Fisher's Building

Built in 1880, the Venetian Gothic building at the corner of High Street and Hereford Street was known as Fisher's Building. 

Fisher's building
Fisher's building. © Christchurch Star

The corner of Hereford and High Street was originally Lot 1 of Town Section 839 which was granted by the Canterbury Association to John Broughton in 1851.

By August 1857 Reverend Thomas Richard Fisher (Thomas R. Fisher and Co.) importers, wholesale and family grocers was operating from a new store erected on Lot 1. A photograph, taken in 1861, shows a standard two storey box cottage with a gable at the western end. On the second floor, a dormer faced Hereford Street featuring a hatch opening and a hoist for lifting cargo. Adjoining the western façade, on the corner of Hereford Street and High Street, was a single storey shop with a trapezoid footprint and display windows facing both streets.

In 1866 Thomas R. Fisher and Co. went into partnership with George Booth and William Booth to become the import, export and commission merchants Fisher, Booth and Fisher. The company relocated to the premises of F. Mason and Company in the adjoining building. The retail and family business of T.R. Fisher and Co. was conducted by Robert Thompson under the name The Alliance Tea Company in the original premises of T.R. Fisher and Co.

Fisher, Booth and Fisher was dissolved in January 1869 while Fisher and Co. continued to operate the Alliance Tea Company under the new name Alliance Tea Warehouse. In May 1870 Fisher and Co. disposed of the Alliance Tea Warehouse and it was taken over by William John Fisher who relocated the business to the premises next door. The premises on the corner of High Street and Hereford Street was advertised for lease.

In 1872 Broughton leased the site to Thomas Fisher for 56 years. It was under this lease of Fisher that the demolition of the original building took place in May 1880. Fisher advertised tenders for the erection of shops and offices on the corner of High Street and Hereford Street in July 1880. The tender for the construction was awarded to James Tait in August 1880.

The new building was designed by William Barnett Armson in the Venetian Gothic style of architecture. As with the previous building, the footprint conformed to the triangle formed by the corner of Hereford Street and High Street. Built from brick and concrete, the corner of the building was chamfered and featured a gable on the second floor. The Hereford Street façade featured two arched windows on the ground floor and an arched doorway at the eastern end. The ground floor of the High Street façade featured three doors, each with a display window. Inside, a spiral staircase, at the Hereford Street entrance led from the ground floor, to the offices on the first floor (passing an alcove with a hand basin) and the second floor.

Built as an addition to the already existing City Chambers which had been erected on the adjacent lot of Town Section 839 in 1873, the building became known as Fisher’s Building or Fisher’s Corner.

After the death of Thomas Fisher in January 1890, his lease was inherited by his estate, Keith Warren Fisher, Ronald Llewellyn Fisher and Richard Hill Fisher. Eventually this lease was transferred to Henry Slater Richards, land and estate agent, who purchased the property from the estate of John Broughton in 1922. Henry Slater Richards died in 1926.

In 1930 the property was officially transferred to his sons, Henry Slater Richards, Dudley Richards and William Stanley Richards, along with a fourth share to be held in equal by the three brothers. The joint interest went through various transfers until in 1979 the joint interest of Henry Slater Richards, George William Wallis and Jason Richards was transferred to Pyne Gould Guinness Limited.

Faced with demolition, in 1978 the building was restored by Maurice Hunt of Collins, Hunt and Loveridge. The restoration work involved strengthening the building, cleaning and sealing the brick and stonework, and repairing the verandah roof and posts.

By 1989 Pyne Gould Guinness Limited, Church Property Trustees, and Jason Richards, Michael Allan McPhail and Timothy Michael Greeson were the owners of the building.

Throughout its history, the building housed both offices for business firms and commercial shops. One of the first firms to occupy the offices on the second floor was McIntyre and Lewis, surveyors, who remained in occupancy until 1935. On the ground floor, William Robinson ran the Boot and Shoe Establishment. Subsequent businesses which operated out of the ground floor shops included tobacconists, confectioners and florists.

In the twentieth century the building came to be associated with James George Hanafin, a chemist, who, by 1929, had a shop at 282 High Street. In 1981 Lawry Hanafin opened a one-hour photo shop in the building.

Although the building had architectural significance as the sole surviving example of William Barnett Armson’s work, it was severely damaged in the Canterbury earthquakes and demolished in 2011.