Buildings represented striking progress at a time when fires were frequent and gold rush money was still only beginning to make an impact. The buildings originally had unrendered brick facades but photographs show that the upper brickwork deteriorated quickly. By 1874 it had been plastered over, although decorative details (including cornices and window surrounds) were preserved in rendered form, and the name ‘Farley’s Buildings’ was added to the parapet in relief lettering. Small additions with windows to Dowling Street were made around the late 1880s, when the street was reformed.

A Daniel Mundy photograph of the buildings taken in 1864, just a few months after they were built (Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum, Album 54)

A photograph taken around 1870 (Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum 57-98-1)

Part of a Burton Brothers panorama from 1874, showing the plastering of the brickwork.

The original block of buildings was the present 126-146 Princes Street. It included five ground-floor shops, upstairs offices, a music/assembly hall, and a photography studio. The studio was in the portion that rises above the Dowling street corner. It was taken by Tait Brothers (Royal Caledonian Photographic Rooms) in late 1863 or early 1864. Later photographers here included Henry Frith, John McGregor (Edinburgh Portrait Rooms), John Gittins Wills (American Photo Company), and Charles Clarke Armstrong. The artist Max Walker had a studio and flat here from 1940 to 1942. He was one of Dunedin’s most out-of-the-closet gay men (at a time when homosexuality was illegal) and was known for his riotous parties. His lease ended after a visit from a particularly rowdy group of Norwegian sailors.

The assembly or concert room originally housed the Dunedin Music Hall, soon better known as Farley’s Hall, under the high roof structure that can still be seen at the northern end of the buildings. It measured 65 feet by 26 feet and was 16 feet high. Events held in the 1860s included balls, dance classes, bazaars, banquets, Nicholas Chevalier’s art exhibition, a wax works display from Madame Sohier’s in Melbourne,  and Mr Hamilton’s practical phrenology demonstrations which included the examination of ‘Living heads of noted men of Dunedin’.  The hall could only hold about 300, so larger new venues were soon favoured for popular entertainments.

An advertisement for one of the lectures of Mrs Charles Fanshawe Evereste (Alice Marryat). Otago Daily Times 5 December 1864 p.6 (Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand)

There were many political meetings: Julius Vogel spoke here as did supporters of James MacAndrew prior to his re-election as Superintendent in 1867. The Otago Provincial Council used the hall as its chambers from 1864 to 1866 (prior to completion of the Provincial Government Buildings), making the buildings a significant site of government in the heady gold rush years. The many other gatherings in the hall took in meetings of company directors, lodges, interest groups, and societies, including the Acclimatisation Society, Caledonian Society, Horticultural Society, Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute, and the Benevolent Institution (which also had offices in the buildings).

The hall was regularly used for religious meetings, notably the Brethren services led by evangelist Alfred Brunton, who was said to have been the first to introduce the colourful Moody and Sankey choruses to Dunedin. One of Brunton’s famous converts was the bush ranger Henry Garrett, who in 1868 became a member of the congregation but brought much embarrassment on them by burgling the chemist shop below. Brunton’s group moved to the Garrison Hall in 1879 but another group continued to meet in Farley’s Hall up to 1900.

Upstairs rooms were set up as offices with the first tenant being the barrister and solicitor G.E. Barton. Thomas Bracken of the Saturday Advertiser had rooms in the building in 1878, but so far I haven’t been able to confirm if he was there in 1876, when he ran a competition to set to music his verses ‘God Defend New Zealand’. It’s possible the words were written here. Other tenants in the nineteenth century included John Irvine (Dunedin’s first professional portrait painter), David Henderson (lithographer), Alfred Boot (dentist), John Hewitt (dentist), Alexander Hunter (surgeon), Edmund Quick (consular agent), and Abraham Solomon (pawnbroker). Solomon, who was a leading member of the local Jewish community, purchased Farley’s Buildings around 1880 and permit records suggest at least part of the block remained in the ownership of the Solomon Estate in the 1930s.

The ground floor shops were originally let to Walsh Brothers (boot and shoe sellers), Thomas Collins (fruiterer and confectioner), McLeod & Gibson (grocers), and Ure & Co. (tea dealers and warehousemen). The remaining shop was subdivided for Thomas Bray (hatter and outfitter) and M. Jones. There have been so many businesses in these buildings since then that I won’t attempt to name them all, but some have had particularly long occupancies.

Stewart Dawson & Co., an Australian-based chain of jewellers still in Dunedin, occupied the corner premises from 1902 to 1979. They carried out major alterations before moving in, combining two shops into one, installing new shop fronts, and putting in compressed-steel wall and ceiling decoration made by the Wunderlich Company of Sydney. The colourful and brightly-lit interior was described in the Cylopedia of New Zealand as having the appearance of a fairy palace. The contractor was James Annand.

The shop of Stewart Dawson & Co. (Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum, 57-64-1)

A Muir & Moodie postcard, c.1905

A Muir & Moodie postcard, c.1905

Cookham House, a footwear store, occupied 132 Princes Street from 1904 and later moved to no. 122 before moving to George Street in 1984. It had been established by John Switzer on another Princes Street site in 1857, although it is unclear if the nineteenth-century history of the firm was continuous (Joseph McKay may have revived the name). Cookham House was associated with the tailors Hamel & McKenzie for many years and continues today in association with Bob Shepherd Menswear.

J.C. Gore Ltd, jewellers, went into business at 131 Princes Street in 1949 and moved across the road to Farley’s Buildings (no. 132) in 1962. The firm closed in 2005 but at the time of writing their old neon sign can still be seen above the verandah.

In October 1906 a fire destroyed the buildings of the New Zealand Bible, Tract, and Book Society, which stood to the north of Farley’s 1863 buildings. These buildings were also owned by Solomon, who replaced them with new additions to Farley’s Buildings that repeated the old facade decoration. James Annand was again the contractor. The Bible Depot remained there into the 1930s and the buildings are now the home of Disk Den, a music shop that was established by Russell and Alma Oaten in Rattray Street in 1958, and which has been on its present site since 1987. Some original decorative plaster ceilings can still be seen inside.

The buildings have seen many physical changes: bullnose verandahs running the length of the buildings were added in 1904 and replaced with hanging verandahs in the 1930s; the facades were re-plastered in the 1940s, when decorative detailing was removed and window openings altered; a large skylight above the hall was removed at some date, and more recently the photography studio has been entirely reclad. Despite these alterations the essential form of the buildings remains intact, and can be more readily seen and appreciated here than in any of Princes Street’s other surviving buildings of the 1860s (most of which are behind later facades). Farley’s Buildings are a rare link with the city’s early history and should be among its most prized heritage.

A photograph showing the roofs, with the former photographic studio at the far left and Farley’s Hall under the rusty roof at the centre.

Newspaper references:

Daily Telegraph, 31 October 1863 p.5 (description); Otago Daily Times, 28 May 1862 p.4 (Theatre Royal), 24 July 1863 p.3 (call for tenders for foundation), 1 August 1863 p.2 (call for tenders), 11 August 1863 p.6 (call for tenders – carpenters and joiners), 16 November 1863 p.10 (Thomas Collins advertisement), 21 November 1863 p.8 (Walsh Bros advertisement), 24 November 1863 p.3 (to let notice – offices), 7 December 1863 p.2 (advertisement for Dunedin Music Hall), 28 August 1865 p.5 (Provincial Council), 27 June 1867 p.1 (phrenology), 4 July 1867 p.1 (accommodation for 300 in hall), 4 March 1873 p.3 (Edinburgh Portrait Rooms), 12 December 1902 p.8 (Stewart Dawson alterations), 26 November 1906 p.3 (Bible Depot fire), 23 February 1907 p.12 (rebuilding), 26 November 1984 p.20 (Cookham House history), 31 July 2010 p.42 (Alfred Brunton); Otago Witness, 20 February 1863 p.4 (Tait Brothers advertisement).

Other references: 

Block plans (1889, 1892, 1927); Cyclopedia of New Zealand, vol.4 (Otago and Southland Provincial Districts) 1905; Stone’s, Wise’s and telephone directories; Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans; information supplied by Peter Entwisle (re Max Walker); Tonkin, Lance, The Real Henry Garrett.