I posted about the Queen's Head Tavern façade, at the corner of Mayoral Drive and Queen Street, back in late December 2009. Since then, I have a bit more info on the hotel, thanks to Papers Past, and a booklet called Toast the Ghosts, put together by Garth Houltham in 1990.
Henry Hopper Adams started the first Queen's Head hotel in Victoria Street. I've found one reference dating from 1863, but he was possibly there a bit before that. In time for the licensing meeting in April 1868, he had another Queen's Head hotel, a two-storey wooden building in Upper Queen Street, in place. At the end of 1870, the license transferred to William Adams.
By the end of 1877, the proprietor was a Mr. Frances McCormick, then from September 1879 Ellen Moller. In March 1881, John Grogan took over the license.
Into the picture around 1883 stepped John Carroll Seccombe, owner of his father Richard Seccombe's Great Northern Brewery, and one of Auckland's early beer barons. From his obituary:
Our obituary column to-day contains a notice of the death of Mr John C. Seccombe, who passed quietly away at an early hour this morning, at the age of 58 years. Deceased had been residing at the Lake Takapuna Hotel for some weeks past recruiting his health, which had been failing for some time. He was the second son of Mr Richard Seccombe, of the old-established Great Northern Brewery, Kyber Pass, and was respected by all who knew him. Deceased came to Auckland with his father in 1860, and soon afterwards they started the brewery in Kyber Pass, sinking the famous well which is so well known in connection with the premises. After some years the father retired and the business was taken up by deceased, who carried it on up to the time of his death, assisted by his sons. Deceased took an active part in the business till about six months ago, when his health failed him. In addition to a large circle of friends, he leaves behind him to mourn their loss a widow and family, comprising three sons and a daughter. Percy, the eldest son of deceased, only died some four weeks ago. The interment takes place in St. Mark's cemetery, Remuera, on Wednesday afternoon next, the remains leaving the North Shore ferry tee at half-past three o'clock.
Auckland Star 16 February 1892
Seccombe had noted hotel and church architect Edward Mahoney design a replacement Queen's Head hotel for Queen Street in brick.
Auckland Star 15 September 1883
QUEEN'S HEAD HOTEL.
This is the name of a handsome new brick building recently erected at the foot of Upper Queen Street. Messrs Mahoney and Sons prepared the plans for Mr J. G. Seccombe, who is the owner and has leased the property to Mr McIlhone, now in possession. The building is a brick structure, comprising two stories and cellar, having a frontage to the main road of 40ft. 6'in., with a depth of 45ft. The ground floor is subdivided into two sitting-rooms measuring each 14ft. x 11ft., a large dining-room, the bar, 22ft. x 14 ft., kitchen, 16ft by 10ft., with pantry attached. The upper story, to which access is gained by means of a handsome staircase, consists of sitting-room, 14ft. x 13ft., and eight bedrooms, averaging 14ft. by 10ft. each. The building internally is finished in the best style, and the furnishing generally is good. It has a slate roof, and in finished externally with Portland cement and pressed bricks. The front is of an ornamental character, and is subdivided with pilasters with foliated caps, and further enriched by various ornaments of suitable design. The parapet is rendered attractive by three prediments, the central one containing the name of the house, and each of the side ones a medallion of the Queen's head. The contractors for the work were Messrs McConnachie and Flatt, who have given every satisfaction. Contract price, £1,939.
Auckland Star 3 July 1884
Bolding mine. Here's the "ornamental character" front, as at December 2009. Compare the 1884 description.
Fire gutted the upper storey in July 1887, but business soon resumed.
News came just over 100 years later that the hotel was to be replaced by an office tower but at least the façade was retained, and given a C2 classification on the Auckland City Council's heritage protection lists in 1987.
Now, so I've been informed today, that could well all change. The site is to be that of a new development called Queen's Lane. In a press release, the remaining piece of the 1883 hotel is described as "the 'ugly duckling' of Auckland’s 80’s façadism." I beg to differ. What is ugly in my opinion is that the bare remains of our heritage is going to be replaced by yet another bland retail development, instead of any attempt to incorporate Mahoney's iconic design into the new structure. This is depressing.
"...the former Queens Head Tavern facade will make way for a revitalised retail frontage and a new Queen Street entry to the tower above."
I'd appreciate any comments from readers on this.
Update, 12 October 2011: I've emailed NZ Historic Places Trust. They advise that the façade is currently registered as Category II, and that their position is that attempts should be made to try to retain the façade. There are challenges, of course, regarding structure etc, but they do remain opposed to its removal. This is very heartening news. Hopefully something can be sorted between the developers, NZHPT, and Auckland Council. I've also emailed Cr Sandra Coney, Chair of the Parks, Recreation and Heritage Committee.