Jul 18, 2009

Now & Then: Samuel Farr's 1876 Montgomery Building


Incorrectly annotated as being Addington's Southern Cross Hotel, we published an illustrated article about that building last month. However, further to an uneasy feeling about a vaguely familiar structure, we can now positively identify the extant 1876 Montgomery building.

Arriving in Christchurch in 1860 William Montgomery (1821-1914) established himself as W. Montgomery & Company Ltd., Timber, Coal and Hardware Merchants. His commercial enterprise prospered to the extent that he was able to open branches throughout the province. In 1874 Montgomery commenced the construction of new premises at the south-east corner of Colombo and Tuam Streets, these included a 130 by 30 feet timber storage shed and a two storey 95 by 50 feet workshop.

In 1876 Montgomery commissioned Samuel Charles Farr (1827-1918) to design a three storey head office and showrooms for the corner of the site. Farr had been Canterbury's first architect, arriving at Lyttelton in 1849. Among his extant buildings are the former Normal School in Cranmer Square and St Paul's Presbyterian church at the corner of Cashel and Madras Streets.

Built of stuccoed brick to a height of 45 feet above extensive cellars, Montgomery's building was originally 50 feet along the Colombo Street front and 48 feet along the Tuam Street side. By 1885 the size had been doubled with an extension along Tuam Street. Subsequently sold at auction to Fortunatus Evelyn Wright (1829-1912), the former Christchurch Postmaster, for £8,000, the old building has undergone many changes of ownership in its 133 years. In 2009 it is principally occupied by an "adult superstore."

As the Honourable William John Alexander Montgomery of Opawa, the first owner was at various times also a Little River farmer, member of the Canterbury Provincial Council for Heathcote, MP for Akaroa, member of the Legislative Council, etc. As a member of the board of governors of Canterbury College (now the University of Canterbury) from 1873 to 1903 and chairman from 1875 to 1885 he was primarily responsible for the completion of college buildings, the Christchurch Boys' High School, the School of Art, and the Canterbury Museum (all of which now comprise the principal buildings in our cultural precinct). One might speculate that W. Montgomery & Co. may have benefited significantly from the foregoing construction projects.


Sarndra said...

Fabulous post again :-) Didn't the building look better in the original photo without the 'verandah' type overhangs and advertising. Great to see it still remains though.

My parents married at St Pauls...50 years ago in October :-) Only just 6 weeks ago i got a DVD made up of my uncles old home movie footage and it briefly had their wedding on it... it was so weird seeing them as 22 year olds and my great grandmother appeared briefly in the background, she died before i was born. St Pauls has always been a lovely church to me. Do you know of any photos of St Peters in Woolston? Was on the cnr of Ferry and Aldwins. Both sets of my grandparents married there in 1934 within a week of each other - freaky! Some info here http://tinyurl.com/st-peters-woolston. The church archives wanted an arm and a leg for the photo a few years back but thought you might have come across one.


Canterbury Heritage said...

In spite of the verandah and brown paint, the building well deserves to survive and could make for an excellent restoration project.

Circa 1910 and 1957 photographs of St Peter's Ferry Road church sent.

steve the plumber said...

Now & Then: Samuel Farr's 1876 Montgomery Building