Millers building

The iconic modernist building at 163-173 Tuam Street was completed in 1939 for Millers Limited textile business. From 1980 - 2010 it was the main offices of the Christchurch City Council.

Millers Department Store, Tuam Street
Millers Department Store, Tuam Street. In copyright

Seeking to expand his drapery business, Leslie Miller acquired a site on Tuam Street. Intending to build a factory on the site, Miller changed his plans when he saw a building in Manchester built in the Bauhaus style of architecture. George Alfred James Hart was hired to design the building Miller wanted and Campbell and Morrison were employed as the engineers.

The building Hart designed was the first in New Zealand to feature beamless concrete floor slabs. These were supported by hexagonal columns which were set apart at length to create a spacious retail environment.

The escalator was designed by Carl Flohr and Co. of Berlin, constructed in England and assembled in Christchurch. It was the first to be installed in the South Island and the longest escalator in New Zealand.

The ground floor and the first floor of the building were dedicated to retail and office space. The ground floor also featured a milk bar with a tea lounge set on an upper gallery. The second and third floors of the building were for manufacturing. The fourth floor was for staff recreation. This floor housed a cafeteria, dining room and provided space for games such as indoor bowls, ping pong, tennis and basketball. The roof also was used for staff recreation and housed a custodian’s apartment.

The building was completed in 1939. Later in that year, with the declaration of war, the company was responsible for the manufacturing of military uniforms for the New Zealand Army.

In 1978 the Christchurch City Council (CCC) bought the building for its new civic offices.

After extensive refurbishment the building was formally opened by the Duchess of Kent in November 1980.  It remained as the council’s main offices until August 2010 when CCC relocated due to the maintenance costs of running what was an outdated building. It was therefore unoccupied at the time of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

The building was demolished in May 2014 to make way for a new bus exchange.