Tag Archives: Renaissance revival

Dreaver’s Buildings

Built: 1878-1879
Address: 149-165 George Street
Designer: William Grasby
Builders: Finck & Grasby

Dreavers_2016

From the 1870s to the 1950s, the enterprising Dreaver family made George Street their place of business. Elizabeth Creilman McHoul was born in Glasgow, and worked as a domestic servant before migrating to Otago in 1870. In 1873 she married James Dreaver, who opened a toy and fancy goods store. Mrs Dreaver opened a second family business, the Red Flag Drapery, in June 1877.

In November 1878, a fire destroyed eight wooden buildings in George Street, including the Dreavers’ property. No time was wasted in erecting new premises, which opened for business on 22 February 1879. They were built by Finck & Grasby and designed by William Grasby of that firm. Constructed of brick, they comprised a block of three shops with living apartments above. All were owned by the Dreavers, who occupied the southernmost portion. Their first tenants were Miss Vaile, who ran a ‘Young Ladies’ Seminary’, and Hans Pauli, who purchased James Dreaver’s fancy goods business.

The Otago Daily Times reported that ‘seldom, indeed, are blocks of buildings turned out in such a complete manner’. The flats each had coal ranges in the kitchens, fireplaces in the bedrooms, and gas and water connections. Workrooms for the drapery were built behind the shop, and there were brick washhouses and other outbuildings.  The shops had tongue-and-groove linings and were fronted with large plate-glass windows. The cemented facade above was in the simple Revived Renaissance style favoured for commercial buildings at the time. After 137 years the first floor still outwardly looks much the same, though missing are a string course below the dentil cornice, and a modest arched pediment at the centre of the parapet.

Elizabeth Dreaver’s early advertisements offered costumes to fit at a few hours’ notice and described the firm as the cheapest house in the city. The Red Flag name was not used after the rebuilding, and the business became popularly known as Mrs Dreaver’s. Stock included dresses, jackets, skirts, mackintoshes, children’s wear, and feather boas. Dreaver’s had its own dressmaking department and became well-known for a parcel post service (with money back guarantee) offered to country customers.

Mrs Dreaver was an expert milliner and at a carnival at the Columbia Rink she won first prize from about 100 entries for the most original hat, with a design representing a pair of roller skates. She also won the prize for the smallest hat. Other milliners who worked for her included Miss Graham, formerly head milliner to Mrs W.A. Jenkins, and Mrs Mitchell, who had worked at Madame Louise’s in London’s Regent Street.

In 1885 Elizabeth left Dunedin for Scotland, she said due to bad health, and after five months returned with a stock of purchases made in London and Paris.  In the following years she vigorously promoted the ‘scientific’ method of pattern cutting that was revolutionising sewing around the world. She was one of the first in New Zealand to import the pattern books of the Butterick Publishing Company, which then had over 1,000 agencies throughout the United States and Canada. She became Otago’s sole agent for American Scientific System of Dresscutting, gave lessons at Otago Girls’ High School, and offered board to out-of-town pupils. By 1893 she had taught the system to 700 people.

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A Muir & Moodie postcard showing George Street from St Andrew Street. Dreavers is on the right, below the tower.

Hans Pauli remained in the northern shop until 1892. His name became familiar to the public through his outspoken opposition to the organised movement for early shop closing. From 1883 to 1903 ‘Professor and Madame’ McQueen ran one of Dunedin’s leading hairdressing establishments from the middle shop, to which they added the Bon Marche children’s clothing shop in 1898.

The drapery expanded to take over all three shops in 1904, not long before the death of James Dreaver on New Year’s Day 1905. In the first decades of the twentieth century Elizabeth Dreaver continued to manage the business, which some advertisements described as the ‘Shrine of Fashion’. A hairdressing and beauty salon became part of the operation.

In 1920 a new company was formed, Dreavers Ltd, with Elizabeth Dreaver holding 73% the shares and her children Hugh, James, and Catherine, each holding 9%. Additions were made at the back of the property in 1909, and in 1925 Mandeno & Fraser designed stylish new shop fronts, with arches over recessed entrances, and decorative tiles and glass. Fletcher Construction were the builders. A section of this work survives in altered form as the front of the northern shop, where the name ‘Dreavers Ltd’ can still be seen in the mosaic floor.

Further rearward additions were carried out in 1944, leading to the saddest event found in researching this story. A shopper named Alice McMillan (58) was killed when a beam fell through a skylight into the mantle department.

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A 1945 advertisement

Elizabeth Creilman Dreaver died at her home in Clyde Street on 30 November 1934, aged 86. Dreavers continued to trade until 1952, its old premises afterwards becoming the Bruce Shop, a retail store for Bruce Woollens. This closed in the mid-1960s, when the name of the block was changed from Bruce Buildings to Perth Buildings.

Other businesses to occupy the buildings have included the Otago Sports Depot, a Queen Anne Chocolate (Ernest Adams) shop, Ace Alterations, Martins Art Furnishers, and Don Kindley Real Estate. One shop is currently vacant, while another is taken by Brent Weatherall Jewellers. The third contains the $ n’ Sense bargain shop, which harks back nicely to the toys and fancy goods shop at the beginning of the Dreaver’s story in George Street.

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A 1925 shop front, surviving in altered form. Decorative windows were removed and original timber window joinery (with more slender profiles than shown here) replaced in 2012.

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‘Dreavers Ltd’ mosaic tiles

Newspaper references:
Evening Star, 16 June 1877 p.3 (Red Flag Drapery), 29 November 1878 p2 (fire), 27 December 1920 p.3 (registration of company); Otago Witness, 10 August 1878 p.21 (advertisement), 6 September 1879, p.3 (advertisement), 29 April 1887 p.9 (sole rights), 4 January 1905 p.47 (death of James Dreaver); Otago Daily Times, 22 December 1874 p1 (toy shop advertisement), 15 January 1879 p.1 (description of buildings), 4 June 1879 p.3 (description following completion), 29 December 1884 p.3 (advertisement), 26 March 1887 p.3 (advertisement), 29 August 1944, p.6 (inquest into the death of Alice McMillan), 19 March 2011 p.46 (‘Stories in Stone’); North Otago Times 3 May 1890 p.4 (lessons at Otago Girls’ High School).

Other references:
Stone’s, Wise’s and telephone directories
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].
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans
Dunedin City Council cemeteries database

Shipping list for Robert Henderson, 1870 (Otago Gazette)
Register of Otago and Southland Marriages 1848 to 1920 (St Andrew’s Parish)
Death registration for Elizabeth Dreaver (1934/10770)

Chapman’s Terrace

Address: 235-241 Stuart Street
Built: 1881-1882
Architect: David Ross
Builder: Jesse Millington

Terraced houses were rare in Victorian New Zealand despite being common the United Kingdom, where most settlers were born and from where so many building styles were transplanted. Types of terraces there included not only working-class rows of plain design, but also the stylish townhouses of affluent city dwellers. There wasn’t much demand for such buildings in New Zealand, the colony being less urbanised, but of those that could be found many were in Dunedin, the most industrial centre. More than twenty terraces built between 1875 and 1915 survive in the city today.

One row in Upper Stuart Street still announces its original name to the world in large letters: Chapman’s Terrace. It was built between 1881 and 1882 as an investment property for Robert Chapman, and remained in family hands until 1910.

Chapman (1812-1898) was one Dunedin’s earliest colonial settlers. Born at Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, he worked as a solicitor in Edinburgh before coming to Dunedin with his wife Christina on the Blundell in 1848. He served as Registrar of the Supreme Court and Clerk to the Provincial Council, but is probably most often recalled as the person who funded a memorial to Rev. Thomas Burns, built in the lower Octagon. Completed in 1892, it stood 19 metres tall and cost over £1,000 to build (as much as two ordinary houses). An immediate source of criticism and humour was that Chapman’s name was carved in the stonework in three places, at least as prominently as Burns’, but from what I can tell the donor was generally a quiet and unassuming sort of fellow and any lapse in modesty was uncharacteristic. The monument was demolished in 1948.

Robert Chapman

Robert Chapman (1812-1898)

The memorial to Rev. Dr Thomas Burns, which stood in the Octagon from 1892 to 1948 (ref: Te Papa O.000998)

Robert’s son Charles, a lawyer who was Mayor of Dunedin at the time the monument was built, managed the tenancies of Chapman’s Terrace from its earliest years, and likely also had a hand in the building project. The architect was David Ross, who had earlier designed the terrace at 107-111 York Place, completed in 1877. Ross had been engaged by Chapman before, having designed Dunottar House and another villa residence for him.

The terrace was built in the Renaissance Revival style, and small but prominent porticos made striking features. The parapet originally had a balustrade, and its loss has affected the balance and proportion of the composition. Pairs of round-headed windows echo other designs by Ross, including Fernhill (John Jones’s residence) and the Warden’s Court at Lawrence.

Tenders for the project were called in September 1881 and the contractor selected was Jesse Millington, who at around the same time built Stafford Terrace at 62-86 Dundas Street (now known as the ‘Coronation Street houses’). The Stuart Street building was complete by the end of June 1882, when it was described in the Otago Daily Times:

The houses…are of a very superior class, both as regards design and convenience. The block comprises three houses, each of which contains 10 rooms, exclusive of bathroom, storeroom, pantry, &c. Two flats are above the streetline, and two below. All the rooms are fitted up with gasaliers and electric bells of an improved type. The buildings are an ornament to the upper portion of Stuart street, for they are nicely designed, and considerable expense has been devoted to external as well as internal finish.

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Detail from a Burton Bros photograph showing the intersection of Stuart Street and Moray Place in the 1880s. Chapman’s Terrace is just up from Trinity Wesleyan Church. (ref: Hardwicke Knight, Otago Early Photographs, third series)

The steep site falls sharply away from the street, and though the building appears only two storeys high from the front, four levels can be seen from behind. The lower ones were built with bluestone walls, the upper ones in brick with cemented fronts. Each street entrance is almost like a little drawbridge, and there is quite a drop behind the iron railings.

The houses were first advertised as ‘suitable for professional men’ and their central location was one of their best selling points. When Thomas Miller left the upper house in 1885, an auction advertisement gave some idea of the furnishings inside:

Magnificent piano (in walnut, trichord, trussed legs, and every modern improvement by Moore, London), walnut suite (in crimson silk rep), large gilt-frame pier-glass, mahogany table and cover, tapestry window curtains, circular fender and fireirons, chess table, whatnot, Brussels carpets, hearthrug, cedar chiffonier, curtains, pole and rings, couch (in hair), dining-room table, cane chairs, sofa, linoleum, cutlery, napery, china, earthenware, B.M. dish covers, double and single iron bedsteads, spring mattress, cheval dressing-glass, 3 chests of drawers, washstands and ware dressing-tables, bedroom carpets, bed linen, blankets, quilts, kitchen table, chairs, sofa, floorcloth, kitchen and cooking utensils, culinary appliances, mangle, hall table and linoleum, door scrapers, mats, etc., etc., etc.

For periods each house was run as a boarding house or lodgings, with those who took rooms including labourers, carpenters, clerks, salesmen, music teachers, a share broker, a chemist, a photographer, a journalist, a draper’s assistant, a dressmaker, and many others.

From about 1890 to 1902 the upper house was run by Annie Korwin, and around the turn of the century it was known as Stanford House. Those who followed included Eliza and Honor Pye, James McKechnie, Elizabeth Scott, and Margaret and Enid Simmonds.

Helen Nantes was the first to occupy the middle house, and from 1885 to 1902 it was the residence of John Macdonald, a medical practitioner and lecturer at the Otago Medical School. Constance Alene Elvine Hall, known as Madame Elvino, occupied it from 1904 to 1910. Originally from Ireland, she variously advertised as a professor of phrenology, world-famed psychometrist, medical clairvoyant, metaphysical healer, business medium, hair colourist, palmist, psychic seer, and scientific character reader. She travelled widely around the country, giving consultations and running popular stalls at carnivals and bazaars. She married John C. Paterson, a sawmill manager, and he joined her in the terrace.

Advertisement from the Evening Star, 16 March 1906 p.5 (courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand).

In 1908 Madame Elvino was charged with fortune telling, an offence under the Crimes Act, but acquitted on the defence of the celebrated barrister Alfred Hanlon, on the grounds that she had only given a ‘character reading’. She was convicted on another occasion in Christchurch in the 1920s. In a New Zealand Truth report titled ‘Face Cream and Psychic Phenomena for Frivolous Flappers’, Elvino was described as a ‘short, dark, plainly-dressed little woman, with a pair of twinkling eyes peering out from behind rimmed spectacles, she looks the last person on earth from whom one would expect any striking occult manifestations’.

William and Mary Ann Barry took the house after Madame Elvino, living there from about 1911 to 1932. During that time the First World War affected the residents of Chapman’s Terrace as it did all of Dunedin, and the Barrys’ only son was killed in action in France just a month before the armistice in 1918.

Early tenants of the lower house included the prominent music teacher Edward Towsey, and George Bell jr, managing director of the Evening Star newspaper. Those who lived in it for the longest spells were Alice Vivian, Eliza Pye, Mary Hutchinson, Mary Martin, and Robina McMaster.

Chapman’s Terrace in the early 1960s. Hardwicke Knight photo.

Chapman’s Terrace in the early 1960s. The fire escape dates from around the 1940s. The balustrade railing is still in place but balusters have been removed, giving something of a gap-toothed look. Hardwicke Knight photo.

In 1951, then known as ‘Castlereagh’, the lower house at 235 Stuart Street was purchased by the Dunedin Branch of the New Zealand Institute for the Blind. The refurbished rooms were opened in July 1952 and later the institute also acquired the middle house. After extensive alterations in 1960 (including the removal of partitions) the top floor contained a social room, braille room, and cloak rooms, while on the ground floor were a lounge, therapy room, cutting-out room, and the manager’s office. A new stair was less steep than the old one. The institute (later Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind) remained in the building until new purpose-built premises on the corner of Law Street and Hillside Road opened in 1975.

The terrace has been home to a legal practice since 1975, when Sim McElrea O’Donnell Borick & Thomas moved in. McCrimmon Law is now based here and in 2013 one of the building owners, Fiona McCrimmon, oversaw the extensive refurbishment of the terrace.

The balustrade was removed in the 1960s, but other original facade features remain happily intact, including pilasters with Corinthian capitals, square columns, quoins, and a dentil cornice. Some internal features that survived twentieth century alterations have also been preserved, including beautiful kauri floors, turned newel posts, ceiling roses and other plasterwork, and a few of the fireplace surrounds.

As someone who lived in the terrace for two years as student, I am delighted to see it so well looked after. I wonder if my old room was Madame Elvino’s…

The terrace as it appeared in 2012, immediately prior to renovations.

The terrace in 2015. The former Trinity Methodist Church on the corner is now the Fortune Theatre.

Rear view, showing the full height of the building, and the stone and brickwork (first painted over many years ago).

Basement detail

Facade detail

Lettering detail

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 1 September 1881, p.3 (call for tenders), 27 June 1882, p.4 (description), 29 August 1882, p.1 (to let), 7 October 1882, p.1 (board), 4 November 1885, p.4 (sale of furniture – Millar), 26 December 1885, p.4 (sale of furniture – Macleod), 4 April 1898, p.3 (Stanford House advertisement), 12 September 1898, p.3 (obituary for Robert Chapman), 18 July 1902 p.8 (Stanford House), 20 April 1951 p.6 (purchase by Institute for Blind), 22 July 1952 p.6 (official opening), 28 October 1960 p.5 (alterations), 8 April 1975 p.13 (new premises for Foundation for the Blind); Evening Star, 3 October 1891 p.2 (Burns Memorial – foundation stone), 30 April 1892 p.2 (Burns Memorial – handing over ceremony); Otago Witness, 17 October 1895 p.4 (Men of Note in Otago – Robert Chapman, Citizen and Solicitor), 15 September 1898 p.7 (obituary for Robert Chapman)

Other references:
Stone’s, Wise’s and telephone directories
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, vol.4 (Otago and Southland Provincial Districts), 1905, p.379
Plans for alterations, Salmond Anderson Architects records, Hocken Collections (MS-3821/2581)

Thanks to Fiona McCrimmon for showing me around the property 

Sutton Brothers Store

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whitcombe & Tombs Building

Built: 1915
Address: 168-174 Princes Street
Architect: Edward Walter Walden (after Collins & Harman)
Builders: Fletcher Bros

An artist’s impression of the building. Originally published in the Otago Witness, 21 April 1915, and reproduced here courtesy of the Otago Daily Times.

The old Whitcombe & Tombs Building turns one hundred years old this year. Together with the larger complex of buildings behind, it had a long association with the printing, stationery, and bookselling trades.

In the late 1870s, an L-shaped site with frontages to both Princes and Dowling streets was taken over by Fergusson & Mitchell. This firm of printers had operated in Dunedin since 1862, when Glasgow-born John McNairn Mitchell arrived to start the New Zealand arm of a business he had co-founded in Melbourne. The premises included a printery, bindery, warehouse, and one of the best-stocked stationery shops in the colony. Some very fine examples of typography can be found among their nineteenth-century print productions.

The buildings they acquired included wooden shops dating from the 1860s, as well as brick structures built in 1869 and 1877 to the designs of R.A. Lawson. A serious fire in 1901 was followed by a phase of rebuilding, which included the erection of Clyde Chambers on Dowling Street (this building was demolished in 1990).

Mitchell died in 1914, and in the same year his company was bought out by Christchurch-based competitor Whitcombe & Tombs, which had run a Dunedin branch since 1890. Despite war conditions, business was booming, and George Whitcombe remarked that ‘There is hardly a single novel this season that is worth reading and those we have not got, but we are selling the old ones like hot chips’.

Determined to build one of Australasia’s best book shops on the new site, Whitcombe & Tombs announced that ‘new premises are to be erected almost immediately, and will be in keeping with those occupied by the firm at Christchurch and Wellington’. The architect for the Dunedin work, Edward Walter Walden, closely modelled the façade on the central portion of the larger warehouse in Cashel Street, Christchurch, designed by Collins & Harman in 1906. Classically influenced, in the free Revived Renaissance style, it was an imposing and elaborate three-storey composition with a massive tympanum and square pediment at the centre of the parapet. Despite the entirely fresh street appearance, many of the old buildings remained at the rear.

The Christchurch warehouse of Whitcombe & Tombs designed by Collins & Harman, completed in 1907. Steffano Webb Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/1-005652-G.

The contractors were Fletcher Bros, led by 29-year-old James Fletcher, and the new building was ready for occupation in November 1915, nine months after the construction contract was signed. The cost was nearly £9,000. The book shop was the biggest in Dunedin, and at one time there were about thirty shop staff. The annual sale was a keenly anticipated event. Adjoining the firm’s shop was a smaller one that was leased out, as were some of the offices upstairs.

The buildings were seriously damaged by a fire in May 1955. This originated in the neighbouring Beau Monde Café and took hold in the printing department at the rear. 1,700 metres of hose from fifteen hose deliveries was run out to fight the blaze, and four firemen were injured. Losses exceeded £100,000, and the fire sale that followed attracted huge crowds eager for bargains.

The scene of the fire in May 1955. Photograph originally published in the Evening Star and reproduced here courtesy of the Otago Daily Times.

Plans for the reinstatement the buildings were designed by L.W.S. Lowther and built by Mitchell Bros between 1956 and 1957 at a cost of £36,000. Even allowing for inflation this was more than the cost of the 1915 building. Some structures at the rear were replaced and a hangar-like extension referred to as the ‘cathedral’ was created. The Princes Street frontage was retained but some of the ornamental features were removed (mostly at the parapet level). In later years printing operations centred on separate premises in Castle Street.

In 1971, Whitcombe & Tombs merged with Coulls Somerville Wilkie, and the new name Whitcoulls was introduced in 1973. Whitcoulls joined Dunedin’s retail drift north, away from Princes Street and the Exchange. The firm was one of the founding tenants in the Golden Centre when it opened in 1979, and in 1984 opened a large store on the former Andrew Lees site in George Street. The Princes Street shop continued for a few years before closing its doors for the last time on 30 April 1986. At the time Excelsior Holdings intended to demolish both the old Whitcombe & Tombs building and the Excelsior Hotel next door, and it was thought that Whitcoulls might open an outlet in a new mall on the site. A plan subsequently emerged for a large office tower but this was one of a number of local schemes abandoned around the time of the 1987 share market crash.

A clue to building’s old identity can still be seen by pedestrians. In the late 1990s, when Diggers Bar and Saloon occupied the old shop space, 1950s tile were lifted from the entrance to reveal a beautiful mosaic tile floor. At the centre can be seen the monogram ‘W&T Ltd’.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 12 June 1869 p.1 (tender notice for G. & T. Young premises), 20 December 1876 p.2 (Beissel fire), 5 February 1877 p.1 (tender notice for Beissel premises), 30 July 1877 p.7 (description of Beissel premises), 1 March 1879 p.1 (Fergusson & Mitchell additions), 20 January 1915 p.1 (tender notice for removal of buildings), 8 October 1979 pp.23-40 (Golden Centre), 6 March 1984 p.24 (George Street store), 30 April 1986 p.3 (closure of Whitcoulls), 9 May 1955 p.1 (fire); Otago Witness, 14 August 1869 p.17 (description of G. & T. Young premises); New Zealand Tablet, 13 June 1879 p.18 (Fergusson & Mitchell occupy Beissel premises); Evening Star, 9 May 1955 p.1 (fire).

Other references: 
Waite, Noel. Books for a Nation: The Whitcoulls Story (Auckland: Whitcoulls, 2008)
Ingram, John and Paul Clements. Ready Aye Ready: 150 Years of Dunedin Fire Brigades 1861-2011 (Dunedin: Dunedin Fire Brigade Restoration Society, 2010)
Block plans (1869, 1889, 1892, 1927)
Permit records and deposited plans, Dunedin City Council
Stone’s, Wise’s and telephone directories
Entwisle, Peter. R.A. Lawson’s Architectural Works (unpublished list, 2013)
Whitcoulls records, Auckland War Memorial Museum MS-99-95 (with thanks to Philippa Robinson for her help)

Sussex Hotel

Built: 1880
Address: 132-140 George Street
Architect: Robert Forrest
Builder: John Brennan

There were eighty-nine licensed hotels in Dunedin in 1865, and that year the original Sussex Hotel was added to their number, making twelve pubs in George Street alone. A simple single-storey wooden structure, its first licensee was Henry Pelling, who was followed by Alfred Lawrence, Daniel Bannatyne, and then Thomas Oliver. Additions at the back designed by W.T. Winchester were built in 1877, and three years later Oliver had the front portion rebuilt at a cost of over £4,000, creating the three-storey brick building seen from the street today.

The architect was Robert Forrest (c.1832-1919), whose other designs included the Excelsior, St Kilda, Green Island, and Outram hotels. The facade was in the Renaissance Revival style, with massive pilasters running between the top two floors, and an unusual curved corner at the entrance to Blacket Lane. There were originally more mouldings than there are now, as well as an arched pediment and finials prominent on the parapet. The builder was John Brennan and the building was complete by June 1880.

The hotel contained a bar, two parlours, a sitting room, a large number of bedrooms, dining room, billiard room, and a skittle alley. There were also two shops, with dwelling rooms above them on the first floor, and on the top floor was the Sussex Hall. This had room for 200 people, and events held there in the 1880s included dinners, concerts, dances, workers’ meetings, election meetings, wrestling matches, and boxing classes.

The Sussex Hotel under construction in 1880. Ref: Te Papa C.012110. Cropped detail from Burton Bros photograph.

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Again, a little later. Ref: Te Papa C.018407. Cropped detail from a Burton Bros photograph.

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Parapet detail

The hotel was said to have had an unusual patron in its early years. Margaret Paul, historian of the neighbouring A. & T. Inglis department store, tells the story of Antionio, a ‘mansized ape’ that belonged to eccentric store owner Sandy Inglis. The story goes that Antonio, often found dressed in an admiral’s uniform, was served drinks at the hotel. He was also allegedly involved in incidents that included his assault of a barman who had doctored his drink, an unsuccessful attempt to ride a horse (not his idea), and a scene at Port Chalmers when he threw lumps of coal at well-dressed locals returning home from church. Sadly, it is said he was shot after having a go at Sandy himself. Of course legend is typically more colourful than real events, but a newspaper of 1881 records that Inglis did a least own a ‘celebrated South African monkey “Antonio”’, and that he attracted the ‘wonder of an admiring multitude of small boys’ on at least one parade. Inglis also acquired a baboon, and both of the poor animals had been brought to Dunedin by Captain Labarde of the Pensee, and exhibited at the Benevolent Institution Carnival in 1880.

An advertisement from the Otago Daily Times, 28 June 1894. Thanks to Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

Licensees after Oliver (though he retained ownership of the building) were Thomas McGuire, Michael Fagan, John Toomey, and Joseph Scott. Oliver returned in 1894 and improvements made at that time included a new ‘American Bowling Saloon’ and a rifle gallery.  The license transferred to Jessie Guinness in 1896, and then after her marriage to her new husband, John Green. The hall was used as band and social rooms, and for some of Dunedin’s earlier screenings of motion picture films. An unusual event in 1902 included J.D. Rowley’s Waxworks of Celebrities, a cyclorama (panoramic images on the inside of a cylindrical platform), a Punch and Judy show, a mechanical organ, and a penny-in-the slot machine ‘which purports to reveal the future and inform the inquirer what is the nature of the matrimonial alliance he or she is destined to contract’.

In 1902 a vote was passed reducing the number of hotel licenses, and the following year the Sussex Hotel’s days as a pub came to an end, although it continued as a private hotel for a few more years. Its next phase was as Wardell’s Building. The grocers Wardell Bros & Co. opened a grocery store on the site in 1907, having first established outlets in Dunedin and Christchurch in 1889, and a branch in Wellington in 1893. For many years Wardells was the largest store of its type in Dunedin, known for its free home delivery service, and for stocking products not available elsewhere, such as specialty cheeses.

A Wardell’s price list from 1930. Ref: Hocken Collections MS-4076/001.

A Wardell’s price list from 1930. Ref: Hocken Collections MS-4076/001.

One of the most notorious New Zealand riots centred on Wardells during the Great Depression. On 9 January 1932, hundreds of unemployed workers protested in George Street demanding food relief, and attempted to break into the store. A window was broken but the crowd was unsuccessful in its attempts to get past police.

In 1935 the Dunedin business became a separate entity registered as Wardells (Dunedin) Ltd, which leased premises from a separate Wardell family company. In 1958 the store was converted to a self-service ‘foodmarket’ and outlets later opened in South Dunedin and Kaikorai Valley. Free deliveries ended in 1972 and in 1974 the firm was sold to Wilson Neill Ltd, which closed the George Street store in June 1979.

From its earliest years the Sussex Hall was used for boxing classes, and for followers of the health and strength training movement known as Physical Culture. The Sandow School of Physical Culture used the premises from 1901, and in 1904 was succeeded by the Otago School of School of Physical Culture, continued by J.P. Northey from 1906 to about 1953. Northey is remembered today as a pioneer of physical education in New Zealand. In the illustration below words can be seen emblazoned on the walls next to the stage, reading ‘Breathe more air and have richer blood’, and ‘Deep breathing is internal exercise’.

Northey's School of Physical Culture in the Sussex Hall. Ref: Alexander Turnbull Library PAColl-0318-01.

Northey’s School of Physical Culture in the Sussex Hall. Ref: Alexander Turnbull Library PAColl-0318-01.

Dance studios operated in the building from the 1950s through to the 1980s. Shona Dunlop-MacTavish ran one of the first modern dance studios in New Zealand, and other instructors and groups included Laura Bain, Lily Stevens, Serge Bousloff (formerly of the Borovansky Ballet), Helen Wilson, Robinson School of Ballroom Dancing, the Ballet School, Southern Cross Scottish Country Dancing Club, Otago Dance Centre (Glenys Kindley and Alex Gilchrist), and Meenan’s School of Ballet. The New Edinburgh Folk Club also had its first rooms in the building.

There have been many physical and practical changes to the building. It has been lit by electricity since 1898. A bullnose verandah was added in the 1890s and replaced by a suspended one in 1933. Major additions at the back were made in 1908 (Luttrell Bros architects) and 1936 (Miller & White), replacing earlier structures. An air raid shelter was built after the Japanese bombings of Pearl Harbor and Darwin in 1942, and it was one of many constructed in the central city at the time. The finials and pediment were removed prior to 1930 and the front of the building was replastered in utilitarian fashion in 1956, with the loss of many original mouldings. Window canopies date from the 1990s. Blacket Lane remains one of Dunedin’s most fascinating and beautifully layered urban alleys, with high walls of mixed stone and brickwork.

From 1979 a succession of appliance stores operated from the retail space formerly occupied by Wardells. These were Kelvinator House, Wilson Neil Appliances, and Noel Leeming. In 1995 the Champions of Otago sports bar opened at the rear of the ground floor, and in 2006 this was replaced by Fever Club, a 1970s disco-themed bar. Wild South and Specsavers now occupy the ground floor shops, while businesses upstairs include Starlight , Chinese Christian Books & Gifts, Travel Partners, and Alan Dove Photography. The use of the building continues to be diverse, as it has been since 1880.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 21 June 1865, p.4 (establishment of Sussex Hotel), 16 November 1877 p.3 (additions designed by Winchester), 27 February 1880 p.3 (description of building), 21 June 1880 p.2 (monkey and baboon), 8 July 1880 p.3 (dinner), 27 August 1880 p.1 (concert), 4 September 1880 supp. p.1 (railway employees), 7 January 1881 p.2 (butchers), 21 September 1881 p.2 (Antonio), 6 July 1882 p.1 (boxing classes), 8 August 1882 p.3 (baboon), 27 April 1901 p.1 (physical culture), 11 July 1908 p.11 (physical culture), 17 September 1995 p.B12 (Champions of Otago opens), 17 November 2006 p.24 (Fever Club opens).

Other references:
Stone’s, Wise’s, and telephone directories
Dunedin City Council permit records (with thanks to Glen Hazleton)
Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters’ Associations of New Zealand. Block plans, 1927.
Baré, Robert. City of Dunedin Block Plans Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, [1889].
Calvert, Samuel (engraver after Cook, Albert C.). Dunedin, published as a supplement to the Illustrated New Zealand Herald, July 1875.
Dougherty, Ian. High Street Shopping and High Country Farming: A History of Wardell and Anderson Families in Otago. (Dunedin: Mahana Trust, 2009).
Jones, F. Oliver. Structural Plans of the City of Dunedin NZ, ‘Ignis et Aqua’ series, [1892].
Paul, Margaret. Calico Characters and their Clientele: A History of A & T Inglis Department Store, Dunedin, 1863-1955. Nelson: M. Paul, 1998.
Wardells (Dunedin) Ltd price lists, Hocken Collections MS-4076/001.

Matilda Ritchie’s building

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

J.W. Swift & Co. building

Built: 1905
Address: 110 Bond Street
Architects: Mason & Wales
Builder: G. Simpson & Co.

I often start out with the idea of writing a brief post but it never seems to turn out that way! It’s a short one this time, though, on a lovely little Edwardian number that has an impressive street presence despite its small scale. It’s on the corner of Bond and Police streets, in the Warehouse Precinct.

In the early 1870s a modest two-storey brick building was built on the southern portion of the section, with the corner portion left undeveloped as a yard. These were the premises of the builder James Gore, and then his sons Charles and Walter Gore, before they became the tea store and blending rooms of Rattray & Son in 1891. In 1895 they were taken over by the large building supplies firm Thomson Bridger & Co., and the yard was used for the storage of timber and iron. The company had further stores and factory buildings on adjoining sections to the south, where it succeeded Guthrie & Larnach. W.J. Prictor’s detailed and reliable perspective drawing of 1898 shows the site still much as it was in the 1870s, but with some additions to the old buildings.

The site (highlighted in red) as it appeared in 1874. Detail from Burton Bros photograph, ref: Te Papa C.012064.

The site as it appeared about 1898, little changed from its state in the 1870s. Detail from W.J. Prictor plan, ref: Alexander Turnbull Library MapColl 834.5292ap 1898.

The building on the site today was put up for J.W. Swift & Co., wool brokers and shipping agents. The architects were Mason & Wales and the builder George Simpson, and the building was under construction in May 1905. The street elevations are richly treated in the Renaissance Revival style with a prominent cornice, extensive rustication, and Corinthian capitals. The larger Sidey warehouse on the diagonally opposite corner (designed by James Louis Salmond in 1907) is similarly treated. Among other things, the combination of exposed (though now painted) brickwork with the particular style of rustication are giveaways that these are Edwardian rather than Victorian facades.

Swift & Co. merged with H.L. Tapley & Co. in 1949 to form the Tapley Swift Shipping Agencies Ltd, but the wool business continued on the site under the J.W. Swift name until about 1958.

Around 1958 J.K. Sparrow & Co. moved into the building. This business of merchants and importers started out specialising in insulation, acoustic materials, and telecommunication devices, and also acted as insurance agents. Over time the focus shifted to catering equipment and supplies for the hospitality trade, and in 2003 the business was purchased by a Christchurch-based competitor, Aitkens & Co. Ltd. Aitkens operated from the building until 2014, when they moved their Dunedin operation to Andersons Bay Road.

Apart from painting, the exterior hasn’t changed much since the building went up, with the main exception being a clumsily integrated show window installed in the Police Street frontage in 1967. Internal alterations in 2009 included the removal of brick walls and the replacement of timber columns with steel posts. Timber doors to both the shop and the vehicle entrances have survived, which is a happy thing as in small buildings features such as these have a significant influence on the overall character. New owners plan to convert the Bond Street building into apartments, which should be a good fit for the revitalised Warehouse Precinct.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 4 March 1891 p.4 (auction notice), 9 January 1900 p.2 (C. & W. Gore), 4 May 1905 p.2 (under construction), 14 August 1905 p.2 (still under construction), 13 April 2004 p.24 (Aitkens).

Other references:
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories
Jones, F. Oliver, ‘Structural Plans’ of the City of Dunedin NZ ‘Ignis et Aqua’ Series, [1892].
Prictor, W.J.,Dunedin 1898, J. Wilkie & Co. (Dunedin: J. Wikie & Co., 1898)
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)

Marine and Royal hotels

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

The Portsider (former Marine Hotel)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forbes Town Hall (1891). Photo by Mattinbgn.

Albury Town Hall (1908). Photo by OZinOH.

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

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

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

Dodds’ Building

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Irvine & Stevenson buildings (part one)

Built: 1882
Address: 186-198 George Street
Architect: John Arthur Burnside (1856-1920)
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.