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Sevicke Jones building

Situated at 53 Cathedral Square, the Sevicke Jones building was designed by Armson, Collins and Harman and was completed by 1915.

North west Cathedral Square buildings
North west Cathedral Square buildings. Creator (cre): David Ayling, Contributor (ctb): David Ayling. CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ

The map of Christchurch made by Charles Edward Fooks in 1862 shows a single building situated on what was Town Section 708. This building appears to still be in position when Strout’s map was made in 1877. At this time, section 708 was owned by John Terras Bell. In 1879, Bell applied for a Right of Way through section 708 to Gloucester Street which, in 1881, became known as Chancery Lane.

A photograph taken from the tower of the ChristChurch Cathedral in the 1890s shows a single storey wooden building with two gabled ends situated on the site. This building was supposedly one of the oldest buildings in Cathedral Square and was said to have been relocated to the site from Armagh Street thirty or forty years prior to its demolition.

The site was purchased in 1913 by George Sevicke Jones, an optician, and demolition of the original building commenced in July 1914. The architectural firm, Armson, Collins and Harman was hired to design a new office building for Sevicke Jones and Nightingale Brothers oversaw its construction. By February 1915, Sevicke Jones advertised that his new premises was now on the corner of Chancery Lane and Cathedral Square.

Designed in the Italianate style of architecture, the building was built from brick and rendered with plaster. Originally consisting of three floors, the southern façade of the building faced Cathedral Square. The western façade extended by five window bays down Chancery Lane before terminating at a right of way which provided access from the Everybody’s cinema that was being constructed adjacent to the building’s east.

The southern façade of the ground floor featured two arched doorways, separated by three arched windows. On either side of the windows were rusticated columns. A dentil frieze separated the ground floor from the first floor which featured four arched windows with pilasters. Rose motifs were set in between each of the windows. A frieze with circular motifs separated the first floor from the second floor. The second floor was more sedate in its appearance, with segmented windows. Above this, a dentil frieze traversed the façade. Originally this was topped by a parapet decorated with lion head motifs.

The Carlton Café, run by John Joseph Dickson, was opened in the building on 1 March 1915. The first floor was used as a dining room, while the second floor contained a large room used for private parties and several smaller parlour rooms. Extensions to the Carlton Café were already underway by April 1915 which allowed the building to extend along Chancery Lane. This extension was to contain toilet rooms for ladies, three dining rooms, an oyster room, and a coal store room.

By February 1922, the building was known as the Carlton Café building. At this time a third floor, designed again by Armson, Collins and Harman, was added. Incorporating the original parapets with the lion motifs, the third floor featured square windows and a dentil frieze. The intention was for the third floor to become the Carlton Cabaret. However, the name was changed to Dixieland Cabaret prior to opening on 14 June 1922.

Dixieland consisted of the third floor, which featured a lounge and supper room, and the fourth floor, which was the ballroom. Access was provided to the roof which featured a rooftop garden. Dickson and his wife ended their management in October 1929. In November 1937, Dixieland, then under the proprietorship of Hubert Addis, relocated to a new premises above the Mayfair Theatre on Worcester Street. In December, Sevicke Jones advertised for the lease of three floors.

The building was also altered in 1937 to accommodate additions facing onto Chancery Lane. These alterations included three shops on the ground floor, a workroom on the second floor, and private tea rooms. By 1939, the building was also known as Chancery House.

In February 1940, the V.A.D. department of the Red Cross Society relocated to the building. Dr A. M. Hartnell relocated his surgery there in the following month. In that month, Victor L. Buckley also commenced his dental practice in the building. Offices for the Navy League were also situated in the building.

In 1961, George Sevicke Jones died and the ownership of the building was given to a charitable trust which was administered by the New Zealand Guardian Trust. Hori Collett, the nephew of Sevicke Jones, continued to operate the optician’s practice that his uncle had established.

Along with housing this practice, the building continued to be used as a dental surgery and offices. In 1985, R. M. Collins, dental surgeons, were situated on the first floor, while J. R. Allison, accountants, were situated on the second floor. Key Personnel Limited also had their offices in the building.

The building was damaged by a fire in November 1993. In the following year the property was sold to Number 33 Garlan Limited, a company owned by a Singaporean developer.

By the early 2000s, the ground floor had become the site of an internet café. In 2003, the building was purchased by Dave Henderson who also owned properties in Chancery Lane and the adjacent former cinema building.

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