People's Palace Temperance Hotel

Situated at 88 Manchester Street, this building was purposefully built as a hotel c. 1903 and continued to operate until 1979 before being demolished in 1981.

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

The site of the People’s Palace Temperance Hotel, on the north east corner of Manchester Street and St Asaph Street, was originally part of Town Section 1142.

A building, owned by the estate of Alfred Joseph White (d. 1895), was constructed on the site for Ellen Cockayne, who had a lease of it for fifteen years. When the building first opened as a temperance hotel in April 1903 it was known as the Leviathan Hotel.

Constructed from brick, the building had facades on both Manchester Street and St Asaph Street. Although the ground floor of the Manchester Street front featured shops, the hotel occupied the remainder of the building. While the ground floor of Manchester Street featured shop display windows, arched windows lined the first and second floors of both facades, and also the ground floor of the St Asaph Street façade. Decoration was kept to a minimum, with the first and second floor being separated by a string course. Pilasters, culminating in pediments, interrupted the sets of windows, while the corner of the first and second floors featured oriel windows. On the ground floor, a bullnose verandah wrapped around the corner and followed the length of the Manchester Street façade. The entrance to the hotel, on the ground floor of Manchester Street, was marked by a gabled roof in the verandah.

Upon opening, the hotel featured fifty two single bedrooms, twenty double bedrooms, apartments for families, a general dining room, a private dining room, and bathrooms and lavatories with hot and cold water. Ellen Cockayne initially furnished the hotel with goods she purchased on a hire purchase system.

In 1904, the ground floor shops consisted of Thomas James Archbold, a painter, and T. Lees and Co., hatters, mercers, tailors and outfitters. By 1907, George William Plimsoll had a clothing businesses in the corner shop. Other shops at this time included Edwin Cummings, a picture framer, John McCluskey, a hairdresser, and Joseph Beattie’s Wertheim Sewing Machine depot.

When the estate of A. J. White was to be settled in 1908, Cockayne borrowed money to clear the remainder of her debt and associated costs. After 1909, she was bankrupt and relinquished her possession of the hotel, with her creditors, the Sydenham Money Club, taking over the management. Following the death of Eliza White, the wife of Alfred Joseph White, in 1909, the building was owned by the Eliza White Trust.

The building was possibly extended between 1909 and 1910, as the 1910 directory for Christchurch states that the premises had been extended to include an additional fifty bedrooms. Although the directory still lists Cockayne as the manager, by March 1910 the hotel was being managed by Thomas R. Hughes and his wife. An advertisement from December 1910, states that Jennie Guthrie was in possession of the hotel although Thomas Hughes and his wife still managed it.

By 1911, the building, now known as Leviathan Buildings, was also the site of Simmons and McTainsh, pork butchers, and James Weston Grand Clothing Company. Starting in the new year of 1912, the proprietor of the hotel was E. J. Searl.

When the Salvation Army sought to establish a “People’s Palace” in Christchurch (there were various People’s Palace hotels run by the Salvation Army throughout Australia and New Zealand), the building was offered to them by the Sydenham Money Club by August 1912. By December 1912, the manager was R. Barnes and it became known as the People’s Palace Temperance Hotel. The hotel offered rooms for the night, long term residence, and meals.

By 1925, George William Plimsoll still had his clothing store in the corner shop as well as a Bible tract depot. Other businesses in the ground floor shops included a fruit store run by Elizabeth Bampton and Kent and Co., leather merchants. Later, other businesses would be situated in these shops, including a bookshop run by Mary Smith (1938), and a watch businesses run by A. Goddart (1964).

Throughout the remainder of its time as a hotel, the People’s Palace was served by a variety of managers including William G. Middlemiss (1936), T. Buttimore (1938), J. Watkins (1946), H. Dutton (1950), R. McDonald (1964), and Ivan Christofferson (1974).

In 1977 the hotel was rebranded as the Railton Travel Hotel. However, the accommodation services offered could not compete with the first class hotels that were also available in the city. The hotel was forced to close on 31 May 1979. Demolition of the entire building, which was still owned by the Eliza White Trust, began in August 1981. The site then became a car park.