Most of the Trust's buildings were built during the period 1865 – 1885 and are today
New Zealand's most complete streetscape of Victorian commercial buildings. The buildings
are constructed of locally quarried limestone. The easily carved stone lent itself
perfectly to the creation of the elaborate Neo Classical style so favoured by the
clients of Oamaru's busiest architect at the time, Thomas Forrester.
The Trust is fortunate that there are stone masons in Oamaru today who have the skills
to restore the buildings to their former grandeur. The restoration of the buildings
and tenanting them with traditional businesses, artisans and crafts people is part
of the on going commitment the Trust has of preserving and developing Victorian Oamaru's
Criterion Hotel (3 Tyne Street)
The Criterion Hotel was built in 1877 to a design by Oamaru architects Forrester
and Lemon. It was built for its first proprietor William Gillespie and operated
as a licensed hotel until prohibition came to Oamaru in 1905. Without a liquor licence
it continued in use as a private hotel until 1943 when it was bought by G T Gillies
Ltd. and used for storage of light engineering foundry equipment.
The Criterion was purchased by the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust in 1989 and underwent
a full restoration of its exterior and interior in 1998/99.
Today it again operates as a fully licensed hotel serving a full range of traditional
ales, wines and meals and guests can once again stay in one of New Zealand's most
Connel and Clowes (5 Tyne Street)
Designed by Forrester and Lemon and built as an addition to the Criterion in 1877
and extending the number of bedrooms on the first floor of the hotel to 22. The
hall way between the Criterion Hotel and Connell & Clowes was probably closed off
when the hotel was purchased by G T Gillies Limited.
A General Licence cost £20; a Night Licence £5; a Bottle Licence £10; and a Temporary
Licence £1. Every house with a general licence 'must provide for the public at least
two moderate sized sitting rooms and two sleeping rooms, also stabling for at least
six horses'. Hours were from 6 in the morning to 10 at night although the night
licence allowed an extension to midnight. The law also required the outside lamp
to burn from sunset to sunrise (the Criterion's lamp remains today). Gaming, music
and dancing were prohibited.
Directories show George Carey as occupier in 1942. He operated a sweet and soft-drink
shop in the main bar on the corner for a short time. Police records show that Carey
was prosecuted for selling illicit liquor from his shop. The story goes that he
provided alcohol in soft-drink bottles, having siphoned it from large kegs reputedly
buried in the ground at the back of the Criterion!
Licensing legislation was dictated by Ordinance No 207, passed by the Otago Provincial
Government in 1865. .
The first floor bedrooms are still in very original condition and restoration of
them would again be a welcome addition to accommodation at the Criterion today. The
ground floor provided the offices for Messrs. Connell & Clowes, commission agents.
A large single story warehouse at the rear of the building opens onto Harbour Street
and connects through to the Tyne Street offices. The building was purchased by the
Trust 1995 and the exterior restored in 2001.
Union Building (7 Tyne Street)
Brindley and Stewarts were the architects of the Union building and it was bult in
1877 by Barclay and Kay, stonemasons and John Bain, carpenter. The front portion
facing Harbour Street has two stories while the rear portion facing Harbour Street
is single storey. Originally built as offices, the Union building came into Trust
ownership in 1989 and was restored in 2001.
Smith’s Grain Store (9 Tyne Street)
Smith's Grain Store was designed by architecct James Johnston (the main rivel to
Forrestor and Lemon) as a grain store for Joseph Smith in 1882. This grain store
is probably the most ornamental grain store in the Country. Messrs Hamilton and
Co. were contractors for the masonry work and Henry Francis Sidon for the carpentry.
Smith's Grain Store has had a variety of uses including office and printing works
for the Oamaru Mail for 64 years, the newly formed south Oamaru Presbyterian congretation
met there before Columba Church was built, a dance hall, skating rink, the first
home of the North Otago Farmers' Co-op and lastly a joinery factory.
Today Smith's Grain Store flies the Union flag and the large open space is used as
an access way between Tyne and Harbour Street and a venue for community functions.
New stairs have provided good access to the first floor which is now a gallery hosting
works by local artists.
Sumpter’s Exchange (11 Tyne Street)
Sumpter’s Exchange Chambers was built in 1876 for Mr George Sumpter a prominent pioneer
and merchant. He became the first town clerk of Oamaru and later Mayor of Oamaru
and founding member of the Oamaru Harbour Board. Sumpter's Exchange is a single
storey building and unlike many, the rear of the building facing onto Harbour Street
features arched windows with side sills. Sumpter's Exchange came into Trust ownership
It has been used on many of the grand public buildings, especially in the South Island
and especially those built during the financial boom caused by the Central Otago
gold rush of the 1860s.
The finished stonework has a creamy, sandy colour. Unfortunately, it is not strongly
resistant to pollution, and can be prone to surface crumbling.
Exchange Chambers (13 Tyne Street)
Built as offices for Mr George Sumpter in 1875 for a contract price of £1100 with
the rear grain store being added in 1876. Again Forrester and Lemon where the architects
although it is thought that John Lemon had more to do with the design of this building.
The Exchange Chambers came into Trust ownership in 1989. The exterior of Simpter's
Exchange was restored in 2001 and the first floor office space and staircase have
McCarthy's Coal Shop (27 Tyne Street)
It is believed the original use of this building was a stable before becoming the
base for a coal merchant. McCarthy's was purchased by the Trust 2002. Stables have
again been erected in the building and a blacksmith also operates from the Tyne Street
(This page describes the Tyne Street buildings owned by the Whitestone Civic Trust.
Click here for a second page describing buildings owned by the Trust in Harbour
St and elsewhere in Oamaru.)
Harbour Street frontage
Tyne Street frontage
Part of the Tyne St streetsacpe, October 2009.
Click here for descriptions of buildings owned by the Trust in Harbour St and elsewhere