Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Elliott Street

Whoever had the idea to put this metal cage design, featuring the name of Elliott Street, needs a pat on the back. I like it. In the midst of i9nner city blandness, this is uncommon cool.

The corner of Wellesley and Elliott Streets belongs to Smith & Caughey, the venerable firm of drapers, perfume sellers -- virtually everything for the Aucklander with class. The early 1900s building constructed to give the firm an entry to Elliott Street still survives.

"The construction in the early 1900s of a third three-storey building on the open yard at the rear of the former warehouse gave customers access to the store from Elliott Street. It also increased the overall floor space to almost three acres, making Smith & Caughey's one of the largest retail establishments in the country at that time." (Cecilie Geary, Celebrating 125 years 1880-2005, Smith & Caughey's, p. 28)

But next to it, replacing the old Fullers Opera House in the 1920s, is Roy Lippincott's contribution to the complex -- one of my favourite inner city buildings. With Category 1 classification from the Historic Places Trust, no less.

I'd always thought the whole building was Lippincott's design, up until now. But the very top comes from a later design, and another architect.

"The tallest and most decorative of the Smith & Caughey's buildings, the Lippincott extension had six storeys. The three lower floors were used for trading while those above housed the company's offices, an independently owned hairdressing salon, and social club for ladies called the Lyceum Club ... If the Lippincott Building had a design flaw it was the flat tiled roof of the Lyceum Club, which leaked badly causing considerable damage to the floors below ... There were two solutions to the problem: a new roof or another storey. The company chose the latter and seventh floor, designed by Auckland architect David Swan, was erected in 1967 at a cost of $92,000." (Geary, pp. 29-30)

Still, that 1967 addition has really added an extra quality to the building, I think.


  1. When the cage was put up with the name of the street, why was it spelt "Elliott"?. A mistake that took root from then on? Wasn't the street named after William Elliot (1864-1934) Auckland businessman who donated marble statues and large sums of money for the enhancemant of Auckland Domain?

    1. Because that was the spelling from the 1860s, so no, not named after Elliot. There have been variations with one T or two over time, but two usually wins out.

  2. Do you have information about the Margarita's building? I had worked there as a teen and had many strange experiences while opening the downstairs basement alone. I am also curious about the carpark across the street. I always felt it to be creepy and never found any information about what was once standing there.

    1. Visit Auckland Council Archives, two flights down at the Academy Cinema entrance, Lorne Street, open Monday to Friday 2pm to 5pm. They'll have valuation field sheet files on the street that could help answer your questions.