City Hotel

High & Colombo Streets, Christchurch
High & Colombo Streets, Christchurch. Contributor (ctb): Isabel Clemens. No known copyright

Situated at the corner of High Street and Colombo Street, the City Hotel first opened in May 1864. 

Together with sections 840 and 841, Town Section 842 comprised an area of land bounded by Colombo Street, High Street, and Cashel Street which was known as the Triangle. This property was eventually purchased by William Wilson following his arrival in Canterbury in 1851. Wooden buildings were erected upon it and a right of way crossed the section from Cashel Street to Colombo Street.

At the end of the 1850s, a set of shops stood on the northern corner of the triangle formed by the junction of High Street and Colombo Street. One of these buildings was operated by John George Ruddenklau which, by 1861, was known as the City Wine Vaults. Ruddenklau also operated a bakery with J.S. Hawley until June 1863 when their partnership dissolved.

At a licensing meeting held in April 1863, Ruddenklau was informed that for his license of the City Wine Vaults to be renewed in the following year, he would be required to complete improvements to the building. The building was rebuilt and was open by May 1864 as the City Hotel. Despite this improvement, in that same year the collection of buildings in the Triangle was referred to as a “Triangle” of unsavoury reputation.

A photograph of Cathedral Square taken circa 1867 shows that the hotel was a two storey timber building which faced northward onto the triangle formed by the junction of Colombo Street and High Street. Later photos reveal that the decorative features of the building were kept to a minimum. Sash windows were found on both floors and the ground floor was separated from the first floor by a string course. The first floor was topped by a dentil frieze.

In August 1869, the license passed from Ruddenklau to John William Oram. In April 1870, Oram advertised tenders for additions to the City Hotel. The tender of Rankin and Greig was accepted to carry out the work.

In January 1876, a fire in the Triangle severely damaged the City Hotel. In March 1876, Oram transferred the license to Thomas Willis before departing on a voyage to England later that month. The hotel was restored and became known as Oram’s City Hotel by May 1876. In October 1876, the license for the City Hotel was transferred by Oram’s lawyer, F.W. Thiele, to George Lloyd. The license was transferred back to Thiele in September 1877.

In June 1878, Matthew H. Oram, the brother of John William Oram, renewed the license for the City Hotel. In September 1880, the license was temporarily transferred to Edwin (also known as Edward) Cookson before being fully taken up by Cookson in November.

Looking south from Cathedral Square
Looking south from Cathedral Square. Christchurch Star - no known copyright

The trustees of the estate of Joseph Hadfield, another hotel owner, had a mortgage over the hotel as Hadfield had advanced a considerable sum of money to Cookson. When Hadfield died in 1883, the trustees took over the hotel, and initially appointed Cookson as the manager. Joseph Oram Sheppard was appointed, along with his wife, as the manager. The license was to be put under the name of Hadfield’s widow, Elizabeth Ellen Hadfield, who was Sheppard’s sister. In October 1883, Cookson applied to transfer the license to Elizabeth Hadfield.

In June 1889, the license was transferred from Hadfield to John MacNamara. MacNamara continued to run the City Hotel until December 1898 when the license was transferred to Robert Alexander.

Renovations were made to the hotel building prior to October 1899 when Francis Arenas, the vice-consul for Spain, took over the management of the hotel. These renovations may have included the addition of new features which are recognisable in a photograph taken of the hotel in the first decade of the twentieth century when it was known as Whittle’s City Hotel. In this photograph, a bullnose verandah, with an archway opening over the main door, covers the northern façade of the ground floor. The windows of the first floor have been topped with triangular and arched pediments and the sets of windows are separated by pilasters. The dentil frieze remains, but the roof of the building has been topped by a balustrade.

In December 1899, the license was formally transferred to Arenas. He held it only for a year before applying to transfer the license to Richard John Whittle in April 1901. After the death of Whittle in January 1902, his wife, Annie, applied for the license in May 1902. She remained the license holder until April 1906 when she applied to transfer the license to John Thomas Sutton.

In July 1911, John Thomas Sutton applied to transfer the license to William Stuart Mitchell. In December 1914, Mitchell applied to transfer the license to Timothy Cotter. In June 1919, Cotter applied to transfer the license to Frank Moor Drewitt. In December 1921, Drewitt applied to transfer the license to David Young. In October 1924, Young applied to transfer the license to Joseph Selway. Selway applied to transfer the license to Walter James Blake in July 1925.

In July 1929, Ballin Brothers, a brewing firm and soft drink manufacturing business, purchased the license for the City Hotel with the intention to transfer the license to a new premises. In May 1930 the lease was extended to 31 October 1930 to enable the completion of the New City Hotel being constructed for Ballin Brothers on the corner of Bath and Colombo Street.

Initially the estate of William Wilson did not intend to rebuild the hotel building, planning instead to refit the ground floor for shops and use the upper floor for tearooms. By May 1930, the estate had hired the architectural firm England Brothers to remodel the existing building by adding an additional storey and renovating the street facing façade with a modern exterior.

However, on 6 December 1930, tenders were advertised for the removal of the former City Hotel building. By March 1931, tenders were advertised for the construction of a new building which commenced in June by B. Moore and Sons. The new building, which was completed in December 1931, became known as Triangle Chambers.