Tag Archives: Robert Forrest

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.

sussex_1880b

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

sussex_1880b_detail

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.

Hogg, Howison, Nicol & Co. Building

Built: 1881
Address: 19 Vogel Street
Architect: Robert Forrest (c.1832-1919)
Builders: King & Co. (bricklaying), John Blackie (carpentry)

The building as it appeared in the first decade of the twentieth century, when it was occupied by Paterson & Barr

Vogel Street is home to some of Dunedin’s most substantial Victorian warehouses. This one, which has frontages to both Vogel and Cumberland streets, was built for the importing and general merchants Hogg, Howison, Nicol & Co. The firm had recently succeeded Hogg & Hutton, who traded as grocers in Dunedin from 1863, and the partners were James Hogg, Charles Macandrew Howison, and Lancelot Douglas Nicol. The building site was only formed after 1879, when a large-scale harbour reclamation project began. Being handy to the harbour, railway, and central business district, the newly formed Vogel Street was a logical location for large commercial warehouses. It extended an established precinct of similar warehouses centred around Crawford and Bond streets, the latter having been named after the bonded warehouses that sprang up there twenty years before.

Tenders for the construction work were called in May 1881, and the building was complete by the following January. It was a three-storey structure, not including the concrete cellar and an attic level. Because of the poor quality of the land, the foundation was laid on a system of planking, with ‘a wall of concrete three feet in depth, surmounted by Port Chalmers stone, laid right round in inverted arches, in order to equalise the weight on the foundations by throwing it on the piers’. Above the ground floor the walls were built from 250,000 bricks, and arched throughout. Strong kauri storey posts ran right through from the cellar, carrying cross-beams fourteen inches by ten inches which took the floor joists.

Stores were spread over three levels with an entrance on Cumberland Street and a lift capable of raising loads of up to 1,500kg at a time. They housed the firm’s imported goods, which included tea, tobacco, sauces, hardware, guano fertiliser, and many other things. The office entrance was on Vogel Street, and the first floor included separate rooms for each partner of the firm, a general office for about eight clerks, and a room for commercial travellers connected with the firm. The office partitions were kauri and cedar, with glass on the upper part. An impressive counter was framed in cedar with sunk panels of plain kauri, raised panels of mottled kauri, and fitted with mouldings in rewarewa (New Zealand honeysuckle).

Robert Forrest designed the building, which was one of his earlier works after he gave up being a building contractor to become a full-time architect. King and Co. were the contractors for the bricklaying, and John Blackie for the carpentry work. The Vogel Street and Cumberland Street facades were essentially identical. Renaissance Revival was the style used for their design, which included pilasters, quoining, a bold cornice, and a high parapet and pediment (with volutes and acroteria) which masked the gable ends of the roof structure. Each facade was cemented and tuck-pointed, ‘to give it a lighter appearance’.

Detail from an 1885 view, showing the Vogel Street frontage before the erection of buildings on the south side. The Union Steam Ship Company head office is the prominent building at the centre, and the large Donald Reid stores can be seen at the right. (Toitu / Otago Settlers Museum 57-121-1)

Guano advertisement from the Bruce Herald, 24 October 1893 p.3 (Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand)

James Hogg (c.1839-1903), senior partner of Hogg, Howison, Nicol & Co.

A second building, immediately to the south, was erected for Hogg Howison between 1887 and 1888, and let to the Mutual Agency Company of New Zealand. Its design closely resembled the first building, the most obvious difference being that the outer bays of the first and second floor facades were given pairs of windows rather than single ones. It was later occupied by Remshardt & Co. (wool, skin, and hide merchants), and later still by Milne Bremner Ltd (wholesale wine, spirit, and grocery merchants). It survives, but its facades were stripped of decoration in the 1940s and it is no longer the close match with its neighbour that it once was. Between 2006 and 2008 the Milne Bremner Building was redeveloped and strengthened to a high standard by Adrian Thompson and his company Hyperstella.

View from Cumberland Street showing the Milne Bremner Building when it was occupied by Remshardt & Co. The facades of the two buildings were very similar but not identical.

Hogg, Howison, Nicol & Co. wound up in 1895, and their building was taken by Scoular Bros & Co. (importers) from 1896 to 1900. From 1903 to 1938 it was owned and occupied by Paterson & Barr Ltd, ironmongers and hardware merchants. They soon built an iron yard and store for heavy goods on the half section immediately to the north, and in 1929 they commissioned the architect W.H. Dunning to design a second three-storey warehouse for that site, to work as an extension. Tenders were called in December 1929 and Thomas Ferguson was awarded the contract. The brickwork and mouldings of Dunning’s design suggest something transitioning from the so-called ‘Queen Anne’ style, which was really eclectic rather than characterised by the architecture of Anne’s reign. The glazing has a more modern aesthetic.

Paterson & Barr moved to High Street in 1938, where they continued to trade into the 1980s. The tyre and rubber merchants E.W. Pidgeon & Co. occupied a portion of the Vogel Street building from 1938 to 1962. A large fire in 1942 gutted the upper part, which included the softgoods factory of J.W. Bradley and its fifty workers. It may have been after the fire that the prominent cornices, gable ends, and elaborate parapet ornamentation were removed, and the tuck-pointed brickwork to the facades rendered. These features are not present in an aerial photograph dated September 1946.

From 1952 to 1989 the buildings were home to the Dunedin Working Men’s Club. Established in 1938, this was a social club which had a bar and provided facilities for darts, snooker, pool, indoor bowls, and table tennis. In 1976 the club boasted a membership of over 1,800. It admitted women from 1980 and in 1989 it changed its name to the Dunedin Metropolitan Club and moved to Melville Street.

The building is looking rather scruffy these days, but hopefully it will play an important part in the revitalisation of Vogel Street that has included the recent sympathetic redevelopment of the nearby NMA and Donald Reid buildings.

Detail on Vogel Street

Vogel Street frontage, with the 1929 building on the left

Cumberland Street frontage

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 18 April 1881 p.4 (tenders for bricks), 6 May 1881 p.4 (tenders for foundations and construction), 10 January 1882 p.2 (description on completion), 3 February 1887 p.3 (fire), 25 August 1942 p.2 (fire), 28 August 1942 p.4 (fire), 22 December 1976 p.16 (history and description of Dunedin Working Men’s Club), 10 March 1989 p.3 (admission of women), 28 February 1989 p.5 (name change and removal of club to new premises); Evening Star, 3 December 1929 p.2 (call for tenders), 7 January 1930 p.2 (contract to Ferguson)

Other references:
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, vol.4 (Otago and Southland Provincial Districts), 1905.
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
Telephone directories
Dunedin City Council permit and rates records

Prince of Wales Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other references:
Baré, Robert. City of Dunedin Block Plans (Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, [1889])
Jones, F. Oliver. Structural Plans of the City of Dunedin NZ (‘Ignis et Aqua’ series [1892])
McKay, Frank. The Life of James K. Baxter (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1990, p.98)
Tod, Frank. Pubs Galore: History of Dunedin Hotels 1848-1984 (Dunedin: Historical Publications, [1984])
‘Ocean Views’ in NZ Today, no.35 (Jul/Aug 2010) pp.64-65
Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters’ Associations of New Zealand, block plans, 1927
Stone’s, Wise’s and telephone directories

Temperance Hall (The Choral Hall)

Built: 1873-1874
Address: 21-27 Moray Place
Architect: Robert Forrest
Builder: James Gore

An early lithograph of the Temperance Hall (Toitū / Otago Settlers Museum)

This post continues the theme of public halls with the Oxford Buildings, known originally as the Temperance Hall and later as the Choral Hall. Completed in 1874, this venue was erected for the Dunedin Temperance Hall Company, a group formed chiefly by members of the Pioneer Lodge of the Temperance Order of Good Templars. The building was intended for the use of various local temperance groups, which were then part of a large, vigorous, and influential movement. They aimed to fight what one local clergyman described as ‘great evils arising from intoxicating drinks’. The hall was also available for general hire.

On the ground floor were offices and the ‘lower hall’ or meeting room, which measured 25 x 41 feet. On the first floor was the larger ‘upper hall’, which measured 72 x 43 feet and contained sitting room for 750 people. This hall had a stage and gallery and an ‘elliptical cove’ ceiling of varnished kauri with sunlights of stained glass. Kauri timber was used throughout the building. The facade was designed in a simple Renaissance Revival style, with rustication and round-headed windows on the ground floor, and curved and triangular pediments above the windows on the first floor. The building was described in the Otago Daily Times as being of a ‘plain but substantial character’.

The architect was Robert Forrest and the hall was one of his early works in his transition from the role of building contractor to the role of architect. The building has been mistaken for a William Mason design due to confusion with an unrealised theatre project that G.R. West put forward for a nearby site around the same time. The builder was James Gore, who submitted a tender of £2,778. The foundation stone was laid by the Mayor, Andrew Mercer, on 26 December 1873, following a procession in which 1,200 people took part. A bottle placed in the stone contained a scroll signed by officers of various lodges, newspapers, coins, and a company prospectus. The building officially opened with a soiree, concert, and dance, on 14 August 1874.

Otago Daily Times, 11 March 1878 p.1 (from Papers Past)

For decades, balls were held (the floors were designed with this in mind), dancing lessons given, and many concerts and other entertainments put on. The Kennedy Family were among the first to appear in the hall with their performances of popular Scottish ballads in 1874. The world billiards champion John Roberts played here in 1876, and the tight-rope walker Henry Morris (‘The New Zealand Blondin’) performed in 1878. A waxwork exhibition featured likenesses of the Kelly Gang and other famous people. One series of chamber music concerts was organised by Raphael Squarise and Arthur Barmeyer through their Otago Conservatorio of Music. A four-day Maori Carnival was held 1902.

Religious meetings were held in the building for nearly 40 years. The Salvation Army’s first New Zealand meetings were held at the hall on 1 April 1883, both preceding and following the better-known outdoor gathering commemorated by a brass plaque on Cargill’s Monument. The Army continued to use the hall for three years. From 1886 the Open Brethren hired it, and it was at this time that the name of the building was changed from the Temperance Hall to the Choral Hall. The Brethren were led by the evangelist Alfred Brunton, who had earlier preached at Farley’s Hall. He led Brunton’s Choir, a group of up to 100 singers that was known throughout Otago, favouring the new style of emotional (and sometimes sentimental) Moody and Sankey songs. This ministry through music may explain the adoption of the Choral Hall name. Brunton died in 1900 and the Brethren continued to hold their meetings in the hall until 1920, when they moved to a new building.

Many clubs and societies met in the Choral Hall. The Dunedin Burns Club held meetings and gave concerts, and from 1891 to 1906 the Otago Art Society held its annual exhibitions in the building. Frances Hodgkins, then just beginning her career, was among those who exhibited. There were also many political meetings and lectures, the latter including such topics as ‘Reincarnation as a Factor in Evolution’ (by a theosophist) and ‘Eighteen Months in the Canadian Far North’ (for the Otago Institute).

11 July 1889 was a significant day in the history of New Zealand. The inaugural meeting of the country’s first women’s union, the Tailoresses’ Union, was held at the Choral Hall and Rev. Rutherford Waddell gave a speech denouncing working conditions and ‘sweated labour’ in factories. This contributed to the breaking ‘sweating scandal’ that led to the Sweating Commission of 1890, which was in turn instrumental in the passing of the Factories Act and other legislation by a new Liberal Government.

Otago Daily Times, 14 July 1890 p.1 (from Papers Past)

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) met in the hall and the Women’s Franchise League of New Zealand grew out of this, holding its inaugural meeting at the Choral Hall on 28 April 1892. This group played a pivotal role in promoting women’s suffrage and widely circulated the petition that was so influential in the successful campaign for women to be given the vote.

In the early 1920s the first-floor hall was converted to a clothing factory for Butterworth Brothers, who employed about 40 staff on the premises, putting their robe department in the gallery and machinists on the main floor. A fire broke out on 16 March 1927, the same day that thousands of people gathered in the streets for the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York. The blaze extensively damaged the first floor and roof, but the ground floor (where the auctioneer Spedding used the old lower hall) escaped with little more than water damage. The building was rebuilt, but the panelling that can be seen in the hall today suggests that the polished kauri ceiling was lost. The space was later used by Sharland & Co. (wholesale druggists) and the Dunedin Frock Manufacturing Company.

ChoralHall

The Temperance Hall Company sold the building as early as 1882, due to debt and the difficulty of competing with newer halls. In the late nineteenth century it was owned by D.C. Cameron and in the early twentieth century it passed to the Taylor Trustees. In 1932 they employed the architects Miller & White to design extensive alterations to the building which were carried out by the Glue Construction Company at a cost of £2,500. This saw the removal of the lower hall and the building of three shops on the ground floor. A new verandah used Wunderlich pressed metal, while shop fronts featured Australian rose mahogany woodwork, decorative leadlights, and orange and black terrazzo slabs. This work was described in the Evening Star as being in ‘ultra-modern style’. The main staircase was rebuilt in a new location and a lift installed by Turnbull & Jones, for which a small penthouse was added to the roof. The first floor facade decoration seems to have been left unaltered at this time, but in 1944 it was stripped of its ornamentation and given a plainer style that was then fashionable. A new name, ‘Oxford Buildings’, was added to the parapet in relief lettering.

The auctioneers Spedding’s (succeeded by Scandrett’s) took one of the shops. Eliza Squire (a milliner and seamstress) occupied the middle one from 1939 and remained there for twenty years. The other shop, at 25 Moray Place, was occupied by Modern Books from 1943 to 1954. This was run by the Dunedin Co-Operative Book Society (one of just a few bookshop co-operatives in New Zealand), which had socialist ideals and aimed ‘to foster the reading and writing and production of books, pamphlets, circulars and other publications of a nature that will promote an active and intelligent interest in progressive ideas and activities’. The shop specialised in New Zealand books, history, music,and philosophy, as well as general literature. Landfall editor Charles Brasch was involved with the management and day-to-day running of the shop, which was frequented by the local literati. Janet Frame sometimes browsed there in its last year or so, hoping to ‘glimpse one of the literary figures of Dunedin or one visiting from up north’. From roughly 1956 to 1976 the same shop was occupied by Catholic Supplies.

The old upper hall became the Manhattan Lounge in 1960. The space remained essentially unchanged but the old gallery became a bar (originally a coffee bar) with a dance area on the floor below. The Lounge was a popular venue up to the 1980s, and later became the Manhattan Theatre. At the time of writing it is used by the Vertical Aerial Dance studio, which offers specialist pole dancing classes. The shops are now occupied by Modern Miss (vintage clothing), and Whiteroom (sellers of designware, furniture, lighting, and contemporary art). The building looks well kept but the grey exterior colour scheme is a little at odds with the warm colours of the terrazzo.

A lot more could be included in the story of this building. In pulling together various strands I’ve been impressed by the national significance of its social and cultural history. It’s a frequently overlooked treasure, easily worthy of registration as a category I historic place.

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Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times, 25 March 1873 p.2 (meeting for proposed hall), 14 April 1873 p.2 (meeting – site put forward), 17 May 1873 p.2 (formation of company), 14 August 1873 p.3 (West’s proposed hall), 27 November 1873 p.4 (tender accepted), 17 January 1874 p.2 (Rev. James Clark on alcohol), 21 January 1874 p.6 (laying of foundation stone), 26 June 1874 p.2 (progress), 7 August 1874 p.3 (description – nearing completion), 15 August 1874 p.2 (opening and description), 21 August 1874 p.2 (finishing touches), 29 August 1874 p.8 (description), 18 September 1876 p.3 (John Roberts, billiards champion), 25 August 1882 p.3 (buildings to be sold), 28 September 1882 p.2 (sale), 27 June 1883 p.3 (lease to Salvation Army), 8 June 1889 p.2 (Sweating Scandal meeting), 29 April 1892 p.3 (Women’s Franchise League meeting), 5 July 1920 p.4 (Open Brethren move out), 17 March 1927 p.10 (fire), 18 March 1927 p.13 (fire); Evening Star, 17 March 1927 p.6 (fire), 20 September 1932 p.2 (alterations), 24 January 1933 p.1 (alterations).

Other references: Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory; Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory; telephone directories; Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans; Barrowman, Rachel, A Popular Vision: The Arts and the Left in New Zealand (Wellington, 1991) pp.125-127; Frame, Janet, An Angel at My Table (New York, 1985) pp.126-129; Stacpoole, John, William Mason: The First New Zealand Architect (Auckland, 1971); Hocken Collections MS-2758/0288 (Miller & White plans)

St Kilda Hotel

Built: 1898-1899
Address: 2 Prince Albert Road
Architect: Robert Forrest (c.1832-1919)
Builder: Joseph Eli White

The original St Kilda Hotel on the corner of Prince Albert and Bay View roads was a single-storey wooden building erected about 1872. Its owner, John Pugh Jones, was refused a license that year but gained one in June 1873. Jones was a Welshman and a pre-gold rush settler who had worked in Dunedin as a bootmaker for many years. His wife was Elizabeth Harris Jones. Advertisements for the hotel described it as substantial with splendid views, and ‘being in close proximity to the ocean, it offers special inducements to those in ill health or desirous of inhaling the wholesome and invigorating breezes of the South Pacific’.

In 1875 ‘extensive alterations’ were made to the St Kilda Hotel, including additions that raised it from one to two storeys. Jones became the first mayor of St Kilda that year and the first borough council meeting was held in the building. The hotel had strong connections with local sport:  rugby club meetings were held here, race horses were kept in the stables, and at least one live pigeon shoot took place. J.D. Hutton purchased the hotel from Jones around 1880.

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The first proprietors, Elizabeth Harris Jones and John Pugh Jones. Image kindly supplied by Josie Harris (family collection).

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The St Kilda Hotel as it appeared c.1873. Image from private collection.

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The hotel following additions made in 1875. Image kindly supplied by Josie Harris (family collection).

A flood in 1877 saw two feet of water through the ground floor of the hotel, but a worse disaster took place on 24 June 1898 when a fire started on the second floor and most of the fourteen rooms in the building were gutted. The beer was saved! The damaged building was sold and in August architect Robert Forrest called for tenders to erect a replacement. Forrest (c.1832-1919) was by that time one of the oldest architects still practicing in Dunedin, and another example of a contractor who had made the transition to architect. In Forrest’s case, his health had prevented him from continuing as a builder. He designed two of Dunedin’s larger hotels, the Sussex in 1880 and the Excelsior in 1888. He had earlier been the contractor (but not architect as it’s sometimes said) for the Prince of Wales and City hotels. Forrest was the favourite architect of Speight’s Brewery, having designed  an enormous malt house (destroyed by fire in 1940), the Shamrock Building at the Rattray/Maclaggan intersection, and private residences for company directors.

The new St Kilda Hotel was ready for occupation by January 1899. The exterior of the building was admired, the Otago Daily Times report making a typically exaggerated claim that ‘no expense [had been] spared to secure architectural beauty’. The design with red brick and cement facings nods to the Queen Anne style fashionable at the time, but the form is more Italianate than anything else. The balcony with its cast iron fretwork is a pretty feature, and from here there was a ‘splendid land and sea view’ where there is now a very different scene (!) due to reclamation and development.  The report stated that ‘the domestic arrangements correspond to those in a well-appointed private mansion’ and included hot and cold water baths. A large dining room and a billiard room were among other features, and the hotel’s position on the tram line made it a convenient one.

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The north elevation of the hotel c.1912. Image: DCC Archives (two photographs digitally stitched together)

There must have been many interesting events in the hotel over the years and I can only include a couple here. In 1907 William Luby was sentenced to two months hard labour for using obscene language (‘words of the filthiest possible kind’) to a woman behind the bar. The judge allowed the request of witnesses to write the words down rather than repeat them. In 1935 the wife of the licensee, along with a barman, was fined for running an illegal gambling den in the bar.

For a period from the late 1930s the Massetti family owned and operated the hotel. Saverio (Jack) Massetti was an Italian immigrant and three generations of the family were very well known in the hospitality industry in Dunedin, with Ray Massetti opening La Scala Restaurant in Alton Avenue, Musselburgh, in 1955.

Jack Massetti and patrons, c.1940. Image: Hocken Collections MS-3189/047. E.A. Phillips photographer.

Ray Massetti, barmen, and patrons, c.1940. Image ref: Hocken Collections MS-3189/047. E.A. Phillips photographer.

In 1969 the hotel was given a tavern license and so it no longer offered accommodation, becoming the St Kilda Tavern rather than the St Kilda Hotel. One of the later licensees was Ray Pearson, who like Jones before him was a mayor of St Kilda. A large dining room was created in the upstairs portion in 1983. The St Kilda Borough Council held its final meeting at the hotel in October 1989, having held its first meeting in the previous building 114 years before. The same year the hotel underwent major renovations and on-site premises of the TAB opened. The TAB outlet is now self-service, and there are also ‘one-armed bandit’ pokie machines.

The exterior of the building has retained most of its 1899 features, although it has lost a few chimneys, some of the brick has been plastered over, many minor alterations have made their mark, and it now has one of those in-your-face corporate colour schemes (Speight’s). ‘Your friendly local pub’ looks likely to remain a popular bar and restaurant for many years to come.

The St Kilda Tavern in 2012

Top image: Hocken Collections MS-3189/047. E.A. Phillips photographer.

Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times, 4 September 1872 p.2 (license refused), 4 June 1873 p.5 (license granted), 14 January 1875 p.3 (extensive alterations), 22 July 1876 p.3 (election campaigning), 17 September 1877 p.2 (pigeon shoot), 25 June 1898 p.4 (fire) 29 July 1898 p.4 (sale), 20 August 1898 p.5 (call for tenders), 19 January 1899 p.4 (ready for occupation), 17 June 1899 p.8 (description), 11 December 1989 p.18 (re-opening); New Zealand Tablet, 16 July 1875 p.19 (advertisement); Clutha Leader, 9 February 1877 p.5 (flood); Otago Witness, 10 August 1904 p.54 (obituary for John Pugh Jones), 20 February 1907 p.49 (obscene language case); Evening Post, 16 February 1935 p.15 and 29 March 1938 p.8 (illegal gambling)

Other references: Tod, Frank: Pubs Galore (Dunedin, 1984).