Tag Archives: R.A. Lawson

Eldon Chambers

punjab_2016

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 It was only a few years old, but being wooden it belonged to a preceding era and was already out of date.

eldon_toitu_1864

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.

eldon_hocken_1923

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.

eldon_hocken_1923_detail

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.

princesst_toitu_1864

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.

achanlonportrait

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.

wilkiesadvertisement_1927

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.’

boots_hocken_1939

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)

Irvine & Stevenson buildings (part two)

Built: 1929 (rebuilding of structures erected 1882-1888)
Address: 59-67 St Andrew Street
Architects: Miller & White
Builders: Ellis & Glue
The 1920s neo-Georgian facade of this building disguises its industrial origins as Irvine & Stevenson’s nineteenth-century factory complex. In my last post I looked at the company’s shop and office buildings next door, on the corner of George and St Andrew streets, which were designed by J.A. Burnside and built in 1882. Irvine & Stevenson were one of New Zealand’s leading producers of preserved meats, jams, soups, starch, and other (mostly food) products. By 1919 the company had nine subsidiary factories in other parts of New Zealand and it remained a large player in the food industry until it wound up in 1977.

To begin with, old buildings on the site were used for factory activities. They were replaced in stages, beginning with a two-storeyed bacon factory/curing house designed by Burnside in 1882 and completed in 1883. Later development can be pieced together (though not with complete confidence or clarity) from a surviving company ledger. Between the curing house and the shops were a double cottage and brick stables, which were fitted with gas in 1884. In 1886 ‘sheds’ were demolished and replaced with a smoke house for sausages. The cottages were then replaced with a new jam factory building, built between January and June 1888. This was likely designed by R.A. Lawson, as the ledger shows that fees of £33 10s 6d were paid to him in connection with the project in June 1888. The contract price was recorded as £634.

In 1891 Irvine & Stevenson acquired the local operations of the Australian jam company Peacock & Sons., and all jam production moved to their factory in Moray Place, which became known as the ‘no.2 factory’. In 1894 the St Andrew Street factory was described as having 100 x 66 feet of floor space on each of its two storeys. Activities on the site at that time included bacon curing, sausage making, tea blending, coffee and pepper grinding, and washing powder manufacturing. The company purchased Keast & McCarthy’s large brewery in Filleul Street in 1896 and afterwards consolidated most of its Dunedin manufacturing on that site.

The buildings (in the box at left) as they appeared c.1895. W.R. Frost photograph.

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.

With the old jam factory no longer required, that portion of the St Andrew Street complex was converted into a freezing plant with insulated rooms and a large engine ‘of the compressed air type with enormous pistons’. There were few such facilities in Dunedin, and a writer for a promotional piece observed in 1895:

Messrs Irvine and Stevenson have on their premises power refrigerating machinery, which is used partially for the curing of bacon, and also for providing cold storage for the city. A glance into the chambers reveals that the contents are surprisingly miscellaneous. Lake Wakatipu trout, caught months previously, and fish of many other varieties, wild ducks, hares, pork, mutton, veal, large numbers of the omnipresent rabbit – these are awaiting shipment to some distant part; and in separate chambers are stored large quantities of butter belonging to various local factories.

The freehold of the St Andrew Street property was purchased in 1916 and in the 1920s soda crystals (for laundering) were still being produced there. The buildings eventually became surplus to requirements for production purposes but they were kept as an investment property for the I&S Trust, the property arm of Irvine & Stevenson which operated as a separate company for some decades. In 1929 the refrigeration plant was removed and the old buildings were rebuilt with structural strengthening (steel and concrete), a new brick facade, new shops and shop fronts, and altered roof lines. A curious dogleg vehicle access and yard remained, and old slates were also reused. The style chosen for the facade was freely interpreted Georgian Revival and the architect was Eric Miller (1896-1948) of Miller & White. The building is similar in style to another Miller & White design, built for W. Duke & Sons, at the corner of King Edward Street and Hillside Road in South Dunedin. A larger brick-faced building Miller designed was the South Block (now Hercus Building) of the Otago Medical School, completed in 1948.

Miller & White drawing for the 1929 work (elevations and sections), Hocken Collections MS-2758/0378.

StAndrew_S14-550b

Miller & White drawing for the 1929 work (sections and floor plans), Hocken Collections MS-2758/0378.

In September 1929 the finished buildings were described in the Evening Star newspaper:

A building with a rather striking and dignified appearance is that just constructed by Messrs Ellis and Glue in St Andrew Street. The structure referred to is situated on the site used at one time as a bacon curing factory by Messrs Irvine and Stevenson. Now this firm has converted the building into four modern shops on the ground floor with two spacious rooms upstairs which are now being utilised by Mr J.W. Finch, of the Octagon Billiard Parlours, as an up-to-date billiard parlour. The extensive alterations were constructed about six months ago by the contractor, who first of all was called upon to shift about 1,000 bags of pumice and a large quantity of charcoal. The finished building shows a new brick front, with the curtains on the windows of the top floor giving it a homely appearance. The shops below are fairly large, and are given quite an impressive finish with terrazzo around the basements and piers of the windows. The doors and other woodwork are in oak, while the ceilings and walls are tastefully designed in fibrous plaster. The billiard parlour, which has been leased for a period of ten years, is divided into two rooms, with five tables in each, and it is intended to make further provision for another table. Messrs Miller & White were the designers of the building, which cost something in the vicinity of £5,000.

IrvineStevenson_1936Letterhead

A 1936 letterhead for Irvine & Stevenson. By this date the company had stopped using the St Andrew Street buildings for manufacturing. Hocken Collections AG-200-11/04/1319.

The Dunedin Cue Club in 2014.

The Dunedin Cue Club in 2014.

A billiard parlour or pool hall has been operating continuously from the upper floor since 1929. For many years named the Grand Billiard Parlour, it later became the Grand Billiard Rooms, and then the Grand Snooker Centre. In 1998 it became the Dunedin Cue Club and it currently also offers internet and gaming facilities. Director Mark Peisker kindly showed me around and said that one of the tables is thought to have been there since the hall opened 85 years ago.

Downstairs, a cycle shop was the first occupant of the shop at no. 59. Originally Ernest Packer Stevenson’s Cycle Works, it became Knight’s Cycle Works in 1951 and later diversified into prams and children’s nursery goods. In 1969 the business moved to the shop at no. 67 as Knight’s Nursery Centre and it closed around 1991.

Other tenants have included the Laurier Floral Studio (at no. 61 from 1938 to 1970), and the T.W.T. Engineering Co. (at no. 67 from 1939 to 1959). The Presbyterian Social Services Association (now Presbyterian Support Otago) Opportunity Shop opened at no. 59 in 1972. It later expanded into the shop next door and is still there today. The other retail businesses currently in the building are Paint the Town Red (boutique fashion clothing) and Rockshop (musical instruments and audio).

The I&S Trust relinquished its last interests in the property in the early 1960s and for many years it was owned by the Butler Family. It may be considered part of the Larent Buildings that front George Street (but do not include the corner site which is on a separate title). The unspoilt St Andrew Street facade demonstrates how a relatively modest building can have a distinctive street appearance while still being in scale with and sympathetic to its surroundings. The square-paned windows with their timber frames are a particular delight, and I seldom walk past this building without appreciating it. You might also spare a thought for Dunedin’s rich industrial past and eight decades of billiards as you wander by!


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’); Evening Star, 3 September 1929 p.2 (description of rebuilding work)

Other references:
Irvine & Stevenson’s St George Co. Ltd records, Hocken Collections UN-016
Leading Business Establishments of Dunedin: Being a Series of Illustrations and Descriptive Letterpress (Dunedin: Otago Daily Times and Witness Co., 1895)
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

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.

Thomas Bedford Cameron, architect

Born: Scotland, 1836/1837
Died: Wellington, New Zealand, 8 July 1894

When T.B. Cameron arrived in Dunedin in 1878 he was already an experienced architect in his forties. He worked here for over ten years, but as Hardwicke Knight and Niel Wales tell us in Buildings of Dunedin (1988), ‘apart from the Caversham Presbyterian Church in the 1880s, little is known about him’. A few other things surface from time to time: Cameron submitted the winning entry in the design competition for the Dunedin Town Hall (though R.A. Lawson’s design was ultimately used), and earlier worked in Auckland and Victoria. His role as designer of the Queen’s Arms Hotel (now Empire Tavern) in Dunedin came to notice during the New Zealand Historic Places Trust’s registration of that building in 2012.

What follows is something of a ‘greatest hits’ summary that pulls together a little of Cameron’s story and begins the exploration of his career that is overdue. Although my focus is his Dunedin work, his Auckland career probably produced a greater number of substantial buildings and I would be very interested to hear from anyone with local knowledge or further information about the Auckland and Australian projects listed at the end of this post. Unfortunately, biographical information is elusive. If his sketchy death registration is correct, then Thomas Cameron was born in Scotland in 1836 or 1837. His parents’ names are not recorded on the document, and another blank space suggests that he never married. His middle name, Bedford, is likely a clue to his ancestry, even if he added it when he was a young man to distinguish himself from the many other Thomas Camerons running about the place.

The ‘Star’ newspaper offices (1860), Ballarat. Image: State Library of Victoria H26066, Simon & Bardwell photographers.

The synagogue at Ballarat (1861). Image: State Library of Victoria H2051, Simon & Bardwell photographers.

Former Creswick Presbyterian Church (1861). Image: J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H94.200/1258.

Like some of Dunedin’s other nineteenth-century architects, Cameron migrated from Britain to Victoria, where he worked for a few years before moving on to New Zealand. The earliest documentary reference I found about him was in the Ballarat Star of 13 September 1858, when ‘T.B. Cameron & Co.’ of 1 Bridge Street, called for tenders for additions and alterations to Dr James Stewart’s cottage. I don’t know who the ‘& Co’ were (if anyone), but this tag soon disappeared from Cameron’s notices. If his death record is correct then he would have been in his early twenties at this time, but this is a little difficult to reconcile with a later claim that he had ‘Long practical experience in the Home Country’. In November 1858  he ran the following advertisement:

T.B. CAMERON, Architect &c, 2 Bridge street, Main Road, opposite Humphrey’s Stationery Depot, is prepared to supply plans, specifications, &c, for cottages, shops, warehouses, &c, on the shortest notice, and to guarantee that no building when finished according to the plans will exceed the contract price.

An early project was a hotel with concert rooms in Lydiard Street, built for D. Jones in 1859. Over the next four years Cameron designed many buildings in Ballarat, and also at Creswick, sixteen kilometres to the north. These included the Ballarat Synagogue, which survives today and for which Cameron’s name is still known. Cameron designed the Star newspaper offices, Welsh chapel, Presbyterian church at Creswick, numerous two-storey commercial buildings, and private residences for John Coghill, Theophilus Williams, and others. For a year, from 1861 to 1862, Cameron served as Creswick’s Town Engineer.

In 1864 Cameron moved to Auckland, where he worked for the next thirteen years. He won the design competition for St James Presbyterian Church in Wellington Street, a large Gothic Revival timber building that stood until 1963. He also designed Presbyterian churches at Devonport and Wanganui, the latter being both constructed and destroyed (by fire) in 1868. Cameron was responsible for the design of the Star Hotel in Albert Street, built in 1865, and in 1877 he designed its redevelopment, although only the first stage was completed. Typical features of Cameron’s street elevations were round-headed windows which were relatively wide in proportion to their height. Cameron was briefly in partnership with the architect Arthur W. Burrows from 1865 to 1866.

St James’ Presbyterian Church (1864-1865), Wellington Street, Auckland. The building was demolished in 1963. Image: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-3542.

Royal Mail Hotel, Auckland. Image: James D. Richardson, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-RIC37.

The old Star Hotel in Auckland (right) and what was intended as the first portion of its replacement (left). The hotel was demolished in the early 1980s. Image: Sam Cope (1985) Star Hotel, Albert Street. Copied from postcard lent by H. Hanlon. Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tamaki Paenga Hira, M598.

The only partially realised concept for the rebuilding of the Star Hotel. Image: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A5814.

In 1877, at the other end of the colony, a competition was held for the design of the Dunedin Town Hall, and Cameron entered an imposing classical design with corner tower under the pseudonym ‘In Haste’. In July the Town Hall Committee awarded him first place ahead of prominent local architect R.A. Lawson and seven other entrants. The committee reported that Cameron ‘conformed more nearly to the conditions of the competition than any of the other competitors; and with the exception of the arrangement of the offices for the departments, the design generally possesses considerable merit’. Lawson was appointed supervising architect in September, but as the project had to be scaled back to meet its reduced budget of £7,000, he was asked to make major alterations. The committee had admired Lawson’s front elevations, and agreed that he could adapt his own design rather than Cameron’s. The project was politically controversial, as it was argued that the Town Hall was a luxury the city could do without. Lawson’s finished building included the municipal offices and clock tower, but it would be over 50 years before a public auditorium was added.

Wood engraving of Cameron’s winning design for the Dunedin Town Hall, published in Illustrated Australian News, 3 October 1877. Image: State Library of Victoria IAN03/10/77/156.

Despite the disappointment, or perhaps in part because of it, Cameron decided to move to Dunedin in 1878. There was vigorous building activity in the city and the Town Hall competition would have brought his name to the attention of prospective clients. One of his first commissions was William Gregg’s store and coffee processing building in lower Rattray (now Fryatt) Street. In 1879 he designed two hotels (the Queen’s Arms and the Robert Burns) as well as at least two double-storey houses. Business did not go according to plan, however, as in 1879 Cameron was declared bankrupt with debts of over £600.

The W. Gregg & Co. store and coffee processing building (1878), which still stands in Fryatt Street. The round-headed windows with flanking pilasters are typical of Cameron. Image: advertisement from ‘Beautiful Dunedin’ by W.H. Fahey (1906).

The Empire (originally Queen’s Arms) Hotel in Princes Street. This image was by Hardwicke Knight around 1960, before most of the decoration was removed from the facade.

Detail showing the partially obscured facade of the Robert Burns Hotel (1879). From Hardwicke Knight’s ‘Early Dunedin Photographs’ (1984).

The early 1880s were Cameron’s most productive years in Dunedin. His designs included a three-storey terrace for Mrs Muir in Moray Place, as well as her two-storey house in View Street, and another three-storey terrace nearby for Robert Murray. There were two investment properties for Albert Dornwell, and other commercial work included shops for Denis Heenan and the Woodhaugh Hotel. One of Cameron’s grandest masonry houses was Appin, built for Angus Cameron of the Union Steam Ship Company, and he almost certainly designed Septimus Myers’ large wooden villa ‘Ivanhoe’ in North East Valley, and a similarly proportioned residence for John McCormick in Queen Street. Recurring features of Cameron’s designs from this period include prominent (usually flat) window hoods, and slender curved pilasters that sometime look a little out of proportion to the rest of the building. A few buildings featured square pilasters with circular decorations at the centre of the shafts. The Queens Arms and Robert Burns hotels were given slightly ungainly parapet decoration, but other commercial buildings were elegantly proportioned. Peter Entwisle cites Gladstone Terrace as evidence that Cameron was an erudite and accomplished designer.

Denis Heenan' buildings in George Street, built as additions to a David Ross desogn, and recently identified as Cameron's work by Peter Entwisle. Bold parapet ornamentation has been removed.

Denis Heenan’ buildings (1880) in George Street, built as addition to a David Ross design but with redesigned facades, and recently identified as Cameron’s work by Peter Entwisle. Bold parapet ornamentation has been removed.

John McCormick’s residence (1881), Queen Street. Ornate bargeboards and gothic arches on the verandah are features of this house.

Gladstone (Moray) Terrace, Moray Place. The exterior of the building is well preserved, except that shop fronts have been put in on the ground floor.

Chicksands (1883), the residence of Mrs Amelia Muir. It was designed to complement Mrs Muir’s terrace next door.

Terrace in Moray Place (1880-1881) built for Robert Murray. The use of decorative wrought iron is striking. The building was demolished in the 1940s. Image: Te Papa O.034104. Burton Bros photographers.

Appin (1881-1882), Leith Street, on part of the site now occupied by University College. The bargeboards were again a bold feature. Image: Muir & Moodie, Cameron family papers, Hocken Collections, MS-1046/452 (S12-614).

Two-storey ‘tenement’ block at the corner of Frederick and Leith streets. The building was demolished in the 1970s. Photograph by Hardwicke Knight.

Woodhaugh Hotel (1881-1882).The original blind balustrades have been truncated, and a small corner pediment removed. The rounded corners of the first-floor windows are unusual for a Dunedin building.

The Caversham Presbyterian Church is the only church building in Dunedin I have been able to attribute to Cameron. This prominent local landmark includes Romanesque features, and was described as Norman in a newspaper report that was likely informed by the architect. These features include a broad low-pitched roof and round-headed windows. The overall impression, however, is of a free (eclectic) style, and the building also draws from Gothic influences and colonial Victorian design, while its steeple is reminiscent of the Neo-Classical designs of Sir Christopher Wren. Knight and Wales found the building charming, though with something of a wedding-cake appearance. Its unique and imaginative design give it special significance among Dunedin’s suburban church buildings. When the foundation stone was laid on 21 October 1882 the minister (Rev. Fraser) said: ‘This is supposed to be an age of culture, and an aesthetic age…Public buildings are the common property of all, and more so are the homes of the people. If this is so, what an influence for good must handsome buildings and beautiful surroundings have upon the minds of the people’.

Caversham Presbyterian Church (1882)

Caversham Presbyterian Church (1882)

If newspapers are an accurate indication, Cameron’s activity declined dramatically from 1885, and he was again bankrupted in 1886. This came with a general slump in building activity during the Long Depression, which led other architects (including R.A. Lawson) to leave Dunedin. Cameron’s later commissions here included a ‘large hall’ in Moray Place in 1888 (possibly the Palace Roller Skating Rink), and an as yet unidentified ten-room villa in 1889. In 1891 he was the successful competitor for the design of the Kaitangata Borough Council chambers, but this project appears not to have been realised.

Around 1893 Cameron moved to Wellington, and the following year he placed second in the competition to design the memorial to the late New Zealand Premier John Ballance. He kept a low public profile and one of the few things I found about him from this period was that he was a member of the Terrace Congregational Church.  After suffering from pneumonia for a week, Thomas Cameron passed away at Wellington Hospital on 8 July 1894, aged 57. Apparently leaving no family, and with no identifiable photograph of him known, his buildings must speak of his life.

Courtesy of Martina and Andrew Kelly.

Ivanhoe, North Road, North East Valley. Image courtesy of Martina and Andrew Kelly.

A recent image of Ivanhoe.

Commercial building (1885) at the corner of Moray Place and George Street. It was demolished in the early 1980s. Original parapet decoration had been removed by the time this photograph was taken by Hardwicke Knight in the 1970s. The Palladian windows are similar to the one used at Appin.

Selected works:

      • 1858. Additions and alterations to cottage for Dr James Stewart, Ballarat
      • 1859. Hotel building in Lydiard Street, Ballarat
      • 1859. Welsh Chapel, Ballarat.
      • 1859-1860. Warehouse for A.H. King, Ballarat
      • 1860. Offices for Star newspaper, Sturt Street, Ballarat
      • 1860. Warehouse for John Webster, Creswick
      • 1860. Shop and residence for Wittkowski Bros, Ballarat
      • 1860. Sexton’s lodge, Creswick New Cemetery
      • 1860. Two shops for Mr Martin, Albert Street, Creswick
      • 1860. Two brick shops for Mader Bros, Creswick
      • 1860. Chapel at Slaughterman’s Hill for Bible Christian Association
      • 1860. Two-storey brick premises for Thomas Anthony, Creswick
      • 1860. Brick shop and warehouse for Mr McLeod, Creswick
      • 1860. Two-storey brick premises for Mr Hassell, Creswick
      • 1860-1861. Brick villa for John Coghill, near Ascot
      • 1861. Stone and brick premises for Raphael Bros, Ballarat
      • 1861. Two-storey stone and brick premises for Godfrey & Abrahams, Ballarat
      • 1861. Synagogue, Ballarat*
      • 1861. Presbyterian Church (later St Andrew’s Uniting Church), Creswick*
      • 1861. Stone and brick shops for Rees & Benjamin, Sturt and Lydiard streets, Ballarat
      • 1861. Stone villa for Theophilus Williams
      • 1861. Six-roomed cottage for Dr Daniels, Creswick
      • 1861. Brick premises for Mr Dawson, Bridge Street, Ballarat
      • 1862. Premises for Hepburn & Leonard, Lydiard Street, Ballarat
      • 1862. Stone and brick premises for William Young, Soldiers Hill
      • 1863. Four two-storey shops for Mr Martin, Main Road, Ballarat
      • 1863. Presbyterian manse, Smeaton
      • 1864. Two-storey residence for J. Phillips, Onehunga
      • 1864. Music Hall for George Dalrymple, Wellesley Street, Auckland
      • 1864-1865. St James Presbyterian Church, Wellington Street, Auckland
      • 1865. Two-storey shops and residences, Wellesley Street, Auckland
      • 1865. Eight two-storey shops and residences, Grey and Pitt streets, Auckland
      • 1865. Four two-storey shops and residences, Drake Street, Auckland
      • 1865. Three storey stone and brick warehouse, Albert Street, Auckland
      • 1865. William Rattray’s building (two storeys), Shortland Street, Auckland
      • 1865. Eight two-storey buildings (shops and residences), Grey and Pitt streets, Auckland
      • 1865. Union Hotel (two-storey brick premises), Queen Street, Auckland
      • 1865, 1877. Star Hotel, Albert Street, Auckland
      • 1865-1866. Store for Dingwall, Albert Street, Auckland
      • 1866. Hotel building, O’Neill’s Point, North Shore.
      • 1867. St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Devonport
      • 1867-1868. Presbyterian Church, Wanganui
      • 1870. Royal Mail Hotel, Victoria and Elliott streets, Auckland
      • 1873-1874. Premises for George Quick & Co., Elliott Street, Auckland
      • 1874. Shops for Greenway, High and Durham streets, Auckland
      • 1875. Block of brick buildings for Joseph Craig, Fort Street, Auckland*
      • 1876. Two-storey residence for C. Greenaway, Hobson Street, Auckland
      • 1876. Brick buildings/Post Office Hotel? in Shortland Street, Auckland (site QCE  Hotel)
      • 1876. Warehouse for T. Hartley, Durham Street, Auckland
      • 1878. W. Gregg & Co. store, Rattray Street, Dunedin*
      • 1879. Robert Burns Hotel, George Street, Dunedin*
      • 1879. Residence for Mr Copland, Peel Street, Lawrence
      • 1879. Two-storey residence in Scotland Street, Dunedin
      • 1879. Two-storey stone and brick residence, Queen Street, Dunedin
      • 1879. Queens Arms Hotel (later Empire Hotel), Princes Street, Dunedin*
      • 1880. Stone and brick shop for Denis Heenan, George Street, Dunedin.
      • 1880. Four villa residences for Lewis Lyons, Ravensbourne, Dunedin
      • 1880-1881. Two-storey premises, malthouse etc., Keast & McCarthy Dunedin Brewery
      • 1880-1881. Terrace for Amelia Muir, Moray Place, Dunedin*
      • 1880-1881. Terrace for Robert Murray, Moray Place, Dunedin
      • 1881. Residence for John McCormick, Queen Street North, Dunedin*
      • 1881-1882. Two-storey residence (Appin) for Angus Cameron, Leith Street, Dunedin
      • 1881-1882. Woodhaugh Hotel for J.R. James, Dunedin*
      • 1882. Kincaid & McQueen offices, Great King Street, Dunedin
      • 1882. Two-storey brick premises, Duke Street, Dunedin
      • 1882. Presbyterian Church, Caversham, Dunedin*
      • 1882. Two-storey tenements Frederick and Leith streets for Albert Dornwell
      • 1882. Villa residence for Captain Graham, Musselburgh, Dunedin
      • 1882. Villa residence for Mr Kilmartin, Opoho, Dunedin
      • 1882. Villa residence for Mr Keast, Maori Hill, Dunedin
      • 1883. Two-storey residence for Amelia Muir, View Street, Dunedin*
      • 1883. Main Road, South Dunedin, Mr Campbell.
      • 1884. Two-storey brick tenements, George Street, Dunedin
      • 1884. Nine-room residence, St Clair, Dunedin
      • 1885. Brick shops (two stories) for Albert Dornwell, George Street, Dunedin*
      • 1885. Brick shops (two stories), George Street and Moray Place, Dunedin
      • c.1885. Ivanhoe (Myers residence), North Road, North East Valley, Dunedin
      • 1886. Reinstatement of villa residence for Walter Guthrie, Manor Place, Dunedin
      • 1888. Large hall, Moray Place, Dunedin
      • 1888. Brick residence, Walker Street, Dunedin

*indicates buildings still standing

Newspaper references:
Newspapers consulted through Trove, Paper Past, and microfilm, were the Star (Ballarat), Daily Southern Cross (Auckland), New Zealand Herald (Auckland), Otago Daily Times (Dunedin), Otago Witness (Dunedin), Evening Star (Dunedin), Tuapeka Times (Lawrence), and Evening Post (Wellington). There are too many individual references to list here, but feel free to request specific information.

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]
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
‘Caversham Presbyterian Church, 61 Thorn Street, Dunedin’. New Zealand Historic Place Trust registration record (1996) retrieved 14 February 2014 from http://www.historic.org.nz/TheRegister/RegisterSearch/RegisterResults.aspx?RID=7319
Bauchop, Heather. ‘Empire Hotel, 396 Princes Street, Dunedin’. New Zealand Historic Place Trust registration record  (2012) retrieved 14 February 2014 from http://www.historic.org.nz/TheRegister/RegisterSearch/RegisterResults.aspx?RID=9548#
Entwisle, Peter. Draft report B133 (312-314 George Street), Dunedin City Council Heritage Schedule Review, 2013.
Entwisle, Peter. Draft report B404 (Moray Terrace), Dunedin City Council Heritage Schedule Review, 2012.
Knight, Hardwicke and Niel Wales. Buildings of Victorian Dunedin: An Illustrated Guide to New Zealand’s Victorian City  (Dunedin: McIndoe, 1988).
Trotter, Oive. Dunedin’s Crowning Glory: The Town Clock Tower (Dunedin: the author, 1994)

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).

David Ross FRIBA, architect

Baptised: Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, 11 July 1828
Died: Auckland, New Zealand, 6 October 1908

David Ross is probably the architect I’ve spent the most time researching.  This partly comes from an appreciation of his work, and partly from a feeling that his legacy has been neglected, and that he’s not nearly as well known as he should be. He is recognised by writers such as Knight and Wales as one of the most significant architects to have worked in Dunedin, but very little has been written about him and there are no published articles (let alone books) devoted to him. As with a few of our Victorian architects, his Australian work is seen in isolation by Australians and his New Zealand work is seen in isolation by New Zealanders. I’ve made a list of over 450 building projects he worked on, so this post is very much the selected highlights.

Early life

Ross was born in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, where he was baptised on 11 July 1828. His father, William Ross, was a jeweller and watchmaker, and although I don’t know what sort of child young David was it’s easy to imagine him finding an interest in his father’s work that translated well into architectural studies. Ross began his career articled to the firm McKenzie & Matthews, of Elgin and Aberdeen, at about the time they designed such buildings as the Free Church College at Aberdeen and the Drumtochty Castle stables. Ross afterwards spent about three years working for Lewis Hornblower of Liverpool and John Hornblower of Birmingham, becoming ‘chief assistant’. Lewis Hornblower’s designs in Liverpool included the grand entrance and other buildings at Birkenhead Park (as part of a collaboration with Sir Joseph Paxton), and a commercial building at 25 Church Street (dating from a little after Ross’s time). He was best known for his later work on Sefton Park.

Victoria, Australia

Ross migrated to Victoria in 1853 and later that year went into partnership with R.A. Dowden in Melbourne. Their firm, Dowden & Ross, won the competition to design St Mary of the Angels Catholic Church, Geelong. It is not known with any certainty which architect was primarily responsible for the competition entry, but following a fire in the 1868 Ross lost what he referred to as ‘my drawing of Geelong Cathedral’, and following his death an obituary credited him with the building’s design. Ross never saw the church in its completed state, as it took over 80 years to realise the original plans and the building was not finished until 1937.

St Mary of the Angels, Geelong. Photo (2007): Marcus Wong,

St Mary of the Angels, Geelong. Rear view. Photo (2007): Marcus Wong.

Wesleyan Church, Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, Melbourne. Photo (1933): J.A. Sears. State Library of Victoria. Ref: H20784.

Colonial Bank of Australasia, Kilmore. Photo (1861): Vanheems & Co. State Library of Victoria. Ref: H1819.

The Dowden & Ross partnership was dissolved in 1854 and Ross continued to practise on his own. His designs of the mid to late 1850s included Glass Terrace in Melbourne, the Chalmers Church at Eastern Hill, the Presbyterian manse at Williamstown, the tower and spire of the Scots Church in Melbourne, the Wesleyan Church at St Kilda, the Colonial Bank at Kilmore, the sea baths at St Kilda, and numerous houses and shops.

Ross married Agnes Buttery Marshall, the daughter of a prominent solicitor, in 1856. They had four daughters and one son. Tragically, the eldest daughter, Pameljeanie, died in 1860 at the age of three years.

Move to Dunedin

The family moved to Dunedin in May 1862, with Ross taking an office in Manse Street. Presumably, he was attracted by the building boom that accompanied the Otago Gold Rush. One of his first commissions was the Moray Place Congregational Church, which survives as the oldest church building in Dunedin (although it has been converted into residential apartments). Ross was for about five months in partnership with William Mason, who arrived a little later in 1862, but was soon working on his own again. He was a member of the first Dunedin City Council, from 1864 to 1865, and a glimpse of him in a cartoon shows a dark, bearded man, but frustratingly I’ve never found a photograph of him.

Ross received some notice as an artist. He showed nine watercolours at the 1854 Melbourne Exhibition, and more at a small Industrial Exhibition in Dunedin in 1862. Some of his watercolours of Otago scenery were described in the Bruce Herald  in 1874, with Ross reported to have ‘powers of landscape delineation… far beyond anything we had conceived in the way of local talent to exist in Otago’.

Early Dunedin works  included the Bank of Otago in Princes Street (where the National Bank now stands) and the old Empire Hotel (on a different site from the current one). In the Mason & Ross partnership he may have designed the house Highlawn in collaboration with its owner, C.W. Richmond. He was also responsible for Colinswood, a more modest residence built at Macandrew Bay for James Macandrew. In some of these buildings a row-of-circles decorative motif can be seen, and although others used this, it is a distinctive Ross signature. Also typical of Ross is a particular style of paired round-headed windows.

Congregational Church, Moray Place. Later changes include the side vestry, the front steps and entrance (moved from the side), the pinnacles, and rendering of the brick.

Congregational Church, Moray Place, Dunedin. The later changes to Ross’s original building include the side vestry, the front steps and entrance (moved from the side), the pinnacles, and the rendering of the exterior brickwork.

The Imperial Hotel, Princes and Hope streets. Photo: D.L. Mundy, [1864]. Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum.

Shops for James Brown the (three-storeyed building), Princes Street. Photo: D.L. Mundy, [1864]. Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum.

Fernhill, Dunedin, built for John Jones. Photo (n.d.): Unknown. Hocken Collections. Ref: S12-282b.

Colinswood, Macandrew Bay. Photo (n.d.): James R. Cameron. Alexander Turnbull Library. Ref: 1/2-024931-G.

Public buildings

In 1869 and 1874  Ross won significant commissions for public buildings. His Atheneaum in the Octagon survives, though stripped of its facade detailing. The statuary was the only feature in the engraving shown here that was never realised. His original portion for the Otago Museum also remains but the northern and southern wings were never completed to his design and suggested statuary and friezes were never added. As planned, it would have completed an exuberant design combining Greek revival and ‘Second Empire’ architecture. When it was finally decided to add the Hocken Wing to the museum in 1907, an elderly Ross wrote: ‘it was understood that for any future additions required to complete the design that I would be the Architect and paid as usual according to the cost. This being the case no other person should be allowed to interfere with my work without my permission’. He did not get the work but architect J.A. Burnside based his facade designs on Ross’s concept. The later Fels wing is different in scale and style, with a decision made to reorient the complex towards the Museum Reserve.

The Otago Education Board was the source of much work in the 1870s and Ross designed schools at Mosgiel, Allanton, Popotunoa, Port Molyneux, Sawyers Bay, Forbury, and Port Chalmers. He also designed large additions for Otago Girls’ High School (after they took over the boys’ building), the Otago Boys’ High School rectory, and the large Normal School and Art School building in Moray Place. He also found government work designing immigration barracks at Dunedin, Oamaru, Stewart Island, Bluff, Riverton, and Milton.

Athenaeum, Octagon, Dunedin. Samuel Calvert engraving (1870) from Illustrated Australian News. State Library of Victoria. Ref: IAN16/07/70/132.

Otago Museum, Great King Street, Dunedin. Engraving (1875) from Illustrated Australian News. State Library of Victoria. Ref: IAN24/03/75/44.

Gallery inside the Otago Museum. Photo (1890): William Williams. Alexander Turnbull Library. Ref: 1/1-025834-G.

Normal School and Art School, Moray Place, Dunedin. Private collection.

Port Chalmers Grammar School. Photo (n.d.): Unknown. Hocken Collections. Ref: S12-658g.

Commercial work and patronage

Among his private clients, Ross enjoyed the patronage of some of Dunedin’s leading businessmen. One of these men was Maurice Joel, for whom Ross designed a private residence (Eden Bank House), a shop in Princes Street, various additions to the Red Lion Brewery, the Captain Cook Hotel, and possibly the Caledonian (later Rugby) Hotel. For Bendix Hallenstein he designed two large clothing factory buildings in Dunedin and stores in Queenstown. He was also the architect of one New Zealand’s largest industrial complexes, Guthrie and Larnach’s New Zealand Hardware Factory buildings in Princes and Bond Streets, which was destroyed by fires in 1887 and 1896. Private houses included ‘The Willows’ (the house of Sir William Barron at Kew) and two North Otago homesteads: Elderslie and Windsor Park. His largest hotel was the Prince of Wales in Princes Street. In some projects he collaborated with his nephew, F.W. Burwell, who established himself in Queenstown and Invercargill and became one of the leading architects of southern New Zealand.

Elderslie, North Otago, built for John Reid. Photo (1905): Otago Witness. Hocken Collections. Ref: S12-282d.

MurphyTerrace

Terrace, York Place, Dunedin, built for Dr Michael Murphy. DCC Archives ref: Photo 264/11

Guthrie & Larnach premises, Princes Street, Dunedin. Photo (n.d.): J.W. Allen. Hocken Collections. Ref: S06-152d.

Guthrie & Larnach premises, Bond Street, Dunedin. Engraving (1877) from Australasian Sketcher. State Library of Victoria. Ref: A/S12/05/77/28.

Hallenstein’s New Zealand Clothing Factory (seen here as the National Insurance building). The Exchange, Dunedin. Photo (c.1930): Tourist and Publicity. Alexander Turnbull Library. Ref: 1/1-006149-F.

Hallenstein’s New Zealand Clothing Company offices and factory, Dowling Street, Dunedin. Photo (1880s): Burton Bros. Hocken Collections. Ref: AG-295-036/003.

Churches

Ross designed fewer churches in Otago than he did in Victoria, which probably owed something to R.A. Lawson’s monopoly on Presbyterian Church work and F.W. Petre’s on Catholic commissions . One of Ross’s buildings was the Presbyterian Church at Palmerston, with its distinctive rust-coloured Waihemo stone and very Scots-looking design, with a spire remiscent of both St Nicholas’ Kirk, Aberdeen, and his own Scots’ Church tower in Melbourne. Ross also designed Presbyterian churches at Balclutha and Clinton (both timber) and a Primitive Methodist Church at Bluff. His biggest commission was for Dunedin’s Knox Church. The foundation stone for this building was laid on 25 November 1872 but Ross was dismissed for misconduct on 16 January 1873 and his design was abandoned. He sued the church for wrongful dismissal and won on some points, but the verdict was mostly in favour of the defendants.  Ross had purchased Bacon’s quarry, which it had been previously agreed would supply stone for the project, and the jury found that Ross’s actions in connection with this had been improper, but were not sufficient grounds for dismissal. The more significant issue was that he had selected a Clerk of Works, John Hotson, who was widely thought to be a drunkard and was found to be unfit for his job. Ross’s insistence on retaining Hotson and his refusal to acknowledge the replacement selected by the church was found by the jury to be reasonable grounds for dismissal.  Ross was awarded a mere two pounds in compensation when he had claimed over £200. He was replaced by R.A. Lawson, who used his own more expensive design for the church.

This was not the only event that suggested Ross could be difficult to work with. In 1872 he unsuccessfully sued Vincent Pyke for fees he claimed were due for calling tenders for a house that was not proceeded with. One witness, a contractor, claimed that ‘Some contractors refused to tender for any work under Mr Ross, and said they would rather do it for anyone else in the country. Witness did not know their reason for it, but he supposed it was over-vigilance on the part of Mr Ross.’

Palmerston Presbyterian Church.

Clinton Presbyterian Church. Photo (n.d.): Unknown. Hocken Collections. Ref: S12-282c.

Concrete

The first mass concrete buildings in Dunedin were built in the early to mid 1870s and Ross was at the forefront of this new technology, being slightly ahead of other local concrete pioneers such as N.Y.A. Wales, Lawson, and Petre (the last of whom was famously nicknamed ‘Lord Concrete’). In 1870 Ross and Burwell applied for a patent for sole use of ‘certain inventions and improvements in the construction of frames or apparatus’ for concrete construction. Another curious invention of Ross’s was a ‘self acting’ toilet seat, that lifted without being touched!

Ross was designing buildings in concrete from at least 1872 and in 1874 it was reported in the Otago Daily Times   that ‘Mr Ross claims no originality in the matter, but credit must be given him for the persevering way in which he has hitherto quietly advocated the introduction of the new mode of building into the Province, and his efforts appear to be now beginning to be crowned with success, he having orders in hand for designing about 40 concrete buildings.’ These buildings included numerous workers’ cottages, a two-storey house, shop buildings, and a grain store. The largest was the Otago Museum, in which Ross experimented by using old rails from railway lines as girders, a technique he further developed when rebuilding his Octagon building. An experimental concrete roof on the colonnade on the Lawrence court house was spectacularly unsuccessful when the builder (who had been dubious about the design) removed his props and the whole thing collapsed. A replacement built to a revised plan remains in place today. In 1907, when technology for reinforced concrete construction was rapidly developing, Ross was proud that his concrete buildings had lasted well and claimed that no reinforcing was required in ordinary concrete structures, suggesting that he had fallen behind modern thinking.

The Inspector of Works for the museum was Edmund M. Roach, a fellow architect who supervised the construction of many of Ross’s designs and eventually became his associate. When Ross left Dunedin Roach took over his practice and for many years continued to manage his interests in the city, also acting as the executor of his estate.

Court house (Warden’s Court), Lawrence. The top storey is a later addition.

Crescent (now Careys Bay) Hotel.

Prince of Wales Hotel, Princes Street, Dunedin.

Prince of Wales Hotel, Princes Street, Dunedin.

Ross’s own house in Heriot Row, Dunedin.

Chapman’s Terrace, Stuart Street, where I lived for two years. The building, which is currently getting a makeover, originally had a balustraded parapet.

Travels and family

Ross left New Zealand for an extended trip overseas in 1879, visiting the United States and Europe. In London he was admitted a Fellow of the Royaly Institute of British Architects (FRIBA), a high honour that no other Dunedin architect received. He was nominated by John Norton, Robert Edis, and William Audsley. These were distinguished architects (Norton particularly) and Audsley would have known Ross from the years they both worked in Elgin and Liverpool. Burwell also became  fellow in 1880, and in 1884 Ross and Burwell were the only architects in New Zealand to hold this distinction. Ross always used the letters ‘FRIBA’ in his later advertising.

A tragedy took place during Ross’s absence from Dunedin, when on 8 September 1879 a severe fire gutted his building in the Octagon, resulting in the loss of twelve lives. The ‘Octagon Buildings’ had been erected by Ross in 1876 and included shops, his own and other offices, and a warren of small residential apartments. Following the fire the design of the structure (including it layout and the inadequacy of its partitions) was quickly criticised. Ross had returned to Dunedin by February 1880 and he subsequently rebuilt the building, with the top mansard floor replaced with another masonry storey added to the facade.

A great personal sadness for Ross in 1880 was the death of his eight month old son, William, at Courbevoie near Paris, on 3 June. Ross had separated from his wife, and she later lived with her daugther in Yokohama, Japan, where she died in 1894. The couple’s elder surviving daughter, Flora, married Marc Lucas in Yokohama in 1894. The other daughter, Agnes, married Professor W.E.L.  Sweet at Kumamoto in 1904. The presence of the family in Japan explains why some sources mistakenly state that Ross spent his later life in that country. Another interesting family connection was that Ross’s brother, Rev. Dr William Ross, was a Presbyterian minister in the West Indies and Lancefield, Australia.

Jobs in Dunedin in the early 1880s included Chapman’s Terrace in Stuart Street, Ross’s own house in Heriot Row, and the second Hallenstein factory. One of Ross’s last Dunedin projects was the head office building for the Union Steam Ship Company in Water Street, completed in 1883. Its richly decorated renaissance revival facade was made particularly distinctive by its dome (an observation post) and a collection of small minarets along the parapet. This decoration was removed in 1940 as part of remodelling carried out for the National Mortgage and Agency Company.

Auckland

In 1883 Ross won the competition for the Auckland Harbour Board Offices in Quay Street, Auckland, with a design that at first glance looks like a cheeky replica of the USSCo. building. The main differences were variations to the ornamentation and fenestration (including round-headed windows instead of square-headed ones on the first floor). Like its sister, this building suffered drastic twentieth century remodelling before its eventual demolition.  The Harbour Board commission took Ross to Auckland where he was based from 1883 to 1886. It is perhaps unsurprising that he did not return to Dunedin, as there was little building work going on here in a depressed economy. Other architects who left during the 1880s included Maxwell Bury, Louis Boldini, and R.A. Lawson.

Among Ross’s more remarkable Auckland works there were additions for Alfred Isaacs which transformed his house Charleville into a fantastic but quite ungainly mansion with an enormous castellated tower that commanded superb views. He also designed substantial additions to the Star Hotel in Onehunga, and a large warehouse for Bell Brothers in Wyndham Street.

Octagon Buildings, Dunedin, as they were rebuilt following the fire in 1879. Photo (1880s): Burton Bros. Alexander Turnbull Library. Ref: Ref: 1/1-006149-F.

Union Steam Ship Company offices, Water Street, Dunedin. Photo (1880s): Burton Bros. Hocken Collections. Ref: S10-221c.

Spot the difference! Auckland Harbour Board Offices, Quay Street, Auckland. Photo (n.d.): Henry Winkelmann. George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries. Ref: 1-W890.

Charleville, residence of Alfred Isaacs, Remuera, Auckland. Photo (c.1910): William Archer Price. Alexander Turnbull Library. Ref: 1/2-001180-G.

Australia again

In 1886 Ross left for Australia, setting up an office at Temple Court, Queen Street, Sydney. His best known work there is the St George’s Hall, Newtown, of 1887, which was one of his more grand and florid renaissance revival designs. Also from this period were the mansion Iona at Darlinghurst, and the masonry towers and other work for the Long Gully suspension bridge, which cost over £100,000 to build and was one of the largest bridges of its kind in existence.

Ross briefly practised in Wellington from 1893 before moving to Perth in 1895, where he went into partnership with Burwell.  The partnership didn’t last long as Burwell soon set up on his own at Fremantle, but Ross remained in Perth for over seven years, getting some substantial residential commissions but probably less work than he would have liked. The most ambitious project he was involved with there was a proposed 1,160-seat theatre for Perth Theatre Company, but this never came to fruition. Other projects included villas for John Shadwick,  F. Cairns Hill, and Stanley Sutton, and buildings for the Silver Pan Confectionery Company.

Ross’s most surprising move came in 1903, when he left Perth for Johannesburg, South Africa, where rebuilding had started following the Boer War. It was surprising not only because of the distance, but because Ross was approaching 75 years of age. A farewell event was held at the West Australian Club, where it was said that by his genial disposition Ross had made a large circle of friends, and was looked upon with much affection and goodwill: ‘Mr. Ross was not a young man, but had plenty of “go” and true grit and, would have ample scope for his capabilities in a new land with such possibilities as South Africa’. Ross feelingly replied, commenting that ‘he had always helped younger professional men without jealousy, and no thing pleased him better than when he saw any of the improvements which he had made adopted in general use. His ideas were not due to inspiration, but were the result of hard study.’

St George’s Hall, Newtown, Sydney. Photo: Hall & Co. State Library of New South Wales. Ref: 35195.

Long Gully bridge, Sydney. Photo (n.d.): Henry King. Powerhouse Museum Collection. Ref: 85/1285-1131.

Final years and conclusion

I have so far been unable to trace any of Ross’s work in South Africa, but he remained there until 1906, when he moved back to Auckland. It was there that he died on 6 October 1908, at the age of 80. Fellow freemasons from Lodge St Andrew arranged a funeral procession to the Waikumete Cemetery, where he was buried. The grave is unmarked. Ross had continued to work until the month before his death, with one of his last works being additions to St Barnabas Church, Mount Eden. Two daughters outlived him.

Ross would probably be more celebrated if he hadn’t moved around so much. He was soon almost forgotten in Dunedin, and in his own lifetime the Cyclopedia of New Zealand  stated that he had been dead for several years. His New Zealand Historic Places Trust biography still states that he probably spent his later life in the USA and Japan, and some Australian sources give his place of death as South Africa. The fact that he is not identified as the author of many of his surviving buildings has prevented full recognition of his achievements.

Despite a lack of knowledge or writing about him, Ross has long been recognized as a key figure. His importance has been acknowledged by writers from the 1960s onwards (perhaps beginning with McCoy and Blackman’s Victorian City of New Zealand), and Knight and Wales describe him as ‘undoubtedly one of the most important architects who have worked in Dunedin’. Seven of his buildings are listed as Historic Places, partly due to their association with him.

Stacpoole (1971) wrote that ‘Quite clearly, [William] Mason was the architectural superior’ of Ross, and that where ‘Ross’s buildings are essentially Victorian, Mason’s display earlier influences and, to that extent, please us more today’. I agree that the two men often use the stylistic language of different generations, but disagree with the overall assessment. Mason designed two superb Dunedin buildings (the Post Office/Stock Exchange and Bank of New South Wales) but his other work (even including the 1865 exhibition buildings and St Matthew’s Church) doesn’t appear to give him any great claim to be ‘superior’.

In my opinion Ross was also of similar ability to his slightly younger contemporary, R.A. Lawson, who is recognised as Dunedin’s pre-eminent Victorian architect for designing the city’s grandest landmarks of the period (First and Knox churches, the Municipal Chambers, Otago Boys’ High School, Larnach Castle). In some particular aspects, such as commercial architecture, Ross’s legacy is no less significant than Lawson’s. His role as an innovator also give him a key place. What I most like about Ross though, is his knack for strong yet elegant, and rich yet unfussy design. I think his reputation will continue to grow.

Selected works:

  • 1854-1856. Glass Terrace, Melbourne*
  • 1854-1937. St Mary of the Angels Catholic Church, Geelong*
  • 1855. Chalmers Church, Eastern Hill*
  • 1856-1857. Presbyterian manse, Williamstown, Melbourne*
  • 1856-1857. St Kilda Sea Bathing Establishment, Melbourne
  • 1857. Tower and spire, Scots Church, Melbourne
  • 1857. Flint, Ramsay & Co. warehouse, Collins Street, Melbourne
  • 1857-1858. Wesleyan Church, Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, Melbourne*
  • 1859. Colonial Bank, Kilmore*
  • 1862-1863. Imperial Hotel, Princes Street, Dunedin* (much altered)
  • 1862-1863. Shops for James Brown, Princes Street, Dunedin* (incorporated into a larger building in the 1870s)
  • 1863. Provincial Hotel, Port Chalmers
  • 1864. Congregational Church, Moray Place, Dunedin*
  • 1864. Empire Hotel, Princes Street, Dunedin (extensive additions)
  • 1865. Bank of Otago, Princes Street, Dunedin
  • 1867. Fernhill (Jones residence), Dunedin*
  • 1867. Colinswood (Macandrew residence), Macandrew Bay*
  • 1869-1870. Athenaeum and Mechanic’s Institute, Octagon, Dunedin*
  • 1870. Rectory, Otago Boys’ High School, Dunedin
  • 1872-1873. Windsor Park homestead, North Otago*
  • 1873-1874. Elderslie homestead (Reid residence), North Otago
  • 1874. Port Chalmers Grammar School
  • 1874. NZ Clothing Factory, Rattray Street, Dunedin*
  • 1874-1875. Court house, Lawrence*
  • 1874-1876. Normal School, Moray Place, Dunedin
  • 1874. Crescent Hotel (later Careys Bay Hotel), Careys Bay*
  • 1874. Eden Bank (Joel residence), Dunedin
  • 1874-1877. Otago Museum, Great King Street, Dunedin*
  • 1875. Colonial Bank (later BNZ), Outram*
  • 1875-1876. A. & T. Inglis, George Street, Dunedin* (mostly demolished)
  • 1875-1878. Guthrie & Larnach, Bond and Princes streets, Dunedin
  • 1876. Presbyterian Church, Palmerston*
  • 1876-1877. Gridiron Hotel, Princes Street, Dunedin
  • 1876-1877. Terrace for Dr Michael Murphy, York Place, Dunedin*
  • 1876. Prince of Wales Hotel, Princes Street, Dunedin*
  • 1876. R.P. Bagley’s building, 284 George Street, Dunedin*
  • 1876-1880. Octagon Buildings, Dunedin*
  • 1877. Charles Begg & Co., Princes Street, Dunedin
  • 1877. The Willows (Barron residence), Kew, Dunedin
  • 1881. Villa for David Ross, Heriot Row, Dunedin*
  • 1881-1882. Chapman’s Terrace, Stuart Street, Dunedin*
  • 1882-1883. Presbyterian Church, Clinton
  • 1882-1883. NZ Clothing Factory, Dowling Street, Dunedin*
  • 1882-1883. Union Steam Ship Co. offices, Water Street, Dunedin*
  • 1883-1885. Auckland Harbour Board offices, Quay Street, Auckland
  • c.1883-1885. Additions to Star Hotel, Onehunga*
  • 1885. Bell Bros warehouse, Wyndham Street, Auckland*
  • c.1885. Charleville (Isaacs residence), Remuera
  • 1887. St George’s Hall, Newtown, Sydney*
  • 1889. Iona, Darlinghurst, Sydney*
  • 1892. Towers, Long Gully Bridge, Cammeray, Sydney*
  • 1899. Villa for John Shadwick, Colin Street, Perth*
  • 1902. Villa for F. Cairns Hill, Subiaco, Perth
  • 1903-1906. Various unknown works, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 1908. St Barnabas Church, Mt Eden, Auckland (additions)*

*indicates buildings still standing

Primary references:

Too many to list here, many from newspaper sources available on PapersPast and Trove. Feel free to ask if you’re interested in anything in particular.

Secondary references:

Knight, Hardwicke and Niel Wales. Buildings of Victorian Dunedin: An Illustrated Guide to New Zealand’s Victorian City  (Dunedin: McIndoe, 1988).
Mane-Wheoke, Jonathan. ‘City of Magnificent Edifices’ in New Zealand Historic Places, no. 54 (July 1995), pp.5-7. [article re F.W. Burwell]
McCoy, E.J. and J.G. Blackman. Victorian City of New Zealand  (Dunedin: McIndoe, [1968]).
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Dictionary of Scottish Architects online
New Zealand Historic Places Trust online register
Victorian Heritage Database online