Before Tūranga – The Coachman Inn

The fourth in a series of posts that looks at the history of the central Christchurch sites on which your new library, Tūranga, has been built.

If you were standing in front of the spot now taken up by Tūranga’s Goods Entrance on Gloucester Street on the evening of 36 November 1872 you would have been looking across at a paddock which was, at that time, playing host to a circus.

Even with all the post-demo, gravel-strewn sections in central Christchurch today, it’s still strange to think of Gloucester Street as “paddocky”. But indeed it was, during this part of its history.

Gloucester Street looking paddocky, 6 April 1864, photograph by Alfred Charles Barker. Accession number 1949.148.771, CC BY-NC 4.0

A hotel then known as The Criterion had been built in such a paddock 9 years earlier in 1863 by someone named B. Jones. Not much is known about the first proprietor of The Criterion but more is known about their successor – by July 1864 The Criterion Hotel was under the management of local hotelier John “Jack” Coker.

Page 1 Advertisements Column 5, Lyttelton Times, Volume XXII, Issue 1261, 9 July 1864

Coker by this time had already declared his first (of several) bankruptcies, and had started a hotel on Cathedral Square which would later become Warner’s. He cut quite the figure about town, dressing in close-fitting suits, “top boots” and carrying a hunting crop, and would be involved with several landmark hotels in Christchurch, including, naturally, Coker’s Hotel on Manchester Street. Coker’s tenure didn’t last long. By 1866 the Criterion was in the hands of a Sgt. John Edward Darby.

The Criterion would have a run of landlords through to the turn of the century, with none lasting more that a few years (Darby fell into coma after a drunken and impromptu New Year’s Eve boxing match at Coker’s Music Hall and died a few days later in January 1867, having lost The Criterion several months earlier). Another landlord (and former police officer) Robert Wallace would move on from The Criterion only to die 5 years later from injuries sustained during a wrestling match, in 1888. It seems 19th century hotel-keeping appealed to a risk-taking sort of gent.

In 1892 William Burnip, an experienced hotelier, took over The Criterion renaming it, somewhat unimaginatively, “The New Criterion”. By 1902 the state of the two-storey wooden building was such that a continuation of the license (due for renewal in June) would only be granted if building plans for a new premises were submitted in March of that year.

Criterion Hotel, Gloucester Street, Christchurch [1902] This building was condemned by the Licensing Committee in 1902 and rebuilt. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 10, IMG0025
In early February of that year Burnip and his wife woke to find the hotel storeroom ablaze. No lives were lost but the hotel was gutted. The total insurance on the building and furniture was £1350, over $240,000 in today’s money. Whether there was a connection is anyone’s guess, but some papers in their coverage of the fire seem to have placed both sets of facts together in a pointed way that suggests the question was being asked, though not directly.

The new New Criterion rose like a phoenix from the ashes. The foundation stone for the new building was laid on 2 September 1902. The rebuilt Criterion was in stone and brick in a “Renaissance Revival” style and was built by W. H. Bowen. It was designed by Joseph Clarke Maddison, a prominent Christchurch architect who designed several hotels in the city including Warner’s Hotel, The Clarendon, and further east the Lancaster Park Hotel. One of his best known designs is the Government Buildings in Cathedral Square.

New Criterion Hotel, Gloucester Street, Christchurch, with a band standing outside. Ref: PAColl-5471-003. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22798264

Bowen had presented Burnip with a silver trowel by way of commemoration at the laying of the foundation stone but he may have wished it were a silver spoon instead. Due to the insurance company disputing the extent of the fire damage Burnip would receive less than half the insured amount and by 1904 he was no longer the sole licensee, having taken on Messrs Fox and Samson as partners. By 1906 he had passed the splendid new Criterion on to other hands. And that’s when the real fun started.

A couple by the name of Green took on the New Criterion and would go on to scandalise Christchurch.

Jessie Green was the daughter of Tuapeka hotelkeeper Daniel Bannatyne and had earlier run the Douglas Hotel in Dunedin with her first husband Frank Guinness who passed away in 1895. With second husband John George Green she took over the running of the New Criterion and by the following year their conduct had become a scandal that was reported up and down the country.

The New Zealand International Exhibition of 1906-1907 took place in Hagley Park and brought a great many visitors to the city (2 million people visited the Exhibition, though the population of New Zealand was only 1 million at the time). Perhaps it was this influx of visitors, some of whom may have been more inclined to “cut loose” while away from home, that encouraged Mrs Green in her “questionable” management of the hotel bar and staff.

Headline from NZ Truth, Issue 118, 21 September 1907

Rumours had been circulating for months about the “going ons” at the hotel and in September 1907 the Christchurch Licensing Committee heard evidence from a succession of barmaids – evidence that prompted the New Zealand Truth to speculate in its headline “LOW DOWN BROTHEL OR PUBLIC HOUSE“. The New Zealand Herald’s coverage was positively low-key by comparison preferring to distill the story to its main, eye-catching components with the simple declaration, “GIRLS AND CHAMPAGNE“.

Mrs Green, it would seem, employed more barmaids than was usual (seven or eight at a time!) and encouraged them to be “shouted” champagne by the customers. This of course lead to better takings, but also in some circumstances, the female staff were getting drunk and “retiring” to their rooms where they would also receive “visitors”. What went on behind closed doors nobody was indelicate enough to say outright but there was a strong suggestion of “indecency”.

As always the New Zealand Truth is a treasure trove of descriptive language about the whole affair, saying of the landlady,

…it would appear that Mrs Green, wife of the licensee, John George Green, is very partial to customers who plank down the boodle and shout fizz.

And of her husband, who seemed not to have much involvement in the running of the hotel, that he must either have been blind or “a consummate ass who shouldn’t have charge of a fruit-barrow”.

Unsurprisingly the Licensing Committee did not renew the Greens’ license and six months later they moved to Tauranga. In addition, all the barmaids (whether there was any suggestion they had participated in the “champagne shouting” or not) were fired, Blenheim native Henry Macartney became the proprietor, and the hotel was re-named The Dominion. When Macartney too moved on in 1908, the Marlborough Express was at pains to point out that “under his control the Dominion Hotel ranked as one of the best conducted in the city”, such was the need to distance an upstanding publican from the Criterion scandal.

Still, a hotel is a hotel and The Dominion had its share of dramas too, such as fires and burglaries. And in 1930 some alterations were made to the building by Francis Willis (architect).

In 1980 it was refurbished and reopened as The Coachman Inn, the name possibly a nod to Bruce & Coes, a passenger and parcel service, who in the 1860s had their stables and booking office next door. Later the upstairs bar would become a separate establishment operating as The Loft and specialising in Irish music (in the 1990s changing hands and becoming The Finbar), while downstairs the restaurant would be known as Excalibur’s Theatre Restaurant featuring players like local theatre legend Elizabeth Moody.

144 Gloucester Street ,Coachman Inn by Kete Site Admin is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ License

In the mid-1990s the Coachman was threatened with demolition but would eventually be acquired by Christchurch City Council due to the building’s heritage values, and would later become a protected building.

At the time of the earthquakes, the Coachman Inn operated as backpacker accommodation and was home, on its ground floor, to Fuji Japanese Restaurant.

Following the Boxing Day 2010 aftershock, the building was red-stickered, partly because a section of the parapet on the Britten building (105 Worcester St) had collapsed causing damage. The remaining piece of it was also a fall hazard. Part of the parapet of the Coachman had also collapsed on top of the roof of a smaller building at 146 Gloucester Street where The Press had its circulation and marketing teams. The Coachman was close to reopening when the 22 February 2011 quake damaged it beyond repair. It was demolished in July 2011.

Further reading

Before Tūranga – The Lyttelton Times

The third in a series of posts that looks at the history of the central Christchurch sites on which your new library, Tūranga, has been built.

Next to Cathedral Chambers/Hobbs’ Corner was the home of the Lyttelton Times and the Star.

The Lyttelton Times originally set up in Lyttelton with the printing press that arrived on the Charlotte Jane, one of the ‘first four ships’. They published their first paper 26 days after the printing press arrived in 1851 and the run continued till 1935. For a taste of the Times, we have digitised the first issue, 11 January 1851, for you to read online. Marvel at the adds for bullocks and unbroken fillies for sale and wonder at the plea by John Robert Godley, on behalf of the Canterbury Association, who were in desperate need of pickaxes and shovels.

While the headquarters started out in Lyttelton, the newspaper had an agency in Christchurch that sat around about the middle of Tūranga now. Here it is in 1859, facing Gloucester Street.

The Lyttelton Times agency showing the Gloucester Street frontage [ca. 1859]
The Lyttelton Times agency showing the Gloucester Street frontage [1859]. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 8, IMG0041
The Lyttelton Times moved its headquarters to Christchurch in 1863, after their two-storey wooden building was finished in 1862. Here’s what it looked like, if you were peering through the trees on the Square in 1863:

The Lyttelton Times office showing the frontage to Cathedral Square. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 8, IMG0040

Come out from the trees and this is what it looked like, still facing the square:

Image: A black and white photos of the Lyttelton Times' premises [ca. 1885]
The Lyttelton Times’ old premises [ca. 1885]. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 2, IMG0063
In the photo above, taken in 1885, you can see the flagstaff that was used to signal to the people of Christchurch when ships arrived in the port over the hills. If you knew the code, you could be in the Square and know that a brig was arriving from the North by the blue flag that would be waving at the head of the mast. Very handy if you knew which ship brought in the mail! It was an important spot in Christchurch for staying connected with the outside world.

On the right side of the photo is Warner’s hotel (where the Novotel is now) whose guests would complain about the noise of the printing press lasting long into the night (this wing of Warner’s was eventually demolished and replaced with a theatre (The Liberty, later The Savoy), the building intended to act as a buffer for sound and vibration. In later years the situation would be reversed. Following the demolition of the theatre, vacant space between the buildings became a beer garden for Warner’s hotel and bar, while the Times building by then had been converted to backpackers’ accommodation. Band performances and music in the beer garden were required to stop at a reasonable hour in order not to disturb the sleep of the guests in rooms next door. Later still, this wing of the building would be reinstated, and is now the only part of Warner’s that remains.

On the left in the above image is Cathedral Chambers. The taller building behind the Lyttelton Times was still part of the Lyttelton Times premises, which was added in 1884. While it looks fairly drab from behind, it’s pretty spectacular facing Gloucester Street. Here’s the handsome frontage (134-140 Gloucester St) in 1884:

Image: Black and white photo of the Lyttelton Times office showing the Gloucester Street frontage [1884]
The Lyttelton Times office showing the Gloucester Street frontage. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 8, IMG0039
Somewhat confusingly the building was home to 3 newspapers (the titles of which can be seen engraved into the front of the building): The Lyttelton Times, The Canterbury Times (a weekly started in 1865), and The Star (an evening paper started in 1868). All 3 papers were produced by the Lyttelton Times Company, and for different audiences and purposes.

You could also head down to the Lyttelton Times building to get things printed, just like you can do in Tūranga. We too can boast a large assortment of plain and fancy types, just like Ward and Reeves, the printers who worked from Lyttelton Times Office building.

Image: An advertisement from 1871 for War and Reeves printing, showing many different fonts
Star, Issue 883, 27 March 1871

Well the Lyttelton Times, they kept a-changing, and by 1903 had grown into the majestic beast below, with an addition designed by the Luttrell Brothers on the Cathedral Square side becoming the first building in New Zealand to adopt the Chicago skyscraper style. It was also known as ‘gingerbread style’ or even ‘streaky bacon style’. You can see why looking at the colour pictures of it – it does have a kind of foody look to it. With Oamaru stone facings on a Post Chalmers bluestone base, it was the tallest building on the Square at the time it was built. Here’s the new building decorating its corner of the square in 1904, a black and white photograph from our collection and a pen and ink watercolour by Raymond Morris:

The Lyttelton Times’ new premises, 1903. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 2, IMG0062
Raymond Morris’s painting, ‘Lyttelton Times Building (1906) Identifier: qsr-object:214465, Creative Commons BY-NC 3.0.

The Lyttelton Times changed its name to the Christchurch Times in 1929, then stopped publishing in 1935 because the competition was too great. When it ended, it was the oldest newspaper in the country. The building was still used for newspapers though – New Zealand Newspapers Ltd, formerly the Lyttelton Times Company, kept publishing the evening Star-Sun, which had started as the Star in 1868. In 1958 the Star-Sun moved out of this building to a new location in Kilmore Street, and changed its name to the Christchurch Star.

Once all the newspapers had departed, the building was occupied by several different commercial tenants over the years, including The Record Joynt and the fondly remembered Atlantis Market, described by journalist Russell Brown as “a long-gone hippie emporium”. Before the 2011 earthquake, there was a Tandoori Palace restaurant on the ground floor and Base Backpackers above. On the Gloucester Street side, the ground floor was home to a number of restaurants including Samurai Bowl, O-cha Thai, and Le Pot Au Feu. By August that year the building would be demolished.

Lyttelton Times Building in 2008 by Lisa T, with the new portion of Warners Hotel under construction at right, via Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.0

The connection of the site to Christchurch’s historical newspapers continues in Tūranga with our collection of back copies of local newspapers on microfilm, including the Lyttelton Times and the Star. Come and visit them on Tuakiri | Identity, Level 2.

Next week: The Coachman Inn

Further reading

Before Tūranga – Hobbs’ Corner

The second in a series of posts that looks at the history of the central Christchurch sites on which your new library, Tūranga, has been built.

Exterior, Tūranga
The southwest corner of Tūranga and Cathedral Square entrance. 18 September 2018. Flickr File reference: New-Central-2018-09-18-029. Photo by Pam Carmichael Photography.

Today you can enter Tūranga via a door on Cathedral Square but in 1851 this was part of Town Section 704.

Christchurch, Canterbury compiled from data supplied to City Council and District Drainage Board ; T.S. Lambert, delt. Date: 1877
Town Section 704 (at top). Section of map Christchurch, Canterbury compiled from data supplied to City Council and District Drainage Board ; T.S. Lambert, delt.
(1877) CCL File Reference: ATLMAPS ATL-Acc-3158

Purchased from the Canterbury Association by a Mr Read, he then sold the section to John Bilton, school teacher. In 1856 John Bilton leased a retail space in his two-storey weatherboard building to William Hobbs.

Hobbs’ Building

William Hobbs, master tailor, arrived in Canterbury in 1855 from Hambleden in Buckinghamshire. Hobbs initially intended to start afresh in a new industry but soon realised that there was great demand for locally made clothing, and loot to be made.

William wasted no time setting up his business and cannily painted “Hobbs & Sons” prominently on the top floor.

Ad Star 2
Page 1 Advertisements Column 4, Star, Issue 715, 7 September 1870

He took over the full building lease in the mid-1860s and the building became known as Hobbs’s Building and later as Hobbs’s Corner. His sons Fred and William were both involved in the business, although Fred had civic and political aspirations too. In 1874 he became the eighth mayor of Christchurch and held office for two terms. Newspaper reports show Fred was particularly passionate about drains…

The Hobbs partnership was dissolved in August 1872 and Fred, in a Press advertisement, sincerely thanked “the very liberal patronage bestowed on the late firm during the past sixteen years”.

On Sunday 10 June 1883, fire, a constant danger in weatherboard colonial Christchurch, broke out on the corner of Gloucester and Colombo. Alerted by early morning revellers, the Chester Street Brigade speedily attended and focused their attention on stopping the fire from spreading to the Central, Criterion and Commercial hotels, The Lyttelton Times, Lennon’s Oyster Saloon (sounds like quite the place!) and Gaiety Theatre.

Through the sterling efforts of the fire brigade the hotels were saved but the corner block with Hobbs’ Building was gutted with only the outer walls left standing. The businesses destroyed by the fire included those of a draper, a fruiterer, a hairdresser, and the rooms of the YMCA. The greatest tragedy of the fire, to this librarian, was the loss of the Association’s library and much of the stock of one Mr Fountain Barber, bookseller, whose premises were on the Colombo St/Cathedral Square corner (where Tūranga’s magazine collection now sits ).

Cathedral Chambers

With 40 years left on the lease Fred Hobbs, William having retired, immediately proposed a new building, and plans for a new three-storey building were hastily acquired. Designed by Messrs Armson, Collins and Lloyd, the lavish description in the Press highlighted the building’s dimensions, construction materials and most importantly the provision of “fire-places and lavatory accommodation”!

The foundation stone for the new building was laid by Fred Hobbs in February 1884 with a projected construction cost in today’s money of $2,212,249.80. The building hosted 9 shops, a variety of office suites, space for a gentleman’s club and a large meeting room.

The rooms of Cathedral Chambers would come to be used by groups as varied as the Christchurch Metaphysical Club,  the Canterbury Women’s Institute, and the Atalanta Cycling Club – not to mention once hosting a concert for “the largest gathering of footballers ever seen in Christchurch” (by 1890 standards, that is). The numerous businesses to operate from the building included estate agents and dentists but also the “Central Pork Shop” which in an an 1888 advertisement boasted  a “large and commodious cellar…fitted up in first-class style”. Fancy.

MA_I341388_TePapa_Cathedral-Square-Christchurch_full
The swanky new Cathedral Chambers with Warner’s Hotel to the right and James Wallace’s Central Hotel to the left. Image Reference Burton Brothers Studio Te Papa C.011553

Cathedral Chambers was built with bricks from the St Martin’s brickwork, Oamaru stone and with blue stone piers, the effect of the contrasting red brick and pale stone was of “the gingerbread order of architecture”. A handsome veranda of iron and glass ran around the ground floor.

Under the headline of City Improvements, the Press praised Fred’s audacity in building such a handsome and substantial building during “the present period of depression”. Sensibly, special precautions against fire were included with water filled roof tanks and hydrants fitted around the building.

Interestingly, despite the completely new building and new name, “Hobbs’ Building” seems to have stuck in people’s minds and it continued to be referred to by this name for many years.

Lack of care taken

A small enclosed tower on the roof of the building contained rooms for a caretaker and was sadly the scene of two tragic accidents involving their offspring.

First in May 1907 a little girl called Dolly Ryder fell 30 feet through a skylight at Hobbs’ Building while chasing a cat. Incredibly she survived although there was concern she had sustained spinal damage. Dolly’s brush with death may have been a contributing factor in her later career of minor crime, aged 18 and 19 she was in trouble with the law for petty theft and absconding from a reformatory home. Go Dolly!

In 1929 Frank Otten, aged 19, was less lucky. Frank and his mother Blanche had gone up to the roof to check for damage after a chimney fire. Using an electric torch Frank crawled across the roof and mounted one of the parapets. He overbalanced and fell, striking the fire-escape several times, and landed in the concrete basement of the Masonic Hotel. Death was instantaneous.

Broadway Corner

Broadway afternoon tea rooms.PNG
Advertisement from A guide to Christchurch and Canterbury attractions, published in 1902 by P.A. Herman. Christchurch City Libraries CCL-83338-115

A variety of businesses operated from Hobbs’ Building now renamed Cathedral Chambers. One of the best known was the Broadway tearooms which operated from the first floor.

Run by William and Edward Broadway, confectioner and pastry chef respectively, the Cathedral Chambers area was informally called Broadway Corner for many years.

After Edward’s death the business name was changed to Beresford’s and it operated until 1974.

Capture
ANOTHER PICTURE OF THE CHRISTCHURCH ELECTRIC TRAMS—EXCAVATING ON THE NORTHERN SIDE OF CATHEDRAL SQUARE. Leslie Hinge Photo. New Zealand Mail, Issue 1718 1st of February 1905, Supplement

The arrival of electric trams caused chaos in the Square (plus ça change). Extensive excavating in 1905 created the double tracks necessary (note use of shovels and picks in the image below) for the tram lines.

The network officially opened on 5 June 1905 – a slightly over-excited Press article called it a day “writ large in letters of scarlet…an epoch marking day”.

When the first electric tram pulled in at the top of High Street, “a thronging human mass filled every inch of space from below the Bank, down Colombo Street, in front of the Cathedral, around the Post Office, and on every side in fact”.

The trams stopped close to Broadway Corner and there were frequent reports of tram, and later car accidents around this bustling spot.

Fred Hobbs died in 1920, his son continued the business but at another location.

CML Building

In April 1936 the building was acquired by The Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd for the princely sum of $11,630, 215.50. The owner of the building by this time was Mr C G McKellar, and the new owners were expected to extensively re-model it to accommodate their growing staff.

CML Building 1993 Kete
The Square, looking North-East 1993. Entry in the 2013 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt. Kete Christchurch

The Cathedral Chambers were demolished in 1974/1975 and the new Colonial Mutual Life (CML) building was constructed to a design by Christchurch architects Warren & Mahoney. The building later operated as the Camelot Hotel and offered assorted tourism related retail space at street level.

The CML building was demolished in 2015 to make way for Tūranga.

Back in the present, we welcome those who’d like to honour the spirit of William Hobbs, master tailor, by trying out our sewing and embroidery machines in Tūranga’s Production Studio, or book one of our rooms for hire for all your footballer concert/metaphysical club meeting needs.

Next week: The Lyttelton Times and The Star

Further reading

Before Tūranga – The Masonic Hotel and Montague’s Corner

The first in a series of posts that looks at the history of the central Christchurch sites on which your new library, Tūranga, has been built.

Tūranga from Colombo St
Tūranga, as viewed from Colombo St near Armagh St intersection, 10 October 2018, File reference: TU-2018-10-10-DSC03935

Imagine you are peeking through Tūranga’s ground floor window on the corner of Gloucester and Colombo, possibly drooling over all the yummies in Foundation Café… insert TIMEY WIMEY STUFF…

You are now back in 1855 on the very same spot and are again drooling, this time over all the yummies in Gee & Co.’s bakery and confectionery.

Thomas Gee was a biscuit maker from Lambeth who arrived in 1851. He quickly established a business in Lyttelton selling “bride cakes, jellies, blanc-manges, patties…and ginger beer”and later a shop on the corner of Gloucester and Colombo. In 1855 the Christchurch store was transferred to his son-in-law William Stringer who continued to sell baked goods but also diversified into booze. He applied for a license to sell wine and beer in 1857 and by 1860 his business was known as Stringer’s Hotel.

Colombo Street, Christchurch, looking south towards the Cathedral [ca. 1930]
Colombo Street, Christchurch, looking south, with Wells’ Hotel visible to the left of the Cathedral [ca. 1930] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 9, IMG0041
In 1860 Stringer’s Hotel license was passed to George Henry Tribe who renamed the premises the Central Hotel.

By 1872 mine genial host was Edward Hiorns. Edward originally hailed from Warwickshire and arrived in Christchurch during the 1860s, marrying Amelia Heighton in August 1868. He was heavily involved in the community both as a member of the Christchurch City Council, and later the Linwood Borough Council, and as a Freemason. He must have found the hotel trade financially advantageous as he was able to buy Linwood House, a very fine residence built in 1857 for Joseph Brittan.

In August 1897 architect Joseph C Maddison was retained by Edward Hiorns to draw up a plan for a new section to the Central Hotel. In brick and stucco the new hotel had 30 rooms, and two shops on the ground floor one of which had frontage on both Colombo and Gloucester. The main entrance was on Gloucester Street with a private and public bar on the ground floor, dining room overlooking Colombo Street on the first floor and bedrooms and bathrooms, with hot and cold water and showers, on the second.

The Cyclopedia of New Zealand in 1903 had a delightful puff-piece where the hotel was described as an “ornament to the street architecture of Christchurch” and as being “furnished throughout with luxury and excellent taste.”

Masonic Hotel 3
Page 2 Advertisements Column 3, Press, Volume LV, Issue 10182, 1 November 1898

The hotel was renamed The Masonic and the license was transferred to William James, then E. Carroll.

The Masonic Hotel was the scene of a “Strange Death” in 1912. Loyal Stawell Cherry (yes, that was his name) fell 6 feet from his bedroom window to a recess while feverish with influenza. His cries alerted staff who returned him to bed and sent for medical assistance but the Hobart-native died 30 minutes later.

Montague's Corner Masonic Hotel
Montague’s Corner, Colombo and Gloucester Streets, Christchurch looking towards Cathedral Square. Webb, Steffano, 1880-1967 : Collection of negatives. Ref: 1/1-005316-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22479010

One of the most memorable businesses to lease shop space in the rebuilt Masonic Hotel was Montague’s Corner. Owned by the exotically named Israel Montague, Montague’s Corner sold fancy goods and toys. Fancy goods, I’m reliably informed are “items (as novelties, accessories, or notions) that are primarily ornamental or designed to appeal to taste or fancy rather than essential” but I’m sure the major draw was the underground toy cave.

Ad from 1909
Page 9 Advertisements Column 4, Star, issue 9715, 4 December 1909

Bankrupted back in the 1880s when he owned his own fancy goods business in Strange’s Building, Israel then spent 22 years at the D.I.C. (Drapery and General Importing Company of New Zealand Ltd) before opening up again on his own in August 1906.

Israel fell foul of the law several times for breaching the Shop and Offices Act by staying open outside the prescribed hours but hey, fancy goods don’t sell themselves!

Israel died in 1936 and is buried in the Jewish cemetery at Linwood. His wife Ada, daughter of  Simeon Isaacs, former President of  the Jewish Congregation of Dunedin, had predeceased him by many years.

J R Mckenzie
Page 3 Advertisements Column 2, Press, Volume LX, Issue 18010, 29 February 1924

Montague’s Toy Cave and fancy goods was replaced by J R McKenzie’s. Modelled on America’s five and dime stores, John Robert Hugh McKenzie eventually owned over 70 stores throughout New Zealand and employed over 1800 staff. John McKenzie was also well known in horsey circles owning Roydon Lodge Stud on Yaldhurst Road. Throughout his lifetime McKenzie gave generously to charities and was actively involved in Rotary. he later set up the J R McKenzie Youth Education Fund and the J R McKenzie Trust, both of which still operate today.

Wells masonic
Looking south down Colombo Street through Cathedral Square from the corner of Gloucester and Colombo Street, Christchurch, with J R McKenzie signage visible on Wells’ Hotel building [ca. 1925]. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 14 IMG0009
The Masonic Hotel went through several modifications and licensees. Alfred William Wells and his wife Eva owned and ran the Masonic for many years. Alfred died in 1961 leaving Eva a generous annuity and the rest of his estate including the freehold of the Masonic in trust for up to 21 years. The Church of England bought the hotel, and on Saturday 12th of September 1981 the Masonic Hotel closed its doors for the last time and was shortly after demolished.

Construction started on a new seven storey building in early 1982. Completed in November 1982 it included a basement car park, offices and ground floor retail.

A variety of businesses populated this space over the years most recently an internet café and Mum’s 24 café and restaurant with its awesome replica/fake food displays.

Office building, corner of Gloucester and Colombo, October 2011
The intersection of Colombo and Gloucester Streets looking south-east by BeckerFraserPhotos, 15 October 2011. Creative Commons BY-NC 3.0

And so, we end up back where we started, peering in at a café window.

It’s good to know that Tūranga’s café and Lego play area (not exactly a “toy cave” but close enough) are just an extension of a long history of businesses and institutions that have brought life and activity to this particular corner of the central city.

Next week: Hobbs’ Corner

Further reading