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Occidental Hotel

The Occidental Hotel on Hereford Street was originally built to provide accommodation for the families of members of the Christchurch Club.

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Hotel Occidental. Creator (cre): Christchurch Star, Publisher (pbl): Christchurch Star. © Christchurch Star

The Occidental Hotel on Hereford Street had an historic association with the nearby Christchurch Club on the corner of Latimer Square and Worcester Street. During the construction of the Christchurch Club building (July 1860-May 1862), the club continued to operate out of its original premises, the house of John Woodman, on Peterborough Street. At this time, the housekeepers of the club were James Collins and his wife Selina.

Even before construction of the club building had finished, James and Selina appear to have entered the hotel trade. Recognising that the families of members of the Christchurch Club would also need accommodation when their husbands visited Christchurch, the Collins established a hotel, just south of the new Christchurch Club building on Hereford Street. They were already operating this hotel by December 1861.

The hotel was originally a two storey, timber structure with a hipped roof. The ground floor of the front façade was covered with a verandah, which also acted as a balcony for the first floor. In August 1864, architects Farr and Cuff advertised tenders for builders to make additions to the hotel. The building was extended eastward and was completed by January 1865.

The experience of an early guest can be found in Lights and Shadows of Colonial Life, an account of life on a North Canterbury farm in the 1860s, in which Sarah Amelia Courage mentions staying at the hotel with her husband during their visits to Christchurch.

James Collins retired in 1868 and although the license passed to Charles Green, he resumed his role as licensee in 1870 until 1874. The hotel and license passed through several owners until 1888 when it was purchased by J.E. Long and John Gregory Harris. In the following year Harris changed the name of the hotel to the Occidental Hotel.

In August 1890 Harris applied to transfer the license to William Godso, formerly of the Sumner Hotel. William Godso applied to transfer the license to Charles Burton in November 1892 who subsequently took up the management of the hotel. In 1898 the license transferred to Henry Fleming. In 1899 the license passed from Fleming to George Pain.

In 1903 Pain transferred the license to John George Green. Green, who ran the hotel with his wife, Jessie, reapplied for the license in May 1904. However at the license hearing in June it was noted that there had been complaints that ‘undesirable persons congregated on the premises’ and the licensee was warned not to serve them.

By September 1905 the licensing committee was considering the possibility that the hotel might have to be rebuilt or renovated before a license could be granted.

The hotel was advertised for sale in March 1906 and in April, it was purchased by Benjamin Perry, along with William Fox. In that same month Perry applied for a license to operate the hotel. However the granting of a license was questioned at the hearing in June 1906 as the licensing committee felt that the building was not in an appropriate condition.

These concerns appear to have been taken into consideration by Perry because in July 1906 the architect, F.J. Barlow, advertised tenders for the repainting and repairing of the hotel building. Under Barlow the roof was lowered and a parapet was added, giving the building the appearance of a hotel design commonly found in Australia. Following these renovations the hotel became known as Perry’s Occidental Hotel. Under the ownership of Perry, the hotel was known for its high standards of cleanliness and it catered to guests such as members of parliament.

In 1926 Benjamin Perry died and the license for the hotel was transferred to his son, also called Benjamin. Benjamin married Mai, who initially started working at the hotel as a chambermaid. Further additions to the hotel building were made under their management. In 1938 brick extensions, designed by the England Brothers, were made to the southern, western and eastern elevations. Mai continued to run the hotel after Benjamin’s death in 1956 and resided in the building until her own death in 1978. During this time it became known for its antique furnishings, including a nineteenth century polyphon.

In 1982 the hotel was purchased by Super Liquor, who renovated the building with the assistance of the architectural firm Sheppard and Rout. Following this renovation a lounge bar and restaurant, Perry’s Restaurant and Bar, opened. A 1930s themed bar, Flappers, opened in October 1985.

The hotel was purchased by Occidental Holdings Limited in 1991 and in 1994 it was purchased by BHL Holdings. In the following year the hotel began to offer accommodation once again. In 1996 Perry’s Bar became Chats and Flappers was renamed the Bull Bar. In 2000 the Bull Bar was converted into space for further accommodation.

The hotel was purchased in June 2006 by Russell and Merilyn Glynn. Although the Occidental Backpacker initially continued its lease, by August the owners had discovered that the building had no warrant of fitness. The building was closed and by 2008 it was noted as having been in a state of neglect.

The building was damaged in the 2011 earthquakes and subsequently demolished.