Tag Archives: Warehouse Precinct

Milburn Lime & Cement Co. head office

Built: 1937-1938
Address: 90 Crawford Street
Architects: Salmond & Salmond
Builders: W.H. Naylor Ltd

View from Crawford Street, 2015

The Dunedin building industry enjoyed a brief period of reinvigoration between the Great Depression and the Second World War. Many big businesses were keen to project an image of vitality and modernity, and the clean lines of the Milburn Lime and Cement Company’s new head office in Crawford Street certainly did that, while in its fabric the building was a showpiece for the company’s chief product.

Concrete construction revolutionised building methods in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the Milburn company was largely built on its rapid development. The firm was founded in 1888, when a syndicate of businessmen acquired the assets of James McDonald, including established lime works at Milburn and a small cement works at Walton Park. The new company’s principal cement works were at Pelichet Bay, from 1890 to 1929, and then at Burnside from 1929 to 1988. Milburn took over many smaller businesses and became one of Otago’s largest companies. In 1937, it commissioned the architects Salmond & Salmond to design a two-storey office head office building in Crawford Street.

The lime works at Milburn (Hocken 89-025)

The cement works at Burnside, opened in 1929 (Hocken 89-025)

Magazine advertisement, 1929

Crawford Street lies on land reclaimed in the 1860s and 1870s, and extrapolates the original street plan of Charles Kettle. As with Filleul Street, there is a story that it was named after someone who happened to be in the surveyor’s office on the day a name was needed, although at best that’s probably a simplistic tale. In this case the man was George Crawford, an early settler who arrived on the Philip Laing in 1848. From 1869 the site of the Milburn building was owned by Briscoe & Co., which established a yard there. In 1905 an open shed was erected on part of the site, and the following year a brick store building designed by James Louis Salmond was built. An adjoining, almost identical, store was constructed in 1907. This work coincided with the erection of a four-storey warehouse, designed by Walden & Barton, on the site immediately to the north. Briscoe’s kept stores on the western side of Bond Street until 1956, and retained the large warehouse until 1972, but sold the ones on the site we’re looking at to Milburn in 1935. The buildings there were all removed, including their foundations, but the specification for the new building allowed for the reuse of roof timbers and ironwork, as well as bricks (for internal partitions).

An 1865 view showing reclamation work. Crawford Street runs along the edge of the harbour and the arrow points to the approximate site of the Milburn building. (ref: Alexander Turnbull Library PAColl-3824)

2. Detail from 1874 photograph by Burton Bros, looking south and showing Crawford Street on the left (ref: Te Papa C.012064)

J.L. Salmond’s drawing for a store which stood on part of the site from 1907 to 1937

Council of Fire & Accident Underwriters’ Associations block plan, amended and updated to about 1940 (from the 1927 edition), showing the Milburn (formerly Briscoe) site in yellow, and the other Briscoe sites in green.

The partner in Salmond & Salmond responsible for the design was Arthur Louis Salmond (1906-1994), son of practice founder James Louis Salmond. He had been in the first intake of full-time students at the Auckland University School of Architecture in 1926, and after completing his thesis requirement from Dunedin undertook further study in London, before returning to Dunedin to join his father’s practice in 1933. He was quick to employ modernist methods and style, notably in a private house for T.K. Sidey in Tolcarne Avenue. His design for the Milburn building a few years later sits in striking contrast with the adjoining warehouse on the Police Street corner, designed by his father thirty years before. The Plunket Society’s Truby King Harris Hospital at Andersons Bay (1938) is a particularly good example of his work around this time, and for further reading I highly recommend report on that building prepared by Michael Findlay and Heather Bauchop for Heritage New Zealand.

Tenders for the construction of the Milburn building closed in April 1937, but the lowest received (£14,990) was considered too high, so plans were modified and in June W.H. Naylor Ltd were contracted to build more modest premises at a cost of £10,635. A separate central heating contract of £735 was fulfilled by George W. Davies & Co., and the building was ready for occupation by July 1938. There was warehouse storage on the ground floor with dual vehicle entrances to both Crawford and Bond streets, allowing large vehicles to drive right through. Administrative offices were on the first floor, where a further three suites of offices were let out.

In many ways the building was conventional – essentially a box with hipped roofs behind its parapets – but the Moderne facades were strikingly different from almost anything else in the city at the time, even if the nature of the site gave little scope for some of the streamlining effects and variations of form associated with this style.

Salmond & Salmond drawing dated June 1937

Salmond & Salmond floor plans dated June 1937

From Crawford Street, c.1938 (ref: Hocken Collections 89-025)

View from Crawford Street, c.1938 (Hocken 89-025)

Facade detail (Hocken 89-025)

View from Bond Street, c.1938 (Hocken 89-025)

Unusual features were glass bricks, which let filtered light into the stairwell facing Crawford Street, as well as adding visual interest to the exterior. The building was one of the first in New Zealand to use them. The Evening Star reported that they had previously been used in one private residence in Dunedin, and that they were also to be incorporated in the rebuilding of the Dunedin Savings Bank in Dowling Street (another Salmond & Salmond project). This slightly predated the first major use in Auckland: extensive additions to the Chief Post Office made in 1938.

Glass blocks were used in the nineteenth century, but their practicality as a building material was advanced markedly by Friedrich Keppler, who in 1907 patented a system for building walls of prismatic bricks within reinforced concrete frameworks. The architects Walter Gropius and Le Cobusier were among the early adopters of glass bricks, and they were famously used in the latter’s Maison de Verre of 1928-1932. Mass-manufacture only occurred after the Owen-Illinois Glass Company of Chicago introduced the first pressed-glass blocks in 1932, and promoted them at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933. In 1935 the company brought out Insulux, the first widely-used hollow glass brick, and other American manufacturers soon followed with similar products.

A building reported as ‘Australia’s first glass brick building’ was erected for Thomas H. Webb & Co. in Adelaide in 1935 using imported bricks. From 1936 Insulux bricks were produced in Australia under the Agee brand by the Australian Window Glass Pty Ltd, and they found extensive use almost immediately. They were used to prominent effect in Alkira House in Melbourne, and by the end of 1936 were being incorporated into the design of residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings. The Milburn building used the Agee bricks, which were imported through local agents Paterson & Barr.

Advertisement from the New Zealand Herald, 23 February 1938 p.17

The Hecht Company’s Streamline Moderne warehouse in Washington DC was also built in 1937, when glass brick was at the height of its international fashion. Image courtesy of ‘Joseph’ on Flickr.

Facade detail, showing glass bricks

The building was constructed on a floating foundation with a concrete base, due to the reclaimed nature of the land. The concrete structure above was reinforced with steel rods, and the bluestone aggregate given a Snowcrete white cement finish, tinted to a cream colour. On the Crawford Street elevation the company name was set back into the plaster and flanked by a simple ornamental frieze, with additional touches of colour (red or green) used sparingly to suit the unfussy design. Mosaic and other tiles to the foyer were green and gold in colour, complementing the finish of the masonry. A simpler facade for Bond Street featured the company name prominently in relief lettering, and as on the other elevation the windows were steel framed with slender profiles. Skylights were installed in the roof, which was covered with Fibrolite corrugated asbestos sheets. The interior was simply fitted out, with rimu skirtings and internal doors, and a main reception counter of Oregon with a kauri top.

Early tenants in the building included Donaghy’s Rope & Twine Co., Otago Fruit & Produce, the Ewing Phosphate Co. (owned by Milburn), and the Otago-Southland Manufacturers’ Association. In 1963 Milburn merged with the New Zealand Cement Company to form New Zealand Cement Holdings Ltd. The head office remained in Dunedin until 1974, when it moved to Christchurch and the company vacated the Crawford Street building. New Zealand Cement Holdings became Milburn New Zealand in 1988 and now trades as Holcim New Zealand Limited (a division of a company headquartered in Switzerland).

In 1974 the building became the office of the large textile firm Mosgiel Limited, which remained until the company collapsed in 1980. The old vehicle entrances have now long been closed and those on Crawford Street converted to shop fronts. The one to the south had been enlarged in 1965, giving the east elevation a slightly lopsided look.

Occupants over the past three decades have included (dates approximate):

WEA Education 1984-1992
People’s Market 1988-1992
Timbercraft Furniture 1993-1997
Reidpaints Limited 1993-2003
Arthouse Dunedin Inc. 1994-1995
Dunedin Craft Centre 1996-2003
Central Lighting Warehouse (Bond Street) 2000-2011
Gordon Crichton Lighting 2000 to date
Elite Fitness 2003-2008
Jennian Homes 2009 to date
McRobie Studios (Bond Street) 2011 to date

The original exterior finishes have been painted over a number of times over the years and the last repainting (a project supported by the Central City Heritage Re-use Grants Scheme) happily reduced the impact of signage and decluttered the Crawford Street facade. The building looks well cared for, and has been kept productive. A still simpler colour scheme to Crawford Street would restore some of the horizontal emphasis and clean simplicity of the original design. The building remains evocative of the the style and spirit of its age, and in a way it stands as a monument of concrete, to concrete.

This post has some of my favourite images used on the blog so far – found trawling the uncatalogued depths of the massive collection of Milburn records held by the Hocken. I hope you enjoy them. I especially love the shot of the crisp new building with the smoky urban skyline behind!

View from Bond Street, 2015

Tiles in Crawford Street entrance

Newspaper references:
Otago Witness, 31 March 1898 p.9 (naming of Crawford Street); Otago Daily Times, 17 January 1863 p.5 (reclamation), 16 February 1864 p.9 (reclamation), 29 April 1864 p.5 (reclamation), 18 May 1864 p.11 (reclamation), 23 August 1865 p.4 (reclamation), 24 December 1873 p.3 (Dunedin and Clutha Railway line), 19 March 1906 p.1 (tenders), 30 November 1993 (Timbercraft); Evening Star, 29 June 1937, p.2 (description), 8 March 1938 p.3 (glass brick in Dunedin);The Mail (Adelaide), 18 January 1936 p.12 (Thomas H. Webb building in Adelaide); Sydney Morning Herald, 25 June 1936 p.11 (manufacture of glass bricks); The Farmer and Settler (Sydney), 26 January 1938 p.16 (glass bricks in Australia)

Other sources:
Stone’s, Wise’s and telephone directories
Block plans
Salmond, Arthur L. ‘Ten Generations’ (Hocken Collections MS-3889)
Salmond Anderson Architects records (Hocken Collections MS-3821/148, MS-3821/1824, MS-3821/2287)
Milburn New Zealand Limited records (Hocken Collections 89-025, 89-085 box 6)
Briscoe & Company Ltd records (Hocken Collections MS-3300/071)
Permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)
Findlay, Michael and Heather Bauchop. ‘Truby King Harris Hospital (Former), DUNEDIN (List No. 9659, Category 1)’ (Heritage New Zealand, ‘Report for a Historic Place’, 2014)
Morton, Harry, Carol Johnston, and Barbara Chinn. Spanning the Centuries: The Story of Milburn New Zealand Limited (Christchurch, Milburn New Zealand, 2002)
Neumann, Dietrich, Jerry G. Stockbridge, and Bruce S. Kaskel. ‘Glass Block’ in Thomas C. Jester (ed.) Twentieth-Century Building Materials: History and Conservation (Washington DC: McGraw-Hill, 1995)
Patterson, Elizabeth A. and Neal A. Vogel. ‘The Architecture of Glass Block’ in Old House Journal. Vol xxix no.1 (Jan-Feb 2001) pp.36-51.

J.W. Swift & Co. building

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Otago Education Board offices (Reed’s Building)

Built: 1897-1898
Address: 33 Jetty Street
Architect: John Somerville (1834-1905)
Builders: Day labour and contracts overseen by Adam Nichol (clerk of works)

Two years ago this Victorian office building was close to demolition, but Lawrie Forbes took it on and now the building has cheerier prospects thanks to the essential structural and maintenance work he has carried out. It’s for sale again, awaiting the next chapter in a colourful story that has already seen it used as the administrative headquarters for school education in Otago, the head office of a major publishing firm, and the premises of seed merchants, artists, an experimental dentist, and many more besides.

In the mid 1870s a few sheds on stilts occupied the site, which was then on the foreshore where the old jetty (after which Jetty Street is named) met Crawford Street. The city block we know today was reclaimed a few years later, but by the early 1890s there were still no permanent structures on it apart from the Harbour Board’s building. Between 1896 and 1897 the large Agricultural Hall complex was erected, and soon afterwards followed the corner building that is the subject of this post. It was built as office accommodation for the Otago Education Board and was designed by the board’s architect, John Somerville. I haven’t found the original specification, but Somerville detailed his recommendations in a letter dated 16 June 1897. The foundations were to be concrete, the timbers mostly rimu and kauri, and the walls brick. The estimated cost was £2,000. A clerk of works, Adam Nichol, was employed to oversee the construction carried out by day labourers (employed directly by the board) and contractors.

Work began in July 1897 when the Otago Witness described the proposed structure as a plain but handsome one, on one of the best sites in the city, that would ‘complete a block of fine buildings, and add very materially to the architectural beauty of the locality’. The report described the interior arrangements, which at this point were planned around a main entrance on Crawford Street: ‘Entering from this street, there will be a large vestibule (10ft by 16ft), to be used by the public, the business being transacted, as is now the practice at the board’s office, through a sliding window, communicating with the clerks’ room. On the right will be the board room (26ft by 19ft), and on the left the clerks’ office (33ft by 17ft), and off this the strong room will be situated. At the rear will be the secretary’s office (18ft by 17ft), which will communicate with the clerks’ room, and behind this again will be the inspector’s room (23ft by 14ft). A store room for school appliances is provided for in the plans, as also are lavatories, which are to be fitted up on the most modern and approved principles. Ascending the staircase, which is to be 10ft wide, the upper floor will be reached by two flights of stairs. This floor will practically be a duplicate of the ground floor. Two of the rooms are intended for the architect, another is to be used as a store room for the board’s records, stationery, &c, and the remaining rooms are already leased to one of our public bodies. The rooms on the ground floor will be 16ft high, and those on the upper floor 15ft. Ventilation and lighting will also be satisfactorily attended to. The building is to be built of brick with cement facings, and the brickwork is to be tuck-pointed, in keeping with the Agricultural Buildings.’

The architectural style is essentially Renaissance Revival, perhaps transitioning to Queen Anne. Tall, round-headed windows at ground level are a distinctive feature. Pediments (made from Oamaru stone), pilasters, quoins, and other mouldings have been used in a conventional and effective way, though the parapet may be a little heavy-looking for the relatively understated composition and shallow profiles below. The overall effect is dignified and the generous proportions are highlighted by contrast with the neighbouring Harbour Board building.

Facade detail showing profiles.

Controversy plagued the development of the building. The first and most serious row was when Somerville changed the position of the entrance from Crawford Street to Jetty Street (to allow for a better ground floor layout) without getting committee approval. Somerville claimed he acted on the instructions of the secretary, Patrick Pryde, who in turn denied it. Pryde was a divisive and allegedly autocratic figure with strong supporters and detractors among both teachers and elected officials. The committee was already characterised by its squabbling, and the incident set off yet another round of arguing and point scoring. An inquiry was held into the unauthorised alteration, the strained relations between architect and secretary, and the truthfulness of the claims that had been made. This was reported at length in newspapers, with articles including little moments such as: ‘Mr Ramsay made some inaudible remark, to which Mr J.F.M. Fraser replied: I’m not addressing you, Mr Ramsay; you are somewhat too insignificant for me’. The eventual resolution was to reprimand both Pryde and Somerville.

More trouble came about over the bricks used in the building and the way in which they were procured by the architect, with further suggestion of lack of due process. Pressed machine-cut bricks were only produced locally by C. & W. Gore at Wingatui, however, the architect found difficulty in obtaining a sufficient supply at a good price. The cost of brick was about to rise and this led to some urgent decision making. Handmade wire-cut bricks were obtained from three different suppliers (including Shiel’s at Caversham) to begin the building work. The structure was carried up to a ‘considerable height’ with the common bricks, and pressed bricks from Gore Bros were obtained for the later part of the construction. This meant the facades were cemented rather than the outer course of bricks being tuck-pointed and left exposed, which would have matched the neighbouring Agricultural Hall (later His Majesty’s Theatre). A Te Papa image gives a partial view of the building in November 1897, before the brickwork was rendered.

By the end of 1897 building had progressed to the point where plumbing and plastering work was being carried out. Yet more controversy occurred when the clerk of works, Adam Nichol, was dismissed from the board’s service as the project drew to an end. The committee argued about whether or not he should have been retained for further building projects. They had opted to minimise the amount of contract work used on the project and Nichol’s role was consequently more significant than his title might suggest. According to one board member (J.J. Ramsay, a supporter of Nichol’s): ‘If a job of the magnitude of the board’s offices were being carried out by contract a clerk of works would be employed for that job alone at a larger salary than Mr Nichol receives; and yet Mr Nichol has been doing the work of the contractor in addition to that of clerk of works — setting-off the building, making the moulds, selecting the material, and conducting the whole work.’  Nichol died suddenly a few months later, while on inspection work at the goldfields.

The wide main staircase was built with kauri timbers by William Bragg.

The wide main staircase was built with kauri timbers by William Bragg.

Staircase and other woodwork.

A decorated plaster ceiling in the largest of the ground floor rooms. Key and Ashton were the contractors for this work.

On 26 April 1898 the Otago Daily Times reported that ‘Eduction Board officials were busily engaged yesterday and on Saturday last in removing to the new offices between the Agricultural Buildings and the Harbour Board’. The final cost was reported as £3189, which was over a third more than the original estimate. Contractors included William Bragg for the staircase, Key & Ashton for plastering, and Scott & Hodges for plumbing. The Architect’s Department letter books held in the Hocken Collections record detail of the various labourers employed.

The Education Board retained offices in the building for 27 years, and the Otago High Schools’ Office also had rooms. In 1925 it was purchased for £5,000 by A.H. Reed, for his business the Sunday School Supplies Stores, which he had established in 1907. He let part of the ground floor to the Atlas Insurance Company, and upstairs rooms to an accountant and the Otago Council of Sunday School Unions. Gavin McLean, in his history of Reed Books, writes that the ‘debt burden worried the Reeds, but they had good tenants and the Reeds Building, prominently displayed on letterheads and emblazoned with their names, gave them a feeling of security, while stamping their presence firmly on the bookselling and publishing scene’. In 1932 A.W. (Clif) Reed became a partner and opened a Wellington branch, and the firm diversified from predominantly religious publications into secular fiction and non-fiction. The company ultimately became New Zealand’s largest publishing house. A.H. Reed closed the Dunedin office in 1940 but retained ownership of the Jetty Street building for a few more years. A.H. & A.W. Reed (as it was then known) consolidated on its Wellington operations. Alfred was a prolific author in his later years and famously walked from Cape Reinga to Bluff when he was 85 years old (one of a number of walking feats). He died in 1975 at the age of 99.

Cradle roll certificate featuring huia, produced by A.H. Reed. Image kindly supplied by the New Zealand Presbyterian Archives Research Centre.

A.H. Reed in 1956. Ref: Negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. EP/1956/0388-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23103662

In 1945 the building was purchased by John Stuart Skinner (1894-1983), a Gallipoli veteran and prominent Dunedin businessman who served as president of the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce. Skinner was a seed and grain merchant and had established his firm J.S. Skinner & Co. in 1924, with offices in the neighbouring Donald Reid & Co. building. He later recalled: ‘At the end of hostilities Donald Reid & Co. informed me that with staff returning they would require all the upstairs office space and while there was no immediate haste to leave they suggested I look for other premises. As I had been offered Reed’s building next door a year previously I wasted no time in getting in touch with Mr Reed and completed the purchase the same day to our mutual satisfaction at the original price of three thousand five hundred pounds.’ Skinner & Co. vacated the building around 1979  but continued in business until the firm was acquired by Combined Rural Traders (CRT) in 1996. The building was known as ‘Skinner’s Building’ during this time and was still listed under this name in Wise’s directory as late as 1995. Skinner’s tenants included the Atlas Assurance Company (which was in the building c.1925-1958), company agents and secretaries, insurance agents, John Roberts Laidlaw (sharebroker, c.1946-1956), F. Meredith & Co. (indent agents, c.1968-1983), and A.S. Falconer (grain and seed broker, c.1945-1959). Brigadier Alexander Smith Falconer (1892-1966) had served as commanding officer of the 23rd Infantry Battalion in the Second World War.

Doors to first-floor offices.

From the 1980s the use of the building shifted more to residential and studio use. Artists with rooms in the building included Jeffrey Harris, Dave Sarich, Faith McManus, and Fleur Yorsten. Bryan Spittle (of the band Mink) lived in the building in the early 1990s. The experimental dentist Donald Ritchie (1912-1996) also worked and later lived on the premises. He advocated a method he called ‘trace mineral therapy’ to combat tooth decay and had earlier developed a mineral-based powder called Dentamin, which he was not permitted to sell in shops.

Despite many changes of use, the building retains much of its original character. Two ground floor window openings have been lowered to create a second entrance from Jetty Street (at the corner, altered in 1935), and a further entrance on Crawford Street. A pediment has been removed from the Crawford Street facade at parapet level. The interior has decorative ceiling plasterwork, original doors, skirtings, picture rails, architraves etc. (with varnished finishes), and the original generously-proportioned principal staircase with turned balusters and curved rail. Original fireplace surrounds have been removed, but exposed openings or replacement surrounds generally remain. A strongroom is still in place in the first floor, as does a smaller vaulted storeroom. Various internal changes include the addition of mezzanine levels and kitchens.

Lawrie Forbes purchased the building in 2012 and has carried out emergency works to bring the structure to a level of code compliance. Subsidence had badly compromised the south party wall, where the adjoining frontage of His Majesty’s Theatre was demolished in the 1970s. Forbes has significantly strengthened the structure by rebuilding this, and obtained financial assistance from the Dunedin Heritage Fund to carry out the work. What’s next? Take a look at the property listing – you might have some ideas!

Both levels were built with high ceilings.

There were numerous fireplaces, all of which have been modified. This register looks as though it might be one of the originals.

A vaulted store room. There is also a separate strong room on the first floor.

Acknowledgment:
Thanks to Lawrie Forbes (Zealsteel) for providing access to the building.

Newspaper references:
D Scene 16 February 2011 (‘Building may be demolished’); Evening Star, 17 September 1897 (to the editor), 24 January 1898 (editorial); Otago Witness, 25 August 1897 p.36 (Education Board Enquiry), 30 September 1897 p.29 (editorial – ‘twopenny squabbles’), 30 September 1897 p.36 (to the editor), 7 October 1897 p.18 (to the editor); Otago Daily Times, 2 September 1897 p.3 (‘Education Board’), 4 September 1897 p.4 (editorial), 6 September 1897 pp.3-4 (to the editor), 9 September 1897 p.3 (to the editor), 17 September 1897 p.4 (meeting report), 18 September 1897 p.6 (letter to the editor re bricks), 25 September 1897 p.6 (to the editor re bricks), 28 September 1897 p.6 (to the editor re bricks), 22 October 1897 p.4 (to the editor re bricks), 17 December 1897 p.6 (inspector of works), 21 January 1898 p.4 (inspector of works), 3 February 1898 p.3 (to the editor – ‘A Shameful Transaction’), 3 February 1898 p.4 (editorial), 7 February 1898 p.3 (to the editor), 8 February 1898 p.3 (to the editor), 9 February 1898 p.3 (to the editor), 12 February 1898 pp.3, 6 (to the editor), 14 February 1898 p.3 (to the editor), 18 February 1898 p.4 (to the editor), 21 April 1898 p.7 (busyness), 28 October 1966 p.8 (obituary for A.S. Falconer), 20 December 1983 (obituary for J.S. Skinner),  24 September 1996 p.5 (obituary for Doanld Bruce Ritchie), 8 August 2012 p.7 (‘“Huge job” of restoring Reed’s Building starts’), 31 January 2014 (‘Developer to sell historic building he saved’); Tuapeka Times, 28 August 1897 p.3 ‘Dunedin Gossip’), 4 September 1897 p.3 (‘Dunedin Gossip’), 18 September 1897 p.3 (‘Dunedin Gossip’).

Other references:
Stone’s, Wise’s, and telephone directories
Baré, Robert, City of Dunedin Block Plans. (Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, [1889])
Calvert, Samuel, engraver after Albert C. Cook, ‘Dunedin’, supplement to the Illustrated New Zealand Herald, July 1875.
Jones, F. Oliver, Structural Plans of the City of Dunedin NZ, ‘Ignis et Aqua’ series, [1892].
McLean, Gavin. Whare Raupo: The Reed Books Story (Dunedin: Reed Publishing, 2007), pp.19-60.
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)
Otago Education Board, ‘Contract book’ (Hocken Collections AG-294-30/12)
Otago Education Board, ‘Architect’s Department letter books’ (Hocken Collections AG-294-39/09, AG-294-39/10, AG-294-39/11)
Otago Education Board, ‘Scrapbook’ (Hocken Collections AG-294-18/02)
‘John Stuart Skinner: An account of his life written during 1976-1978’ (Hocken Collections Misc-MS-1000)

Union Steam Ship Company offices

Built: 1882-1883
Address: 49 Water Street
Architect: David Ross (1828-1908)
Builders: Bateman & Stait

The office building as it appeared in the 1880s, with the store building adjoining it at the left rear. Image: Burton Brothers, Hocken Collections S10-221c.

The Union Steam Ship Company was a giant of colonial commerce. It became both the largest shipping company in the southern hemisphere and the largest private employer in New Zealand. Established by James Mills in Dunedin in 1875, it grew out of a shipping business started by John Jones and later managed by Mills. By 1882 it operated coastal and inter-colonial shipping routes, with a fleet of twenty-one steamers and a further four on order. At this time its head office was at the corner of Liverpool and Bond streets.

Flag of the Union Steam Ship Company. Image: Museum of Wellington City and Sea 2005.4970.90.

Flag of the Union Steam Ship Company. Image: Museum of Wellington City and Sea 2005.4970.90.

In September 1882 the company appointed prominent local architect David Ross to design a new office building and adjoining store, to be built on recently reclaimed Harbour Board land fronting Water Street. The following month the contract for construction was awarded to Bateman & Stait, who submitted the lowest tender of £6,526 (less £375 if minarets and parapets were left off). Although this was a large sum for a Dunedin building, it was modest compared with the cost of a ship. the company’s two largest new ships of 1883 (the Tarawera and the Hauroto) each cost over £60,000. The building project took approximately a year to complete and was finished around November 1883.

Detail cropped from Muir & Moodie photograph. Image: Te Papa C.012197.

Detail cropped from Muir & Moodie photograph. Image: Te Papa C.012197.

Detail cropped from Muir & Moodie photograph. Image: Te Papa C.012197.

The main building was brick, rendered in cement plaster, with concrete foundations and a half-sunk Port Chalmers stone basement that rose six feet above the footpath. The roof was slate. Elaborately decorated elevations were described in the Otago Daily Times as ‘tasteful, although anything but gaudy’, and it was reported that ‘in point of external appearance the structure will not be rivalled by any other of its kind in the city’. The style was essentially Renaissance Revival (‘modern Italian’), but the fanciful roofline featured an array of minarets that probably drew from English Tudor models, and a square-based dome was suggestive of the French Second Empire style. Some proposed decorative details, ‘an emblematic design (globe, anchor, cable &c.) enclosing a clock’, were not finished as intended.

Ross had spent time in both France and the United States a few years before, and what he saw there likely influenced the design, which was a departure from his earlier work. While the building was still under construction he won the competition for the design of the Auckland Harbour Board offices with a strikingly similar composition.

That looks familiar! David Ross also designed the Auckland Harbour Board offices in Quay Street, Auckland (1883). Its exterior decoration was removed in 1958 and the building was demolished in 1969. Image: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W890.

The Tarawera, one of the large new vessels which entered service for the Union Company in 1883. Image: John Dickie, Alexander Turnbull Library 1/2-031815-G http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23208710

The Tarawera, one of the large new vessels which entered service for the Union Company in 1883. It cost £61,000 to build and was 2,003 gross tons. Image: John Dickie, Alexander Turnbull Library 1/2-031815-G http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23208710

The neighbouring store building fronting Cumberland Street had a simpler but complementary design and the combined height of its four storeys were the same as the three storeys of the offices. The store included a hydraulic goods lift at one corner and the building reportedly contained ‘every convenience for the reception and despatch of the various materials needed on board the Company’s steamers’. The top storey of the office portion was also initially used as storage space. On the lower floors were counters, desks and other carved timber fittings of polished cedar and walnut. The large shipping hall on the ground floor (22 x 32 feet) featured parquet flooring and handsome cornices, and the vestibule was paved with Minton tiles and had iron gates. On the same level were also a smoking room for visiting ship captains, a reading room (with ‘all the principal Colonial journals’), a telephone room (for that relatively newfangled invention), the Engineer’s Office, and other staff offices. The first floor included the board room, James Mills’ own office, the deputy manager’s office, and the bookkeeping department. Heating was by F.H. Asbury’s low-pressure steam system, and there were also open fireplaces in some rooms.

The building remained the head office of the Union Steam Ship Company from 1883 to 1921. The company’s headquarters then transferred to Wellington and the Water Street building was used by the Dunedin branch office, which only needed the ground floor. Meanwhile, on the corner diagonally opposite, the National Mortgage and Agency Company had outgrown its premises, so in 1929 the Union Company and the NMA came to an arrangement to exchange buildings. The two firms had a long association, and had mutual directors for some years.

Established in 1864, the NMA was a stock and station company that became the second largest wool broker in New Zealand. The company’s historian, Gordon Parry, described its fortunes in the interwar years: ‘Bemused by topsy-turvy trading conditions and unpredictable price fluctuations, the National Mortgage bounced through the troublesome time of the late 20s and into the threatening 30s rather like one of its staff members following a narrow sheep trail in a poorly sprung runabout’.

The outward appearance of the building changed little in its first decade of NMA ownership, the few alterations including new signage and lettering (for example ‘USSCo’ was changed to ‘NMACo’’ on the basement grilles). In 1940, however, it underwent a major transformation. Most of the building’s original exterior decoration was destroyed in remodelling designed by architects Mandeno & Fraser (the specification is initialled by W.H. Mandeno). Such facelifts were common in Dunedin at the time, influenced by fashion and iconoclasm, and often triggered by maintenance issues such as crumbling masonry. Existing masonry was bolstered back or filled in, and surfaces replastered in a fashionable quasi-Art Deco style, with restrained decoration and contrasting colour effects. The end result didn’t look quite like a twentieth century building, as the overall proportions and most of the windows were unchanged. The stone basement was not altered and the grand entrance doors were also retained.

The building at the time of the NMA centennial celebrations in 1964. Image: Hocken Collections S10-221e.

The building in 2010, prior to redevelopment.

The building in 2013, after redevelopment.

NMA moved its head office to Wellington in 1970 and the Dunedin building became a branch office. The company merged with Wright Stephenson & Co. in 1972 and the new company (Wrightson NMA) vacated the Water Street premises in 1977. The building was renamed Vogel House and during the 1980s and 1990s it was used as a rehearsal venue for bands and other musicians. The Dunedin Sound group The Chills had a space on the south of the first floor and recorded their single Doledrums there in 1984. Other groups that rehearsed in the building included the Kaftans, the Moomins, and Jim’s Live Deer Recovery. The building was later the venue of a two-week squat installation by artist Georgiana Morrison (1995) and the show ‘Dereliction’ by Kim Pieters (1996).

Steve Macknight’s NMA Properties Ltd redeveloped the building between 2010 and 2012. The exterior was renovated to approximately its 1940 appearance, an exception from this being the addition of a modern cornice at parapet level. Paint was stripped from the stonework and plasterwork, and the latter was recoloured. Few of the original interior features had survived earlier alterations, however, remnants of plaster cornices and entrance features were retained. Brick walls and roof structures were exposed, making the most of surviving historic fabric. Major earthquake strengthening (to 67% of the new building standard) included new poured concrete floors and tying back of walls. The redevelopment was granted $20,000 from the Dunedin Heritage Fund in 2010 and won the 2013 Dunedin Heritage Re-Use Award. Current tenants include Wine Freedom and Psychology Associates.

It is a pity that the building is not the spectacular example of Victorian exuberance it once was, but this in no way diminishes its significance as a rich site of cultural and economic history. Historian Gavin McLean describes it as ‘New Zealand’s most important office building’. I nominated it as an historic place to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust in 2010 and it is yet to be assessed, but thanks to the work of enthusiastic local developers its future looks good, and it is once more an attractive and widely appreciated part of Dunedin’s Warehouse Precinct.

The main entrance, including original doors.

Original basement stonework and grille.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times, 10 September 1883 p.4 (description), 28 July 1977 p.11-18 (removal of Wrightson NMA); Evening Post (Wellington), 6 March 1929 p.8 (building exchange).

Other references:
Baré, Robert. City of Dunedin Block Plans (Dunedin: Caxton Steam Printing Company, 1889).
Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory
Telephone directories
‘A Citizen’ [John Bathgate]. An Illustrated Guide to Dunedin and its Industries (Dunedin: Fergusson & Mitchell, 1883), pp.140-142.
McLean, Gavin. 100 Historic Places in New Zealand (Auckland: Hodder Moa Beckett, 2002), pp.122-123.
Parry, Gordon. NMA: The story of the first 100 years: The National Mortgage and Agency Company of New Zealand Ltd 1864-1964 (London and Dunedin: NMA. 1964).
Minutes. Union Steam Ship Company records, Hocken Collections AG-292-3/1/2
Tabulated abstracts of accounts. Union Steam Ship Company records, Hocken Collections AG-292-7/9/1
Mandeno & Fraser specification for 1940 remodelling (with thanks to Oakley Gray architects)
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans (with thanks to Glen Hazelton)
Information about band rehearsals in the building supplied by James Dignan.

Facade detail.

View across the intersection of Water and Vogel streets.

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).