Saturday, September 20, 2014

Beside Te Wai Ariki: from the Mason's Hotel to the Hotel Cargen

Rev John Kinder drawing of Eden Crescent looking west. Old St Pauls on the horizon, part of the Royal Hotel complex centre-right. 4-1208, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

On spotting some early photos of Eden Crescent via the Te Papa Museum collection recently, I felt the urge to look into the story of the second Royal Hotel. Said story turned out to be somewhat more involved than I imagined.

28 September 1925, 4-1975, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

The landscape remains almost the same, even if the buildings have changed, as seen in these first three images.

 Eden Crescent, looking east towards former Hotel Cargen. Photo: L Truttman, 14 September 2014

 On to the story.

 Detail from Plan of the Town of Auckland, Charles Heaphy, 1851 (NZ Map 816, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries)

The original name for Official Bay, once a line of beach separated from Commercial Bay to the west by Point Britomart, and just along from Mechanics Bay to the east, was Waiariki. Te Keene, of Ngati Kahu and Ngati Poataniwha, testified at the Native Land Court in December 1866 that local iwi had plantations there, no doubt supplied by the almost never-failing Te Waiariki spring from the Waterloo Quadrant ridge and Albert Park. The spring still runs beneath the site of the Royal Hotel/Cargen.

Initial land sales at Official Bay were quite early. That for Lot 6 of Section 8, City of Auckland occurred in 1842, when Dudley Sinclair bought this and other sections around the city. He didn't live long, with an ignominious end in 1844.

"Lachlan McLachlan, who had come to Auckland in connection with the Manukau Land Company's enterprise, was called an adventurer by Dudley Sinclair, eldest son of Sir George Sinclair. McLachlan challenged him and, failing to receive an answer, called on Sinclair and whipped him with his own horse whip. Sinclair wished to challenge McLachlan but Conroy, Sinclair's second, advised against it. Sinclair committed suicide soon after, on 22 October, the inquest returning a verdict of temporary insanity."

Suicide in a truly brutal fashion -- Sinclair cut his own throat.

Probate of Sinclair's will was granted in December 1844 to William Smellie Grahame as executor, but it wasn't until April 1846 that Sinclair's personal effects were put up for auction. His selection of real estate around the town was sold soon after. The title to section 9 of 6, the corner site of Short Street and Eden Crescent, was transferred to a purchaser named Martin in November 1847.

In January 1849, an advertisement appeared in the New Zealander for the sale of a commodious house just two sections away from the corner of Short Street and Eden Crescent. Connell & Ridings advised prospective buyers, "It could readily be thrown into one concern and would be very suitable for a grocery store or Public House, much wanted in that neighbourhood. There is a constant run of Fresh water on the Premises." Less than three months later, we see Alfred C Joy appear, applying in April for a publican's licence for his new hotel in Official Bay, the Mason's Hotel. It is as if Joy answered the neighbourhood's much wanted need, as per the January advertisement.

Joy's new hotel was the original wooden building at the corner of Short Street and Eden Crescent, seen below in a detail from an image by George Pulman, photographed probably in the early 1860s. It was in a perfect position to take advantage of traffic to and from Wynyard Pier at the end of Short Street from 1851-1852.

In April 1852, the licence for the Mason's Home/Hotel was transferred to James Palmer. Previously, he'd tried for a licence for the Oddfellows Home in Mechanics Bay the year before. Palmer is someone familiar to me due to his later connections with the Whau Hotels and Banwell. Palmer (1819-1893) left Plymouth bound for New Zealand on 4 December 1842 on the Westminster, arriving 31 March 1843.He may have been the James Palmer applying for a licence for the "Crispin Arms" somewhere on Eden Crescent in 1847, but that was likely just a very brief attempt at a hotel in the area before the Masons Home.

Palmer obtained title to section 7 right alongside the Mason’s Home in May 1853, and may have offered this for sale in March 1854 (an advertisement matches the description – SC 14 March). But, it turns out he hung onto the site instead, and expanded the hotel with a grand brick addition.

c1860s. "Looking east from Short Street, showing the north side of Eden Crescent with the Royal Hotel and the Auckland Club, hitching posts at hotel entrance," 4-28, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

The Royal Hotel.— This fine building, which has been in course of erection for the past eighteen months, is now completed, and forms without exception the finest and most substantially constructed edifice in this city. Indeed, it is considerably in advance of the place and will, we are inclined to think, stand forth for some years to come as a favourable specimen of our srreet architecture. The front of the building, which is of Matakana stone, is chaste and simple in its design, and altogether free from those heavy attempts at architectural display which too often only tend to disfigure a building, and to exhibit the ignorance of the architect. From the street one can scarcely form an idea of the real size of the building, but from the water "it looms large," and has a very striking effect. The rooms are spacious and lofty, and fitted up with every regard to comfort. On the second floor, the long room, if not the largest, is certainly the best proportioned and most elegantly furnished in Auckland, and fully capable of accommodating a dinner party of forty. As a ball or concert room it is well adapted, and we should think would suit the Auckland Club, should they find it necessary to seek temporary accommodation, pending their obtaining premises of their own. A fine verandah, extending the whole width of the building, commands an extensive view seaward. The bedrooms are spacious, well ventilated, and remarkable for the neatness of their fittings and the cleanliness of their furniture. Indeed, the Royal Hotel is in every respect amply provided for the accommodation and comfort of its frequenters. At present, it lacks but one desideratum, a billiard table but this want will be soon supplied, a first class table having been ordered by Mr. Palmer from one of the best makers. The opening day was marked by a housewarming dinner, which came off last week, and which we are informed afforded unqualified satisfaction to a very numerous and respectable company.

Southern Cross 23 October 1857 p. 3

The Auckland Club shifted into the new building by 1858, and made it their permanent meeting space.

The following year, the license for the Royal Hotel as both buildings were now known went to Charles Joslin.

Southern Cross 1 October 1858

But, Joslin declared bankruptcy in September 1859, and Palmer once again tried selling his asset.

Southern Cross, 15 July 1859

Come October 1864, however, we see that Palmer not only retained title for the brick addition and its land, but obtains title for the original wooden hotel as well. Palmer's land dealings in this part of Eden Crescent are quite involved, taking in property on the other side of the road as well, part of the future drinks factory site for Grey & Menzies. Things came personally unstuck for him and his family when two of his sons drowned in April 1865, the bodies recovered and brought back to the hotel. In February 1868, a meeting of Palmer's creditors was held -- then, as later in the Whau, he had mortgaged himself to the hilt. One of his creditors was Henry Chamberlin, who was granted title to the brick addition and its land by the courts in March 1868 (DI 5A.892). In March 1869 came a notice in the newspapers of a sale by auction of the remainder Palmer's real estate, and this time it really did happen: Palmer left the Royal Hotel in 1870. In September that year, John Jacob Fernandez offered "hot luncheon, with English Ale and Porter, during sittings of the Supreme Court," the Royal being the nearest accommodation house to the courts up on the hill.

c.1869, "Looking east from Eden Crescent showing Short St (left), St Andrews Church (right), Royal Hotel (centre left) and the Supreme Court (right background)," Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

In May 1871, Palmer conveyed the wooden hotel to Henry Beedle and Donald N Watson. Henry Beedell from August 1866 was in business as an ale and porter brewer on New North Road. With Watson and William McGlashan, Beedle was in various partnership setups until September 1866. From early 1872, they ran a bottling store in Wyndham Street, and as at 1873 owned a former hotel at Stokes Point on the North Shore. They sold the last of their interest in Lot 6 (6 and 8, at the rear of the later Cargen extension) with small cottages thereon in January 1876, as well as their brewery near New North and Mt Eden Roads, Lots 7-11 and 3 of section 3 of 2A and 2B of Section 10, Suburbs of Auckland (between Flower, Nikau and Karori Streets, Eden Terrace).

In February 1873, they sold their interest in the wooden hotel site to Chamberlin.

Chamberlin was an entrepreneur, landowner, and politician. The wooden and brick hotel at Eden Crescent was an investment to him and his family. He applied to have the licence put under his name in 1871; in August that year transferred to Richard Nicholson; then transferred the licence to Petert Boylan in 1873. By 1876, the brick Royal Hotel was back on the market, and in 1877 both buildings were. In November 1882, Chamberlin successfully sold the property to John Chadwick. The complex reopened as the "Old Club" the following month.

Auckland Star 19 December 1882

In September 1883, Chadwick transferred title to surveyor Charles Alma Baker, who had dealings in 1886-1887 with a solicitor named Alfred Edgar Whitaker, and an agent Henry Ernest Whitaker. The title transferred to them for a time, then back to Baker, then finally defaulted through unpaid mortgage to widow Elizabeth Chamberlin in 1888 (that year, her husband Henry drowned in a pond at Drury). The widow's interest was shared with her agent Edmund Augustus McKechnie, and he transferred interest to Charles Chamberlin by 1890 (rates books, Auckland Council Archives).

At some point around 1900-1902, the old wooden ex-hotel at the corner was demolished. A survey plan from 1902 shows a clear site, and the rates records from that time on refer only to the brick building.

DP 3070, LINZ records, crown copyright

Eden Crescent, c.1900. Only bare ground where the old 1849 wooden hotel on the corner once stood. The "shadow" of the building can be seen on the brick wall of the 1850s extension Palmer built. Te Papa museum collection, C.011096.

The last time the 1850s brick part of the hotel was referred to as "Old Club" was in 1905. In 1904, it  was up for sale, but the two sites (vacant corner and brick hotel) weren't sold until 1907. A "Glendowie House" appears in the papers in 1905, lately run by W J Ford ("Old Club") but from then run by Mrs Robertson. Basically, the brick hotel was a boarding house, known by more than one name. Until in 1907 when it became known as "Cargen", run by Mr and Mrs Edward Francis Black.

Then in 1908, a building permit was filed with Auckland City Council for a new wooden accommodation house on the corner site.

Detail from permit plan 353, AKC 339, Auckland Council Archives

The new building cost £1800, and was organised by Gregory Benmore Osmond, holder of the land title from August that year. The development was for the Blacks as Cargen Hotel Proprietary, and culminated in a 7-storey extension to the combined Cargen Hotel in 1912-1913, designed by R W de Montalk. This extension today is all that is left of the Cargen Hotel complex of three buildings. Cargen Proprietary remained as owner until 1939.

13 September 1927, showing the three buildings in the Hotel Cargen complex. 1-W841, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

The Blacks left the Cargen in 1920, and sold the chattels in a much-reported event, opening up to the public the finery in the private hotel.

Auckland Star 11 June 1920

Auckland Star 2 July 1920

Bertha Braik was the next manager, from 1921 to around 1925, followed by Robert Chesny, a hotel manager with Hancock & Co, the brewery company already having a controlling interest in the business which culminated in their name on the title from 1939.

Looking east along Eden Crescent, the Cargen complex in the centre. 4-1973, 1925, Sir George Grey Special Collections.

Cargen complex at left. 28 December 1931, 4-4246, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

1925. From Anzac Ave, looking at the rear of the complex, left. Short Street at right. 4-1903, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

Governors-General presided over Empire Day dinners and balls at the Hotel Cargen, Auckland each year on May 24 both between the wars, and after World War 2 (when the hotel was renamed Transtasman); Governor-General Lord Freyberg “used the day to deliver some of his hardest-hitting speeches,” according to The co-founder and foundation member of the NZ Chefs Association Inc., Sid Young, started his traineeship at the Cargen as a cook in 1935. In 1940, in the atmosphere of a number of corporates making donations to aid the war effort, Hancock & Co gave the hotel to the Auckland Hospital Board for use as a home for nurses. This gift meant a lot to the Board at the time, as they faced an accommodation bill of £11,000 a year for their staff. However, the original 1912 design of the eastern extension, and alterations done in 1924, was criticised in a report from consultants employed by the Board in 1942, with a number of defects, mainly concerning roof leaks but also involving rotted floors and balcony posts, showing up which brought the Board concern. 

The Hospital Board kept possession of the hotel, however, throughout the rest of the war years, and conveyed it back to Hancock & Co in 1946. Around 1947, the hotel was renamed Transtasman, and reopened to accommodate around 60 guests. However, the four main brewery companies (New Zealand Breweries, Dominion Breweries, Hancock and Company and Campbell and Ehrenfried) put a plan to the government to be permitted to demolish the original hotel and wooden building beside and erect a new 300 room hotel on the site. In 1955, Hancock & Co transferred ownership to Hotel Transtasman Ltd, and at some point after this, but before the United Empire Box Company (UEB) purchased the hotel in 1963, the 1908 and 1850s buildings were demolished, to create a carpark. By 1971, the remaining part of the hotel was a series of commercial offices, which it remains to this day. 

Detail from 1966 topo map, showing the cleared space beside the 1912-1913 extension to the Cargen. NZ Map 2049, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

Detail from 1968 aerial, NZ Map 3249, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

Eden Crescent, looking east from just opposite Short Street, 14 September 2014.

The remains of the Hotel Cargen -- the surviving 1913-1913 extension.

An update: photos by Laurie Knight of the Hotel Cargen, May 2017, The building has just been sold by tender, and work is underway inside at the time this images were taken.


  1. What a great history of the area! What is the Hotel Cargen now - apartments?

  2. Possibly. It was offices at one point.

  3. Found it on the web - sold recently with vacant possession and plans for apartments. How amazing it would be to live in this slice of history.
    Thanks for putting so much effort into this wonderful blog, and the Facebook page, for the benefit of armchair history buffs like me who lack the skills to investigate these things ourselves. :-)

  4. Thank you for the kind words! You've made my night. Cheers! (Lisa) :-)

  5. Any idea why its name was changed to Transtasman? did it have anything to do why flying at all like its logo implies?

    1. Considering this was a period when hotel chains such as Intercontinental were on the rise overseas -- it was a product of its time. Much more trendy than Cargen.

  6. Hi Historical data on the food that was served in the hotel, whatwas the name of the restaurant ?

  7. You might be able to find out in Papers Past.

  8. I'm a little late. Thank you very much for all your research. I worked in this building in 1996 when it was an English school. On Sunday I joined the Emily Place Urban Walk, part of the Urban Walking Festival. (There's another walk on Sunday 16 May at 1 pm. You can register at We stopped outside 10 Eden Crescent and I guessed (incorrectly) that it had been built in the 1920s as apartments. You have put me right!