May 21, 2009

Christchurch's A.1. Hotel 1857-1935


Founded in January 1851, the Lyttelton Times newspaper also published an evening edition known as The Star from 1868. More widely read in Sydenham than Fendalton in its heyday, the evening edition lingers on as a twice weekly giveaway, supported by no more than advertising and Christchurch City Council advertorials.

Sad to say that its reduced circumstances would seem to no longer allow for the expense of journalstic expertise, as further indicated by the above photograph, published under the heading The Way We Were on the 20th of May 2009, and erroneously captioned "The intersection of Cashel St and Colombo St in 1860, with Blake's Hotel and the A.I Hotel around the corner."

For the sake of the historical record we proffer the following alternative caption:

The A.1. Hotel was founded in 1857 on the Southeast corner of Cashel and Colombo Streets, a site now occupied by The Crossing bus terminus in the renovated former Beath's department store building of 1935. The original gabled hotel (below) was replaced in 1874 by the second A1 Hotel, a three storey building, which burnt down four years later.

In 1879 it was rebuilt as the two storey structure depicted in the above photograph. James Blake is known to have been the Publican of the A.1. Hotel by 1865, but there's no known reference to a Blake's Hotel in any local archive.


The Colombo Street facade of James Blake's first A.1. Hotel to the Left, with the Mechanic's Hotel to the Right and the Watchmaker's shop of Thomas Charles Barnard adjoining the A.1. Hotel.

By 1915 the ground floor of the third A.1. Hotel had been converted into shops


Beath's 1935 department store extension was originally designed to have six floors, but The Great Depression of the 1930s got in the way.


Beath's department store reincarnated as The Crossing bus terminus in 2003.

9 comments:

Jayne said...

Those gorgeous old wrought iron and corrugated iron verandahs were so graceful and elegant.
All of Melbourne's were ripped out for the 1956 Olympics *sob*.
At least the Art Deco Beath's building is relatively untouched :)

Jayne said...

Meant to add - the hotel disappeared around the time the wowsers (The Temperence Movement) got their numbers and talon-like grip on society.

kuaka said...

details, mere details...

Sadly The Star can not even be used as a fish & chip wrapper given the sad demise of the fish & chip shop & hygiene standards prohibiting the use of newsprint.

Sometimes, an long established name or trademark should be extinguished, to be remembered for its successes not its abject, lingering demise.

On a more serious note, is that C E Beath on the building to the far left on the top picture dated circa 1860? It appears that building had floors added to it. The first site of Beath's before 1935 move to corner?

Canterbury Heritage said...

The old bull-nosed verandas have virtually disappeared from the city, but a group of 1880s buildings in Cashel Street, that subsequently formed part of the Farmers department store, have recently been restored, with the original wrought iron and corrugated iron verandas reinstated.

With the easy acquisition of publican's licences until the later 1880s, hotels and grog shops were prolific throughout the city (probably consequential to the brewing magnates of that era enjoying undue influence in local politics - a circumstance now apparently enjoyed by property developers).

The influence of the wowsers reached its zenith in the first decade of last century with the election of a Sydenham MP and ardent prohibitionist as Mayor of Christchurch (five of the eight hotels in his parliamentary electorate were closed down). His firebrand style reformist zeal came to a sudden end with his untimely demise in 1911, but many of the city's pub had been closed by then (including James Blake's other hotel; the Shearer's Arms in Antigua Street).

Canterbury Heritage said...

The original Beath's building was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1908 and subsequently rebuilt to a height of six floors. The 1935 extension to the Colombo Street corner was originally proposed to match it's height, with the older building probably intended to be re-faced to match the Art Deco style of the later building (which, from the same architect, is remarkably similar to the nearby Majestic Theatre in Manchester Street).

Like newspapers, department stores would also seem to have their day; long gone are the vast emporiums of Strand & Co., the Drapers Importing Co. (D.I.C.), Beath's, Hay's, Woolworths, McKenzie's, etc. The much downsized Farmers staggers on, without being able to find a buyer, but only Ballantynes looks like being a survivor, especially if the vintage tram route extension invigorates it flagging clientele.

Mr CH has a personal interest in the fate of The Star; his mother was a journalist with that newspaper prior to becoming the Editor of the Linwood Times in 1955 (now known as the Pegasus Post).

kuaka said...

To the Star's credit its 20 May issue does have a brief article reporting the Civic Trust's concern that the City Council doesn't have the ability to protect heritage buildings like the Occidental Hotel.

Perhaps they might have added the Council seems to also lack the will to do so...

Canterbury Heritage said...

But to the Star's discredit, it forgot to mention the very recent demolition of the century old and architecturally significant Massey Harris building at the other end of Woolsack Lane; a precinct designated and hyped for heritage style redevelopment.

Unlike other NZ cities, the Christchurch City Council would appear to not want the inconvenience of protecting heritage buildings, especially where they conflict with the interests of property developers with political influence.

Back in civilisation heritage protection is traditionally a matter devolving upon central government and it's about time that NZ invoked similar legislation.

wise said...

Presumably the Star's mistaken reference came from the signage at the top of the hotel in the picture which says "Blake's A.1. Hotel" but with the "A.1." appearing separated.

Canterbury Heritage said...

The Star article referred to it as the "A.I Hotel" (sic), instead of the correct A.1. Hotel and gave the date as 1860, when it should have been 1880.

Sadly, the type of mistakes would appear to indicate only a superficial perusal of the old photograph, without the benefit of any subsequent research.

In today's Star (Wednesday, 28/05/09) is a 1908 photo of a Deasey car (forerunner of the Armstrong-Siddley, Siddley-Deaseys weren't made until 2 years after the photo was taken). The pic was taken in front of Frederck Kibblewhite's Hupmobile car and Willys Overland truck dealership on the northeast corner of Madras and Cashel Streets (the building's gone, but the site is still a motor dealership). Fred Kibblewhite (1879-1955) was Mayor of New Brighton during the First World War era.