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United Service Hotel

The United Service Hotel, on the corner of Hereford Street, Colombo Street, and Cathedral Square, was built in 1886 and demolished in 1990.

Cathedral Square
Cathedral Square. Creator (cre): Peter Brown, Contributor (ctb): Peter Brown. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

The United Service Hotel was built on Town Section 733. In 1865 this section was sold to Richard May Morten and became known as Morten’s Block.

The block was the site of numerous wooden buildings, including the Golden Age Hotel which was situated on the section at the corner of Hereford and Colombo Street. Other buildings on the block included a tailor, tentmaker, bookseller, hairdresser, and rifle gallery. The Christchurch City Council considered the block to be unattractive and in January 1877, Councillor Frederick Hobbs suggested that the council purchase Town Section 733 and also widen the Colombo Street entrance to Cathedral Square. The proposal, however, was not passed.

Instead, Morten intended to construct new buildings. He advertised for an architect to design a four storey building and Thomas S. Lambert was selected. It was to be the first four storey building in Christchurch.

Morten’s block was auctioned by H. Matson and Co. on 23 September 1882. It was divided into thirteen allotments and the conditions were that the lessees would erect buildings in agreement with the plans drawn by Lambert. Section 1 with frontage to Colombo Street and Hereford Street, containing the Golden Age Hotel, and section 3 with frontage to Hereford Street, were both awarded to James Patterson, a hotel keeper from Sumner. The remaining lots were withdrawn from auction.

In May 1883, Henry Allen, the licensee of the Golden Age, transferred his license to James Patterson. By October, Lambert was advertising tenders for the rebuilding of the Golden Age Hotel. In November, he advertised tenders for the erection of a block of buildings on the corner of Colombo Street and Cathedral Square for Morten. By December it was announced that the building would be designed as an addition to the hotel building that would allow both buildings to appear as one with frontages on Cathedral Square, Colombo Street, and Hereford Street. The tender was eventually awarded to Daniel Reese.

In June 1884, James Patterson was declared bankrupt. Edward Latter, acting on his behalf, applied to transfer the hotel license to Thomas John Green. In that same month Lambert advertised tenders for rebuilding the Golden Age Hotel and for the continuation of buildings along Colombo Street and Cathedral Square.

Cathedral Square, Christchurch. NZ
Cathedral Square, Christchurch. NZ. Contributor (ctb): Isabel Clemens. No known copyright

The foundation stone was laid on 11 February 1885 by Richard May Downes Morten, the son of the property owner. Stone came from the property of Morten in the Port Hills and also Peache’s quarry in Mount Somers. In May 1885 Edward George Power applied for the license of the Golden Age Hotel. However, he was declared bankrupt in January 1886.

The building was completed in May 1886. In June 1886, Edward Latter, acting on behalf of Edward George Power, applied to transfer the license to Cecil Louisson. The hotel was now known as the Hereford Hotel. The hotel opened on 5 July 1886.

The building had frontages on Colombo Street, Hereford Street, and Cathedral Square. On the ground floor, a right of way ran through the building from Cathedral Square to Hereford Street. With the Hereford Hotel situated on the northern section of the building, the remaining ground floor space on Colombo Street and Cathedral Square was given over to shops.

Beneath the building were individual cellars connected to the shops above on the ground floor. There was also a bar, known as the dive, which was entered at the corner of Hereford Street and Colombo Street. Set above this entrance was a carving of Darwin.

Also on Hereford Street was a private entrance to the Hereford Hotel. Set above this entrance was a carving of Moore. Within, a staircase led to the first floor where the commercial and dining rooms were situated. On the second floor of the hotel were two sitting rooms, eight bedrooms (four with fireplaces), and a bathroom. The third floor featured the kitchen and additional rooms. From the third floor a ladder led to the roof where an apartment observatory with glass walls was situated which offered views of the city.

Set above the entrance to the right of way on Cathedral Square was a carving of Shakespeare. Within the right of way, a set of stairs and lifts led to the first floor which contained offices and lavatories. The stairs continued to the second and third floors, which had a similar layout to the first floor, as well as offering access to the rooftop apartment.

In May 1906, Cecil Louisson applied to transfer the license to Thomas Jowsey, a veteran of the South African War. Jowsey leased it upon behalf of himself, A. W. Lane and others. They renovated the interior of the entire building to expand the Hereford Hotel on the upper floors. The newly enlarged hotel reopened in October 1906 as the United Service Hotel.

In October 1907, Jowsey applied to transfer the license to Maurice Lyons. In November 1912, Lyons applied to transfer the license to William T.F. Grigsby. In March 1914, Grigsby applied to transfer the license to John Morrison. In May 1915, Morrison applied to transfer the license to Joseph Mandel. In December 1917, Mandel applied to transfer the license to Frank Moor Drewitt. Drewitt applied to transfer the license to Esther Mandel in December 1918. In October 1920, Esther Mandel applied to transfer the license to James Charles Lamb. In February 1923, Lamb applied to transfer the license to Ernest Boulton.

To accommodate further guests, in 1929 a fifth storey built from brick and designed by Cecil Wood was added to the building. The work for this construction started in March 1929.

In July 1942, Ernest Boulton applied to transfer the license to Norman Wray Millner. The building came into the ownership of Central City Estates Limited in 1959.

In 1988 the Christchurch City Council placed a demolition order on the building. By July 1989 it was announced that the building would be demolished and replaced with a set of shops. The demolition of the building was carried out in January 1990.