Tag Archives: Victorian

City Boot Palace

Built: 1885-1886
Address: 202-206 George Street
Architect: James Hislop (1859-1904)
Builder: Arthur White

Advertisement from supplement of the ‘Evening Star’, 10 April 1893. Ref: Eph-E-BUILDINGS-Dunedin-1893-01. Alexander Turnbull Library http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23156921.

The City Boot Palace! The name conjures up images of a vast array of footwear in a setting of Victorian opulence, perhaps presided over by some magnificently moustachioed manager. It may not have been quite like that, but Dunedin’s Boot Palace did have an air of grandeur which set it apart from most George Street buildings of the 1880s.

The building was erected for Benjamin Throp (1845-1933), a dentist who occupied the upstairs rooms and leased out the lower level. Born in Halifax, Yorkshire, Throp arrived in Dunedin with his mother in 1861 and qualified as a dentist in 1868. In the early days he used only hand instruments, and his equipment and supplies had to be imported from England and the United States, often taking over a year to arrive. Up to 1900 the only anaesthetic he used was cocaine, and he later produced his own nitrous oxide (laughing gas). He also made his own gold plate, having worked as a goldsmith during his youth in Australia. Throp’s meticulous notes held in the Hocken Collections record that he made 37,162 extractions over 37 years.

One day, when fitting the gold mining entrepreneur Alex McGeorge with some false teeth, Throp was offered a partnership in the Electric Gold Dredging Company. This proved to be a lucrative venture that ultimately netted him between £20,000 and £30,000. He retired in 1905 to take up farming at Moa Flat Estate, but his son Frank Throp continued the dental practice at the same address until 1942. Two other sons were killed in action during the First World War. Another dentist, Andrew Aitken, kept the rooms up to 1958, and during this period the building remained in the ownership of the Throp family.

Architect James Hislop designed the building, which was erected on the site of the old Dornwell & Rennie butchery. Tenders were called in June 1885. The contractor was Arthur White and the cost approximately £2,800, but White went bankrupt during the course of the contract because his tender had been too low and he found he couldn’t afford to pay all of the creditors connected with the work.

The building has a foundation of Port Chalmers stone that rises above the footpath, and the two storeys over this are constructed of brick rendered with cement plaster. An abundance of ornamentation includes pairs of Corinthian pilasters, arched and triangular hoods, rustication, and more mouldings than you can shake a stick at. Originally, there was a bold and elaborate parapet with balustrades and pediments that balanced the composition. A pillared verandah for the George Street shop front featured decorative cast ironwork. The overall effect was more ostentatious than elegant, but the building made a confident statement on the busy corner site. It is a good example of the later phase of Victorian Renaissance Revival architecture, which in its more florid forms drew from increasingly eclectic influences combined in unconventional ways. Hislop provided a further example of this movement a few years later when he designed the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition buildings of 1889 in a flamboyant quasi-Moorish style.

The Evening Star published a description in January 1886:

Among the new buildings which are being erected in the City, that designed by Mr James Hislop for Mr Throp, and situated at the corner of George und St Andrew streets, is deserving of description. It has two storeys, and is of Italian design. Constructed of Port Chalmers stone and brick, with cement, it presents a very fine appearance. The exterior of the building is, however, more than equalled by its internal disposition and finish, and its novel and chaste fittings do credit to all concerned. In the lower portion of the building a boot business is to be carried on, the apartments in the upper storey being utilised by Mr Throp in his profession as a dentist. The building has a frontage of 75ft to St Andrew street, and of 23ft 6in to George street, and its height from footpath to parapet is 38ft. The shop fronting George street is 40ft x 23ft 6in by 14ft 6in high, and a show-room behind this is 36ft x 22ft. The latter has a tiled floor and hand-painted windows, and, with the shop, is fitted up in a most picturesque style. Over the footpath in front of the shop there is a cast-iron verandah, roofed almost entirely with glass, and on the corner of the two streets stands a novel pediment containing the name of the premises, ‘The City Boot Palace.’ Three plate-class windows, 7ft6in x 12ft, which give light to the shop, are probably the largest containing one piece of glass in the City. The exterior of the shop is in picked red pine and American walnut. The first floor is approached from St Andrew street, and the entrance vestibule belonging to it is neatly tiled. At the top of the stairs there is a lantern light of especially neat design, and the different apartments are lighted with hand-painted windows. The nine rooms which are contained in the floor are all cemented and decorated with stencillings and paintings, which reflect infinite credit on Mr Scott, who had charge of this department of work. The rooms are all 12ft 6in high, and, with their tiled hearths, over-mantles, dadoes, etc., are most luxurious looking. Special attention has been paid to the ventilating of the building, and the system which Mr Hislop has worked upon cannot fail to be attended with beneficial results. An ingenious piece of mechanism in connection with the building is an electric bell, which rings as anyone ascends the stairs leading to Mr Throp’s apartment. It is worked by two steps as they are trod upon, and the mechanism is so arranged as to be temporarily thrown out of gear by anyone descending the stairs. If Mr Throp is to be visited by burglars, this little device may come in useful in more ways than one. This building has been in course of erection since July, and will be finished in a week or two.

Advertisement from the Otago Witness, 20 February 1907 p.84. Image from Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

Otago Witness, 10 June 1908 p.92. Image from Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

Throp took occupation of his rooms around the beginning of March 1886 , and the Boot Palace opened soon after. The City Boot Palace had been established in 1883, when it succeeded the business of the boot maker John Elliott. The same name was used elsewhere in Australasia: John Hunter’s City Boot Palace in Sydney opened in 1877, and both branches and separate businesses with the name operated in centres that included Adelaide (opened 1882), Brisbane (1888), Perth (1893), and Hobart (1906). In New Zealand there were boot palaces in cities and towns that included Timaru (opened 1885), Invercargill (1885), Oamaru (1886), Napier (1893), New Plymouth (1903), and Christchurch (1906). The name became almost generic and although there may have been some sort of licence or franchise agreement, the New Zealand boot palaces appear to have been independent businesses. The Dunedin manager from 1885 to 1908 was Joseph McLoy McKay, who in the Edwardian period ran humorous advertisements such as the one above, which emphasises the bargain prices and good value of the merchandise. Some featured the character ‘Parsimonious Sam’, whose penny pinching ways were satisfied by the deals to be had at the City Boot Palace, suggesting that they should be good enough for anyone.

The building in 1949, during its days as ‘Fashion Corner’. Perpetual Trustees records, Hocken Collections, S13-583b.

An evocative depiction of the intersection: ‘Street corner’ by Ralph Miller, conté and wash c.1945-1955. Reproduced by kind permission of Brian Miller.

A wartime advertisement for Fashion Corner from Otago Daily Times, 4 July 1944 p.3.

The boot palace ran for over 40 years and eventually vacated the building in 1929. It was then fitted with new shop fronts with mahogany facings and granite, and a new steel hanging verandah. The alterations were designed by the architects Mandeno & Fraser, and the contractors were the Love Construction Company. The women’s clothing store Fashion Corner opened for business in December 1929. It operated until 1958, when the ANZ Bank took the building as a branch office. It was around this time that the parapet ornamentation was destroyed and the St Andrew Street entrance moved. Old interior features have also disappeared through numerous renovations.

In 1983 the architects Salmond & Burt drew up plans for a new bank building on the site, but the scheme was abandoned. After nearly 40 years the ANZ consolidated on a new site in 1997. The ground floor is now occupied by the clothing retailers Jay Jays, making it once again a ‘fashion corner’. Most of the external character remains intact, and with some restoration perhaps the building will one day reiterate the vivacious statement it once made on this busy retail corner.

Newspaper references:
Otago Witness, 21 July 1883 p.29 (J. Elliott at 75 George St), 6 March 1886 p.16 (Throp’s new premises); Otago Daily Times, 30 May 1885 p.3 (Boot Palace business sold by Hislop), 1 April 1886 p.2 (Boot Palace in ‘new premises’), 21 April 1886 p.4 (Arthur White insolvency), 26 November 1889 p.6 (Hislop named as architect); Evening Star 5 June 1885 p.1 (call for tenders for removal of old buildings), 11 June 1885 p.1 (call for tenders for construction);30 January 1886 p.2 (description), 10 December 1929 p.5 (description of alterations).

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]
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
New Zealand Dental Journal, vol. 58 (1962) pp.88-89; vol. 76 (1980) pp.137-188
Sinclair, R.S.M. Kawarau Gold (Dunedin: Whitcombe & Tombs printers, 1962), pp.44-45.
Throp, Benjamin: Dental practice records book. Hocken Collections Misc-MS-0871.
Entwisle, Peter. Draft report DDPL110-35, Dunedin City Council Heritage Schedule Review (and further discussion with the writer).

Otago Harbour Board offices

Built: 1884 (remodelled 1936)
Address: 43 Jetty Street
Architect: F.W. Petre (1847-1918)
Builder: James Small

The Otago Harbour Board probably spent more money on construction and development than any other body in 1880s Otago, but they were quite frugal when it came to their office buildings. The Victoria Channel in the Otago Harbour cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to develop, but when the Board commissioned architect F.W. Petre to design new offices in March 1884, it was with the brief that the cost should be no more than £2,000.

The Board had been constituted in 1874, succeeding the Harbour Department of the Provincial Government. Its first purpose-built offices were erected in Cumberland Street in 1877 and demolished in 1885 because they impeded the completion of street realignment. The land selected for replacement offices at the corner of Jetty and Vogel streets was owned by the Board and had been reclaimed in works carried out in the late 1870s.

Francis William Petre (1847-1948) may have been the first New Zealand-born architect, and he earned the nickname ‘Lord Concrete’ for his innovations and many designs in that material. His best-known works included the Catholic cathedrals of Dunedin and Christchurch, and the Dominican Priory in Smith Street. His surviving commercial buildings are scarce, but include the Guardian Royal Exchange Buildings and Mansfield Apartments (both in Liverpool Street). Petre was at home working in both Classical and Gothic styles, but for the Harbour Board he used the Renaissance Revival (Italian) style generally favoured for commercial designs. The proportions and rhythm of the building (including arched windows to both floors) foreshadow his later design for the Equitable Insurance Building (Phoenix House). This more elaborate stone and brick building was erected between 1886 and 1887 on the corner of Rattray and Vogel streets, and shared with the Harbour Board offices the same builder and clerk of works.

Francis William Petre, architect.

Tenders for construction were called in May 1884 and James Small’s tender for £2,239 was accepted subject to ‘reduced cornices’. By December the building was close enough to completion for the Board to hold its first meeting in the new boardroom, and the final cost was recorded in their hefty ledger (now held in the Hocken Collections) as £2,590. The demand for reduced cornices is the likely reason that the proportions of the building were not entirely convincing, with the parapet looking a little mean in relation to the rest of the elevations. A small parapet pediment highlighted the main entrance on Vogel Street, but this entrance was later moved to Jetty Street, reorientating the building. The depth of the building was narrow, with the footprint being a U shape (almost an L shape) that left space for a small yard behind. This allowed valuable natural light to penetrate through windows in the rear wall, but the yard was progressively built over by later owners from about 1923 onwards.

The Harbour Board occupied the building from 1884 to 1899, when it considered such weighty issues as a proposed harbour bridge (a hot topic for some years), the strike of 1890, the construction of large new wharves, and the retrenchment that came with the long depression. In 1899 the Board’s offices moved to modest new premises and these were in turn replaced in 1912. Occupants of the Jetty Street buildings after 1899 included the Government Shipping Office, and the grain and seed merchants Ronaldson & Farquharson.

The building c.1935. The principal entrance is no longer in its original location, having been removed from the central bay facing Vogel Street to one of the bays in Jetty Street. (Toitū/Otago Settlers Museum 80-30-1)

The building after its 1936 remodelling. The old slate roof and chimneys remained in place. The entrance was again moved, this time to the far end of the Jetty Street frontage. It has a striking leadlight window. (Toitū/Otago Settlers Museum 80-27-1)

From 1923 to 1974 the building was the head office of Donald Reid & Co., one of Otago’s largest stock and station agencies.  The company’s offices had previously been in their nearby wool and grain store in Vogel Street.  Extensive interior and exterior remodelling in the Art Deco style was designed by the architects Stone & Sturmer in 1936. The following year the same architects designed a large new wool store for Reid’s in Parry Street. Architect Gorton R. Stone had travelled with a firm representative in Australia investigating store design, and appears to have been the partner that Reid’s principally dealt with.

The remodelling of Victorian buildings in Art Deco and emerging modernist styles was popular in Dunedin from the early 1930s onwards. Stone & Sturmer were also responsible for redesigns of the Masonic Hotel (Angus Motors), Royal Albert Hotel, and Bell Hill House. Mandeno & Fraser’s revamp of the Manchester Unity Chambers was another early example. 43 Jetty Street building still reads as a Victorian design due to the retention of most of the original fenestration and glazing. The rhythm of the longer facade with its bays and arches is a pared back version of what existed previously,  although new decorative elements were introduced through stepped mouldings and horizontal grooves. A new ground floor entrance across two bays incorporated large leadlight windows, and leadlights were also a prominent feature of the interior. The name ‘Donald Reid & Company Limited’  was added at parapet level in Art Deco lettering (this survives beneath hoardings).  Two bays on Vogel Street were replaced with utilitarian plastering and glazing (lavatories and services were moved to this location). The Love Construction Company was awarded the contract for the work (after submitting the low tender of £2,555) and exterior plastering was carried out by W. Ashton & Sons (£250).

In 1974 the offices of Donald Reid & Co. moved to 1 Vogel Street. Later occupants of their old premises included the photographer Ross Coombes. The Vogel street facade was again altered in 1976 when the former central bay was extensively altered with a large roller door put in at ground floor level and ‘Brownbuilt’ cladding installed above. Large hoardings at parapet level advertised Woodstock Furniture for many years, gradually losing letters like the Sunshine Foods sign in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (for those who know their seventies sitcoms).

In recent years the building has looked tired and rundown, but In October 2012 its owners received a $10,000 grant from the Dunedin Heritage Fund towards earthquake strengthening and adaptive re-use. It looks as though its next chapter will be a brighter one, and it will be interesting how the unusual layout is reworked, and if the exterior is closely returned to its 1880s or 1930s appearance. It is one of the earliest Vogel Street buildings, on a key corner site, and could become one of the gems of the Warehouse Precinct rejuvenation.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 16 May 1884 p.4 (plans accepted), 3 December 1884 p.4 (meeting in new offices), 12 May 1886 p.4 (Equitable Insurance).

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]
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
Minute book, Otago Harbour Board records, Hocken Collections (AG-200-11/02/06)
Ledger, Otago Harbour Board records, Hocken Collections (AG-200-11/13/02)
Minutes. Reid Farmers records, Hocken Collections (00-121)
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)
Angus, John H. Donald Reid Otago Farmers Ltd : a history of service to the farming community of Otago (Dunedin, 1978).

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

Lost Dunedin #4: Gillies & Street Building

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

OxfordBuildings_shops

ChoralDetail1

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)

Farley’s Buildings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Muir & Moodie postcard, c.1905

A Muir & Moodie postcard, c.1905

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

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

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

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

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

Newspaper references:

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

Other references: 

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