Apr 17, 2008

Lost Christchurch

The Christian Science church was built in stages between 1929 and 1935 on the North side of Worcester Boulevard between Montreal Street and Cambridge Terrace. It was a period of a marked Georgian revival in Christchurch architecture.

With its pillared and pedimented portico, it was the only church building in Christchurch reminiscent of American Georgian style. The elegant church was substantially built of plastered brick and concrete to a design by Heathcote Helmore, better known for his houses.

In the early 1980s the church became too costly to maintain for its diminished congregation, which took new premises elsewhere and sold the building to a Chinese restaurateur. In a bid to give the building a clear identity as a Chinese restaurant the new owner had an entirely new facade built in 1984. Despite efforts to persuade him that the building could be given the identity he wanted, the original facade was destroyed.

Situated next to the Christchurch Art Gallery, the Chung Wah restaurant closed in early 2006. Initially offered for lease and then for sale by Hope Island Holdings Ltd, the building was acquired in April 2007 by Gordon Chamberlain; the man behind the Ibis Hotel in Hereford Street and Novotel development of Warners Hotel in Cathedral Square.

Photo by Greg O'Beirne of Christchurch

The former church was demolished in August, 2007 and plans were announced for a $23 million, 14 storey, four to five star apartment-style hotel, with the upper levels either as residences or to lease back to the hotel as visitor accommodation.

Gordon Chamberlain was subsequently reported as negotiating with Quest Hotels Inc. of Florida to lease and run the lower levels of the new building. Quest already has the 75 apartment hotel in the Cathedral Junction building.

In the meantime the former church site in the city's cultural preceinct continues to remain vacant...

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