The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Otago & Southland Provincial Districts]
The general appearance of Dunedin, as of most colonial cities, is marred by survivals from the early days. The few relics of the original fern-tree cottages built by the first settlers are too picturesque to be considered a defect; but during the “rush” that followed the discovery of gold in Otago, many buildings were run up regardless of appearance, and without any pretension to architectural effect. Even now there is far too much weatherboard and galvanised iron about Dunedin to allow it to do full justice to its lovely situation; but the public and commercial institutions of modern date will compare for dignity and impressiveness with the buildngs of any other city in the colony.
Perhaps the most architecturally noticeable structures in Dunedin are the two churches, First Church and Knox Church. First Church, which is built on Church Hill overlooking the harbour, is a building in the decorated Gothic style, with a handsome spire of 175 feet in height. The original First Church was built in 1848, on the present site of the Standard Insurance Company. The present First Church is really the fourth in descent from the original sanctuary consecrated by the Rev. Dr Burns. Knox Church is a somewhat less ornate example of the Gothic style; but it is much beautified by the clinging ivy with which it is almost completely enshrouded. The Episcopalian pro-Cathedral, St. Paul's, was begun in 1862, but the spire had to be taken down some years back as it was crumbling away. St. Matthew's and All Saints' Anglican Churches, and page 42 the Wesleyan Church in Moray Place, call for little comment; but the Roman Catholic Cathedral, St. Joseph's, though still incomplete, is a very imposing building. It is designed in the fifteenth century Gothic manner, and, according to the plans, will be 222 feet long and 102 feet across the transepts. The stained glass windows-from the Royal factory at Munich-and the stone carving within, give a very impressive effect. When finished, the tower and spire will rise to a height of 220 feet.
The University buildings suffer in general appearance from the fact that they lie rather low, and that the surroundings are somewhat commonplace. The main building, in domestic Gothic style, in dark basalt, pointed with Oamaru stone, has a thoroughly academical appearance; but the structure as a whole is stil evidently unfinished.
The Boys' High School, on the west side of the city, is a large building in the Tudor style. It has accommodation for 450 scholars. The public schools of Dunedin, as elsewhere throughout the colony, are all somewhat plain and more or less alike.
The Supreme Court is the only one of the public buildings that can be said to be architecturally impressive. It was originally intended to be the Provincial Council Chamber, and is therefore more pretentious than the Post and Telegraph Offices, Custom House, Public Works Office and other buildings erected on more strictly utilitarian principles, by the General Government.
The Cargill Monument-Otago's tribute to the memory of the revered founder of the province-stands between the Custom House and the Bank of New Zealand. Unlike most public monuments, it is really artistic and decorative. It is a good specimen of the English Gothic manner.
The Hospital, a large building in the Italian style, was originally intended for a public market, though it was expected that it might also have to accommodate the Colonial Legislature when-if-ever- the seat of Government was changed to Dunedin. The Lunatic Asylum is said to be the largest public building in the colony. It is situated at Seacliff, about twenty miles north of Dunedin, and is a commanding structure in the Scottish baronial manner. Of course it adds nothing to the architectural effects of Dunedin, but it is mentioned here as a noteworthy public building, not altogether unconnected with the city.
The banks of Dunedin are much superior to the general run of such buildings in external appearance. The Colonial Bank, which is certainly one of the best situated and most imposing buildings in the city, was built originally as a Post Office. But after being handed over to the University Council and used as a Museum, it was sold to the Colomal Bank corporation. It is now rather obscured by the Grand Hotel, and the Colonial Mutual building opposite. The Union Bank, with a fine Corinthian portico, also suffers from comparison with Wain's five-storied hotel across the way. The Bank of New Zealand, at the corner of Princes Street and Rattray Street, is also built in the classic style, and the banking hall is beautifully decorated. The Australian Mutual Provident buildings, after an Italian type, and the New Zealand Insurance Company's buildings at the corner of Crawford and Rattray Streets, are fully up to the high level of architecture affected by successful insurance companies throughout these colonies. The Bank of Australasia, built originally for the Otago Daily Times and Witness Company, looks quite insignificant beside them.
The wholesale merchants of Dunedin have certainly helped to improve the architectural appearance of the city. In no other town in the colony are so many handsome warehouses to be found. Ross and Glendining's in Stafford Street, Brown, Ewing and Co.'s in Manse Street, Bing, Harris and Co.'s and Butterworth Bros.' in High Street, and-most imposing of all-Sargood, Son and Ewen's in lower High Street, are buildings that do credit to the city, and to the firms that have erected them. There are many other commercial buildings-for example, the Union Steam Ship Company's offices, the “Evening Star” premises, the Universal Bond-which without any special architectural merit, bear witness to the mercantile activity that prevails in Dunedin. But the most imposing structure hitherto unnoticed is the Town Hall. Though the building is not completed, the Italian facade produces a fine architectural effect; and from the bell-tower, 165 feet in height, one of the finest spectacular views in the city can be obtained.
These few details are sufficient to show that there is a considerable variety of architectural treatment to be observed in Dunedin streets; and that, though the city is full of irregularities in building, there are in Dunedin more dignified and handsome structures than can be found in other colonial cities of the same size or importance.