With its forty metre frontage to Beswick Street and almost the same to Cains Terrace the Grosvenor Hotel is a substantial piece of work. The site was first occupied by Meikles Hotel, designed by the Timaru architect F J Wilson in 1875.
James Turnbull has his name attached to so many Timaru buildings and he designed the complete remodelling of Meikles Hotel in 1915 for the new owners. Together with other bold hotels of the same era – the Dominion and the Hydro Grand for example - the Grosvenor provides the substance that gives Timaru its very marketable image of a seaside resort with a colourful port. The deep balconies of these three buildings all provide commanding views towards the ocean.
As British architects moved away from the flamboyant decoration of the Victorian era, which often descended into pastiche, there remained a desire to decorate their buildings but in a more subtle manner. The Grosvenor sits fair and square within this Edwardian baroque era.
Prior to harsh alterations in the 1970's the interior was very stylish. Immediately inside the main entry was a spacious, elegant salon – a room walled almost entirely in glass, supported by black cast ironwork. An open fire – burning coke – was lit every day of the year, as a welcoming gesture.
From about 1950 the hotel was operated for many years by the McNeill family who added style and decorum to the Grosvenor not to mention an excellent wine list stocked from France. Indeed the Grosvenor has an ample cellar under the building for this very purpose.
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