Our City O-Tautahi

Built in 1887, Our City O-Tautahi (former Municipal Chambers) at 159 Oxford Terrace was designed by Samuel Hurst Seager and is an example of Queen Anne Revival architecture.

Northern façade of 159 Oxford Terrace
Northern façade of 159 Oxford Terrace. Photographer (pht): Doc Ross. © Doc Ross

Previously a wooden office, built in 1851, had occupied the site of the where the old Municipal Chambers building now stands. This wooden building was initially used as a land transfer office before becoming the Council offices. By 1879 the size of the building was no longer practical.

In November 1885 the Council advertised for design submissions for a new municipal office building. On 9 December 1885 the proposed designs were put on display in the City Council chambers for the general public to inspect. By the end of the month the design of Samuel Hurst Seager was selected. Seager had designed a building in the Queen Anne Revival style of architecture, a style which was gaining popularity in London, from which he had recently returned.

The foundation stone for the new building was laid in 1886 by the mayor, Aaron Ayers. Interred beneath were sealed bottles filled with copies of local newspapers. Bricks from the Glentunnel Brickworks were used in the exterior of the building. The two statues, ‘Concorde’ and ‘Industry’ were sculpted by Sir George Frampton.

The building was opened on 24 March 1887 and a lunch was held in the council chamber. The first caretakers to be appointed were Valentine and Mary Esselborn.

The building continued to function as the city’s municipal chambers until 1924 when the Council moved to the new chambers on Manchester Street. Following the departure of the Council, the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce occupied the building. In 1935 Extensions were made to the rear lobby and a boiler room was erected.

In 1987 the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce ended their occupancy and the building became the Christchurch Information Centre. In 2002 it became Our City O-Tautahi.

The building was damaged during the Canterbury earthquakes and remained off limits. In December 2020, the council leased the building to the City of Christchurch Trust for a term of fifty years. This trust was established by Box 112, a company which has experience in restoring heritage buildings in Christchurch. In May 2021, restoration work commenced.