May 1, 2008

Early Inner City House Identified

Without its Edwardian neo-classic cornice and arcaded pediment and beneath layers of paint, what has become a relatively undistinguished building on the South side of Hereford Street between Liverpool Street and Latimer Square hides a secret.

Behind the century old former Christchurch Drainage Board offices is a substantial 1863 house.

Bricklayer and Plasterer Patrick Foley (1835-1905) immigrated to Christchurch in 1856. Three year later he was joined by his two brothers and two sisters. Patrick and John Foley (1829-1899) had set themselves up as plasterers at Hereford Street premises by 1860. Prominent in the Loyal Order of Foresters Lodge and a founder of the Mechanic's Institute (now the Christchurch Public Library), John also became well known in local music circles.

In October 1862 John Foley acquired Town Section 813 further along the same street. A two storey house was erected on the site and 30 year-old John and Elizabeth Ann Foley made it their home from early 1863. Built of Terracotta brick in the Late Georgian style, the simple facade featured stone masonry window surrounds.

The Foley's house is seen in the above image to the Right of the Family Hotel (subsequently known as Collins' Hotel and then as the Occidental Hotel from 1889, the 148 year-old building is derelict in 2008).

The brothers' business flourished and in 1866 they were commissioned to undertake interior decoration of the new Canterbury Provincial Council Chamber. Unfortunately John's commercial acumen did not match his vocal skills, declared Bankrupt in February 1868, the Foley's home reverted to the Provincial Trust & Loan Association.

The 1870s were a boom period for the province and the inner city commercial district expanded to engulf the house, which became the offices of New Zealand Insurance Company. Overlooking the yard of Cobb & Co, a large sign was painted on the Western wall (above).

Five years later the offices of the Christchurch Local Board of Health and the Christchurch Drainage Board were opened in the former home. The legal practice of Acton-Adams & Kippenberger were also in the building from 1887, from where Phillip Kippenberger acted as Consul for Germany.

In 1908 the Christchurch Drainage Board built adjoining offices in what had been the front garden of the house.

Although the ceilings in the later extension are entirely plain, there is one exception, that being what was probably the first floor Board Room. Its ceiling is elegantly decorated with mouldings in the Rococo style (below), which might appear to indicate that they originally graced the reception rooms of the Plasterers 1863 home.

The combined buildings served as the Drainage Board's offices until 1989. Subsequently occupied by the Surveying, Civil Engineering and Town Planning partnership of Davie and Lovell-Smith, they have been the premises of the 198 Youth Health Centre since 1995.

Google Map of the location (geo:lat=-43.532224 lon=172.640952)

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