May 3, 2009

Christwegian Courtesans & Other Less Interesting Developments.

Subsequent to the opening of the second Railway Station on Moorhouse Avenue in 1867, Manchester Street South became the principal tram route between the inner city and the station. As a consequence, that part of Manchester Street from High Street to Moorhouse Avenue became lined with hotels, restaurants and various places of entertainment, etc.

Not surprisingly, in a tradition spanning at least 130 years, the street has been the favoured haunt of those practitioners of what is reputed to be among the world's older professions. Although probably unaware of their long precedent, Christwegian courtesans are still to be found plying their precarious trade along the more northern part of Manchester Street during the hours of darkness.

Marrying a rich widow, the dandified John Etherden Coker built his third hotel on her land. Opened in 1880, it would be far from the largest, but quite the most luxurious of the Manchester Street hotels. Pictured above is the hotel's dining room. With its marble statuary and starched table linen this room offered elaborate farinaceous repast to such notables as Rudyard Kipling and the Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott. Two years after Coker's demise the hotel's public bar was reported to be the haunt of prostitutes and their consorts.

Alas all hotels have their heyday and long gone are the Terminus, Silver Grill, A1 Temperance, Railway, Manchester and Leviathan, but in much reduced circumstances, Coker's Hotel lingers on as a Backpacker's hostel. A significant part of its formerly elegant facade is now artistically rendered to represent a semi-derelict wooden shanty and the sadly dilapidated dining room (above) continues to serve a similar, but more modest purpose.

In 1938 William Gray Young (1885-1962) submitted a Bauhaus inspired design for a new Railway Station. To be the city's largest building, construction was delayed until 1953 and the somewhat modified design was finally completed in 1960. The Railway Station survived as such for only 31 years to be sold off for redevelopment as an entertainment centre.

Much touted as Christchurch's tallest building, the 86 metre, 23 level C1 apartment building in Gloucester Street East has been plagued with problems. Although all but four of the apartments have been pre-sold, the above photographs indicate the minimal extent of construction development between May 2008 and May 2009.


Jayne said...

Beautiful dining room, what a change and slide down in the world for it, though.
That C1 building isn't floating my boat in any shape or form lol.

Canterbury Heritage said...

At least the dining room and the conglomeration of old buildings that comprised the former hotel have survived. The area has been in gradual decline since the 1940s and the hotel's survival is probably due to its being beyond the pale of the tourist precinct and principal redevelopment areas.

The C1 building, devoid of an appreciable aesthetic, isn't floating anyone's boat. Might end up as our largest white elephant when it's finally completed.

Curious thing: in the 24 hours after this article was published five local tarts subscribed to the site's Twitter feed.

Anonymous said...

I notice you use the word "Christwegian" presumeably to describe a citizen of the city of Christchurch. I have always wondered what the correct name of one of our city's residents would be but your choice seems rather odd and strange to the ear. I guess it evolves from the same root as Glaswegian but why would it?
regards, Steven

Canterbury Heritage said...

Christwegian is both archaic and rare as term to describe an inhabitant of our Christchurch. There being no readily discernible precedent for an alternative, we've settled for what appears to have begun a descriptive term relating to Christchurch, Hampshire or Christ Church College, Oxford (our city derives it name from the latter).

The odd sounding suffix wegian, used to describe inhabitants of Glasgow, Norway and Tasmania, etc., derives from the Germanic family of languages and entered Old English via Nordic settlement. By common usage it possibly ended up as a catch-all for proper nouns that wouldn't conveniently end with er or ian.

Anonymous said...

That building is a dull blot on the other wise 1980-1990 mistake ridden landscape of central chch.
The CPTI Jazz school, the ANZ and BNZ building in the square the foul wholes left by Henderson and his mates as well.
The rail way building is a mess now as well...maybe another car park or car yard would fix the problem ?
Dull and flat and getting worse.

Canterbury Heritage said...

And worser and worser.

A provincial backwater on the remotest, and arguably least sophisticated, frontier of Western culture, Christchurch was always all fur coat and no knickers.

The local aesthetic probably peaked in the era of Show-biz Gothic. However, as the subsequent withering of high-culture might appear to add weight to Benjamin Franklin's observations on the decline of civilisations, the community could be interest to a covert Ethnographer.