Tag Archives: Terraces

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.

ChapmansTerrace4

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 

Gleeson’s Terrace

Built: 1903-1904
Address: 618-626 Great King Street
Architect: Percy William Laing (1859-1915)
Builders: Peter Campbell and/or Henry Charles Foster

This terrace is one of the most unusual and distinctive in Dunedin. Its balconies with bullnose verandahs and lashings of decorative cast iron fretwork would look quite at home in Melbourne but are almost exotic here. Terraces featured significantly in Dunedin’s early housing and more than twenty rows still stand from their heyday period of 1876-1912, not including terrace-like pairs of semi-detached houses. There were once many more. The simplest ones were working-class tenements but the fancier ones were marketed to white collar workers and professionals. They were a good investment option for early landlords, particularly before electric tram services opened up the suburbs, and with land in the industrialised central city at a premium.

I’ve titled this post ‘Gleeson’s Terrace’ because these houses were built for William Gleeson, but as far as I know this was not a name used historically. Gleeson (1841-1917) was the proprietor of the Rainbow Hotel in George Street and in 1902 he also owned the Annandale Arms, a two-storeyed wooden hotel which stood on the site of the terrace. The Annandale Arms was refused a license in June that year and the old building was soon torn down. In October tenders were called for the erection of the terrace. In addition to the three two-storeyed ‘villas’ at the front of the property, a row of four single-storey dwellings was built at the rear. These survive but cannot be seen from the street and are only accessible via a private right-of-way (so I haven’t included photographs of them).

After the terrace was built the next-door neighbour on the southern side sued Gleeson, as the building encroached onto her land and it was claimed that water swept from its roof onto hers. She was awarded some damages and it was ordered that decorative features at the top of the building that projected over her property be removed.

The builders were Peter Campbell and/or Henry Foster. The architect was Percy Laing, whose signature can be seen on the deposited plans on file at the Dunedin City Council. Laing was a Dunedin boy who went to Otago Boys’ High School and was trained by that pre-eminent Dunedin architect, R.A. Lawson. He afterwards went to Melbourne where he was employed by N. Billing & Son. After returning to Dunedin he worked with Robert Forrest before establishing his own practice in 1903, the year this terrace was built. Laing died in a climbing accident near Ben Lomond saddle in 1915, at the age of 56. His other designs include Ramsay Lodge at 60 Stafford Street and the Kensington Hotel (later remodelled in art deco style).

This terrace is a little old-fashioned looking for 1903 and could easily be mistaken for an earlier building, although the front walls and fire walls perhaps give it away as later. It is derived from a style popular in Australia in the 1880s and the architect’s time working in Melbourne largely explains the connection, although it would be interesting to know what his client’s instructions were. The deposited plans differ from the finished building in that they show a balustraded parapet with finials. They also show a cornice that was probably built and later removed.  The plans don’t show the iron lacework as it appears. This was produced very nearby at Barningham & Co.’s Victoria Foundry in George Street (opposite Knox Church), and possibly chosen straight from their catalogue. The company’s name can be seen at the base of the verandah posts. Barningham’s were well-known for manufacturing the ‘Zealandia’ brand of coal ranges and their 1903 advertisements referred to ‘verandah castings of all kinds’.

The first resident of the southernmost house (then number 308) was Frances Grant, who taught singing and piano. The other two houses were occupied by painter/decorators. Two of the three houses were soon converted to flats (upstairs and downstairs), and for this reason new front doors were installed. Few tenants stayed long and occupants included a butcher, a draper, engineers, a brewer, a grocer, a police sergeant, a railway guard, and a barman. Special mention should be made of the Lindsay family. Robert and Sara Lindsay’s family moved into the southernmost house around 1928. Robert was a blacksmith. Annie Lindsay remained there until her death at the age of 97 in 2007, when the house was still in very original condition, retaining its kauri fireplace surrounds with tile insets. The houses now appear to be used as student accommodation, being handy to the university.

Otago Daily Times, 4 February 1907 p.6. The street numbers were changed in 1910 and 308 corresponds with the present 618.

The terrace looked pretty rough in 2009 but by 2010 a lot of love, money, and expertise had obviously gone into renovations and restoration. The balcony no longer slumps and mismatching timber railings put in over the years have been removed and replaced with replicas of the original ironwork. The result is impressive.

Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times, 2 June 1903 p.4 (license refused to Annandale Arms), 27 October 1903 p.6 (call for tenders), 4 December 1903 p.7 (Gleeson fined re drainage), 5 August 1905 p.3 (legal dispute re land), 4 February 1907 p.6 (advertisement for Frances Grant); 6 April 1915 p.3 (death of Percy Laing), 28 April 2007 (advertisement in property supplement); New Zealand Tablet, 1 October 1903 p.32 (Barningham advertisement).

Other references: Dunedin City Council deposited plans, Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory, Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory.

Moray Terrace (Gladstone House)

Built: 1880-1881
Address: 57-65 Moray Place
Architect: T.B. Cameron (c.1837-1894)
Builders: Not known

This terrace draws attention to its history with the date ‘1880’ conspicuously displayed below a chimney stack. It was in August 1880 that architect T.B. Cameron called for tenders to build ‘three three-storey residences, in Brick, in Moray place and View street, for Mrs Muir’. The buildings were finished in 1881 and named Moray Terrace. By 1884 that name had been changed to Gladstone House, presumably because Mrs Muir was an admirer of the British (Liberal) Prime Minister, W.E. Gladstone. The building cost was £4,000.

Who was Mrs Muir? Amelia Muir (1814-1893) was one of Dunedin’s pioneering business women. She was the daughter of Thomas Allen, land steward (or senior gardener) to William IV and a prominent horticulturalist in South Australia from his arrival there in 1836. It is recorded that Mrs Muir’s godmother was King William’s youngest daughter, Amelia FitzClarence, and Dr Hocken noted that it was ‘said’ that she was the natural daughter of George IV. Although this last claim is very unreliable, it’s interesting to think of it as the subject of local gossip! Mrs Muir arrived in Dunedin in 1861 and soon opened Bedford House, a boarding house on Bell Hill. She was later compensated when the house was removed and the land excavated. She was active in the St Paul’s Guild, the Benevolent Institution, the Servants’ Home, and the Female Refuge. She was also a zealous supporter of Otago Girls’ High School where her daughter was the first dux. Her son was a photographer and the senior partner in the firm Muir & Moodie. Her property included houses further up View Street and some family connection remained over forty years after her death, when ‘Muir Court’ and ‘Allen Court’ were built at the top of the street.

MorayTerrace_1883

The architect, Thomas Bedford Cameron (c.1837-1894), had worked in the United Kingdom, Ballarat and Auckland before coming to Dunedin in 1878. He is best known in Dunedin for designing Caversham Presbyterian Church and for winning the competition for the design of the town hall (though R.A. Lawson’s design was eventually used). He also designed a building similar in style to Moray Terrace at 83 Moray Place, which was replaced by the Stuart (now Kirkland) Chambers in 1947. Just a few years younger than Lawson, Cameron was a very accomplished architect to whom I’ll return in the next month.

Moray Terrace is an elegant, pretty, and well-preserved example of Cameron’s work, and another Dunedin example of the revival of the renaissance Italian palazzo. It’s unusual for a terrace – do any others in New Zealand have three-storey street fronts? The many interesting details include pilasters (some with Corinthian capitals and others with rosettes) that distinguish the separate houses. Lost detailing at the ground foor obscures that distinction to some degree, and ball finials above the parapet are also missing. Remarkably, the chimney stacks have  survived more or less unaltered and the one facing View Street remains a focal point of the overall design. Few original features survive inside, at least in the apartments recently advertised for sale. In recent decades the exterior has had a variety of colour schemes: one predominantly blue, another brown, and now one in the ubiquitous fashionable grey.

Moray Terrace has had many interesting occupants. Braemar House girls’ school, run by Jessie Dick, was briefly housed here (before moving further up the street) and the pupils of this ‘Ladies’ Seminary’ included a young Frances Hodgkins. From the mid 1880s Caroline Wells ran a higher-class boarding house in the terrace. Residents in early years included a sharebroker, an artist, a gaol warder, a tobacconist, an  engineer, and a bank clerk. In 1885 a con artist in the building posed as a theatrical agent and persuaded many to part with their money with the promise of getting them work on the stage in Australia. By the time his scheme was rumbled he had disappeared.

Shops were put in the ground floor at some point, their fronts projecting from the facade. The building was home to the Gladstone Milk Bar from about 1952 to 1965. In the 1980s a ghostly apparition, dressed in 1950s denim jeans and jacket, was rumoured to haunt the buildings.

Gladstone House was extensively renovated in 1987 when it became known as Shand House. In recent years the original name, Moray Terrace, has been reinstated.

Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times 31 August 1880 p.4 (call for tenders), 13 April 1881 p.2 (accident to contractor), 18 July 1881 p.1 (to let notice – Moray Terrace), 20 January 1882 p.1 (Braemar House advertisement), 25 July 1883 p.2 (cost), 1 October 1884 p.1 (to let notice – Gladstone House), 17 June 1885 p.3 (‘An Ingenious Swindle’), 28 November 1893 p.6 (Mrs Muir’s obituary), 16 December 1893 p.5 (corrections to obituary), 13 July 1985 p.29 (Lois Galer’s history).

Other references: Stone’s and Wise’s directories; F&J 11/27 (Hocken Collections); Jones, David and Ian Westergaard. ‘Whither the First ‘Botanical Garden’ for Adelaide: The Role and Contribution of Thomas Allen’ in Past Matters: Heritage, History and the Built Environment (Palmerston North: Massey University, 2006).