Cosmic Corner

Ashby Bergh store on High Street
Ashby Bergh store on High Street. Creator (cre): Christchurch Star. © Christchurch Star

The building at 237 High Street was built on parts of Town Sections 897 and 895 and replaced an earlier building which had stood on section 897.

The original building, erected on Town Section 897, had a frontage onto High Street. Photographs of this section of High Street taken prior to 1863 show that a wooden box cottage style building was situated on the site, with its dormer window facing the street. This building was still in place when a photograph was taken of the nearby White Hart hotel prior to its redevelopment in 1877.

An advertisement for Isaac Herman, a Jewish watchmaker and jeweller, whose business was established in 1865, states that his shop was next but one to the town hall. The building situated between his own shop and the town hall was the shop of his brother in law, Solomon Nashelski, which was also situated on Town Section 897.

In November 1886, Herman was declared bankrupt and by the end of December, Johannes (John) Olai Monsen, also a watchmaker and jeweller, had relocated to the building. However, by October 1877, Monsen was also declared bankrupt.

At some point, the property passed into the ownership of Charlotte Susannah Hawley and Anne Sibthorpe Hawley. In December, 1887 Samuel Phillips, pawnbroker, entered into an agreement with them to rent the property for a term of one year. However, by April 1894, he was still in residence and the Hawleys took him to court. The judge ruled in their favour.

In 1894, a new building was constructed on the site for W.A. Tribe and Co., clothiers and general outfitters. In February 1894, the architect, J. Whitelaw, advertised for tenders. The building was constructed by D. Scott and Son and was built from brick, with white stone piers on the ground. The upper floor was topped by a cornice and pediment. A door on the right side provided access to the shop interior, with the remainder of the ground floor façade being taken up by a display window. At the rear of the shop was an office and a fitting room. Stairs on the left hand side of the ground floor provided access to the upper floor which was used as a storeroom. The street front façade of the first floor featured two arched windows (with two smaller windows at the rear). The building could also be entered at the rear from a right of way that connected High Street to Lichfield Street.

By October 1894, W.A. Tribe and Co. had taken up their occupancy at 219 High Street. By November 1907, the property had been purchased by Maurice Harris. In January 1908, W.A. Tribe and Co. advertised that its lease was expiring and the company was relocating to new premises. However, on February 1908 a fire, which started in the neighbouring Ashby, Bergh, and Co. building (217 High Street) destroyed the surrounding buildings, including that at 219 High Street. Because the tenancy agreement that W.A. Tribe and Co. had with the landlord allowed for them to end their lease in the event of a fire, the company left the damaged building and relocated to 156 Colombo Street.

In September 1908, part of Town Section 897 (which together with part of 895 had been the site of the Universal Boot Depot) owned by James William Henry Blake, was transferred to Maurice Harris.

The new building at 219 High Street must have been erected after this land transfer. The new building was designed to be in sympathy with the adjoining building of Ashby, Bergh, and Co. (at the time 217 High Street). which was also erected at the same time. By 13 October 1908. Ashby, Bergh, and Co. had relocated to their newly built premises. A photograph in the February 1909 issue of Progress shows Ashby, Bergh, and Co. occupying both buildings.

Eventually the address of 219 High Street became 237 High Street. Maurice Harris died in 1922, and in 1930, Ashby, Bergh, and Co. purchased 237 High Street. Together with 235 High Street, the property remained part of the Ashby, Bergh, and Co. store until 1983 when it was transferred to Windsor Nominees Limited.

In 1985, it returned to being a shop separate from 237 High Street and became the head office for Microwave Specialists. By 1990, the building was home to the music store, Echo Records. In 2001, the building became Cosmic Corner and remained so until the Canterbury earthquakes. The building was damaged in the earthquakes and was subsequently demolished.