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All Contents © 2011 The Oamaru Whitestone Civic  Trust



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 Historic Precinct.`

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 photographed hotels.

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 in 1989.   


Oamaru stone is a hard, compact limestone, still  quarried at Weston, near Oamaru.


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 been reinstated.


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 in Oamaru.