Wednesday Windback

Aug 14, 2019
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Did you know there used to be a hotel in The Crescent? Having previously featured the Invercargill Post Office and clock tower, here we have a circa 1910 lithographic postcard view of The Crescent from the said tower with Clyde street on the left and Liddel street on the right.

The two story Dalgety building at left of centre and the red brick multi-storied JG Ward wool & grain store building just visible on the far right have also previously been featured. But the feature of this post is the classically designed white building in the foreground.

This rather grand building was to begin life as “The Coffee Palace” and “Temperance Hotel”. The eight Company Directors were all prominent local and Southland businessmen and runholders. Thus, when the Company prospectus was issued in March 1882, offering 14,000 shares at £1 each to be subscribed in three calls, and with a prime location in The Crescent, the offer and first call was quickly subscribed. By August 1882 the Invercargill Architect, Mr F.W. Burwell, was calling tenders for the erection of this “concrete and brick” building, many eager to see this “first-class Temperance Hotel” come to fruition.

Site excavation work began in December 1882 but the company soon ran into financial difficulties with a further unexpected 4th call on shares made in Jun 1883 then a 5th call in Aug 1883. In Sept 1883 a lease was offered to run the hotel but there were simply no takers, the lack of a liquor license being considered a disincentive. By June 1884 the 2nd mortgagee had called in their loan and the property, with a 1st mortgage of £6,500, was put up for auction. In July 1884, and after being passed in twice, it was sold to a new “Crescent Hotel Company”. Existing unpaid creditors would be given shares in the new company. One of the first jobs was to install a bar, having obtained a liquor licence by transfer. The new “superb and palatial” 42 room “Crescent Hotel” would finally open on the 29th Sept. 1884 with a “Table De Hote Daily”, a “Liquor Department, and “Hot and Cold Baths”. In 1900 the upper mezzanine landing featured large stuffed penguins, a shag, and an albatross “trophy” head on the wall. I can imagine Alex Polizzi, “The Hotel Inspector”, having a fit. In Aug 1903 the Hotel would then be privately sold to Stock & Station Agents “Wright Stephenson & Co. Ltd.” who were located next door in the Tothill’s building and desired larger premises. The hotel fittings would be auctioned off in Sept 1903 before Wright Stephenson’s moved into their new premises in June 1904. With an ornamented four story facade supported by Corinthian columns with central pediment and balustrade, including the basement storage area, and being situated alongside some notable established businesses, the new premises immediately presented an image of financial success, stability and permanence. As this proved to be a longer post my next post will feature a circa 1960 photograph with the post 1904 history of the same building.

From a postcard image kindly shared by Hayden Oswin, story by Historical Southland in Colour.

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