Exploding bullets and a hotel with no beer helped shape a short stretch of Cumberland St, writes Jonathan Howard.

Cumberland St showing Electric Power House, Dunedin, by Muir & Moodie. Te Papa (C.012142)

This placid scene around May 1906 does not hint at the forces of change operating behind these facades. This photograph was taken by the photographic firm of Muir & Moodie, previously featured in Heritage in Focus stories North-east Valley — Stones and glasshouses and Tracking down the early Dunedin railway stations.

Here is the same frame in January 2024.

In 1879 New Zealand Hardware Company (est. 1878) constructed two buildings (1A and 1B) on Cumberland St, seen in these images, to the design of William Thomas Winchester (1828-1910). Soon after photograph A was taken, just after 1.15am on June 2, 1906, a fire was discovered in the front of the four-storey (20m high) warehouse (1A). Fuelled partly by exploding ammunition and drums of linseed oil, within 20 minutes it spread from the Cumberland to Gaol (Dunbar) St end of the doomed building. Flames rose another 20m above the roof and sparks were carried on a gentle breeze to surrounding buildings.

The fire brigade stopped the spread — but not before the third and fourth storey walls had largely collapsed (shown in red). Fortunately, the Dunbar St facade collapsed inwards, avoiding the adjacent Dunedin Prison, but sections of the side walls collapsed outward damaging the neighbouring NZ Hardware Co. buildings (1B and 2) and the front facade collapsed across Cumberland St, narrowly avoiding firefighters.

The building, which had previously caught fire in 1881, was now substantially rebuilt as three storeys, with parts of the original ground floor and first storey retained in a modified form. In 1954 the building was again gutted by fire and this time repaired and reduced to two storeys. In 2019 a third storey was added once more.

1B (1879) was demolished 1972-75 for a carpark. Its outline on the north side of 1A and the Breccia base course can still be seen in the carpark.

This single-storey New Zealand Hardware Co. building (c.1881) had a second storey added in 1912 to the design of Edmund Anscombe and was sold to the Dunedin City Council Electricity Department in 1925. It was demolished for Radio Otago House in c.1969.

This building, known as the Power House, played a key role in the conversion of Dunedin City Corporation’s tram(way) system from horse-drawn to electric in 1903. In 1914, 14 million passengers used the Dunedin electric trams. Designed by Sydney architect John Williamson Manson (1860-1922), it is similar in style to the 1903 electric tramshed (see below) he designed next to Market Reserve — now a heavily modified bus depot.

Postcard of electric car sheds, Market Reserve, Dunedin. Collection of Toitū Otago Settlers Museum (49_31-1).

The single-storey section housed steam boilers, connected to the 35m steel chimney, generating electricity to power the tram system. After the completion of the Waipori Power Scheme in 1907, the boilers were only required as emergency power back-up.

The two-storey section housed the electrical convertor station. These two buildings were taken over by the city electricity department. The Power House was partially demolished in 1969, with the remaining section and convertor station demolished 1972-75. The outline (in purple below) of the convertor building can still be seen on the neighbouring Fairbairn’s Building.

Previously, this section of Cumberland St had also played a critical role in the horse tram system. Here on the Power House site had been brick stables (1881) housing up to 120 horses for drawing tram cars. Immediately over Cumberland St had been the horse tramshed and repair shop. This building was badly damaged and 16 tram cars damaged or destroyed by fire in 1901.

Tram car 109 at horse tram car sheds, opposite the Leviathan Hotel, Cumberland Street, Dunedin. Collection of Toitū Otago Settlers Museum (49_38-1).

The offices of (Walter — 1869-1945) Speight, (George — 1867-1929) Frier and Co.

This building was tenanted by the United Asbestos Australasian Agency. It was managed by Frank White. Parts of these two small buildings were incorporated into the Fairbairn’s Building.

The Leviathan Hotel was designed by William Henry Terry (1850-1911), former partner to James Hislop (1859-1904). It opened in 1884 as one of many temperance hotels, which, like coffee palaces, served no alcohol. George (1854-1938) and Mary (née Knox, 1860-91) Bodley were the first proprietors, then a widow, Antiss Dottin Silk (nee Mills, 1839-99) owned and managed it from 1886 until her death. Because it was just over the road from the site of the second Dunedin Railway Station (now beneath Toitū Otago Settlers Museum), it was also known as the Leviathan Railway Terminus (Temperance) Hotel. In 1906 it was owned by the Leviathan Hotel Company. Managing director James Connor (1853-1931) lived in with his wife, Annie (nee Paterson 1852-1937), from 1900 until his death. James and Annie had previously owned the Glasgow Restaurant (named after their place of birth), in Moray Pl. Coincidentally, the Leviathan’s first owners, the Bodleys, had also owned this restaurant, when it was known as the Star Cafe and Boarding House.

This shows typical and durable Port Chalmers Breccia stone kerb (A) and wide bluestone sett (stone worked regular blocks) channel (B) that was formed along Dunedin footpaths from the later 19th century. The sections of breccia kerbing are still seen today.

Exploding bullets and a hotel with no beer helped shape a short stretch of Cumberland St, writes Jonathan Howard.

Cumberland St showing Electric Power House, Dunedin, by Muir & Moodie. Te Papa (C.012142)

This placid scene around May 1906 does not hint at the forces of change operating behind these facades. This photograph was taken by the photographic firm of Muir & Moodie, previously featured in Heritage in Focus stories North-east Valley — Stones and glasshouses and Tracking down the early Dunedin railway stations.

Here is the same frame in January 2024.

In 1879 New Zealand Hardware Company (est. 1878) constructed two buildings (1A and 1B) on Cumberland St, seen in these images, to the design of William Thomas Winchester (1828-1910). Soon after photograph A was taken, just after 1.15am on June 2, 1906, a fire was discovered in the front of the four-storey (20m high) warehouse (1A). Fuelled partly by exploding ammunition and drums of linseed oil, within 20 minutes it spread from the Cumberland to Gaol (Dunbar) St end of the doomed building. Flames rose another 20m above the roof and sparks were carried on a gentle breeze to surrounding buildings. The fire brigade stopped the spread — but not before the third and fourth storey walls had largely collapsed (shown in yellow). Fortunately, the Dunbar St facade collapsed inwards, avoiding the adjacent Dunedin Prison, but sections of the side walls collapsed outward damaging the neighbouring NZ Hardware Co. buildings (1B and 2) and the front facade collapsed across Cumberland St, narrowly avoiding firefighters. The building, which had previously caught fire in 1881, was now substantially rebuilt as three storeys, with parts of the original ground floor and first storey retained in a modified form. In 1954 the building was again gutted by fire and this time repaired and reduced to two storeys. In 2019 a third storey was added once more.

1B (1879) was demolished 1972-75 for a carpark. Its outline on the north side of 1A and the Breccia base course can still be seen in the carpark.

(Top) Otago Witness, June 6, 1906

(Bottom) Detail from c. 1880 [Dunedin panorama], New Zealand, by Burton Brothers. Te Papa (C.012120)

This single-storey New Zealand Hardware Co. building (c.1881) had a second storey added in 1912 to the design of Edmund Anscombe and was sold to the Dunedin City Council Electricity Department in 1925. It was demolished for Radio Otago House in c.1969.

This building, known as the Power House, played a key role in the conversion of Dunedin City Corporation’s tram(way) system from horse-drawn to electric in 1903. In 1914, 14 million passengers used the Dunedin electric trams. Designed by Sydney architect John Williamson Manson (1860-1922), it is similar in style to the 1903 electric tramshed (see below) he designed next to Market Reserve — now a heavily modified bus depot.

Postcard of electric car sheds, Market Reserve, Dunedin. Collection of Toitū Otago Settlers Museum (49_31-1).

The single-storey section housed steam boilers, connected to the 35m steel chimney, generating electricity to power the tram system. After the completion of the Waipori Power Scheme in 1907, the boilers were only required as emergency power back-up.

The two-storey section housed the electrical convertor station. These two buildings were taken over by the city electricity department. The Power House was partially demolished in 1969, with the remaining section and convertor station demolished 1972-75. The outline (in purple below) of the convertor building can still be seen on the neighbouring Fairbairn’s Building.

Previously, this section of Cumberland St had also played a critical role in the horse tram system. Here on the Power House site had been brick stables (1881) housing up to 120 horses for drawing tram cars. Immediately over Cumberland St had been the horse tramshed and repair shop. This building was badly damaged and 16 tram cars damaged or destroyed by fire in 1901.

Tram car 109 at horse tram car sheds, opposite the Leviathan Hotel, Cumberland Street, Dunedin. Collection of Toitū Otago Settlers Museum (49_38-1).

The offices of (Walter — 1869-1945) Speight, (George — 1867-1929) Frier and Co.

This building was tenanted by the United Asbestos Australasian Agency. It was managed by Frank White. Parts of these two small buildings were incorporated into the Fairbairn’s Building.

The Leviathan Hotel was designed by William Henry Terry (1850-1911), former partner to James Hislop (1859-1904). It opened in 1884 as one of many temperance hotels, which, like coffee palaces, served no alcohol. George (1854-1938) and Mary (née Knox, 1860-91) Bodley were the first proprietors, then a widow, Antiss Dottin Silk (nee Mills, 1839-99) owned and managed it from 1886 until her death. Because it was just over the road from the site of the second Dunedin Railway Station (now beneath Toitū Otago Settlers Museum), it was also known as the Leviathan Railway Terminus (Temperance) Hotel. In 1906 it was owned by the Leviathan Hotel Company. Managing director James Connor (1853-1931) lived in with his wife, Annie (nee Paterson 1852-1937), from 1900 until his death. James and Annie had previously owned the Glasgow Restaurant (named after their place of birth), in Moray Pl. Coincidentally, the Leviathan’s first owners, the Bodleys, had also owned this restaurant, when it was known as the Star Cafe and Boarding House.

This shows typical and durable Port Chalmers Breccia stone kerb (A) and wide bluestone sett (stone worked regular blocks) channel (B) that was formed along Dunedin footpaths from the later 19th century. The sections of breccia kerbing are still seen today.

— Text, photographs and concept by Jonathan Howard
— Page design by Mathew Patchett

— Text, photographs and concept by Jonathan Howard
— Page design by Mathew Patchett