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.   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 built 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 architect James Johnston (the main rival to Forrester 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 congregation 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.


The Trust purchased Smith's Grain Store in 1989. 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.   






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 were 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 Sumpter'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 the Friendly Bay Boat Society display and workshop operates from the Tyne Street entrance. 






Harbour Board Building  (2 Harbour Street)


The former Harbour Board office was built in 1876 was one of the first public buildings  to be designed by Forrester and Lemon.  It is heavily ornamented, the building being designed in the Venetian Renaissance style.    Purchased by the Trust 2001 and undergoing complete exterior restoration in 2005-06.  The North Otago Branch of Historic Places Trust presented the Trust with the conservation plan for the building as a project to mark the 130th anniversary of the Forrester and Lemon architectural practice.


The Trust uses the first floor boardroom and office for its meetings and project office and the Victorian Town at Work’s Victorian Heritage Centre is in the ground floor.  Interpretation panels in the Victorian Heritage Centre tell the story of the Oamaru Harbour and Thomas Forrester's influence on the development of Oamaru.






Maude's Store (4 Harbour Street)


Forrester and Lemon's first grain store was built for A H Maude in 1875 was rather simple in design compared to their later projects.  The Maude grain store is conspicuous for its use of local greystone.  It is one of the few stone buildings in Oamaru not constructed of the familiar white limestone.   For many years Lane's Emulsion a 'tonic' given to countless New Zealand children up until the 1960s was manufactured in Maude's Store.






J & T Meeks (6 Harbour Street)


Built as a grain store in 1875-76   J & T Meek’s building came into Trust ownership in 1989.  This building is a large open span space.  Some seed cleaning equipment remains in the building as a reminder of its original use.  Today it is a working wool store where local farmers sell their wool.






Sumpter’s Store  (8 Harbour Street)


Built as a grain store in 1878   Sumpter's Store is directly behind Sumpter’s Exchange.  This building came into Trust ownership in 1989.   The architectural drawings to reinstate the parapet decoration of Sumpter’s Store have been completed.






Anderson’s Store  (10 Harbour Street)


Anderson’s store was designed by Dunedin architect David McGill and was built in 1881.  It came into Trust ownership in 1989.  This building was one of the first Trust buildings to have its frontage cleaned down.  The plans for the parapet decoration for Anderson’s Store have also been completed.   






Neil Brother's Store (12 Harbour Street)


Built in 1882, the Neil Bros. grain store was the last Forrester and Lemon building built in Harbour Street and was a remodelling of an unfinished store of 1875 belonging to a Mr. Orr.  It was acquired by the Trust in 1989. The frontage of this building has been restored.  Neil's store is a large open span building, the interior still showing the railway tracks which ran through the length of the building. 






Loan & Mercantile Building (14 Harbour St.)


Built as a grain store in 1882 to the design of Dennison and Grant this elegantly detailed, three story Victorian warehouse was built for the NZ Loan and Mercantile when it was the largest stock and station agency in New Zealand.  The building was designed to hold 100,000 sacks of grain handled by four grain elevators.  The end wall has been left with its quions jutting outwards to key in a future addition.  The Loan and Mercantile building came into Trust ownership in 1989 and today, sacks of grain have been exchanged for barrels of whisky with the building becoming a bond store with whisky tasting and restaurant attached.






Salvation Army Building  (4 Wansbeck Street)


Built as Oamaru's vehicle testing station in the 1960’s.   Purchased by the Trust 2001.  The Salvation Army building and McCarthy’s Coal building are adjacent to each other and the land they stand on formed the courtyard planned in the Arthur Young report.  The Trust is currently in the process of reviewing these plans.




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 unique businesses, artisans and crafts people is part of the on going commitment the Trust has of preserving and developing Victorian Oamaru's Historic Precinct.  Please contact Mark Smith, Operations Manager (phone: +64 3 434 5385 or email: to find out about leasing space in the Victorian Precinct.


2 Harbour Street

Victorian Precinct

Oamaru, 9400

New Zealand



Phone: +64 3 434 5385



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