Strange's Building

Built 1899-1900 and situated on the corner of High Street and Lichfield Street, Strange's Building is an example of an early twentieth century department store building. 

Strange's Building
Strange's Building. Photographer (pht): Doc Ross. © Doc Ross

The business of W. Strange and Co. was initially established in 1863 by William Strange as a drapery store on High Street. The premises, which came to be known as Victoria House, had further additions made in 1874 and in 1893. When Thomas Cloverdale joined the company as a partner in 1894, the business made the transition from drapery to department store. Offices were opened in London and Paris, and to accommodate this growth in business, a new showroom was required.

In 1899 the company purchased property at the corner of High Street and Lichfield Street and demolished the original buildings situated on this site. The architectural firm, Armson, Collins and Harman, was selected to design the new building. The contractor for its construction was W. Smith.

The building was designed in the Italianate style of architecture, with a rounded corner and consisted of four floors with a frontage of 170 feet on High Street and 250 feet on Lichfield Street. Built from Oamaru stone, the exterior of each floor became progressively less decorative in its classical detailing as the height of the building increased. The ground floor featured a verandah and the pediments of the roof were topped with decorative urns.

Inside, the ground floor initially featured displays of furnishing drapery and furniture. The first floor, accessed by a staircase, showcased furniture. The second floor, also accessed by a staircase, housed crockery. The uppermost floor was used to house reserve stock. All of the floors could also be accessed by an electric lift.

The building opened for business on 14 July 1900 and over time it came to be known as Strange’s Corner.

In 1908 a fire started in the packing room which faced onto a right of way from Lichfield Street and caused damage to surrounding buildings.

William Strange died in 1914, after which the business declined. It eventually closed in the early 1930s and by 1933 the building was occupied by the Army Stores Proprietary.

During the 1940s decorative features, including the verandah and the urns on the parapets, were removed. In 1988 the exterior stonework was cleaned and the original lift was replaced. In that same year the building was registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust as a Category 1 Historic Place.

In 2010 the building was purchased by KPI Rothschild who intended to renovate the building.

The building was damaged during the 2010-2011 earthquakes and was demolished. A modern building, known as the Stranges Building, replaced it in 2014.